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My intention in writing this book has been to demonstrate 
the unique importance of Ravenna in the history of Italy 
and of Europe, especially during the Dark Age from the 
time of Alaric's first descent into the Cisalpine plain to the 
coming of Charlemagne. That importance, as it seems to 
me, has been wholly or almost wholly misunderstood, and 
certainly, as I understand it, has never been explained. In 
this book, which is offered to the pubUc not without a keen 
sense of its inadequacy, I have tried to show in as clear a 
manner as was at my command, what Ravenna really was 
in the pohtical geography of the empire, and to explain the 
part that position allowed her to play in the great tragedy 
of the decline and fall of the Roman administration. If I 
have succeeded in this I am amply repaid for aU the labour 
the book has cost me. 

The principal sources, both ancient and modern, which I 
have consulted in the preparation of this volume have been 
cited, but I must here acknowledge the special debt I owe 
to the late Dr. Hodgkin, to Professor Diehl, to Dr. Corrado 
Ricci, and to the many contributors to the various Italian 
Bollettini which I have ransacked. 

E. H. 

March 19 13. 




I. The Geographical and Political Position of Ravenna i 
II. Julius C^sar in Ravenna . . . . .11 

III. Ravenna in the Time of the Empire . . .18 

IV. The Retreat upon Ravenna .... 30 

Honorius and Galla Placidia 

V. The Fall of the Empire in the West ... 47 

VI. Theodoric ........ 55 

VII. The Reconquest . . . . ... 76 

Vitiges, Belisarius, Totila, Narses 

VIII. MoDicA Quies ....... 103 

The Pragmatic Sanction and the Settlement of Italy 

IX. The Citadel of the Empire in Italy . . .112 

The Lombard Invasion 

X. The Papal State ....... 144 

Pepin and Charlemagne 

XI. The Catholic Churches of the Fifth Century . 159 
The Cathedral, Baptistery, Arcivescovado, S. Agata, " 
S. Pietro Maggiore, S. Giovanni Evangelista, S. 
Giovanni Battista, and the Mausoleum of Galla 

XII. The Arian Churches of the Sixth Century . 182 

The Palace of Theodoric, S. Apollinare Nuovo, S. 
Spirito, S. Maria in Cosmedin, the Mausoleum of 

XIII. The Byzantine Churches. ..... 196 

S. Vitale and S. Apollinare in Classe 



XIV. Ravenna in the Middle Age .... 210 

XV. Dante in Ravenna . . . . . .221 

XVI. Medieval Ravenna ...... 240 

The Churches 

XVII. Ravenna in the Renaissance . . . .251 

The Battle of 15 12 

XVIII. Renaissance Ravenna ...... 262 

Churches and Palaces 

XIX. The Gallery and the Museum .... 276 

XX. The Pineta ........ 275 

Index ......... 287 



S. Apollinare Nuovo 

S. Agata ..... 

The Mausoleum of Theodoric . 

S. Vitale: the Gallery 

S. Giovanni Evangelista . 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia 

S. Vitale: the Presbytery 

S. Giovanni Battista . 

S. Maria in Porto 

Porta Serrata .... 

Facing page 2)^ 



Sketch Map . . . . . . . 

Sketch Map ....... 

Sketch Map ....... 

Greek Relief from a Temple of Neptune 

Sarcophagus of the Emperor Honorius 

The Apse of S. Giovanni Evangelista 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia . 

Capital from the Colonnade in Piazza Maggiore 

S. Apollinare in Classe ..... 

Capital from S. Vitale ..... 

Capital from Santo Spirito .... 








Sketch Map .••••" 

Sketch Map of Cities in Imperial Hands . 
Sketch Map showing Narses' March to meet Totila 

Sketch Map • • • ■ * 

The Sarcophagus of the Exarch Isaac 

Guardhouse of the Palace of Theodoric 

The Cathedral {Basilica Ursiana) 

The Baptistery and Campanile of the Cathedral 

The Campanile of S. Giovanni Evangelista 


Capital from S. Vitale 

Interior of S. Apollinare in Classe 

Capital from S. Vitale 

The Campanile of S. Apollinare 

Casa Polentana 

Dante's Tomb . . . • • 

Campanile of S. Francesco 
Interior of S. Maria in Porto Fuori 
Torre del Comune . • • • 

Portal of S. Giovanni Evangelista . 
RoccA Veniziana . • • • 

Monument of Gaston de Foix . 
The Cloister of S. Giovanni Evangelista 
The Pineta . . . • • 

The Pineta . . - • • 

To Porto Corsini .... 
Plan of Ravenna .... 

see front 

. 86 

. 89 

. 128 

• 155 

. 171 

• 177 
. 197 
. 201 
. 205 
. 207 
. 211 
. 223 
. 233 
. 239 
. 243 
. 247 
. 249 

• 253 
. 261 
. 265 

• 275 
. 277 
. 286 

end paper 




Upon the loneliest and most desolate shore of Italy where 
the vast monotony of the Emilian plain fades away at last 
almost imperceptibly, into the Adrian Sea, there stands, half 
abandoned m that soundless place, and often wrapt in a 
white shroud of mist, a city like a marveUous reliquary 
richly wrought, as is meet, beautiful with many fading colours 
and encrusted with precious stones: its name is Ravenna. 

It stands there laden with the mysterious centuries as with 
half barbaric jewels, weighed down with the ornaments of 
Byzantium, rigid, hieratic, constrained; and however you 
come to It, whether from Rimini by the lost and forgotten 
towns of Classis and Cssarea, or from Ferrara through aU the 
bitter desolation of Comacchio, or across the endless marsh 
from Bologna or Faenza, its wide and empty horizons, its 
astonishing silence, and the difficulty of every approach wiU 
seem to you but a fitting environment for a place so solitary 
and so imperious. 

For this city of mute and closed churches, where imperish- 
able mosaics gHsten in the awful damp, and beautiful pillars 


of most precious marbles gleam through a humid mist, of 
mausoleums empty but indestructible, o^ /ottering ..m- 
panili, of sumptuous splendour and mcredible decay, is the 
sepulchre of the great civilisation which Christianity failed 
to save aHve, but to which we owe everything and out of 
which we are come; the only monument that remains to us 
of those confused and half barbaric centuries which he 
between Antiquity and the Middle Age. 

Mysteriously secured by nature and doubly so after the 
failure of the Roman administration, Ravenna was the 
death-bed of the empire and its tomb. To her the emperor 
Honorius fled from Milan in the first years of the fifth century; 
within her walls Odoacer dethroned the last emperor of the 
West founded a kingdom, and was in his turn supplanted by 
Theodoric the Ostrogoth. It was from her almost impreg- 
nable isolation that the attempt was made by Byzantium— 
it seemed and perhaps it was our only hope— to reconquer 
Italy and the West for civiHsation; while her faU before the 
appaUing Lombard onset in the eighth century brought 
Pepin into Italy in 754, to lay the foundation of a new 
Christendom, to establish the temporal power of the papacy, 
and to prophesy of the resurrection of the empire, of the 

unity of Europe. 

But though it is as the imperishable monument of those 
tragic centuries that we rightly look upon Ravenna: before 
the empire was founded she was already famous. It was 
from her silence that Caesar emerged to cross the Rubicon 
and all unknowing to found what, when all is said, was the 
most beneficent, as it was the most universal, government 
' that Europe has ever known. In the first years of that 
government Ravenna became, and through the four hundred 
years of its unhampered Hfe she remained, one of its greatest 
bulwarks. While upon its failure, as I have said, she suddenly 
assumed a position which for some three hundred and fifty 
years was unique not only in Italy but in Europe. And 
when with the re-establishment of an universal government 


her importance declined and at length passed away, she yet 
lived on in the minds and the memory of men as something 
fabulous, and still, curiously enough, as a refuge, the refuge 
of the great poet of the new age; so that to-day, beside the 
empty tombs of Galla Placidia and Theodoric, there stands 
the great sarcophagus which holds the dust of Dante 

We may well ask how it was that a city so solitary, so 
inaccessible, and so remote should have played so great a 
part in the history of Europe. It is to answer this question 
that I have set myself to write this book, which is rather an 
essay in memoriam of her greatness, her beauty, and her 
forlorn hope, than a history properly so called of Ravenna. 
But if we are to come to any real understanding of what she 
stood for, of what she meant to us once upon a time, we must 
first of aU decide for ourselves what was the fundamental 
reason of her great renown. I shall maintain in this book 
that the cause of her greatness, of her opportunity for great- 
ness, was always the same, namely, her geographical position 
in relation to the peninsula of Italy, the Cisalpine plain, and 
the sea. Let us then consider these things. 

Italy, the country we know as Italy, properly understood, 
is fundamentally divided into two absolutely different parts 
by a great range of mountains, the Apennines, which stretches 
roughly from sea to sea, from Genoa almost but not quite 
to Rimini. 

The country which hes to the south of that line of moun- 
tains is Italy proper, and it consists as we know of a long 
narrow mountainous peninsula, while its history throughout 
antiquity may be said to be altogether Roman. 

What lies to the north of the Apennines is not Italy at all, 
but Cisalpine Gaul. 

In its nature this country is altogether continental. It 
consists for the most part of a vast plain divided from west 
to east by a great river, the Po, and everywhere it is watered 
and nourished by its two hundred tributaries. 


Shut off as it is on the south from Italy proper by the 
Apennines, this plain is defended from Gaul and the Germanics, 
on the west and the north, by the mightiest mountains in 
Europe, the Alps, which here enclose it in a vast concave 
rampart that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic. 
On the east it is contained by the sea. 

The history of this vast country before the Roman Con- 
quest is, as is history everywhere in the West before that 
event, vague and obscure. But this at least may be said: 
it was first in the occupation of the Etruscans, who in time 
were turned out, destroyed, or enslaved by the Gauls, those 
invaders who crossed the Alps from the west and who during 
nearly two hundred years, continually, though never with an 
enduring success, invaded Italy, and in 388 B.C. actually 
captured the City. Rome, however, had by the year 223 B.C. 
succeeded in planting her fortresses at Placentia and Cremona 


and in fortifying Mutina (Modena), when suddenly in 218 b.c. 
Hannibal unexpectedly descended into the Cisalpine plain 
and destroyed all she had achieved. With his defeat, 
however, the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul was undertaken anew, 
and at some time after 183 b.c. — we do not know exactly 
when — the whole of this vast lowland country passed into 
Roman administration, to become the chief province of 
Caesar's great triple command, and one of the most valuable 
parts of the empire. 

What, then, is the relation of this vast lowland country 
between the Alps and the Apennines to Italy proper? It 
stands as it has always stood to her as a great defence. For 
if, as we must, we consider Italy as the shrine, the sanctuary, 
and the citadel of Europe, a place apart and separate — and 
because of this she has been able to do her work both secular 
and religious — what has secured her but Cisalpine Gaul? 
The valley of the Po, all this vast plain, appears in history as 
the cockpit of Europe, the battlefield of the Celt, the Phoeni- 
cian, the Latin, and the Teuton, of Catholic and Arian, strewn 
with victories, littered with defeats, the theatre of those great 
wars which have built up Europe and the modern world. If 
the Gauls had not been broken by the plain, they would 
perhaps have overwhelmed Italy and Rome; if Hannibal had 
found there enemies instead of friends, the Oriental would 
not so nearly have overthrown Europe. It broke the Gothic 
invasion, Attila never crossed it, it absorbed the worst of the 
appalling Lombard flood; Italy remains to us because of it. 

Now since Cisalpine Gaul thus secured Italy, the entry 
from the one to the other, the road between them must 
always have been of an immense importance. That entry 
and that road, whenever they were in dispute, Ravenna 
commanded, and a good half of her importance lies in this. 

I say whenever they were in dispute : in time of peace that 
road and that entry were not in the keeping of Ravenna but 
of Rimini. 

A study of the map will show us that though the Apennines 


shut off Italy proper from Cisalpine Gaul along a line roughly 
from Genoa to Rimini, actually that difficult and barren 
range just ^fails to reach the Adriatic as it curves south- 







ward to divide the peninsula in its entire length into two not 
unequal parts. This failure of the mountains quite to reach 
the sea leaves at this corner a narrow strip of lowland, of 
marshy plain in fact, between them. Therefore the Romans, 
though they were compelled to cross the Apennines, for Rome 


lay upon their western side, were able to do so where they 
chose and not of necessity to make the difficult passage at a 
crucial point. 

The road they planned and laid out, the Flaminian Way, 
the great north road of the Romans, was built by Caius 
Flaminius the Censor about 220 b.c.,^ that is to say, immedi- 
ately after the first subjection of the Gauls south of the Po 
which had been largely his achievement, and for military 
and poHtical business which that achievement entailed. 
This road ran from Rome directly to Ariminum (Rimini) and 
it crossed the Apennines near the modern Scheggia and by 
the great pass of the Furlo.^ 

The first act of the Romans after the defeat of Hannibal 
was the re-establishment of their fortresses at Placentia, 
Cremona, and Mutina (Modena), the second was the con- 
struction of a great highway which connected Placentia 
through Mutina with the Via Flaminia at Rimini. This was 
the work of the Consul ^mihus Lepidus in 187 B.C. and the 
road still bears his name. 

It is obvious then that the command of the way from Italy 
into Cisalpine Gaul, or vice versa, lay in the hands of Rimini, 
and it is significant that the political boundary between them 
was here marked by a little river, the Rubicon, a few miles to 
the north of that city. The command which Rimini thus 
held was purely political; it passed from her to Ravenna 
automatically whenever that entry was threatened. Why? 

The answer is very simple: because Rimini could not easily 
be defended, while Ravenna was impregnable. 

Ravenna stood from fifteen to eighteen miles north and 
east of the -^milian Way and some thirty-one miles north 
and a little west of Rimini. Its extraordinary situation was 
almost unique in antiquity and is only matched by one city 

1 It is, of course, certain that a road was in existence long before ; but 
not as a constructed, permanent, and military Way. 

' The Furlo was to be held in the time of Aurelius Victor, if not of 
Vespasian, by the fortress of Petra Pertusa. . . 



of later times — Venice. It was built as Venice is literally 
upon the waters. Strabo thus describes it : " Situated in the 
marshes is the great Ravenna, built entirely on piles, and 
traversed by canals which you cross by bridges or ferry-boats. 
At the full tides it is washed by a considerable quantity of 
sea water, as well as by the river, and thus the sewage is 
carried off and the air purified; in fact, the district is con- 



sidered so salubrious that the (Roman) governors have 
selected it as a spot in which to bring up and exercise the 
gladiators. It is a remarkable peculiarity of this place that, 
though situated in the midst of a marsh, the air is perfectly 
innocuous." ^ 

Ravenna must always have been impregnable to any save 
a modern army, so long as it was able to hold the road in and 
out and was not taken from the sea. The one account we 
* Strabo, v. i. 7, tells us Altinum was similarly situated. 


have of an attack upon it before the fall of the empire is given 
us by Appian and recounts a raid from the sea. It is but an 
incident in the civil wars of Marius and Sulla when Ravenna, 
we learn, was occupied for the latter by Metellus his lieutenant. 
In the year 82 e.g., says Appian, " Sulla overcame a detach- 
ment of his enemies near Saturnia, and MeteUus sailed round 
toward Ravenna and took possession of the level wheat- 
growing country of Uritanus." 

This impregnable city, the most southern of Cisalpine Gaul, 
immediately commanded the pass between Cisalpine Gaul 
and Italy directly that pass was threatened, and to this I say 
was due a good half of its fame. The rest must be equally 
divided between the fact that the city was impregnable, and 
therefore a secure refuge ox point d'appui,and its situation upon 
the sea. 

Strabo in his account of Ravenna, which I have quoted 
above, emphasises the fact rather of its situation among the 
marshes than of its position with regard to the sea. This 
is perhaps natural. The society to which he belonged 
(though indeed he was of Greek descent) loathed and feared 
the sea with an unappeasable horror. No journey was too 
long to make if thereby the sea passage might be avoided, no 
road too rough and rude if to take it was to escape the 
unstable winds and waters. That too was a part of Ravenna's 
strength. She was as much a city of the sea as Venice is; 
but of what a sea ? 

The Adriatic, upon whose western shore she stood at the 
gate of Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, was — and this partly because 
of the Roman horror of the sea — the fault between Greek 
and Latin, East and West. To this great fact she owes much 
of her later splendour, much of her unique importance in 
those centuries we call the Dark Age. 

Even to-day as one stands upon the height of the republic of 
8. Marino and catches, faintly at dawn, the sunlight upon the 
Dalmatian hills, one instinctively feels it is the Orient one sees. 

This, then, is the cause of the greatness, of the opportunity 


for greatness, of Ravenna : her geographical position in regard 
to the peninsula of Italy, the Cisalpine plain, and the sea. 
Each of these exalt her in turn and all together give her the 
unique and almost fabulous position she holds in the history 
of Europe. 

Because she held the gateway between Italy and the 
Cisalpine plain, Caesar repaired to her when he was treating 
with the Senate for the consulship, and from her he set out 
to possess himself of all that great government. 

Because she was impregnable, and held both the plain where 
the enemy must be met and the peninsula with Rome within 
it, Honorius retreated to her from Milan when Alaric crossed 
the Alps. 

Because she was set upon the sea, and that sea was the 
fault between East and West, and because she held the key 
as it were of all Italy and through Italy of the West, Justinian 
diere established his government when the great attempt was 
made by Byzantium to reconquer us from the barbarian. 

" Ravenna Felix " we read on many an old coin of that time, 
and whatever we may think of that title or prophecy, which 
indeed might seem never to have come true for her, this at 
least we must acknowledge, that she was happy in her situation 
which oflFered such opportunities for greatness and so certain 
an immortality. 



