Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum

Last updated

Theophylact I (before 864 924/925) was a medieval count of Tusculum who was the effective ruler of Rome from around 905 through to his death in 924. His descendants controlled the papacy for the next 100 years.

Contents

Biography

Theophylact was the hereditary count of Tusculum, a small hill town near the vicinity of Rome. He is mentioned for the first time in a document of 901 as palatine iudex (palace judge, or leader of the militia) of Emperor Louis the Blind. He remained in Rome, commanding a group of soldiers after the emperor’s return to Provence in 902, and was prominent in the overthrow of Antipope Christopher in January 904, whom he very likely ordered to be killed whilst in prison later that year. Theophylact formed an alliance with Duke Alberic I of Spoleto, and with their combined backing, Pope Sergius III was elected in Christopher’s place. [1] During his pontificate, Theophylact became Sergius’ sacri palatii vestararius and magister militum , effectively seizing control of the city. He was also granted other honorific titles, such as senator , glorissimus dux , and dominus urbis. [2]

Sometime between the end of Sergius III’ pontificate and the start of John X’s, [3] Theophylact was elected as the head of Rome, under the centuries-old title of Roman consul by the city's nobility. As per the ancient office, this must have been for a year only, as in 915, he is referred to as a senator only, although first among the listed nobility. [4] In this capacity, Theophylact was able to dominate the papal electoral process, with all popes until his death in 925 chosen after he had hand-picked them.

Theophylact’s rule of Rome was shared to a large degree with his wife Theodora, who was styled senatrix and serenissima vestaratrix of Rome. It was by her suggestion that the popes who followed Sergius III, Anastasius III and Lando, were chosen by her husband for the papal see. Then in 914, she prevailed upon him to support her alleged lover as pope, having him installed as John X (although it has been suggested that John was in fact related to either Theodora or Theophylact). [5] Theophylact worked closely with the able John X, who supported Theophylact’s overall objectives with regards to strengthening the imperial presence in Italy by supporting Berengar I of Italy. He fought alongside John X against the Saracens at the Battle of Garigliano in 915, and was the pope’s principal political support until his death in either 924 or 925. [6]

Theophylact had two daughters with Theodora: Marozia and Theodora. In the longer term, the heirs of Theophylact, the Tusculani, were the rivals of the Crescentii in controlling Rome, and placed several popes on the Chair of St Peter. Their eventual heirs were the Colonna family.

Reputation

It is now believed that Theodora’s influence over Theophylact was overstated by contemporary chroniclers such as Liutprand of Cremona, who wished to exaggerate the corruption of the Roman and papal court, as a counterpoint to rulers such as Alberic I of Spoleto, and the future emperor Otto I, whom Liutprand later served. The charges of adultery against Theodora, the use of the term “harlot”, and the presumption that she was using her “feminine wiles” to prostitute herself in order to influence her husband and appoint numerous lovers to important posts were used to tarnish the rule of Theophylact and his successors. Later historians, influenced by the moral tone of this critique, described the influence of Theodora and her descendants over the papacy as the “pornocracy” or the “Rule of the Harlots”. Modern historians now instead use the term Saeculum obscurum to describe the period when the papacy was under the direct control of the Roman nobility, in particular when it was under the domination of the family of Theophylact.

Family tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum
864–924
 
Theodora
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hugh of Italy
887-948
(also married Marozia)
 
Alberic I of Spoleto
d. 925
 
Marozia
890–937
 
 
Pope Sergius III
904–911
 
Theodora
 
 
Gratian
(Consul)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alda of Vienne
 
Alberic II of Spoleto
905–954
 
David or Deodatus
 
Pope John XI
931–935
 
 
Theodora
 
 
Giovanni Crescentius
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Theophylact
 
Pope John XII
955–964
 
Pope Benedict VII
974-983
 
 
 
 
Marozia
 
 
Pope John XIII
965–972
 
 
Crescentius the Elder
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gregory I, Count of Tusculum
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pope Benedict VIII
1012–1024
 
Alberic III, Count of Tusculum
d. 1044
 
Pope John XIX
1024–1032
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Peter, Duke of the Romans
 
Gaius
 
Octavianus
 
Pope Benedict IX
1032–1048

Related Research Articles

Pope Agapetus II was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 10 May 946 to his death. A nominee of the princeps of Rome, Alberic II of Spoleto, his pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Pope Anastasius III was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from April 911 to his death.

Pope Stephen VIII was the bishop of Rome and nominal ruler of the Papal States from 14 July 939 to his death. His pontificate occurred during the Saeculum obscurum, when the power of popes was diminished by the ambitious counts of Tusculum, and was marked by the conflict between his patron, Alberic II of Spoleto, and King Hugh of Italy.