When we first come upon Ravenna in the pages of Strabo, 
its origin is already obscured; but this at least seems certain, 
that it was never a Gaulish city. Strabo teUs us that 
" Ravenna is reputed to have been founded by Thessalians, 
who, not being able to sustain the violence of the Tyrrheni, 
welcomed into their city some of the Umbri who still possess 
it, while they themselves returned home." ^ The Thessalians 
were probably Pelasgi, but apart from that Strabo's state- 
ment would seem to be reasonably accurate. At any rate he 
continually repeats it, for he goes on to teU us that " Ariminum 
(Rimini), like Ravenna, is an ancient colony of the Umbri, but 
both of them received also Roman colonies." Again, in the 
same book of his Geography, he tells us : " The Umbri lie 
between the country of the Sabini and the Tyrrheni, but 
extend beyond the mountains as far as Ariminum and 
Ravenna." And again he says: " Umbria lies along the 
eastern boundary of Tyrrhenia and beginning from the 
Apennines, or rather beyond these mountains (extends) as 
far as the Adriatic. For commencing from Ravenna the 
Umbri inhabit the neighbouring country ... all allow that 
Umbria extends as far as Ravenna, as the inhabitants are 

We may take it, then, that when Rome annexed Ravenna it 

^ Strabo ut supra. 


was a city of the Umbri, and we may dismiss Pliny's state- 
ment^ that it was a Sabine city altogether for it is both 
improbable and inexplicable. 

When Ravenna received a Roman colony we do not know, 
for though Strabo states this fact, he does not teU us when it 
occurred and we have no other means of knowing. All we 
can be reasonably sure of is that this Umbrian city on the 
verge of Cisalpine Gaul, hemmed in on the west by the 
Lingonian Gauls, received a Roman colony qertainly not 
before 268 B.C. when Ariminum was occupied. The name of 
Ravenna, however, does not occur in history till a late period 
of the Roman republic, and the first incident in which we 
hear of Ravenna having any part occurs in 82 b.c, when, as 
I have already related, Metellus, the Heutenant of SuUa, landed 
there or thereabouts from his ships and seems to have made 
the city, already a place of some importance, the centre of 
llis operations. 

Ravenna really entered history — and surely gloriously 
enough — when Julius Caesar chose it, the last great town of 
his command towards Italy, as his headquarters while he 
treated with the senate before he crossed the Rubicon. 

" Caesar," says Appian, " had lately recrossed the straits 
from Britain, and, after traversing the Gallic country along 
the Rhine, had passed the Alps with 5000 foot and 300 horse, 
and arrived at Ravenna which was contiguous to Italy and 
the last town in his government." This was in 50 b.c. The 
state of affairs which that act was meant to elucidate may 
be briefly stated as follows. 

The Roman republic, still in the midst of the political, 
social, and ecomonic revolution whose first phase was the 
awful civil wars of Marius and Sulla, had long been at the 
mercy of Pompey the opportunist, Crassus the plutocrat, and 
Julius Csesar — the first Triumvirate. Crassus had always 
leaned towards Caesar and the entente between Caesar and 
Pompey had been strengthened by the marriage of the latter 
^ Pliny, iii. 15 ; v. 20. 


with Caesar's daughter Julia, who was to die in the midst of 
the crisis 54 B.C. In 58 B.C., the year following this marriage, 
Caesar went to take up his great command in the Gauls, but 
Pompey remained in Rome, where every day his influence 
and popularity were faihng while the astonishing successes of 
Caesar made him the idol of the populace. In 55 b.c. Pompey 
was consul for the second time with Crassus. He received 
as his provinces the two Spains, but he governed them by his 
legates and remained in the neighbourhood of the City. 
Crassus received the province of Syria, and the appalling 
disasters of the Parthian war, in which he most miserably lost 
life and honour, seemed to give Pompey the opportunity for 
which he had long been waiting. He encouraged the growing 
civil discord which was tearing the state in pieces, and with 
such success that the senate was compelled to call for his 
assistance. In 52 b.c. he became sole consul, restored order, 
and placed himself at the head of the aristocratic party which 
he had deserted to become the great popular hero when he 
was consul with Crassus in 70 b.c. 

Now Cssar had long watched the astonishing actions of 
Pompey, and had no intention of leaving the fate of the 
republic to him and the aristocracy. He does not seem to 
have wished to break altogether with Pompey, but only to 
hold him in check. At his meeting with Pompey at Luca 
(Lucca) in 56 b.c he had been promised the consulship for 
48 B.C. when his governorship came to an end, and he now 
determined to insure the fulfilment of this promise which 
would place him upon a legal equaUty with his rival. For 
the rest he knew that he was as superior to Pompey as a states- 
man as he was as a soldier, and he did not apparently anticipate 
any diffictilty in out-manoeuvring him in the senate and in 
the forum. Caesar, then, claimed no more than an equaHty 
with Pompey and the fulfilment of his promise; but these he 
determined to have. All through the winter of 52-51 b.c. he 
was arming. Well served by his friends, among whom were 
Mark Antony and Curio the tribunes, in 50 b.c, " having gone 


the circuit for the administration of justice," as Suetonius 
tells us, " he made a halt at Ravenna resolved to have recourse 
to arms if the senate should proceed to extremity against the 
tribunes of the people, who had espoused his cause." But 
first he determined for many reasons to send ambassadors to 
Rome, to request the fulfilment of the promise made to him at 
Luca. Pompey, who was not yet at open enmity with him, 
determined, although he had made the promise, neither to aid 
him by his influence nor openly to oppose him on this occasion. 
But the consuls Lentulus and Marcellus, who had always 
been his enemies, resolved to use all means in their power to 
prevent him gaining his object. 

At this juncture Caius Curio, tribune of the people, came 
to Cssar in Ravenna. Curio had made many energetic 
struggles in behalf of the repubhc and Caesar's cause; but at 
last, when he perceived that all his efforts were in vain, he fled 
through fear of his enemies and Caesar's to Ravenna and told 
Caesar all that had taken place; and, seeing that war was 
openly being prepared against Caesar, advised him to bring 
up his army and to rescue the republic. 

Now Caesar was not ignorant of the real state of affairs, but 
he was perhaps not yet ready to act, or he hoped in fact to 
save the ancient state; at any rate, he gave it as his opinion 
that particular regard should be had to the tranquillity of the 
republic, lest any one should assert that he was the originator 
of civil war. Therefore he sent again to his friends, making 
through them this very moderate request, that two legions and 
the provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum should be left 
him. No one could openly quarrel with such a reasonable 
demand and the patience with which it was more than once 
put forward; for when Caesar could not obtain a favourable 
answer from the consuls, he wrote a letter to the senate in 
which he briefly recounted his exploits and pubHc services, and 
entreated that he should not be deprived of the favour of the 
people who had ordered that he, although absent, should be 
considered a candidate for the consulship at the next election. 


He stated also that he would disband his army if the senate 
and the Roman people desired it, provided that Pompey 
would do the same. But he stated also that, as long as 
Pompey retained the command of his army, there could be no 
just reason why Caesar should disband his troops and expose 
himself to the power of his enemies. 

This was Caesar's third offer to his opponents. He en- 
trusted the letter to Curio, who travelled one hundred and 
sixty miles in three days and reached the City early in 
January. He did not, however, deliver the letter until 
there was a crowded meeting of the senate and the tribunes 
of the people were present; for he was afraid lest, if he gave 
it up without the utmost publicity, the consuls would suppress 
it. A sort of debate followed the reading of the letter, but 
when Scipio, Pompey's mouthpiece, spoke and declared, 
among other things, that Pompey was resolved to take up the 
cause of the senate now or never, and that he would drop it if a 
decision were delayed, the majority, overawed, decreed that 
Caesar should " at a definite and not distant day give up 
Transalpine Gaul to Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, and 
Cisalpine Gaul to Marcus Servihus Nonianus and should dis- 
miss his army, failing which he should be esteemed a traitor. 
When the tribunes, of Caesar's party, made use of their right 
of veto against this resolution not only were they, as they at 
least asserted, threatened in the senate house itself by the 
swords of Pompeian soldiers and forced, in order to save their 
lives, to flee in slaves' clothing from the capital, but the 
senate, now sufficiently overawed, treated their interference 
as an attempt at revolution, declared the country in danger, 
and in the usual form called the burgesses to take up arms, 
and all the magistrates faithful to the constitution to place 
themselves at the head of the armed." 

That was on January 7th. Five days later Caesar was on 
his way at the head of his troops to invade Italy and, without 
knowing it, to found the empire, that universal government 
out of which we are come. 


It was with one legion ^ that Caesar undertook his great 
adventure. That legion, the Thirteenth, had been stationed 
near Tergeste (Trieste), but at Caesar's orders it had marched 
into Ravenna in the first days of January. Upon the fateful 
twelfth, with some secrecy, while Caesar himself attended a 
public spectacle, examined the model of a fencing school, 
which he proposed to build, and, as usual, sat down to table 
with a numerous party of friends,^ the first companies of this 
legion left Ravenna by the Rimini gate, to be followed after 
sunset by its great commander; still with all possible secrecy it 
seems, for mules were put to his carriage, a hired one, at a mill 
outside Ravenna and he went almost alone. 

The road he travelled was not the great way to Rimini, but 
a by-way across the marshes, and it would seem to have been 
in a wretched state. At any rate Caesar lost his way, the 
lights of his little company were extinguished, his carriage 
had to be abandoned, and it was only after wandering about 
for a long time that, with the help of a peasant whom he found 
towards daybreak, he was able to get on, afoot now, and at 
last to reach the great highway. That night must have tried 
even the iron nerves and dauntless courage of the greatest 
soldier of all time. 

Caesar came up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, 
the sacred boundary of Italy and Cisalpine Gaul in the narrow 
pass between the mountains and the sea. " There," says 
Suetonius, whose account I have followed, " he halted for a 
while revolving in his mind the importance of the step he was 
about to take. At last turning to those about him, he said: 

1 Plutarch says: " Caesar had not then with hun more than 300 horse 
and 5000 foot. The rest of his forces were left on the other side of the 

* So Suetonius; but Plutarch says: " As for himself, he spent the 
day at a public show of gladiators; and a little before evening bathed, 
and then went into the apartment, where he entertained company. 
When it was growing dark, he left the company, having desired 
them to make merry till his return, which they would not have long to 
wait for." 


* We may still retreat; but if we pass this little bridge nothing 
is left us but to fight it out in arms.' " 

Now while he was thus hesitating, staggered, even he, by 
the greatness of what he would attempt, doubtless resolving in 
silence arguments for and against it, and, if we may believe 
Plutarch, " many times changing his opinion," the following 
strange incident is said to have happened. 

A person, remarkable, says Suetonius, for his noble aspect 
and graceful mien, appeared close at hand sitting by the way- 
side playing upon a pipe. When not only the shepherds 
herding their flocks thereabout, but a number of the legion- 
aries also gathered round to hear this fellow play, and there 
happened to be among them some trumpeters, the piper 
suddenly snatched a trumpet from one of these, ran to the 
river, and, sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed 
to the other side. Upon which Caesar on a sudden impulse 
exclaimed: " Let us go whither the omens of the gods and the 
iniquity of our enemies call us. The die is cast." And 
immediately at the head of his troops he crossed the river and 
found awaiting him the tribunes of the people who, having 
fled from Rome, had come to meet him. There in their 
presence he called upon the troops to pledge him their fidelity, 
with tears in his eyes, Suetonius assures us, and his garments 
rent from his bosom. And when he had received their oath 
he set out, and with his legion marched so fast the rest of 
the way that he reached Ariminum before morning and 
took it. 

The fall of Ariminum was but a presage, as we know, of 
Caesar's triumph. In three months he was master of all 
Italy. From Ravenna he had emerged to seize the lordship 
of the world, and out of a misery of chaos to create Europe. 



That great revolutionary act of Julius Caesar's may be said 
to have made manifest, and for the first time, the unique 
position of Ravenna in relation to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul. 
In the years which followed, that position remained always 
unchanged, and is, indeed, more prominent than ever in the 
civil wars between Antony and Octavianus which followed 
Caesar's murder; but with the establishment of the empire by 
Octavianus and the universal peace, the pax romana, which 
it ensured, this position of Ravenna in relation to Italy and 
to Cisalpine Gaul sank into insignificance in comparison with 
her other unique advantage, her position upon the sea. For 
Octavianus, as we shall see, established her as the great naval 
port of Italy upon the east, and as such she chiefly appears to 
us during all the years of the unhampered government of the 

In the civil wars between Antony and Octavianus, however, 
she appears stiU as the key to the narrow pass between Italy 
and Cisalpine Gaul. Let us consider this for a moment. 

Antony, as we know, after that great scene in the senate 
house when the supporters of Pompey and the aristocrats had 
succeeded in denying Caesar everything, had fled to Caesar at 
Ravenna. In the war which followed he had been Caesar's 
chief lieutenant and friend. At the crucial battle of Pharsalus 
in 48 B.C. he had commanded, and with great success, the left 
wing. In 44 B.C. he had been consul with Caesar and had then 



offered him the crown at the festival of the Lu-percalia. After 
Caesar's murder he had attempted, and not without a sort of 
right, to succeed to his power. It was. he who pronounced 
the speech over Caesar's body and read his wiU to the people. 
It was he who obtained Caesar's papers and his private pro- 
perty. It cannot then have been without resentment and 
surprise that he found presently a rival in the young Octa- 
vianus, the great-nephew and adopted son of the dictator, 
who joined the senate with the express purpose of crushing 

Now Antony, perhaps remembering his master, had ob- 
tained from the senate the promise of Cisalpine Gaul, then 
in the hands of Decimus Brutus, who, encouraged by Octa- 
vianus, refused to surrender it to him. Antony proceeded to 
Ariminum (Rimini), but Octavianus seized Ravenna and 
supplied it both with stores and money. ^ Antony was 
beaten and compelled to retreat across the Alps. In these 
acts we may see which of the two rivals understood the reality 
of things, and from this alone we might perhaps foresee the 

That was in 44 B.C. A reconciliation between the rivals 
followed and the government was vested in them and in 
Lepidus under the title of Triumviri Reifuhlicce Consti- 
tuenicB for five years. In 42 b.c. Brutus and Cassius and the 
aristocratic party were crushed by Antony and Octavianus 
at Philippi; and Antony received Asia as his share of the Roman 
world. Proceeding to his government in Cilicia, Antony met 
Cleopatra and followed her to Egypt. Meanwhile Fulvia, his 
wife, and L. Antonius, his brother, made war upon Octavianus in 
Italy, for they like x\ntony hoped for the lordship of the world. 
In the war which followed, Ravenna played a considerable 
part. In 41 B.C., for instance, the year in which the war 
opened, the Antonine party secured themselves in Ravenna, 
not only because of its strategical importance in regard to 
Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, but also because as a seaport it 
1 Appian, iii. 42. 


allowed of their communication with Antony in Egypt from 
whom they expected support. All this exposed and demon- 
strated more and more the importance of Ravenna, and we may 
be sure that the wise and astute Octavianus marked it. 

But it was the war with Sextus Pompeius which clearly 
showed what the future of Ravenna was to be. In that 
affair we find Ravenna already established as a naval port 
apparently subsidiary, on that coast, to Brundusium, as 
Misenum was upon the Tyrrhene sea to Puteoli; and there 
Octavianus built ships. 

It was not, however, till Octavianus, his enemies one and 
all disposed of, had made himself emperor at last, that, on 
the establishment and general regulation of his great govern- 
ment, he chose Ravenna as the major naval port of Italy upon 
the east, even as he chose Misenum upon the west. 

Octavianus had learned two things, certainly, in the wars 
'he had fought to establish himself in the monarchy his great- 
uncle had founded. He had learned the necessity and the 
value of sea power, and he had understood the unique position 
of Ravenna in relation to the East and the West. That he 
had been able to appreciate both these facts is enough to 
mark him as the great man he was. 

Julius Caesar, for all his mighty grasp of reality, had not 
perceived the enormous value, nay the necessity, of sea power, 
and because of this failure his career had been twice nearly 
cut short; at Ilerda, where the naval victory of Decimus 
Brutus over the Massiliots alone saved him; and at Alex- 
andria. Both the liberators and Antony had possessed ships; 
but both had failed to use them with any real effect. It was 
Sextus Pompeius who forced Octavianus to turn to the sea, 
and when Octavianus became Augustus he did not forget the 
lesson. Sole master of the Mediterranean and of all its ships 
of war, he understood at once how great a support sea power 
offered him and his principate. Nor was the empire, while it 
was vigorous, though always fearful of and averse from the 
sea, ever to forget the power that lay in that command. 


Thus it was that among the first acts of Augustus was the 
establishment of two fleets, as we might say, " in being " in 
the Mediterranean; the fleet of Misenum and the fleet of 
Ravenna; the latter with stations probably at Aquileia, 
Brundusium, the Piraeus, and probably elsewhere. 

The fleet of Ravenna was, certainly after a.d. 70, probably 
about A.D. 127, entitled Prestoria. The origin of this title is 
unknown, but it was also borne by the fleet of Misenum 
and it distinguishes the Italian from the later Provincial 
fleets, the former being in closer relation to the emperor, 
just as the Praetorian cohorts were distinguished from the 

The emperor was, of course, head of aU the fleets, which 
were, each of them, commanded by a prefect and sub-prefect 
appointed by him; and if we may judge from the recorded 
promotions we have, it would seem that the Misenate prefect 
ranked before the Ravennate and both before the Provincial. 
But in the general military system the navy stood lowest in 
respect of pay and position. The fleets were manned by 
freed men and foreigners who could not obtain citizenship 
until after twenty-six years' service. We find Claudius 
employing the marines of the Classis Ravennas to drain lake 
Fucinus, and it was probably Vespasian who formed the 
Legion II. Adjutrix from the Ravennate, even as Nero had 
formed Legion I. Adjutrix from the Misenate marines. 

The Ravenna that Augustus thus chose to be the great 
base and port of his fleet in the eastern sea was, as we have 
seen, a place built upon piles in the midst of the marshes, 
impregnable from the land, and, because impregnable, able, 
whenever it was in dispute, to command the narrow pass 
between the mountains and the sea that was the gate of Italy 
and Cisalpine Gaul. Such a place, situated as it was upon 
the western shore of that sea which was the fault between 
East and West, was eminently suitable for the great purpose 
of the emperor. Pliny ^ indeed would seem to tell us that 
^ Pliny, iii. 20 ; cf. also Strabo, v. 7. 


from time immemorial Ravenna had possessed a small port; 
but such a place, well enough for the small traders of those 
days, could not serve usefully the requirements of a great fleet. 
Therefore the first act of Augustus, when he had chosen 
Ravenna as his naval base, was the construction of a proper 
port and harbour, and these came to be named, after the fleet 
they served and accommodated, Classis. Classis was situated 
some two and a half miles from the town of Ravenna to the 
east-south-east. We may perhaps have some idea both of 
its situation and of its relation to Ravenna if we say that it 
was to that city what the Porto di Lido is to Venice. 

It is very difficult, in looking upon Ravenna as we see it 
to-day, to reconstruct it, even in the imagination, as it was 
when Augustus had done with it. To begin with, the sea has 
retreated several miles from the city, which is no longer 
within sight of it, while all that is left of Classis, which is also 
now out of sight of the sea, is a single decayed and deserted 
church, S. Apollinare in Classe. Strabo, however, who wrote 
his Geography a few years after Augustus had chosen Ravenna 
for his port upon the Adriatic, has left us a description both 
of it and the country in which it stood, from which must be 
drawn any picture we would possess of so changed a place. 
He speaks of it, as we have seen, as " a great city " situated in 
the marshes, built entirely upon piles, and traversed by canals 
which were everywhere crossed by bridges or ferry-boats. 
While at the full tide he tells us it was swept by the sea and 
always by the river, and thus the sewage was carried off and 
the air purified, and this so thoroughly, that even before its 
establishment by Augustus the district was considered so 
healthy that the Roman governors had chosen it as a spot in 
which to train gladiators.^ That river we know from Pliny ^ 
was called the Bedesis; and the same writer tells us that 
Augustus built a canal which brought the water of the Po to 

Tacitus in his Annals^ merely tells us that Italy was 
* Strabo, v, 7. * Pliny, iii. 20. * Tacitus, Ann. iv. 5. 


guarded on both sides by fleets at Misenum and Ravenna, 
and in his Histories ^ speaks of these places as the well known 
naval stations without stopping to describe them. While 
Suetonius,^ though he mentions the great achievement of 
Augustus, does not emphasise it and does not attempt to tell 
us what these ports were like. 

Perhaps the best description we have of Augustan Ravenna 
comes to us from a writer who certainly never saw the port 
in its great Roman days, but who probably followed a well 
established tradition in his description of it. This is 
Jornandes, who was born about a.d. 500 and was first a notary 
at the Ostrogothic court and later became a monk and 
finally bishop of Crotona. In his De Getarum Origine et 
Rebus Qestis he thus describes Ravenna: 

" This city (says he) between the marshes, the sea, and the 
Po is only accessible on one side. Situated beside the Ionian 
Sea it is surrounded and almost submerged by lagoons. On 
the east is the sea, on the west it is defended by marshes 
across which there remains a narrow passage, a kind of gate. 
The city is encircled on the north by a branch of the Po, called 
the Fossa Asconis, and on the south by the Po itself, which is 
called the Eridanus, and which is there known as the King of 
Rivers. Augustus deepened its bed and made it larger; it 
flowed quite through the city, and its mouth formed an 
excellent port where once, as Dion reports [this passage of 
Dion Cassius is lost], a fleet of 250 ships could be stationed 
in all security. . . . The city has three names with which 
she glorifies herself and she is divided into three parts 
to which they correspond; the first is Ravenna, the last 
Classis, that in the midst is Caesarea between Ravenna and 
the sea. Built on a sandy soil this quarter is easily approached 
and is commodiously situated for trade and transport." 

We thus have a picture of Ravenna as a triune city, con- 
sisting of Ravenna proper, the port Classis, and the long 
suburb between them, Cassarea, connected by a great causeway 

1 Tacitus, Hist. ii. loo; iii. 6, 40. '^ Suetonius, Augustus. 


and everywhere watered by canals, the greatest of which was 
the Fossa Augusta by which a part of the waters of the Po 
were carried to Ravenna and thence to Classis and the sea; 
a city very much, we may suppose, what we know Venice to 
be, if we think of her in connection with the Riva, the 
great suburb of the Marina, and the Porto di Lido. At 
Classis we must understand there was room for a fleet of two 
hundred and fifty ships and accommodation for arsenals, 
magazines, barracks, and so forth, while there is one other 
thing we know of this port, and that from Pliny,^ who tells us 
that it had a Pharos like the famous one of Alexandria. 
" There is another building (says he) that is highly celebrated, 
the tower that was built by a king of Egypt on the island of 
Pharos at the entrance to the harbour of Alexandria. . . . 
At present there are similar fires lighted up in numerous 
places, Ostia and Ravenna for example. The only danger 
is that when these fires are thus kept burning without 
intermission they may be mistaken for stars." 

Such was the splendour of Ravenna in the time of Augustus. 
His achievement so far as Ravenna was concerned was to 
understand her importance not only in regard to Italy and 
Cisalpine Gaul, an importance already discounted by the uni- 
versal peace he had established, but in regard to the sea. He 
turned Ravenna into a first-class naval port and based his 
eastern fleet upon her; and this was so wise an act that, so long 
as the empire remained strong and unhampered, Ravenna 
appears as the great base of its sea power in the East. 

In that long peace which Italy enjoyed under the empire 
we hear little of Ravenna. We know Claudius built a great 
gate called Porta Aurea, which was only destroyed in 1582; 
and we know that the great sea port had one weakness, the 
scarcity of good water for drinking purposes. Martial writes 

" I'd rather at Ravenna have a cistern than a vine. 
Since I could sell my water there much better than my wine;" 

1 Pliny, XXX. vi. 18. 



and again: 

" That landlord at Ravenna is plainly but a cheat, 
I paid for wine and water, but he served wine to me neat." * 

This weakness would seem, however, to have been overcome 
by Trajan, who built an aqueduct nearly twenty miles long, 
which Theodoric restored, after the fall of the empire, in 524. 
This aqueduct, of which some arches remain in the bed of the 

Greek Relief from a Temple of Neptune 

Bedesis (Ronco), seems to have run, following the course of 
the river, from near Forli, where there still remains a village 
called S. Maria in Acquedotto, to Ravenna. 

The great city-port thus became one of the most important 
and considerable of the cities of Italy, at a time when the 
whole of the West was rapidly increasing in wealth and 
population, and especially the old province of Cisapline Gaul, 
which had indeed become, during the fax romana, the 
richest part of the new Italy. Always an important military 
port it was often occupied by the emperors as their head- 
1 Martial, Ep. iii. 56, 57. Trs. Hodgkin. 



quarters from which to watch and to oppose the advance of 
their enemies into Italy, and the possessor of it, for the 
reasons I have set forth, was always in a commanding posi- 
tion. Thus in A.D. 193 it was the surrender of Ravenna 
without resistance that gave the empire to Septimius Severus, 
when, scarcely allowing himself time for sleep or food, march- 
ing on foot and in complete armour, he crossed the Alps at 
the head of his columns to punish the wretched Didius 
Julianus and to avenge Pertinax. It was there in 238 that 
Pupienus was busy assembling his army to oppose Maximin 
when he received the news of the death of his enemy before 

And because it was impregnable and secluded it was often 
chosen too as a place of imprisonment for important prisoners. 

It is true that we know very little, in detail, of the life of 
v/ any city other than Rome during those years of the great 
Peace in which we see the empire change from a Pagan 
to a Christian state. Those centuries which saw Christen- 
dom slowly emerge, in which Europe was founded, still lack 
a modern historian, and the magnitude and splendour of their 
achievement are too generally misconceived or ignored. We 
are largely unaware still of what they were in themselves and 
of what we owe to them. By reason of the miserable collapse 
of Europe, of Christendom, in the sixteenth century and its 
appalling results both in thought and in politics, we are led, 
too often by prejudices, to regard those mighty years rather as 
the prelude to the decline and fall of the empire than as the 
great and indestructible foundations of all that is still worth 
having in the world. 

For rightly understood those centuries gave us not only our 
culture, our civilisation, and our Faith, but ensured them to 
us that they should always endure. They established for 
ever the great lines upon which our art was to develop, to 
change, and yet not to suffer annihilation or barrenness. 
They established the supremacy of the idea, so that it might 
always renew our lives, our culture, and our polity, and that 


we might judge everything by it and fear neither revolution, 
defeat, nor decay. They, and they alone, established us in 
the secure possession of our own souls so that we alone in the 
world might develop from within, to change but never to die, 
and to be — yes, alone in the world — Christians. 

The almost incredible strength and well being of those 
years must be seized also. There was not a town in Italy and 
the West that did not expand and increase in a fashion almost 
miraculous during that period. It was then the rivers were 
embanked, the canals made, the great roads planned and 
constructed, and our communications established for ever. 
There was no industry that did not grow marvellously in 
strength, there is not a class that did not increase in wealth 
and well-being beyond our dreams of progress. There is 
scarcely anything that is really fundamental in our lives that 
was not then created that it might endure. It was then our 
religion, the soul of Europe, was born. 

Christianity, the Faith, which, little by little, absorbed the 
empire, tiU it became the energy and the cause of all that 
undying but changeful principle of life and freedom which 
rightly understood is Europe, is thought to have been brought 
first to Ravenna by S. Apollinaris, a disciple as we are told of 
S. Peter, who made him her first bishop. So at least his acts 
assert; and though little credence may, I fear, be placed in 
them, that he was the first bishop of Ravenna, and in the 
time of S. Peter, is not at variance with what we know of that 
age, is attested by the traditions of the city, and is supported 
by later authorities. S. Peter Chrysologus (c. 440), the most 
famous of his successors, for instance, assures us of it. This 
great churchman calls S. Apollinaris martyr, and in that 
there is nothing strange, but he asserts that though he often 
spilt his blood for the Faith, yet God preserved him a long 
time, not less than twenty years, to his church, and that his 
persecution did not take away his life.^ 

* His relics lay for many years in the church dedicated in his honour 
at Classis; but in 549 they were removed from their great tomb and 


The empire which it had taken more than a millenium to 
build, which was the most noble and perhaps the most bene- 
ficient experiment in government that has ever been made, 
was in obvious economic and administrative decay by the 
middle of the fourth century. Christianity perhaps was 
already undermining the servile state, which in its effort of 
self-preservation adopted an economic system hopelessly 
at variance with the facts of the situation; while the weak- 
ness of its frontiers offered a military problem which the 
empire was unable to face. Diocletian had attempted 
to solve it by dividing the empire, but the division he made 
was rather racial tha'fe strategic, for under it the two parts 
of the empire, East and West, met on the Danube. The 
eastern part, by force of geography, was inclined to an 
Asiatic point of view and to the neglect of the Danube; the 
western was by no means strong enough either financially 
cr militarily to hold that tremendous line. 

We read, in the letters of S. Ambrose among others, of the 
decay of the great cities of Cisalpine Gaul,^ of the failure of 
agriculture in that rich countryside, of the poverty and 
misery that were everywhere falling upon that great state. 
It is possible that in the general weakening of administrative 
power even the roads, the canals, the whole system of com- 
munications were allowed to become less perfect than they 
had been; everywhere there was a retreat. The frontiers 
were no longer inviolate, and it is probable that in the general 
decay the port of Classis, the city of Ravenna, suffered not 
less than their neighbours. 

Indeed already in 306 it is rather as a refuge than as a 

placed in a more secret spot in the same churcli. Cf. Agnellus : Liber 
Pontificalis Ecclesics Ravennatis (Ed. Holder - Egger in Monumenia 
GermaniccB Historica) and S. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 1 28 in Migne. 
1 See S. Ambrose, Ep. 39, written in 388, quoted by Muratori, Dis- 
sertazioni, vol. i. 21. " De Bononiensi veniens Urbe, a tergo Clater- 
nam, ipsam Bononiam, Mutinam, Regium derelinquebas ; in dextera 
erat Brixillum ; a f ronte occurrebat Placentia. . . . Te igitur semiru- 
tarum Urbium cadavera, terrarumque sub eodem conspectu exposita 
funera non te admonent. ..." 


great and active naval base that Ravenna appears to us, when 
Severus, destitute of force, " retired or rather fled " thither 
from the pursuit of Maximian. He flung himself into Ravenna 
because it was impregnable and because he expected reinforce- 
ments from Illyricum and the East, but though he held the 
sea with a powerful fleet he made no use of it, and the emis- 
saries of Maximian easily persuaded him to surrender. 
Already perhaps, a century later, when Honorius retired from 
Milan on the approach of Alaric and the first of those bar- 
barian invasions which broke up the decaying western 
empire had penetrated into Cisalpine Gaul, the great works 
of Augustus and Trajan at Ravenna, the canals, the mighty 
Fossa, and the port itself had fallen into a sort of decay which 
the fifth century was to complete, till that marvellous city, 
once the base of the eastern fleet and one of the great naval 
ports of the world, became just a decaying citadel engulfed 
in the marshes, impregnable it is true, but for barbarian 
reasons, lost in the fogs and the miasma of her shallow and 
undredged lagoons. 



When Honorius left Milan on the approach of Alaric he went 
to Ravenna. Why ? 

Gibbon, whom every writer since has followed without 
question, tells us, in one of his most scornful passages, that 
" the emperor Honorius was distinguished, above his sub- 
jects, by the pre-eminence of fear, as well as of rank. The 
pride and luxury in which he was educated had not allowed 
him to suspect that there existed on the earth any power 
presumptuous enough to invade the repose of the successor of 
Augustus. The acts of flattery concealed the impending 
danger till Alaric approached the palace of Milan. But when 
the sound of war had awakened the young emperor, instead of 
flying to arms with the spirit, or even the rashness, of his age, 
he eagerly listened to those timid counsellors who proposed to 
convey his sacred person and his faithful attendants to some 
secure and distant station in the provinces of Gaul. . . . 
The recent danger to which the person of the emperor had 
been exposed in the defenceless palace of Milan urged him to 
seek a retreat in some inaccessible fortress of Italy, where he 
might securely remain while the open country was covered 
by a deluge of barbarians." 

No historian of Ravenna, and certainly no writer upon the 
fall of the empire, has cared to understand what Ravenna 



was. Gibbon complains that he lacks " a local antiquarian 
and a good topographical map; " yet it is not so much the 
lack of local knowledge that leads him unreservedly to 
censure Honorius for his retreat upon Ravenna, as the fact 
that he has not perhaps really grasped what Ravenna was, 
what was her relation to Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, and especi- 
ally how she stood to the sea, and what part that sea played in 
the geography and strategy of the empire. 

For my part I shall maintain that, whatever may be the 
truth as to the private character of Honorius, which would 
indeed be difficult to defend, he was wisely advised by those 
counsellors who conceived his retreat from Milan to Ravenna ; 
that this retreat was not a mere flight, but a consummate and 
well thought out strategical and political move, and that any 
other would have been for the worse and would probably have 
involved the West in an utter destruction. 

Cisalpine Gaul, at this crisis, as always both before and 
since, was the great and proper defence of Italy; not the Alps 
nor the Apennines but Cisalpine Gaul broke the barbarians, 
and, in so far as it could be materially saved, saved Italy and 
our civilisation, of which Rome was the soul. There Stilicho 
met Alaric and broke his first and worst enthusiasm; there 
Leo the Great turned back Attila; there the fiercest terror 
of the Lombard tide spent itself. 

Now, as we have seen. Cisalpine Gaul, in its relation to Italy, 
was best held and contained from Ravenna, which commanded, 
whenever it was in danger, the narrow pass between them. 
Therefore the retreat of Honorius upon Ravenna was a con- 
summate strategical act, well advised and such as we might 
expect from " the successor of Augustus." Its results were 
momentous and entirely fortunate for Italy, and indeed, when 
the truth about Ravenna is once grasped, any other move 
would appear to have been craven and ridiculous. 

But there is something more that is of an even greater 

The best hope of the West in its fight with the barbarian 



undoubtedly lay in its own virility and arms, but it had the 
right to expect that in such a fight it would not be unaided 
by the eastern empire and the great civilisation whose 
capital was that New Rome upon the Bosphorus. If it was to 
receive such assistance, it must receive it at Ravenna, which 
held Cisalpine Gaul and was the gate of the eastern sea. 
When Honorius then retreated upon Ravenna, he did so, 

Sarcophagus of Emperor Honorius (?) 

not merely because Ravenna was impregnable, though that 
of course weighed too with his advisers, for the base of any 
virile and active defence must, or should, be itself secure; but 
also because it held the great pass and the great road into 
Italy, and as the eastern gate of the West would receive and 
thrust forward whatever help and reinforcement the empire 
in the East might care or be able to give. 

That the defence which was made with Ravenna for its 
citadel was not wholly victorious, that the attack which the 


eastern empire planned and delivered from Ravenna, 
perhaps too late, was not completely successful, were the 
results of many and various causes, but not of any want of 
judgment in the choice of Ravenna as their base. That base 
was rightly and consummately chosen without hesitation and 
from the first; and because it was chosen, the hope of the 
restoration never quite passed away and seemed to have been 
realised at last when Charlemagne, following Pepin into Italy, 
was crowned emperor in S. Peter's Church on Christmas Day 
in the year 800. 

It will readily be understood, then, that the most important 
and the most interesting part of the history of Ravenna begins 
when Honorius retreated upon her before the invasion of 
Alaric, and not only the West, but Italy and Rome, the heart 
and soul of it, seemed about to be in dispute. 