Pope Sergius III was the bishop of Rome and nominal ruler of the Papal States from 29 January 904 to his death. He was pope during a period of violence and disorder in central Italy, when warring aristocratic factions sought to use the material and military resources of the papacy. Because Sergius III had reputedly ordered the murder of his two immediate predecessors, Leo V and Christopher, and allegedly fathered an illegitimate son who later became pope, John XI, his pontificate has been variously described as "dismal and disgraceful", and "efficient and ruthless".

Pope Leo VIII was a Roman prelate who claimed the Holy See from 963 until 964 in opposition to John XII and Benedict V and again from 23 June 964 to his death. Today he is considered by the Catholic Church to have been an antipope during the first period and the legitimate pope during the second. An appointee of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, Leo VIII's pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Marozia Italian queen

Marozia, born Maria and also known as Mariuccia or Mariozza, was a Roman noblewoman who was the alleged mistress of Pope Sergius III and was given the unprecedented titles senatrix ("senatoress") and patricia of Rome by Pope John X.

Pope John XIII was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 1 October 965 to his death. His pontificate was caught up in the continuing conflict between the Holy Roman emperor, Otto I, and the Roman nobility. After long and arduous negotiations, he succeeded in arranging a Byzantine marriage for Otto II, in an effort to legitimize the Ottonian claim to imperial dignity. He also established church hierarchy in Poland and Bohemia.

Pope John XI was the bishop of Rome and nominal ruler of the Papal States from March 931 to his death. The true ruler of Rome at the time was his mother, Marozia, followed by his brother Alberic II. The period is known as Saeculum obscurum.

Pope John X was the bishop of Rome and nominal ruler of the Papal States from March 914 to his death. A candidate of the counts of Tusculum, he attempted to unify Italy under the leadership of Berengar of Friuli, and was instrumental in the defeat of the Saracens at the Battle of Garigliano. He eventually fell out with Marozia, who had him deposed, imprisoned, and finally murdered. John’s pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.

Saeculum obscurum was a period in the history of the Papacy during the first two-thirds of the 10th century, beginning with the installation of Pope Sergius III in 904 and lasting for sixty years until the death of Pope John XII in 964. During this period, the popes were influenced strongly by a powerful and allegedly corrupt aristocratic family, the Theophylacti, and their relatives.

Theodora was a senatrix and serenissima vestaratrix of Rome.

Counts of Tusculum countship

The counts of Tusculum were the most powerful secular noblemen in Latium, near Rome, in present-day Italy between the 10th and 12th centuries. Several popes and an antipope during the 11th century came from their ranks. They created and perfected the political formula of noble-papacy, wherein the pope was arranged to be elected only from the ranks of the Roman nobles. The pornocracy, the period of influence by powerful female members of the family, also influenced papal history.

Alberic I was the Lombard Duke of Spoleto from between 896 and 900 until 920, 922, or thereabouts. He was also Margrave of Camerino, and the son-in-law of Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum, the most powerful man in Rome.

Crescentius the Elder Italian noble and aristocrat

Crescentius the Elder was a politician and aristocrat in Rome who played a part in the papal appointment.

Gregory I was the Count of Tusculum sometime between 954 and 1012. Consul et dux 961, vir illustrissimus 980, praefectus navalis 999. He was the son of Alberic II, and Alda of Vienne. His half-brother was Pope John XII.

Alberic III was the Count of Tusculum, along with Galeria, Preneste, and Arce, from 1024, when his brother the count Roman was elected Pope John XIX, until his own death. He was a son of Gregory I and Maria, brother of Popes Benedict VIII and John XIX, and brother-in-law of Thrasimund III of Spoleto.

Peter was a mediaeval Roman noble. Like his fathers, he carried the illustrious title of Romanorum patricius, consul, dux et senator, implying his secular command over Rome and its militia. He was the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum. As a result, he was a descendant of Theophylact I, Count of Tusculum.

Papal selection before 1059

There was no uniform procedure for papal selection before 1059. The bishops of Rome and supreme pontiffs (popes) of the Catholic Church were often appointed by their predecessors or by political rulers. While some kind of election often characterized the procedure, an election that included meaningful participation of the laity was rare, especially as the popes' claims to temporal power solidified into the Papal States. The practice of papal appointment during this period would later result in the jus exclusivae, i.e., a right to veto the selection that Catholic monarchs exercised into the twentieth century.

Tusculan Papacy

The Tusculan Papacy was a period of papal history from 1012 to 1048 where three successive Counts of Tusculum installed themselves as pope.

The Synod of Rome (963) was a possibly uncanonical synod held in St. Peter’s Basilica from 6 November until 4 December 963, under the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I to depose Pope John XII. The events of the synod were recorded by Liutprand of Cremona.

References

Notes

  1. Williams, pg. 11
  2. Williams, pg. 11; Gregorovius, pg. 251
  3. Gregorovius, pgs. 252-253
  4. Gregorovius, pg. 254
  5. Gregorovius, pg. 252
  6. Williams, pg. 13