But first amid all the loose thought and confusion of the 
last three hundred years let us make sure of funda- 

I shall take for granted in this book that Rome accepted 
the Faith not because the Roman mind was senile, but because 
it was mature; that the failure of the empire is to be regretted; 
that the barbarians were barbarians; that not from them but 
from the new and Christian civilisation of the empire itself 
came the strength of the restoration, the mighty achievements 
of the Middle Age, of the Renaissance, of the Modern world. 
The barbarian, as I understand it, did nothing. He came in 
naked and ashamed, without laws or institutions. To some 
extent, though even in this he was a failure, he destroyed; it 
was his one service. He came and he tried to learn; he learnt 
to be a Christian. When the empire re-arose it was Roman 
not barbarian, it was Christian not heathen, it was Catholic 
not heretical. It owed the barbarian nothing. That it 
re-arose, and that as a Roman and a Catholic state, is due 
largely to the fact that Honorius retreated upon Ravenna. 

If we could depend upon the dates in the Theodosian Code 
we should be able to say that Honorius finally retreated upon 



Ravenna before December 402 ; ^ unhappily the dates we find 
there must not be rehed upon with absolute confidence. We 
may take it that Alaric entered Venetia in November 401, 
and that at the same time Radagaisus invaded Rhaetia. 
Stilicho, Honorius' great general and the hero of the whole 
defence, advanced against Radagaisus. Upon Easter Day 
in the following year, however, he met Alaric at PoUentia and 
defeated him, but the Gothic king was allowed to withdraw 
from that field with the greater part of his cavalry entire and 
unbroken. Stilicho hoping to annihilate him forced him to 
retreat, overtook him at Asta (Asti), but again allowed him to 
escape and this time to retreat into Istria. 

In the summer of 403 Alaric again entered Italy and laid 
siege to Verona; Stilicho, however, met him and defeated 
him, but again allowed him to retreat. Well might Orosius, 
his contemporary, exclaim that this king with his Goths, 
though often hemmed in, often defeated, was always allowed 
to escape. 

The battle of Verona was followed by a peace of two years 
duration. But in 405 the other barbarian Radagaisus came 
down into Cisalpine Gaul as Alaric had done, and Stilicho, 
knowing that the pass through which the great road entered 
Italy was secured by Ravenna, assailed him at Ticinum 
(Pavia). Radagaisus, however, did a bold and perhaps an 
unexpected thing. He attempted to cross the Apennines 
themselves by the difficult and neglected route that ran 
over them and led to Fiesole.- But the Romans had 
been right in their judgment. That way was barred by 
nature. It needed no defence. Before the barbarian had 
quite pierced the mountains Stilicho caught him, slew him, 

1 Cf. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vol. i. pt. 2, p. 712. 

^ Livy asserts that C. Flaminius, the colleague of M. ^milius Lepidus 
in B.C. 187, built a road direct from Arezzo to Bologna across the Tuscan 
Apennines. This road early fell into disuse and ruin. We hear nothing 
of it (but see Cicero, Phil. xii. 9) till this raid of Radagaisus. Later, 
Totila came this way to besiege Rome. Cf. Repetti, Dizionario della 
Toscana, vol. v. 713-715. 


and annihilated his already starving bands at Fiesole. 
Cisalpine Gaul and the fortress of Ravenna, its key, still held 
Italy secure. 

Honorius and his great general and minister now essayed 
what perhaps should have been attempted earlier, namely, 
to employ Alaric in the service of Rome, as the East had 
known how to employ him, at a distance from the capital. 
He was first offered the province of Illyricum ; but the senate 
refused to hear of any such treaty, and though at last it con- 
sented to pay the Goth 4000 pounds in gold " to secure the 
peace of Italy and conciHate the friendship of the Gothic king," 
Lampadius, one of the most illustrious members of that 
assembly, asserted that " this is not a treaty of peace but of 
servitude." Thus the senate was ahenated from Stilicho, and 
not the senate only but the army also, which was exasperated 
by his affection for the barbarians. Nor was the great general 
more fortunate with the emperor, who had come of late under 
the influence of Olympius, a man who, Zosimus tells us, under 
an appearance of Christian piety, concealed a great deal of 
rascality. Stilicho had promoted him to a very honourable 
place in the household of the emperor; nevertheless he plotted 
against him. At his suggestion Honorius proposed to show 
himself to the army at Pa via, already at enmity with Stilicho. 
The result was disastrous. For the occasion was seized for a 
revolt in which the best ofiicers of the empire perished. 
Stilicho, not daring to march his barbarians from Bologna 
upon the Roman army, and by this refusal incurring their 
enmity also, flung himself into Ravenna and took refuge in 
the great church there. On the following day, however, he 
was dehvered up by the bishop to Count Heraclian and slain. 

Thus perished in the great fortress of the defence the great 
defender, leaving the whole of Italy in confusion. He was 
not long to go unavenged. 

Stilicho was slain in Ravenna upon August 23rd, 408. In 
October of that year Alaric, who had watched the appalling 
revolution that followed his own defeat and the annihilation 



of Radagaisus, after fruitless negotiations with Hononus, 
descended into Italy, passed Aquileia, and coming into the 
^milian Way at Bologna found the pass open and without 
misadventure entered Italy at Rimini, and, without attack- 
ing Ravenna, marched on " to Rome, to make that city 
desolate " He besieged Rome three times and pillaged it, 
taking with him, when he left it, hostages. As we know he 
never returned, but died at Cosentia in southern Italy, and 
was buried in the bed of the Buxentius, which had been 
turned aside, for a moment, by a captive multitude, to give 

him sepulture. •■ , . j r u 

Among those hostages which Alaric had claimed from the 
City and taken with him southward was the sister of the 
two emperors, the daughter of the great Theodosius, GaUa 

Placidia. , . r. i. 

This great lady had been born, as is thought, m Rome about 
390; she had, however, spent the first seven years of her life 
in Constantinople, but had returned to Italy on the death of 
Theodosius with her brother Honorius, in the care of the 
beautiful Serena, the wife of Stilicho. She does not seem to 
have followed her brother either to Milan or to Ravenna, for 
indeed his residence in both these cities was part of the great 
defence. She remained in Rome, probably in the house of her 
kinswoman Lsta, the widow of Gratian. That she had a 
grudge against Serena seems certain, though the whole story 
of the plot to marry her to Eucherius, Serena's son, would 
appear doubtful. That she initiated her murder, as Zosimus^ 
asserts, is extremely improbable and altogether unproven. 
However that may be, after one of his three sieges of Rome, 
Alaric carried Galla Placidia off as a hostage. He seems, 
according to Zosimus, to have treated her with courtesy and 
even with an exaggerated reverence, as the sister of the 
emperor and the daughter of Theodosius, but she was com- 
pelled to follow in his train and to see the ruin of Lucania and 

1 Zosimus, V. 38. Zosimus was a pagan. Placidia was a devout and 
enthusiastic Catholic. 



Calabria. For, as a matter of fact and reality, Galla Placidia 
was the one hope of the Goths and this became obvious after 
the death of Alaric. 

The Gothic army was in a sort of trap ; it could not return 
without the consent of Ravenna, and if it were compelled to 
remain in Italy it was only a question of time till it should 
be crushed or gradually wasted away. It is probable that 
Alaric was aware of this; it is certain that it was well appre- 
ciated by his successor Ataulfus. He saw that his one chance 
of coming to terms with the empire lay in his possession of 
GaHa Placidia. Moreover, Italy and Rome had worked in the 
mind and the spirit of this man the extraordinary change 
that was to declare itself in the soul of almost every barbarian 
who came to ravage them. He began dimly to understand 
what the empire was. He felt ashamed of his own rudeness 
and of the barbarism of his people. Years afterwards he 
related to a citizen of Narbonne, who in his turn repeated the 
confession to S. Jerome in Palestine in the presence of the 
historian Orosius, the curious " conversion " that Italy had 
worked in his heart. " In the full confidence of valour and 
victory," said Ataulfus, " I once aspired to change the face 
of the universe; to obliterate the name of Rome; to erect on 
its ruins the dominion of the Goths; and to acquire, like 
Augustus, the immortal fame of the founder of a new empire. 
By repeated experiments I was gradually convinced that laws 
are essentially necessary to maintain and regulate a well con- 
stituted state, and that the fierce untractable humour of the 
Goths was incapable of bearing the salutary yoke of laws and 
civil government. From that moment I proposed to myself 
a different object of glory and ambition; and it is now my 
sincere wish that the gratitude of future ages should acknow- 
ledge the merit of a stranger who employed the sword of 
the Goths not to subvert but to restore and maintain the 
prosperity of the Roman Empire." ^ 

With this change in his heart and the necessity of securing 
^ Orosius, vii. c. 43. Gibbon, c. xxxi. 


a retreat upon the best terms he could arrange, Ataulfus looked 
on Placidia his captive and found her perhaps fair, certainly 
a prize almost beyond the dreams of a barbarian. He aspired 
to marry her, and she does not seem to have been unready to 
grant him her hand. Doubtless she had been treated by 
Alaric and his successor with an extraordinary respect not dis- 
pleasing to so royal a lady, and Ataulfus, though not so tall 
as Alaric, was both shapely and noble. ^ There seems indeed 
to have been but one obstacle to this match. This was the 
ambition of Constantius, the new minister of Honorius, who 
wished to make his position secure by marrying Placidia 

Italy, however, needed peace as badly as the Goths needed 
a secure retreat. And when negotiations were opened it was 
seen that their success depended entirely upon this question 
of Placidia. A treaty was drawn up of friendship and alliance 
between the Goths and the empire. The services of Ataulfus 
were accepted against the barbarians who were harrying the 
provinces beyond the Alps, and the king, with Galla Placidia 
a willing captive, began his retreat from Campania into Gaul. 
His troops occupied the cities of Narbonne, Toulouse, and 
Bordeaux, and in spite of the protests and resistance of the 
harassed provincials soon extended their quarters from the 
Mediterranean to the Atlantic. 

To hold the Goth to his friendship and to secure his absence 
from Italy nothing remained but to accord him the hand of 
Placidia; and in the year 414 at Narbonne their marriage 
w^ solemnised. 2 
'*'^^^^^^^^ptVith the retreat of the Goth and the treaty sealed by the 
marriage of Placidia, the sister of Honorius, and the Gothic 

^ Jornandes, c. xxxi. 

^ Olympiodorus and Idatius say the marriage took place at Nar- 
bonne, but Jornandes, op cit. c. 31, asserts that it took place at Forii 
before Ataulfus left Italy. Perhaps there were two ceremonies, or 
perhaps the ceremony at Narbonne was but the celebration of an 


king, Italy secured herself a peace and a repose which 
endured for some forty-two years, only broken by the raid of 
Heraclian from Africa in 41^ 

But Ataulfus did not long survive his marriage. Having 
crossed the Pyrenees and surprised in the name of Honorius 
the city of Barcelona, he was assassinated in the palace there, 
and in the tumult which followed, Singeric, the brother of his 
enemy and a stranger to the royal race, was hailed as king. 
This revolution made Placidia once more a fugitive, and we see 
the daughter of Theodosius " confounded among a crowd of 
vulgar captives, compelled to march on foot above twelve 
miles before the horse of a barbarian, the assassin of a 
husband whom Placidia loved and lamented." On the 
seventh day of his reign, however, Singeric was himself 
assassinated and Wallia, who then became king of the Goths, 
after repeated representations backed at last by the despatch 
of an army surrendered the princess to her brother in exchange 
for 600,000 measures of wheat. 

That must have been a strange home-coming for Placidia. 
Bought and sold twice over, twice a fugitive, the companion 
of the rude Goth, she is the most pathetic figure in all that 
terrible fifth century, and never does she appear more pitiful 
than on her return from the camps and the triumphs of the 
barbarians to the decadent splendour and the corruption of 
the imperial court of Ravenna, and again as a captive, a prize, 

For the man who had been at the head of that army whose 
approach, real or supposed, had decided the Goths to deliver 
up the sister of the emperor was Constantius, her old lover, he 
who had delayed her marriage with Ataulfus and who now 
determined to marry her himself. 

It was in 416 that Placidia returned to Ravenna. In the 
following year Honorius gave her to Constantius, then his 
colleague in the consular office for the second time. The 
marriage ceremony of very great splendour took place in 
Ravenna; and in the same year was born of that marriage 


Honoris, who was to offer herself to Attila, and in 419 
Valentinian, one day to be emperor. 

That marriage soon had the result Constantius had intended. 
In 421 Honorius was compelled to associate him with himself 
on the imperial throne and to give to Placidia the title of 
Augusta. The new emperor, however, survived his elevation 
to the throne but seven months and once more Placidia was a 
widow. Her life, never a happy one, if we except the few 
years in which she was the wife of Ataulfus, whom she seems 
really to have loved, became unbearable after the death of 
Constantius. At the mercy of her brother who was fast sink- 
ing, at the age of thirty-nine, into a vicious and idiotic senility, 
she, always a sincere Catholic in spite of her romantic 
marriage with the Arian Ataulfus, seems to have been forced 
into a horrible intimacy with him; at least we know that 
he obliged her to receive his obscene kisses, even in public, 
to the scandal and perhaps the amusement of that corrupt 
society. And then suddenly her brother's dreadful love 
seems to have turned to hate and she is a fugitive again with 
her two children at the court of her nephew Theodosius H. 
at Constantinople. In the very year of her flight Honorius 
died and the throne of the West was vacant. 

It was fiUed by the obscure civil servant Joannes, the chief 
of the notaries, the creature of some palace intrigue. But 
such a choice could not be tolerated by Theodosius, who 
immediately confirmed Placidia in her title of Augusta, which 
had not before been recognised at Constantinople, and 
accepted Valentinian, whose title was Nobilissimus, as the 
heir to the western throne, giving him the title of Csesar. 
To suppress the usurper Joannes, Theodosius despatched an 
army to bring Placidia and her children to Ravenna. After 
a short campaign in northern Italy, by a miracle, according 
to the contemporary historian Socrates, the troops of Theo- 
dosius arrived before Ravenna. " The prayer of the pious 
emperor again prevailed. For an angel of God, under the 
semblance of a shepherd, undertook the guidance of Aspar 


and his troops, and led them through the lake near Ravenna. 
Now no one had ever been known to ford that lake before; 
but God then caused that to be possible which before had 
been impossible. But when they had crossed the lake, as if 
going over dry land, they found the gates of the city open and 
seized the tyrant Joannes." ^ 

So the Augusta with the young Caesar and her daughter 
Honoria entered Ravenna, to reign there, first as regent and 
then as the no less powerful adviser of her son, for some 
twenty-five years. 

When Ravenna opened its gates some eighteen months had 
passed since the death of Honorius. But the appearance of 
that " angel of God under the semblance of a shepherd " had 
not been the only miracle that had occurred on the return of 
Placidia to the imperial city by the eastern sea. For it 
seems that on her voyage either from Constantinople to 
AquUeia, where she remained till Ravenna was taken, or from 
Aquileia to Ravenna, Placidia and her children were caught 
in a great storm at sea and came near to suffer shipwreck. 
Then Placidia prayed aloud, invoking the aid of S. John the 
Evangelist for deHverance from so great a peril, and vowing to 
build a church in his honour in Ravenna if he would bring 
them to land. And immediately the winds and the waves 
abated and the ship came safely to port.^ It was in fulfil- 
ment of her vow that Placidia built in Ravenna the BasiHca 
of S. John the Evangelist. 

The city of Ravenna at this time would seem to have been 
fuU of churches. Its first bishop, S. Apollinaris, had been 
the friend of S. Peter who, as it was believed, had appointed 
him to the see of P.avenna. That was in the earliest days of 

'•■ Socrates, vii. 23. Cf. Hodgkin, op cit. i. 847. 

- The invocation of S. John is curious, and we have not the key to it. 
For though he was a fisherman, so was S. Peter for instance. It is 
interesting, though not perhaps really significant, to note that it is only 
S. John who notes in his Gospel (vi. 21) that, when the Apostles saw 
Our Lord walking on the water in the great storm, and had received 
Him into their ship, " immediately the ship was at the land." 


the Christian Church. But we find the tradition still living 
in the fourth century when Severus, bishop of Ravenna, 
miraculously chosen to fill the see, sat in the council of 
Sardica in 344 and refused to make any alteration in the 
Nicene Creed. About the end of the century Ursus had 
been bishop and had built the great cathedral church, the 
Basilica Ursiana, dedicated in honour of the Resurrection, 
with its five naves and fifty-six columns of marble, its schola 
cantorum in the midst, and its mosaics, all of which were 
finally and utterly destroyed in 1733. There was too the 
baptistery which remains and the church of S. Agata and 
many others which have perished. 

With the church of S. Agata we connect one of the great 
bishops of the fifth century, Joannes Angeloptes, who was 
there served at Mass by an angel. While with the beautiful 
little chapel in the bishop's palace, which still, in some sort at 
-least, remains to us, we connect perhaps the greatest bishop 
Ravenna can boast of, S. Peter Chrysologus, for he built it. 

Nor was Placidia herself slow to add to the ecclesiastical 
splendour of her city. We have already seen that she buUt 
S. Giovanni Evangelista, rebuilt in the thirteenth century, 
in fulfilment of her vow and in memory of her salvation from 
shipwreck. Close to her palace she built another church 
in honour of the Holy Cross, and attached to it she erected 
her mausoleum, which remains perhaps the most precious 
monument in the city. The church and the monastery 
which her niece Singleida built beside it have perished. 

But though during the lifetime of Placidia Italy was free 
from foreign invasion, the decay of the western empire, of 
what had been the western empire, was by no means arrested; 
on the contrary, Britain, Gaul, Spain, and Africa were finally 
lost. Two appalling catastrophes mark her reign, the Vandal 
invasion of the province of Africa and the ever growing cloud 
of Huns upon the north-eastern frontiers. 

Placidia's two chief ministers were Boniface and Aetius, 
either of whom, according to Procopius, " had the other not 

;^- ^-^ 



The Apse of S. Giovanni Evaxgelista 


been his contemporary, might truly have been called the last 
of the Romans." Their simultaneous appearance, however, 
finally destroyed all hope of an immediate resurrection of 
civilisation in the West. For Boniface, whose " one great 
object was the deliverance of Africa from all sorts of bar- 
barians," betrayed Africa to the Vandals, and to this he was 
led by the rivalry and intrigue of Aetius who, on the other 
hand, must always be remembered for his heroic and glorious 
victory over Attila at Chalons which delivered Gaul from the 
worst deluge of all — that of the Huns. 

The truth would seem to be that while corruption of every 
sort, and especially political corruption, was destroying the 
empire, the importance of Christianity was vastly increasing. 
The great quarrel was really that between Catholicism 
and heresy. This was a living issue while the cause of the 
empire as a political entity was already dead. Placidia 
- certainly eagerly considered all sorts of ecclesiastical problems 
and provided and legislated for their solution. We do not 
find her seeking the advice and offensive and defensive alliance 
of Constantinople for the restoration of her provinces. It 
might seem almost as though the mind of her time was unable 
to fix itself upon the vast political and economic problem that 
now for many generations had demanded a solution in vain. 
No one seems to have cared in any fundamental way, or even 
to have been aware, that the empire as a great state was 
gradually being ruined, was indeed already in full decadence 
— a thing to despair of. That is the curious thing — no one 
seems to have despaired. On the other hand, every one was 
keenly interested in the religious controversy of the time 
which, because we cannot fully understand that time, seems 
to us so futile. But it is only what is in the mind that is 
fundamentally important to man, and that will force him to 
action. The council of Ephesus which destroyed Nestorius 
in 431, the council of Chalcedon which condemned Dioscorus 
in 451, seemed to be the important things, and one day we may 
come to think again, that on those great decisions, and not on 



the material defence, both military and economic, of the West, 
depended the future of the world. If this be so, it would at 
least explain the hopeless variance of East and West, which, 
almost equally concerned in the material problem, were by 
no means at one in philosophy. 

Nevertheless, although Theodosius II. had not trodden 
" the narrow path of orthodoxy with reputation unimpaired," 
as Placidia certainly had, the material alliance of East and 
West were seen to be so important that in 437 Valentinian III., 
the son of Placidia, and emperor in the West, was married to 
Eudoxia, the daughter of Theodosius II., in Constantinople. 

Neither the accession of her son nor his marriage seem to 
have made any real difference in the power of Placidia who, 
we may believe, not, as Procopius asserts, by a cunning 
system of training by which she had ruined his character, 
but rather by reason of her innate virility, retained the reins 
of government in her own hands. Certainly she ruled, the 
Augusta of the West, during the twelve years that remained 
to her after her son's marriage. And when at last she died 
in Rome in 450, on the 27th November,^ in the sixtieth year 
of her age, and a few months after her nephew Theodosius II., 
and was borne in a last triumph along the Via Flaminia, to be 
laid, seated in a chair of cedar, in a sarcophagus of alabaster 
in the gorgeous mausoleum she had prepared for herself 
beside the church of S. Croce in Ravenna, she left Italy at 
least in a profound peace, so secure, as it seemed, that the 
whole court had in that very year removed to Rome. It 
might appear as though the barbarian had but awaited her 
passing to descend once more upon the citadel of Europe. 

^ Agnellus asserts that on the Ides of March m the year following 
Placidia' s death Ravenna suffered from a great fire, in which many- 
buildings perished, but he does not tell us what they were. 



For more than ten years before the death of Placidia both 
East and West had been aware of a new cloud in the north- 
east. This darkness was the vast army of Huns, which, in the 
exodus from Asia proper, under Attila, threatened to overrun 
the empire and to lay it waste. In 447, indeed, Attila fell 
upon the Adriatic and ^Egean provinces of the eastern empire 
and ravaged them till he was bought off with a shameful 
tribute. His thoughts inevitably turned towards the capital, 
and it is said, I know not with how much truth, that in the 
very year of their death both Placidia and Theodosius received 
from this new barbarian an insolent message which said: 
" Attila, thy master and mine, bids thee prepare a palace for 

Theodosius II., however, was succeeded upon the Eastern 
throne by his sister Pulcheria who shared her government 
with the virile and bold soldier Marcian. But upon 
Placidia's death, on the other hand, the government of 
the West fell into the hands of her weak and sensual son 
Valentinian III. 

Placidia's greatest failure, indeed, was in the training and 
education of her children. Valentinian was incapable and 
vicious, while Honoria, who had inherited much of the 
romantic temperament of her mother, was both unscrupulous 
and irresponsible. Sent to Constantinople on account of an 
intrigue with her chamberlain, Honoria, bored by the ascetic 



life in which she found herself and furious at her virtual im- 
prisonment, sent her ring to Attila and besought him to deliver 
her and make her his wife as Ataulfus had done Placidia her 
mother. Though, it seems, the Hun disdained her, he made 
this appeal his excuse. Within a year of the death of Theo- 
dosius and Placidia he decided that the way of least resist- 
ance lay westward. If he were successful he could make his 
own terms, and, among his spoil, if he cared, should be the 
sister of the emperor. 

At first it was Gaul that was to be plundered; but there, 
as we know, the wild beast was met by Aetius who defeated 
him at the battle of Chalons and thus saved the western 
provinces. But that victory was not followed up. Attila 
and his vast army were allowed to retreat; and though Gaul 
was saved, Italy lay at their mercy. That was in 451. 
Attila retreated into Pannonia, and prepared for a new raid 
in the following year. 

He came, as Alaric had done, through the Julian Alps; and 
before spring had gone Aquileia was not, Concordia was 
utterly destroyed, Altinum became nothing. Nor have these 
cities ever lived again; out of their ruin Venice sprang in 
the midst of the lagoons. All the Cisalpine plain north of the 
Po was in Attila's hands; Vicenza, Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, 
Pavia, even Milan opened their gates. No defence was 
offered, they saved themselves alive. And southward, over 
the Po, between the mountains and the sea, the gate which 
Ravenna held stood open wide. Italy without defence lay 
at the mercy of the Asiatic invader. 

Without defence! Valentinian and his court were in 
Rome; no one armed and ready waited in impregnable 
Ravenna to break the Hun as with a hammer when he should 
venture to take the road through the narrow pass between 
the mountains and the sea. The great defence was not to be 
held; the road, as once before, lay open and unguarded. In 
this moment, one of the greatest crises in the history of 
Europe, suddenly, and without warning, the reality of that 


age, which had changed so imperceptibly, was revealed. 
The material civilisation and defence of the empire were, at 
least as organised things, seen to be dead; its spiritual virility 
and splendour were about to be made manifest. 

For it was not any emperor or great soldier at the head of 
an army that faced Attila by the Mincio on the Cisalpine 
plain and saved Italy, but an old and unarmed man, alone and 
defenceless. Our saviour was pope Leo the Great; but above <_ 
him, in the sky, the Hun perceived the mighty figures, over- jy^ 

shadowing all that world, of S. Peter and S. Paul, and his ' *' 
eyes dazzled, he bowed his head. " What," he asked himself, 
" if I conquer like Alaric only to die as he did ? " He yielded 
and consented to retreat, Italy was saved. The new emperor, 
the true head and champion of the new civilisation that was 
to arise out of all this confusion, had declared himself. It 
was the pope. 

There, it might seem, we have the truth at last, the 
explanation, perhaps, of aU the extraordinary ennui and 
neglect that had made such an invasion as that of Alaric, 
as that of Radagaisus, as this of Attila, possible. For it is 
only what is in the mind that is of any importance. The 
empire rightly understood was not about to die, but to change 
into a new spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men; and there, 
in the place of the emperor, woiild sit God's Vicegerent, till 
in the fullness of time the material empire should be re- 
established and that Vicegerent should place the imperial 
crown once more upon a merely royal head. The force of 
the old empire had always lain in wholly material things and 
its excuse had been its material success; but it was a servile 
state, and after the advent of Christianity it was inevitable 
that it should change or perish. It changed. The force of 
the new empire was to be so completely spiritual that to-day 
we can scarcely understand it. Upon the banks of the 
Mincio it declared itself; and when, twenty-three years later, 
Odoacer the barbarian deposed Romulus Augustulus and 
made himself king of Italy, the true champion of aU that Latin 



genius had established was already enthroned in Rome; but 
the throne was Peter's, and men called him not Emperor but 

Those twenty-three years, so brief a period, are, as we might 
imagine, fuU of confusion and strange barbarian voices. 

After Leo had turned him back from Italy there by the 
Mincio, Attila retreated again into Pannonia, but he still 
insisted " on this point above all, that Honoria, the sister 
of the emperor and the daughter of the Augusta Placidia, 
should be sent to him with the portion of the royal wealth 
which was her due; and he threatened that unless this were 
done he would lay upon Italy a far heavier punishment than 
any which it had yet borne." But within a year Attila was 
dead in a barbaric marriage-bed by the Danube, and his 
empire destroyed. And as for Honoria we know no more of 
her, she disappears from history, though tradition has it that 
she spent the rest of her life in a convent in southern Italy. 

The two heroes of the Hunnish deluge in the West were 
Aetius, the great general who broke Attila upon the plain of 
Chalons, and Leo the pope surnamed the Great. Aetius had 
been unable to persuade his victorious troops to march to the 
defence of Italy, and in this again we see the growing failure 
of the imperial idea ; but he was a great soldier, and certainly 
the greatest minister that Valentinian III. could boast. Never- 
theless, after the death of Attila he seemed to the emperor 
both dangerous and useless; dangerous because, like Stilicho, 
he thought of the empire for his son, and useless because 
Valentinian had recently placed his confidence in another, the 
eunuch Heraclius. Just as Honorius contrived the murder of 
Stilicho, so did Valentinian contrive to rid himself of Aetius, 
and with his own hand, for Valentinian stabbed him himself 
in his palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome, towards the end 
of 454. Six months, however, had not gone by when Aetius 
was avenged and Valentinian lay dead in the Campus Martius 
stabbed by two soldiers of barbarian origin. Beside him, 
dead too, lay the eunuch Heraclius. This was the vengeance 


of the friends of Aetius, and of him who was to be emperor, 
Petronius Maximus, whose wife Valentinian had ravished. 

With Valentinian III., who had no children, the great line 
of Theodosius came to an end both in the East and in the 
West, for Pulcheria had died in 453. In Constantinople 
Marcian continued to rule till 457, when he was succeeded by 
Leo I. the Thracian. In Rome he who had so signally 
avenged himself, Petronius Maximus, a senator, sixty years 
of age, reigned during seventy days in which he was rather a 
prisoner than a monarch. During those seventy days, whether 
moved by lust or revenge we know not, he attempted to make 
the widow of Valentinian his wife. This brought all down, 
for Eudoxia, without a friend in the world, followed the fatal 
example of Honoria and called in the Vandal to her assist- 
ance. And when Genseric was on his way to answer her from 
Carthage, the terrified City, by the hands of the imperial 
servants and the soldiers, tore the emperor limb from limb 
and flung what remained into the Tiber so that even burial 
was denied him. But the Vandal came on, and in spite of Leo, 
as we know, sacked the City and departed — to lose the mighty 
booty in the midst of the sea. 

What are we to say of the years which follow, and what are 
we to say of those ghostly figures, which hover, always un- 
certainly and briefly, about the imperial throne after the 
assassination of Valentinian III. and the second sack of 
the City? There was Avitus the Gaul (455-456), Majorian 
(457-461), Libius Severus (461-465), Anthemius (467-472), 
Olybrius (472), Glycerius (473-474), Julius Nepos (474-475), 
and at last the pitiful boy Romulus Augustulus (475-476). 
Nothing can be said of them ; they are less than shadows, and 
their empire, the material empire they represented, was no 
longer conscious of itself, was no longer a reality, but an 
hallucination, haunting the mind. It is true that the chief 
seat of their government, if government it can be called, was 
Ravenna, and that the city is concerned with most of the 
incidents of those vague and confused years; the proclama- 


tions of Majorian, of Severus, of Glycerius, and of Romulus 
Augustulus, the abdication of the last and the fight in the 
pinewood in which his uncle Paulus was broken and Odoacer 
made himself master. But they are, for the most part, the 
years of Ricimer the patrician, for they are full of his puppets. 

This man is another Stilicho, another Aetius, a great and 
heroic soldier, but of a sinister and subtle policy without 
loyalty or scruple. His is a figure that often appears about 
the death-bed of dying states, but his genius has not so often 
been matched. The son of a Suevic father, his mother the 
daughter of Wallia, the successor and avenger of Ataulfus the 
Visigoth, he was the champion of the empire against the 
Vandal, that is to say, against her most relentless foe. His 
success in this was the secret of his power. Pondering the 
fate of his predecessors he determined he would not end as 
they did. Therefore he determined to make whom he would 
emperor and to depose him when he had done with him; in 
a word, he meant to be the master as well as the saviour 
of Italy. In this he was successful. He deposed Avitus and 
caused him to be consecrated bishop of Placentia. In his 
place he set a man of his own choice, Majorian, whom he raised 
to the empire on April i, 457, in the camp at Columellae, at 
the sixth milestone, it seems, from Ravenna; and upon 
August 2, 461, he caused him to be put to death near Tortona. 

He chose Libius Severus to fill the place of Majorian and 
had him proclaimed in Ravenna upon November 19, 461 ; and 
upheld him for nearly four years tiU he died in Rome on 
August 15, 465, poisoned, men said, by Ricimer. Then the 
" king-maker " allied himself with Constantinople and placed 
Anthemius, son-in-law of Marcian, upon the throne of the 
West, in 467, kept him there till 472, and then proclaimed 
Olybrius, another Byzantine, emperor; laid siege to Anthemius 
in Rome, took the City, slew Anthemius, and forty days later 
himself died, leaving the command of his army to his nephew 
Gundobald, one of the princes of the Burgundians. Seven 
months later Olybrius died. 


The alliance Ricimer had made with Constantinople, 
though he repented it, was the one hope of the future, and as 
a fact the future belonged to it. For a moment Gundobald 
was able to place an obscure soldier Glycerius upon the throne, 
but he soon exchanged the purple for the bishopric of Salona, 
and the nominee of Constantinople, Julius Nepos, reigned in 
Ravenna in his stead. But though the future belonged to 
Constantinople, the present did not. The barbarian con- 
federates, discontented and unwiUing to give their allegiance 
to this Greek, rebelled and under Orestes their general marched 
upon Ravenna. Julius Nepos fled by ship to Dalmatia and 
Orestes in Ravenna proclaimed his young son Romulus 
Augustulus emperor. But those barbarian mercenaries 
were not to be so easily satisfied. Of the new emperor they 
demanded a third of the lands of aU Italy, and when this was 
refused them they flocked to the standard of that barbarian 
general in the Roman service whom we know as Odoacer. 
" From all the camps and garrisons of Italy " the barbarian 
confederates flocked to the new standard and Orestes was 
compelled to shut himself up in Pavia while Paulus, his 
brother, held Ravenna for the boy emperor. Upon August 23, 
476, Odoacer was raised like the barbarian he was, upon the 
shield, as Alaric had been, and his troops proclaimed him king. 
Five days later Orestes, who had escaped from Pavia, was 
taken and put to death at Placentia, and on September 4 
Paulus his brother was taken in the Pineta outside Classis by 
Ravenna and was slain. The gates of Ravenna were open, 
Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor in the West, was forced 
to abdicate and was sent by Odoacer to the famous viUa that 
Lucullus had built for himself long and long ago in Campania, 
and was granted a pension of six thousand soldi, and Odoacer 
reigned as the first king of Italy; the western empire, as such, 
was at an end. 

And the senate addressed, by unanimous decree, to the 
emperor Zeno in Constantinople an epistle, in which they 
disclaimed " the necessity, or even the wish, of continuing any 


longer the imperial succession in Italy, since, in their opinion, 
the majesty of a sole monarch is sufficient to pervade and 
protect at the same time both East and West. In their own 
name and in the name of the people they consent to the 
seat of universal empire being transferred from Rome to 
Constantinople, and they renounce the right of choosing their 
master. They further state that the republic (they repeat 
that name without a blush) might safely confide in the civil 
and military virtues of Odoacer; and they humbly request 
that the emperor would invest him with the title of patrician 
and the administration of the diocese of Italy." 

And Odoacer sent the diadem and the purple robe, the 
imperial ensigns, the sacred ornaments of the throne and 
palace to Byzantium and received thence the title of patrician. 



We may well ask what was the condition of Ravenna when 
the western empire fell and Odoacer made himself king of 
Italy. And by the greatest of good fortune we can answer 
that question. For we have a fairly vivid account of Ravenna 
from the hand of Sidonius Apollinaris who passed through 
the city on his way to Rome in 467. 

Ravenna had been the chief city of Italy during the seventy 
years of revolution and administrative disaster and decay 
which had followed the incursion of Alaric. For the greater 
part of that period she had been the seat of the emperors and of 
their government, and it is perhaps for reasons such as these 
that we find, after all, but little change in her condition. 
She does not seem to have suffered much decay since Honorius 
retreated upon her. 

" It is difficult," Sidonius tells us, " to say whether the 
old city of Ravenna is separated from the new port or joined 
to it by the Via Caesaris which lies between them. Above 
the town the Po is divided into two streams, of which one 
washes its walls and the other passes through its streets. 
The whole river has been diverted from its true channel by 
means of large mounds thrown across it at the public expense, 
and being thus drawn off into channels marked out for it, 
so divides its waters, that they offer protection to the walls 
which they encompass and bring commerce into the city 
which they penetrate. By this route, which is most con- 



venient for the purpose, all kinds of mechandise arrive, and 
especially food. But against this must be set the fact that 
the supply of drinking water is wretched. On the one side 
you have the salt waves of the sea dashing against the gates, 
on the other the canals, filled with sewage of the con- 
sistency of gruel, are being constantly churned up by the 
passage of the barges; and the river itself, here gliding along 
with a very slow current, is made muddy by the poles of the 
bargemen which are being continually thrust into its clayey 
bed. The consequence was that we were thirsty in the midst 
of the waves, since no wholesome water was brought to us by 
the aqueducts, no cistern was flowing, no well was without 
its mud." ^ 

In another letter we have a rather more fantastic picture. 
" A pretty place Cesena must be if Ravenna is better, for 
there your ears are pierced by the mosquito of the Po and 
a talkative mob of frogs is always croaking round you. 
Ravenna is a mere marsh where all the conditions of life are 
reversed, where walls fall and waters stand, towers flow 
down and ships squat, invalids walk about and their doctors 
take to bed, baths freeze and houses burn, the living perish 
with thirst and the dead swim about on the surface of the 
water, thieves watch and magistrates sleep, priests lend at 
usury and Syrians sing psalms, merchants shoulder arms and 
soldiers haggle like hucksters, greybeards play at ball and 
striplings at dice, and eunuchs study the art of war and the 
barbarian mercenaries study literature." ^ 

Such was the Ravenna of the barbarian who called himself 
king of Italy. 

We have seen Ravenna since her incorporation into the 
Roman administrative system fulfilling the various reasons 
of her existence; as the fortress which held the gate into Italy 
from Cisalpine Gaul, as the second naval port of the West, 
and as the great impregnable fortress of Italy in the barbarian 

1 Sidonius Apoll. Ep. i. 5. Cf. Hodgkin, op. cit. vol. i. p. 859. 
^ Idem. Ep. i. 8. Cf. Hodgkin, op cit. vol. i. p. 860. 


invasions. Odoacer, also, chose it as his chief seat of govern- 
ment for similar advantages. Ravenna strongly held gave 
him, as strongly held she had given every one of her masters, 
Italy and Cisalpine Gaul; while as the gate of the eastern sea, 
Ravenna was his proper means of communication with his 
overlord and the eastern provinces of what was, rightly 
understood, the reunited empire. 

That, theoretically at least, is how Odoacer regarded the 
state in which, by the good pleasure of the emperor Zeno, 
he held the title of patrician. He was an unlettered man, an ^ 
Arian, as were all the barbarians, and he held what he held 
by permission of Constantinople, though he had won it by his 
own strength in the weakness and misery of the time. He 
never aspired, it would seem, to make himself emperor. 
Certainly for the first four years of his rule in Ravenna that 
great office was filled by Julius Nepos in exile at Salona, 
whose deposition at the hands of Orestes had never been 
recognised by Constantinople. Thereafter, the western and 
the eastern empire were in theory reunited, with New Rome 
upon the Bosphorus for their true capital; and both before 
and after that event Odoacer ruled in Italy with the title of 
patrician conferred upon him by Constantinople. When that 
consent was withdrawn, as it was immediately Odoacer 
showed signs of ambition, he fell. 

Odoacer had ruled in Ravenna from 476 to 493, when he fell 
in that city after sustaining a siege of three years. He ruled 
weU and strongly and by the laws of the empire. He was 
compelled by the barbaric confederates, who had placed him 
where he was, to grant them a third of the lands, certainly, 
of the great Italian landowners; but he created nothing new; 
like aU the barbarians he was sterile, his only service was a -" 
service of destruction. With him even this service was small. 

His fall was curious and is exceedingly significant. 

In 481, after the murder of the emperor Julius Nepos in 
Salona, Odoacer led an expedition into Dalmatia to chastise 
the murderers and seized the opportunity to make himself 


master of Dalmatia. This action at once renewed the 
suspicion of Constantinople; but when in 484 Odoacer 
entered into negotiations with Illus, the last of the insurgents 
who disturbed the reign of Zeno, Constantinople decided that 
he must be broken; therefore Feletheus, king of the Rugians 
upon the Danube, was stirred up against him, and when that 
failed, for Odoacer defeated him, Constantinople sent Theo- 
doric and his Ostrogothic host into Italy to dispose of Odoacer 
the patrician.^ 

Theodoric, another unlettered barbarian and heretic, but a 
man of a great and noble character, set out for Italy from 
Nova on the southern bank of the Danube, where he had been 
a constant danger to the Eastern provinces, in the autumn of 
488. His purpose, set forth in his own words to the Emperor 
Zeno, was as follows : " Although your servant is main- 
tained in affluence by your liberality, graciously listen to the 
wishes of my heart. Italy, the inheritance of your prede- 
cessors, and Rome itself, the head and mistress of the world, 
now fluctuate under the violence and oppression of Odoacer 
the mercenary. Direct me with my national troops to march 
against this tyrant. If I faU, you will be delivered from an 
expensive and troublesome friend; if, with the Divine per- 
mission, I succeed, I shall govern, in your name and to your 
glory, the Roman senate and the part of the republic delivered 
from slavery by my victorious arms." 

That march was an exodus. Procopius teUs us that, " with 
Theodoric went the people of the Goths, putting their wives 
and children and as much of their furniture as they could 
take with them into their waggons," and as Ennodius, bishop 
of Ticinum, asserts, it was " a world that migrated " with 
Theodoric into Italy, " a world of which every member is 
nevertheless your kinsman." " Waggons," says he, " are 
made to do duty as houses, and into these wandering habita- 
tions all things that can minister to the needs of the occupants 

* Cf. Anon. Valesii, " Missus ab imperatore Zenone de partibns 
orientis ad defendendam sibi Italiam. . . ." 


are poured. Then were the tools of Ceres, and the stones 
with which the corn is ground, dragged along by the labour- 
ing oxen. Pregnant mothers, forgetful of their sex and of 
the burden which they bore, undertook the toil of providing 
food for the families of thy people. Followed the reign of 
winter in thy camp. Over the hair of thy men the long frost 
threw a veil of snowy white; the icicles hung in a tangle from 
their beards. So hard was the frost that the garment which 
the matron's persevering toil had woven had to be broken 
before a man might fit it to his body. Food for thy marching 
armies was forced from the grasp of the hostile nations around, 
or procured by the cunning of the hunter." ^ It has been 
supposed by Mr. Hodgkin that not less than 40,000 fighting 
men and some 200,000 souls in all thus entered Italy. To us 
it might seem that no such number of people could have 
lived without commissariat during that tremendous march 
of seven hundred miles through some of the poorest land of 
Europe in the depth of winter. However that may be, 
Theodoric after many an encounter with barbarians wilder 
than his own descended from the Julian Alps into Venetia in 
August 489, after a march of not less than ten months. 

Odoacer was waiting for him. He met him near the site of 
the old fortress of Aquileia, which Attila had annihilated, 
that once held the passage of the Sontius (Isonzo). He was 
defeated and all Venetia fell into the hands of the Ostrogoth. 
Odoacer retreated to Verona, that red fortress on the Adige; 
once more and more certainly he was beaten. He retreated 
to Ravenna,^ while Theodoric advanced to Milan, to Milan 
which now led nowhere. 

After Verona, Theodoric had received the submission of a 
part of Odoacer's army under Tufa. When he had possessed 
himself of Milan, he sent these renegades and certain nobles 
with their men from his own army, apparently under the 

1 Ennodius, Panegyricus, p. 173. Trs. by Hodgkin, op. cit. iii. 
' " Et Ravennam cum exercitu fugiens pervenit." Anon. Valesii, 50. 


leadership of Tufa, to besiege Ravenna, They came down 
the ^milian Way as far as Faventia (Faenza). There no 
doubt a road left the great highway for the impregnable city 
of the marshes. At Faventia, then, Theodoric expected to 
begin to blockade Ravenna. In this he was mistaken. 
Suddenly Tufa deserted his new master, was joined by 
Odoacer, who came to Faventia, and certain of the Ostro- 
gothic nobles, if not all of them, were slaughtered. The 
expedition was lost and not the expedition alone: Milan was 
no longer safe. Therefore Theodoric evacuated that city, 
always almost indefensible, and occupied Ticinum (Pavia), 
which was naturally defended by the Ticino and the Po. 
There he established himself in winter quarters. 

A new diversion from the west, a frustrated attack of 
Gundobald and his Burgundians, kept Theodoric busy for a 
year. Meantime Odoacer appeared in the plain, retook and 
.held all the country between Faventia and Cremona and even 
visited Milan, which he chastised. Then in August 490 
Theodoric met him on the Adda, and again Odoacer was 
defeated, and again he fled back to Ravenna. All over Italy 
his cause tottered, was betrayed, or failed. A general 
massacre of the confederate troops throughout the peninsula 
seems to have occurred. And by the end of the year there 
remained to him but Ravenna, his fortress, and the two cities 
that it commanded, Cesena upon the ^milian Way and 
Rimini in the midst of the narrow pass at the head of 
the Via Flaminia. Theodoric himself began the siege of 

This siege, the first that Ravenna had ever experienced, 
endured for near three years, from the autumn of 490 to the 
spring of 493. " Et mox^'' says a chronicle of the time, 
" subsecutus est eum -patricius Theodoricus veniens in Pineta, 
et Jixit fossatum, obsidiens Odoacrem clausum per trienum in 
Ravenna etf actus est usque ad sex solidos modicus tritici. . . ." ^ 
Theodoric established himself in a fortified camp in the 
1 Anon. Valesii. 


Pineta with a view to preventing food or reinforcements 
arriving to his enemy from the sea. Ravenna was closed 
upon all sides and before the end of the siege corn rose in the 
beleaguered city to famine price, some seventy-two shillings 
of our money per peck, and the inhabitants were forced to 
eat the skins of animals and all sorts of offal, and many died 
of hunger. 

In 491, according to the same chronicler,^ a sortie was 
made by Odoacer and his barbarians, but after a desperate 
fight in the Pineta this was repelled by Theodoric. In 492, 
another chronicle tells us,^ Theodoric took Rimini and from 
thence brought a fleet of ships to the Porto Leone, some six 
miles from Ravenna, thus cutting off the city from the sea. 
Till at last in the beginning of 493 Odoacer was compelled to 
open negotiations for surrender. He gave his son Thelane as 
a hostage, and on the 26th February Theodoric entered 
Classis, and on the following day the treaty of peacewas signed. 
Upon the 5th March 493, according to Agnellus, " that most 
blessed man, the archbishop John, opened the gates of the 
city which Odoacer had closed, and went forth with crosses 
and thuribles and the Holy Gospels seeking peace, with the 
priests and clergy singing psalms, and prostrating himself 
upon the ground obtained what he sought. He welcomed the 
new king coming from the East and peace was granted to him, 
not only with the citizens of Ravenna, but with the other 
Romans for whom the blessed John asked it." 

The terms of that treaty are extraordinarily significant of 
the importance of Ravenna in the defence of Italy. It would 
seem that Theodoric had possessed himself of everything but 
Ravenna easily enough, yet without Ravenna everything 
else was nothing. The city was, in spite of blockade and 
famine, impregnable, and it commanded so much, was still 
indeed, as always, the key to Italy and the plain and the very 
gate of the West, that not to possess it was to lose everything. 

1 Anon. Valesii. * Agnellus, Libev Pontificalis Rav. 


Its surrender was necessary and Theodoric offered extra- 
ordinary terms to obtain it. Odoacer was not only to keep 
his life but his power. He was to rule as the equal of 
Theodoric. This mighty concession shows us at once what 
Ravenna reaUy was, what part she played in the government 
of Italy, and how unique was her position in the military 
scheme of that country. 

Theodoric had certainly no intention of carrying out the 
terms of his treaty. In the very month in which he signed 
it, he invited Odoacer to a feast at the Palace " in Lauro " 
to the south-east of Ravenna. When the patrician arrived 
two petitioners knelt before him each clasping one of his 
hands, and two of Theodoric's men stepped from hiding to 
kill him. Perhaps they were not barbarians: at any rate, 
they lacked the courage and the contempt alike of law and 
of honour necessary to commit so cold a murder. It was 
Theodoric himself who lifted his sword and hewed his enemy 
in twain from the shoulder to the loins. " Where is God ? " 
Odoacer, expecting the stroke, had demanded. And Theo- 
doric answered, " Thus didst thou to my friends." And 
after he said, " I think the wretch had no bones in his 

The barbarian it might seem had certainly nothing to learn 
from the worst of the emperors in treachery and dishonour. 

Theodoric set up his seat in the city he had so perfidiously 
won, and for the next thirty years appears as the governour of 
Italy. He had set out, it wiU be remembered, as the soldier 
of Constantinople, had asked for leave to make his expedition, 
and had protested his willingness to govern in the name of 
the emperor and for his glory. It is not perhaps surprising 
that a barbarian, and especially Theodoric who knew so well 
how to win by treachery what he could not otherwise obtain, 
should after his victory forget the promise he had made to 
his master. After the battle of the Adda he had the audacity 
to send an embassy to the emperor to request that he might 
be allowed to clothe himself in the royal mantle. This was 



of course refused. Nevertheless the Goths " confirmed 
Theodoric to themselves as king without waiting for the order 
of the new emperor Anastasius." ^ This " confirmation," 
whatever it may have 

meant to the Goths, nMM 

meant nothing to the 
Romans or to the em- 
pire. For some years 
Constantinople refused 
all acknowledgment to 
Theodoric, till in 497 
peace was made and 
Theodoric obtained re- 
cognition, much it may 
be thought as Odoacer 
had done, from Con- 
stantinople ; but the 
ornaments of the palace 
at Ravenna, which 
Odoacer had sent to New Rome, were brought back, and there- 
fore it would seem that the royalty of Theodoric was acknow- 
ledged by the empire; but we have no authority to see in this 
more than an acknowledgment of the king of the Goths, the 
vicegerent perhaps of the emperor in Italy. What Theodoric's 
title may have been we have no means of knowing: de jure 
he was the representative of the emperor in Italy : de facto 
he was the absolute ruler, the tyrannus, as Odoacer had been, 
of the country; but he never ventured to coin money bearing 
his effigy and superscription and he invariably sent the names 
of the consuls, whom he appointed, to Constantinople for 
confirmation. He ruled too, as Odoacer had done, by Roman 
law, and the Arian heresy, which he and his barbarians 
professed as their religion, was not till the very end of his 
reign permitted precedence over the Catholic Faith. For the 
most part too he governed by means of Roman officials, and 
1 Anon. Valesii, 57. 

Capital from the Colonnade in Piazza 


to this must be ascribed the enormous success of his long 

For that he was successful, that he gave Italy peace during 
a whole generation, is undeniable. In all the chronicles there 
is little but praise of him. The chief of them ^ says of him: 
" He was an illustrious man and full of good-will towards all. 
He reigned thirty-three years ^ and during thirty of these 
years so great was the happiness of Italy that even the way- 
farers were at peace. For he did nothing evil. He governed 
the two nations, the Goths and the Romans, as though they 
were one people. Belonging himself to the Arian sect, he yet 
ordained that the civil administration should remain for the 
Romans as it had been under the emperors. He gave presents 
and rations to the people, yet though he found the treasury 
ruined he brought it by hard work into a flourishing state. 
He attempted nothing against the Catholic Faith. He 
exhibited games in the circus and amphitheatre, and received 
from the Romans the names of Trajan and Valentinian, for 
the happy days of those most prosperous emperors he did in 
truth seek to restore, and at the same time the Goths rendered 
true obedience to their valiant king according to the edict 
which he had given them. 

" He gave one of his daughters in marriage to the king of 
the Visigoths in Gaul, another to the son of the Burgundian 
king; his sister to the king of the Vandals and his niece to 
the king of the Thuringians. Thus he pleased all the nations 
round him, for he was a lover of manufactures and a great 
restorer of cities. He restored the Aqueduct of Ravenna 
which Trajan had built, and again after a long interval 
brought water into the city. He completed but did not 
dedicate the Palace, and he finished the Porticoes about it. 
At Verona he erected Baths and a Palace, and constructed 

1 Anon. Valesii. This was probably Bishop Maximian, a CathoHc 
bishop of Ravenna. I follow, with a few changes, Mr. Hodgkin's trans- 

* Thirty-two years and a half from the death of Odoacer ; thirty- 
seven from his descent into Italy. 


a Portico from the Gate to the Palace. The Aqueduct, which 
had been destroyed long since, he renewed, and brought in 
water through it. He also surrounded the city with new 
walls. At Ticinum (Pavia) too he built a Palace, Baths, and 
an Amphitheatre and erected walls round the city. On many 
other cities he bestowed similar benefits. 

" Thus he so deHghted the nations near him that they 
entered into a league with him hoping that he would be their 
king. The merchants, too, from many provinces flocked to 
his dominions, for so great was the order which he maintained, 
that, if any one wished to keep gold and silver in the country 
it was as safe as in a walled city. A proof of this was that he 
never made gates for any city of Italy, and the gates that 
already existed were never closed. Any one who had business 
to do, might go about it as safely by night as by day." 

But if such praise sound fulsome, let us hear what the 
sceptical and censorious Procopius has to say : 

" Theodoric," he tells us, " was an extraordinary lover of 
justice and adhered vigorously to the laws. He guarded the 
country from barbarian invasions, and displayed the greatest 
intelligence and prudence. There was in his government 
scarcely a trace of injustice towards his subjects, nor would 
he permit any of those under him to attempt anything of the 
kind except that the Goths divided among themselves the 
same proportion of the land of Italy as Odoacer had given to 
his confederates. Thus then Theodoric was in name a tyrant, 
in fact a true king, not inferior to the best of his predecessors, 
and his popularity increased greatly both with the Goths and the 
Italians, and this was contrary to the ordinary course of human 
affairs. For generally as different classes in the state want 
different things, the government which pleases one party 
incurs the hatred of the other. After a reign of thirty-seven 
years he died having been a terror to aU his enemies, but 
leaving a deep regret for his loss in the hearts of his subjects." 

In these panegyrics, which we cannot but accept as sincere, 
mention is made of one of the greatest virtues of Theodoric, 



his reparation of and care for the great monuments of the 
empire. In Ravenna we read he repaired the Aqueduct 
which Trajan had built and which had long been out of repair, 
so that Ravenna always deficient in water had for many years 
suffered on this account. In the Varice of Cassiodorus, his 
minister and a Roman, we read as follows: — 

" King Theodoric to all Cultivators. 

" The Aqueducts are an object of our special care. We 
desire you at once to root up the shrubs growing in the Signine 
channel, which will before long become big trees scarcely to 
be hewn down with an axe and which interfere with the purity 
of the water in the Aqueduct of Ravenna. Vegetation is the 
peaceable overturner of buildings, the battering-ram which 
brings them to the ground, though the trumpets never sound 
for siege. Now we shall have Baths again that we may look 
• upon with pleasure; water which will cleanse not stain; ^ water 
after using which we shall not require to wash ourselves 
again; drinking water too, such as the mere sight of it will 
not take away all appetite for food." ^ 

The general restoration of the great material works of the 
empire was characteristic of the reign of Theodoric and could 
only have been carried out by Roman officials and workmen. 
It is especially frequent in Ravenna and in Rome. Theo- 
doric will, if he can help it, have nothing more destroyed. 
He is afraid of destruction, and that is a mark of the barbarian. 
He wishes, Cassiodorus tells us, " to build new edifices without 
despoiling the old. But we are informed that in your muni- 
cipality (of vEstunse) there are blocks of masonry and columns, 
formerly belonging to some building, now lying absolutely 
useless and unhonoured. If this be so, send these slabs of 
marble and columns by all means to Ravenna that they may 
again be made beautiful and take their place in a building 

^ Cf. Sidonius ApoUinaris above. 

* Cassiodorus, Variae, v. 38. Trs. Hodgkin, The Letters of Cassiodorus 
f Oxford, li 

W Am 


there." ^ And again : " We rely upon your zeal and prudence 
to see that the required blocks of marble are forwarded from 
Faenza to Ravenna without any extortion from private 
persons; so that, on the one hand, our desire for the adorn- 
ment of that city may be gratified, and, on the other, there 
may be no cause for complaint on the part of our subjects." ^ 

His care and adornment of Ravenna are remarkable. It 
was his capital and he built there with a truly Roman 
splendour. We hear vaguely of a Basilica of Hercules which 
was to be adorned with a mosaic, though what this may have 
been we do not know; but we still have the magnificent Arian 
church of S. ApoUinare, which he called S. Martin de Coelo 
Aureo because of its beautiful gilded roof; and less perfectly 
there remains to us the Arian church he built, called then 
S. Theodore and now S. Spirito, and the Arian baptistery 
beside it; the ruin, known as his palace, and his mighty 

The government of Theodoric was great and generous, 
Roman in its completeness and in its largeness; but he did 
not succeed in establishing a new kingdom, a new nation of 
Goths and Romans in Italy. Why ? 

The answer to that question must be given and it is this: 
Theodoric and his Goths were Arians. Much more than race 
or nationality religion forms and inspires a people, welds them 
into one or divides them asunder. Even though there had 
been no visible difference in culture and civilisation between 
the Goths, when for a generation they had been settled south 
of the Alps, and the Romans of the plain and of Italy, never- 
theless they would have remained barbarians, for Arianism at 
this time was the certain mark of barbarism.^ Had the 
barbarians not fallen into this strange heresy, had the Goths, 

^ Cassiodorus, op cit. iii. g. Trs. Hodgkin, op. cit. 

' Cassiodorus, op. cit. v. 8. 

* Heathenism even more so of course. It cannot be altogether a 
coincidence that those barbarians which first became Catholic, though 
they had been ruder and rougher than the rest, were destined to re- 
establish the empire in the West — the Franks. 



above all, been Catholics, who knows what new nation might 
have arisen upon the ruin of the Western empire to create, 
more than five hundred years before, as things were, it was 
to blossom, the rose of the Middle Age ? 

But this was not to be. The work of Theodoric, a useful 
work as we shall see, was serving quite another purpose than 
that of establishing a new Gothic kingdom. As for him and 
his government, they were utterly to pass away and by 
reason of the religion they professed. 

The first blow at the endurance and security of the 
Ostrogothic hegemony was the conversion of Clovis to 
CathoHcism in 496. This changed the political relations, 
not only of every state in Gaul, but of every state in Europe, 
and enormously to the disadvantage of the Arians. The 
second was the reconciliation, in 519, of the pope and the 
emperor, which rightly understood was the death warrant of 
the Gothic kingdom. Had the Goths been Catholic, either 
that reconciliation would not have taken place, or it would 
have been without ill results for them. As it was it w^s fatal, 
though not all at once. 

The Arian heresy, if we are to understand it aright, must be 
recognised as an orientaHsm having much in common with 
Judaism and the later Mahometanism. It denied several 
of the statements of the Nicene Creed, those monoliths upon 
which the new Europe was to be founded. It maintained 
that the Father and the Son are distinct Beings; that the Son 
though divine is not equal to the Father; that the Son had a 
state of existence previous to His appearance upon earth, but 
is not from Eternity; that Christ Jesus was not really man 
but a divine being in a case of flesh. Already against it the 
future frowned dark and enormous as the Alps. 

Such was the heresy at the root of the Ostrogothic kingdom, 
and it is significant that the cause of the first open aUenation 
between Theodoric and the CathoHcs of Italy was concerned 
with the Jews, It seems that the Jews, whom Theodoric had 
always protected, had, during his absence from Ravenna, 


mocked the Christian rite of baptism and made sport of it by 
throwing one another into one of the two muddy rivers of 
that city, and also by some blasphemous foolishness aimed 
at the Mass. The Catholic population had naturally retaliated 
by burning all the Jewish synagogues to the ground. Theo- 
doric, like all the Gothic Arians, sided with the Jews and 
^ fined the Catholic citizens of Ravenna, publicly flogging those 
who could not pay, in order that the synagogues might be 
rebuilt. Such was the first open breach between the king 
and the Romans, who now began to remind themselves that 
there was an Augustus at Constantinople. This memory, 
which had slumbered while pope and emperor were in conflict 
— such is the creative and formative power of reUgion — was 
stirred and strengthened by the reconciliation between the 
emperor Justin and the Holy See. It is curious that the 
man who was to lead the Catholic party and to suffer in the 
national cause had translated thirty books of Aristotle into 
V Latin; hisname was Boethius and he was master of the offices. 
This great and pathetic figure had been till the year 
523 continually in the favour of Theodoric. In that year 
suddenly an accusation was brought against the patrician 
Albinus of " sending letters to the emperor Justin hostile 
to the royal rule of Theodoric." In the debate which followed, 
Boethius claimed to speak and declared that the accusation 
was false, " but whatever Albinus did, I and the whole senate 
of Rome with one purpose did the same." We may well ask 
for a clear statement of what they had done; we shall get no 
answer. Boethius himself speaks of " the accusation against 
me of having hoped for Roman freedom," and adds: "As 
for Roman freedom, what hope is left to us of that ? Would 
that there were any such hope." To the charge of " hoping 
for Roman freedom " was added an accusation of sorcery. 

Boethius was tried in the senate house in Rome while he 
was lying in prison in Pa via. Without being permitted to 
answer his accusers or to be heard by his judges he was 
sentenced to death by the intimidated senate whose freedom 



he was accused of seeking to establish. From Pavia, where in 
prison awaiting death he had written his De Consolations 
Philosophice which was so largely to inform the new Europe, he 
was carried to " the ager Calventianus " a few miles from 
Milan; there he was tortured, a cord was twisted round his 
forehead till his eyes 
burst from their 
sockets, and then he 
was clubbed to death. 
This occurred in 524, 
and in that same year 
throughout the em- 
pire we find the great 
movement against 
Arianism take on new 

This irresistible at- 
tack began in the East 
and Theodoric seems 
at once to have seen 
in it the culmination 
of all those dangers 
he had to fear. He 
recognised, too, at last, 
that it was Catholi- 
cism he had to face. 

Therefore he sent for pope John I. When the pope, old 
and infirm, appeared in Ravenna, Theodoric made the 
greatest diplomatic mistake of his life. He bade the pope 
go to Constantinople to the emperor and tell him that "he 
must not in any way attempt to win over those whom he 
calls heretics to the Catholic religion." 

Apart from the impertinence of this command to the 
emperor from the king of the Goths, it was foolish in the 
extreme. His object should have been, above all else, to keep 
the emperor and the pope apart, but by this act he forced 

Capital from S. Vitale 


them together; only anger can have suggested such an 
impolitic move. " The king," says the chronicler,^ " return- 
ing in great anger [from the murder of Boethius] and unmind- 
ful of the blessings of God, considered that he might frighten 
Justin by an embassy. Therefore he sent for John the chief 
of the Apostolic See to Ravenna and said to him, ' Go to 
Justin the emperor and tell him that among other things he 
must restore the converted heretics to the (Arian) faith.' 
And the pope answered, ' What thou doest do quickly. 
Behold here I stand in thy sight. I will not promise to do 
this thing for thee nor to say this to the emperor. But in 
other matters, with God's help, I may succeed.' Then the 
king being angered ordered a ship to be prepared and placed 
the pope aboard together with other bishops, namely, 
Ecclesius of Ravenna, Eusebius of Fano, Sabinus of Cam- 
pania, and two others with the following senators, Theodorus, 
'Importunus, Agapitus, and another Agapitus. But God, who 
does not forsake those who are faithful, brought them pros- 
perously to their journey's end. Then the emperor Justin 
met the pope on his arrival as though he were St. Peter him- 
self,^ and when he heard his message promised that he would 
comply with all his requests, but the converts who had given 
themselves to the Catholic Faith he could by no means restore to 
the Arians" 

That was a great day not only for the papacy but for Italy. 
The pope can never have hoped that Theodoric would open 
to him so great an opportunity for confirming the reconcilia- 
tion between the emperor and the papacy which was the 
great need of the Latin cause. There can be little doubt 
that pope John used his advantage to the utmost. Early in 
526 he returned to Ravenna to find Theodoric beside himself 

* Anon. Valesii, ut supra. 

* " Prone on the ground the emperor, whom all other men adored, 
adored the weary pontiff. . . . When Easter-day came, the pope, taking 
the place of honour at the right hand of the patriarch of Constantinople, 
celebrated Mass according to the Latin use in the great cathedral." 
— Marcellinus Comes, quoted by Hodgkin, op. cit. iii. p. 463. 



with anger. The barbarian who had perfidiously murdered 
Odoacer his rival, and most foully tortured the old philo- 
sopher Boethius to death, was not likely to shrink from any 
outrage that he thought might serve him, even though 
his victim were the pope. Symmachus, the father-in-law of 
Boethius, a venerable and 
a saintly man, was bar- 
barously done to death 
and Pope John and his 
colleagues were thrown 
into prison in Ravenna, 
where the pope died on 
May 1 8 of that same 
year, and one hundred 
and four days later was 
followed to the grave by 
the unhappy Gothic king. 

Theodoric had utterly 
failed in everything he had 
attempted. His Romano- 
Gothic kingdom proved 
to be a hopeless chimaera, 
and this because he had 
not been able to under- 
stand the forces with 
which he had to deal. 
Nor was he capable of 

learning from experience. Even after the death of Pope John 
he countersigned the death warrant of his kingdom by an 
edict, issued with the signature of a Jewish treasury clerk, 
that all the Cathohc churches of Italy should be handed over 
to the Arians. He had scarcely published this amazing 
document, however, when he died after three days of pain 
on August 30, 526, the very day the revolution was to have 
taken place. 

The Gothic king was buried outside Ravenna upon the 

Capital from Santo Spirito 


^ north-east and in the mighty tomb — a truly Roman work — 
that the Romans, at his orders, had prepared for him: 
a marvellous mausoleum of squared stones in two stories, 
the lower a decagon, the upper an octagon covered by a vast 
dome hewn out of a single block of Istrian marble. There in a 
porphyry vase reposed all that was mortal of the great bar- 
barian who failed to understand what the Roman empire 
was, but who almost without knowing it rendered it, as we 
shall see, so great a service. But the body of Theodoric did 
not long remain in the enormous silence of that sepulchre. 
Even in the time of Agnellus (ninth century) the body was 

V no longer in the mausoleum and what had become of it will 
always remain a mystery. A weird and awful legend, in keep- 
ing with the tremendous tragedy that was played out in his 
time and in which he had filled the main role, relates how a 
holy hermit upon the island of Lipari on the day and in the 
hour of the great king's death saw him, his hands and feet 
bound, his garments all disarrayed, dragged up the mountain 
of StromboH by his two victims, pope John and Symmachus, 
the father-in-law of Boethius, and hurled by them into the 
fiery crater of the volcano. 

Agnellus, of Ravenna, who records that the body of Theo- 
doric was no longer in the great mausoleum, tells us that as 
it seems to him it was cast forth out of that sepulchre. A 
later suggestion would lead us to suppose that this was done 
by the monks of a neighbouring monastery, who are said to 
have cast the body in its golden armour into the Canale 
Corsini close by.^ A few pieces of a golden cuirass 
discovered there and now in the museum of Ravenna, 
seem to confirm this story, which certainly is not un- 
reasonable though of course it is the merest conjecture. 
It is possible that the body of Theodoric did not rest 

1 There is apparently no foundation for the assertion of Fra SaUm- 
bene, the thirteenth-century chronicler of Parma {Cronica, ed. Holder- 
Egger, pp. 209-210), that it was S. Gregory the Great himself who 
ordered the body of Theodoric to be cast forth from its tomb. Cf. 
E. G. Gardner: The Dialogues of S. Gregory (191 1), p. 273. 


longer in its tomb than the Gothic power remained in 
Italy. For already within a year of the death of Theodoric 
the new saviour had appeared. Once more a great man sat 
upon the throne of the empire, in whose mind and in whose 
will was set the dream of the reconquest, of the re-establish- 
ment of the empire through the West, of the promulgation of 
the great code by which the new Europe was to realise itself. 
Justinian reigned in the New Rome upon the Bosphorus. 




The failure of Theodoric, the failure of barbarism, of Arianism 
that is, for barbarism and civilisation were now for all intents 
and purposes mere synonyms for heresy and Catholicism, 
was probably fuUy appreciated by the Gothic king, who was, 
nevertheless, incapable of mastering his fate. The great lady 
who succeeded to his power in Italy as the guardian of her 
son, his heir, Athalaric, was certainly as fully aware as Theo- 
doric may have been of the cause of that failure, and she 
made the attempt, which he had not wished or dared to 
make, to save the kingdom. The value of her heroic effort, 
which, for all its courage, utterly failed, lies for us in the con- 
firmation it gives to our analysis of the causes of the Gothic 
failure to establish an enduring government in the West. 

That Amalasuntha wished to become a Catholic is probably 
true enough; it is certain that she understood from the first 
that, in such an act, she would not be able to carry her people 
with her. Therefore, she did what she could short of this the 
only real remedy. She attempted to educate her Httle son 
as a Roman, and hoped thus to insure his power with the 
Latin population, trusting that the fact of his birth would 
perhaps ensure the loyalty of the Gothic nation. In this 
she was wholly to fail, because, as her attempt shows, she 



had not fundamentally understood, any more than her 
father had been able to do, the realities of the situation in 
which she found herself. 

For all her genuine love for Roman things, her contempt 
of Gothic rudeness and barbarism, she failed to see that the 
one hving thing that impressed the Roman mind, and really 
differentiated the Latin from the Goth, was religion, was 
CathoHcism. She remained, possibly from necessity, but she 
remained, an Arian, and though she brought Athalaric up 
" in all respects after the manner of the Romans," she did 
not make him a Catholic, nor did she attempt the certainly 
hopeless task of leading the Gothic nation towards the only 
means of reconciliation that might have been successful. 

The compromise she adopted was useless and futile, and 
only succeeded in alienating the Goths, without winning her 
a single ally among the Romans. Her own people utterly 
disapproved of her method of education for her son, their 
king, " because they wished him to be trained in more bar- 
baric style so that they might the more readily oppress their 
subjects." Presently they remonstrated with her: " Lady, 
you are not dealing justly with us, nor doing what is best for 
the nation when you thus educate your son. Letters and 
book-learning are different from courage and fortitude, and 
to permit a boy to be trained by old men is the way to make 
him a coward and a fool. He who is to dare and to win 
glory, and fame, must not be subjected to the fear of a peda- 
gogue, but must spend his time in martial exercise. Your 
father, Theodoric, would never suffer his Goths to send their 
sons to the grammarians, for he used to say : ' If they fear 
the teacher's strap they will never look on sword or javelin 
without a shudder.' He himself, who won the lordship of 
such wide lands and died king of so fair a kingdom, which he 
had not inherited from his fathers, knew nothing, even by 
hearsay, of book learning. Therefore, lady, yon must say 
' good-bye ' to these pedagogues, and give Athalaric com- 
panions of his own age, who may grow up with him to 


manhood, and make him a valiant king after the manner of 
the barbarians." ^ 

Amalasuntha was forced to bow to this, the public opinion 
of her own people. The resvJt was disastrous ; for the young 
Athalaric, like a true barbarian, was soon led away into a 
bestial sensuality which presently destroyed his health and 
sent him to an early grave. Seeing his instability both of 
body and mind, Amalasuntha entered into secret com- 
munication with Constantinople, where Justinian was now 
emperor, and even prepared for a possible flight to that city. 
Thus in 534, when she received an ambassador in Ravenna 
from Justinian who demanded of her the surrender of Lily- 
baeum, a barren rock in Sicily which Theodoric had assigned 
to Thrasamund on his marriage with his sister Amalafrida, 
in public she protested vigorously against the attempt of the 
emperor to pick a quarrel with " an orphaned king " too 
young to defend himself; but in private she assured the 
imperial ambassador of her readiness " to transfer to the 
emperor the whole of Italy." 

Italy was in this unstable state when, on the 2nd October 
534, Athalaric died in his eighteenth year. This apparently 
upset Amalasuntha's plans. At any rate, we see her suddenly 
face quite about and sending for Theodahad, the son of 
Amalafrida, upon whom she had but lately pronounced a 
humihating sentence, she offered to make him her official 
colleague upon the Gothic throne. This man was an 
ambitious villain. Of course he accepted Amalasuntha's 
foolish offer and swore to observe the agreement made between 
them. But before many weeks had passed he had made her 
a prisoner and had her securely hidden upon an island in the 
Lake of Bolsena in Umbria. But Theodahad appears to 
have been a fool as well as a villain. Having disposed of 
Amalasuntha, he sent an embassy to Constantinople to explain 
his conduct and to attempt to come to terms with Caesar. 
For his ambassadors he chose not Gothic nobles, who might 
1 Hodgkin, Theodoric (Putnam, 1900), pp. 307-308. 


have found his actions to their advantage, but Roman 
senators, all but one of whom told a plain tale. Justinian 
immediately despatched his ambassador Peter to reassure 
Amalasuntha of his protection and to threaten Theodahad 
that if she were hurt it would be at the price of his own head. 
Peter, however, had scarcely landed in Italy when he had 
news of Amalasuntha's murder in her island prison. He 
continued at once on his way to Ravenna, and there in the 
court before all the Gothic nobles not only denounced the 
murderer, but declared " truceless war " upon the Goths.^ 

The truth was that Justinian was ready, the hour had 
struck, and with the hour had appeared the man who with 
his great master was ready to attempt the reconquest of the 
West for civilisation. 

We shall see the true state of aifairs from the point of view 
of Constantinople if we retrace our steps a little. 

Justinian had succeeded Justin upon the imperial throne 
in 527. This great man had early set before himself the real 
recovery of the West for the empire. Circumstances, which 
he was not slow to use, caused him to attempt first the recon- 
quest of Africa from the Vandals, and the true state of affairs 
is disclosed by the causes which brought about this great 

Hilderic, who had succeeded Thrasamund on the Vandal 
throne in Africa, had put Amalafrida, the queen dowager, the 
sister of Theodoric, to death. In June 531, he was deposed. 
Now Hilderic favoured the Catholics, was the ally of the 
empire, and was descended on his mother's side from the 
great Theodosius. Justinian determined to avenge him, and 
in avenging him to reconquer Africa for the empire. The 
hour had struck as I say, and the man had appeared with 

j^Cf. Procopius, De Bello Gotico, 25. The murder of Amalasuntha 
served the interests of the imperiaHsts so well that public opinion 
at Constantinople attributed it to Peter the ambassador and to 
Theodora, the wife of Justinian. It remains, however, extremely 
doubtful whether there is any truth in this accusation, although it is 
certain that Theodora was in communication Avith Theodahad. 


the hour. That man was the great soldier Belisarius, the 
instrument of Justinian in all his heroic design. 

Belisarius was entirely successful in his African campaign. 
On 15th September 533, he entered Carthage, and " was 
received by the majority of the citizens who spoke the Latin 
tongue and professed the Catholic Faith with unconcealed 
rejoicing." And as it happened he entered Carthage only to 
hear of Hilderic's murder. Before the end of the year the 
reconquest was complete. Africa was once more and in 
reality a province of the empire, and offered an excellent base 
of operations for the conquest of Italy, now to be undertaken. 

In the summer of 535, eighteen months later, Justinian 
began the great war against the Goths, the opportunity for 
which was offered him by the murder of Amalasuntha, and 
the result of which was to be the re-establishment of the 
empire in Italy. Rightly understood the true service of 
Theodoric — and it was a real and a precious service — was 
that the thirty years of settled government and peace which he 
had given Italy had prepared the way for the reconquest. 

That reconquest occupied five years. It was begun with 
an attack upon Sicily and proceeded northward by way of 
Naples and Rome to Ravenna, with the fall of which it was 
achieved. From a purely strategical point of view Beli- 
sarius was wrong to attack Sicily first and to carry the 
campaign from south to north; he should have attacked 
Ravenna first, and from the sea, and thus possessed himself 
of the key of Italy, and this especially as his base was Con- 
stantinople. But politically he was absolutely right. Sicily 
was almost empty of Gothic troops and the provincials were 
eagerly CathoUc and only too willing to make a real part of 
the Roman empire. Thus the campaign opened with sur- 
render after surrender, was indeed almost a procession; only 
Palermo offered resistance, and this because it was held by a 
garrison of Goths; but before the end of 535 the whole island 
was once more subject to the empire. 

Early in 536 a rebellion in Africa, which proved to be 


little more than a mutiny in Carthage, took Belisarius away; 
but he was back in Sicily before the end of the spring, and in 
the early summer was marching through southern Italy 
almost unresisted, welcomed everywhere with joy and 
thanksgiving till he came to the fortress of Naples, which 
was held by a Gothic garrison. Here the people wished to 
welcome him and surrender the city, but were prevented by 
the garrison, which, however, was soon cleverly outwitted and 
taken prisoner, and by the end of November all southern 
Italy was in Belisarius' hands. 

The fall of Naples brought Theodahad to the ground. 
The Goths deposed him and raised upon their shields Vitiges 
the soldier. As for Theodahad he was overtaken on the road 
to Ravenna, whither he was flying, and his throat was cut as 
he lay on the pavement of the way, " as a priest cuts the 
throat of his victim." 

If Theodahad was a villain as well as a fool, perhaps 
Vitiges was only the latter. At any rate, he is generally con- 
sidered to have acted with criminal folly, when, as the first 
act of his reign, he abandoned Rome and fell back upon 
Ravenna, determined to make his great defence in northern 
Italy. But I think, if we consider the position more closely, 
we shall see that Vitiges was not such a fool as he looks. He 
had seen the two great fortresses of Palermo and Naples fall, 
and mainly for the same reason, the fact that the whole of 
their populations except the Gothic garrisons were eagerly 
on the side of the enemy. The situation of Rome, its great 
size, made it difficult to defend except with a very great army, 
and this would become a hundred times more difficult, if not 
impossible, if the population were to side with the attack. 
Yet not only was that already certain, but the sympathies of the 
citizens there might be expected to be even more passionately 
Roman than others had been elsewhere; for Rome was the 
capital of Catholicism, the throne of the Church, the seat of 
Peter. The Goth had to face the fact that, while he was 
perhaps hardly holding his own in Rome, Belisarius might 



stealthily pass on to overthrow the Gothic citadel at Ravenna. 
He had to ask himself whether he could expect to defend both 
Rome and Ravenna, for if Ravenna were to fall the whole 
kingdom was lost, since now, not less but rather more than 
before, Ravenna was the key to Italy. 

There is this also; Justinian had in the summer of 535 
despatched two armies from Constantinople. One of these 
was that which BeHsarius had disembarked in Sicily, and 
which till now had been so uniformly and so easily victorious. 
The other under Mundus had entered Dalmatia which it 
had completely wrested from the Goths by the middle of 536. 
It is probable that Vitiges expected to be attacked in the rear 
and from the north by this victorious army. If that should 
fall upon Ravenna while the Gothic strength was engaged in 
the defence of Rome, what would be the fate of that principal 
city, and with that lost, what would become of him in the 
Catholic capital ? 

Of course Vitiges ought to have met the imperial army in 
the field and given battle. That was the true solution. But 
no Gothic army ever dared to face Belisarius in the open, for 
though the Goths enormously outnumbered his small force of 
some 8000 men, they feared him as the possessor of a superior 
arm in the Hippotoxotai, mounted troops armed with the bow, 
and above all they feared his genius. 

But Vitiges was no fool; his cause was hopeless from the 
first. He abandoned Rome and fell back upon Ravenna, 
because that was the best thing to be done in the circum- 
stances in which he found himself. Among these must be 
reckoned the newness of his authority and the necessity of 
consolidating it by a marriage with a princess of the blood of 
Theodoric. As it happened, this retreat enabled him to prolong 
a war that at first looked like coming to an end in a few 
months for four more years. 

Vitiges then abandoned Rome, but it seems not altogether. 
What he may be supposed to have imagined BeHsarius doing 
to his disadvantage, that he himself did. He left in Rome a 


garrison of four thousand men under a veteran general 
Leudaris, while he himself with the Gothic army fell back 
upon Ravenna. No sooner was he gone than the surrender 
of the City was offered to Belisarius by pope Silverius who 
spoke for the citizens and the Roman people. This was 
the reality of the situation. Then indeed an almost incredible 
blunder was committed, but not by Vitiges. The four thou- 
sand Goths whom he had left to hold the City, and at least to 
delay and waste the imperialists, marched out of Rome along 
the Flaminian Way as Belisarius entered from the south by 
the Via Latina. Leudaris alone refused to quit this post. 
He was taken prisoner, and sent with the keys of the Eternal 
City to Justinian. 

Belisarius estabhshed himself upon the Pincian Hill, and his 
first act after his occupation of the City is significant both 
of his profound knowledge of the barbarians and of the 
immutable characteristics of a Latin people. 

It is possible that the Romans, seeing the fall of Palermo 
and Naples and the occupation of Rome itself obtained so 
easily, beHeved that the Goths were finally disposed of. But 
Belisarius' vast experience of the character of the barbarians 
taught him otherwise. He immediately began to provision 
Rome from Sicily as fast as he could, and he at once under- 
took the fortification of the City, the repair of the AureHan 
Wall. In these acts of Belisarius two things become evident. 
We see that he expected the return of the Goths, and we are 
made aware of the fact that they had neglected to fortify 
the City. 

It must be weU seized by the reader, that the Gothic armies 
very greatly outnumbered the imperial troops, who were but 
a small expedition of not more than eight thousand men 
face to face with an immense horde of barbarians. The great 
advantage of the imperialists was that they were fighting in 
a friendly country, and they had too certain superiorities of 
armament which civilisation may always depend upon having 
at its command as against barbarians. Nevertheless, 


Belisarius knew that his end would be more securely won if 
he could wear down the barbarians, always impatient of so 
slow a business as a siege, from behind fortifications. He 
expected the barbarians, unstable in judgment and impatient 
of any but the simplest strategy and tactics, to swarm again 
and again about the City, and he was right: what he expected 
came to pass. 

On the other hand, we see in the neglect on the part of 
the Goths of all fortification of the City a neglect instantly 
repaired by Belisarius, a characteristic persistent and perhaps 
ineradicable in the Teutonic mind from the days of Tacitus 
to our own time. The Romans had always asserted, and those 
nations to-day who are of their tradition still assert, that the 
spade is the indispensable weapon of the soldier. But the 
barbarians and those nations to-day who are of their tradition, 
while they have not been so foolish as to refuse the spade 
altogether, have always fortified reluctantly. You see these 
two characteristics at work to-day in the opposite methods of 
the French and the Germans, just as you see them at work 
in the sixth century when Belisarius rebuilt the fortifications 
of the City which the Goths had neglected. 

And if we have praised Vitiges for his retreat upon Ravenna, 
how much more must we praise Belisarius for the fortification 
of Rome. For if the one had for its result the prolongation of 
the war for some four years, the other determined what the 
end of that war should be. 

Let us once more consider the military situation. It is 
evident that Vitiges evacuated Rome because he was afraid 
of losing Ravenna, his base, by an outflanking movement on 
the part of Belisarius and perhaps by a new attack from 

In leaving a garrison within the City of some four thousand 

' My theory of the strategy of Vitiges and of his purpose is perhaps 
unorthodox; the orthodox theory being that he was a fool and the 
abandonment of Rome a mere blunder. But my theory would seem 
to be accurate enough, for Vitiges's first act from Ravenna was to 
despatch an army into Dalmatia. 


men — say half as many as the whole imperiahst army — he 
at least hoped to delay the enemy till he had secured himself 
in the north and to waste him. I do not think he expected to 
hold the city for any length of time, for the whole country 
was spiritually with the enemy. 

What he hoped to gain by his retreat was, however, not 
merely the security of the north. He hoped also to lure 
Belisarius thither after him where, in a country less whoUy 
Latin and imperiahst, he would have a better chance of 
annihilating him by mere numbers once and for all. To this 
supreme hope and expectation of the Goth's, the refortification 
of Rome by Behsarius finally put an end. It was a counter- 
move worthy of such a master and entirely in keeping with 
the Roman tradition. 

At first it must have appeared to Vitiges that the course he 
had expected Belisarius to pursue was actually being followed; 
for presently the imperialists began to move up the Flaminian 
Way. But it was soon evident that this was no advance in 
force, but rather a part of the fortification of the City. All 
the places occupied were fortresses and all were with one 
exception upon the Via Flaminia which they commanded. 
The first of these strong places was Narni, which held the great 
bridge over the Nera at the southern exit of the passes between 
the valley of Spoleto and the lower Tiber valley, where the 
two roads over the mountains, one by Todi, the other by 
Spoleto, met. The second place occupied was Spoleto at the 
head, and the third was Perugia at the foot, of the great valley 
of Spoleto, from which the Via Flaminia rose to cross the 
central Apennines. The three places were occupied without 
much trouble, and it was thus attempted to make the great 
road from the north impassable. 

If Vitiges, as I beHeve, thought the imperiahsts would 
immediately follow him northward he was no more deceived 
than the Romans themselves. They had surrendered the 
City to Behsarius to save it from attack and the last thing 
they desired was to suffer a siege. A feeling of resentment. 



the old jealousy. of Constantinople, seems to have appeared, 
and in this Vitiges thought he saw his opportunity. With 
150,000 men, according to Procopius, he issued from Ravenna 

Vitiges, March 

and marched upon Rome, avoiding apparently the three forts 
held by the imperialists, for he came, again according to 
Procopius, through Sabine territory and therefore his advance 
was upon the eastern bank of the Tiber. However that may 
be, he got without being attacked as far as the bridge over 


the Anio on the Via Salaria, or as the Milvian Bridge over the 
Tiber where the Via Cassia and the Via Flaminia meet to 
enter the City.^ This bridge, whichever it was, Behsarius had 
determined to hold, but without his knowledge it was deserted. 
The Goths were crossing unopposed when the general himself 
appeared with 1000 horse. A tremendous fight followed in 
which, such was his rage and astonishment, Belisarius bore 
himself rather like a brave soldier than a wise general. Unhurt 
in spite of the mHee he fell back either upon the Porta Salaria ^ 
or upon the Porta Flaminia (del Popolo), which he found 
closed against him, for the City believed him dead. Almost 
in despair he rallied his men and made a desperate charge, 
which, such was the number of the Goths in the road and 
the confusion of their advance, was successful. The bar- 
barians fled and Belisarius and his gallant troopers entered 
the City at nightfall. 

All through that night the walls of Rome were aflame with 
watchfires and disastrous tidings, happily false; and when 
the dawn rose out of the Campagna, Rome was still inviolate. 

Thus began the first siege of Rome in the early days of >^ 
March 537. It lasted for three hundred and seventy-four 
days and ended in the sullen retreat of the barbarians to save 
Ravenna, which as Vitiges had at first foreseen would happen 
was threatened with attack. But as so often in later times, 
those three hundred and seventy-four days had dealt incom- 
parably more hardly with the besiegers than with the besieged. 
The Campagna had done its work, and it has been calculated 
that of the 150,000 men that are said to have marched with 
Vitiges to attack the city, not more than 10,000 returned to 

Meanwhile during the great siege Belisarius, by means of 
his subordinate general, John, had carried on a campaign in 

^ Procopius tells us both that Vitiges advanced through the Sabine 
country and that he crossed the Tiber — an impossible thing. Gibbon 
and Hodgkin refuse the former, Gregorovius the latter statement. I 
agree with Gregorovius, for Procopius confuses the Tiber and Anio 
elsewhere, notably iii. lo. " Possibly the Porta Pinciana. 


Picenum and had been able to send assistance to the people of 
Milan, eagerly Roman as they were. 

In Picenum, John had perhaps rashly pushed forward from 
Ancona to Rimini; which he held precariously and to the 
danger of Ancona. The first act of Belisarius after the raising 
of the siege of the City was to despatch troops post haste to 
Rimini. He sent Ildiger and Martin with a thousand horse 
to fight their way if necessary to Rimini to withdraw John 
and his two thousand horse. He purposed to hold Rimini 
only with the tips of his fingers, for his determination was to 
secure all he held before he entered upon a final and a real 
advance northward. 

The position of Belisarius seemed more insecure than in 
fact it was. If we consider the great artery of his advance 
northward, the Via Flaminia, we shall find that he held every- 
thing to the east of the road between Rome and Ancona save 
one fortress, Osimo above Ancona, which was held by four 
thousand of the enemy. But all was or seemed to be insecure 
because he held nothing to the west of the great road save 
Perugia: Orvieto, Todi, Chiusi, Urbino were all in Gothic 
hands, while the Furlo Pass over the Apennines was also held 
by the enemy. 

Well might BeHsarius desire the cavalry of John, useless in 
Rimini, for the direct road to that city was still in the hands 
of the enemy. But when John got his orders he refused to 
obey them and Ildiger and Martin returned without him. 
What excuse is possible for this refusal of obedience on the 
part of a subordinate which might well have imperilled the 
whole campaign? This only: that he had orders from one 
superior even to Belisarius. It is probable that John in 
Rimini and Ancona was aware that he might expect reinforce- 
ment from Constantinople and that Belisarius knew nothing 
of them. These reinforcements arrived under Narses, the 
great and famous chamberlain of Justinian, not long after 
Rimini had begun to suffer the memorable siege that followed 
the departure of Ildiger and Martin, and Ancona had only 



just been saved. The presence of Narses in Italy changed the 
whole aspect of the campaign, and whatever motives Justinian 
may have had for sending him thither, the effect of his landing 

Cities Underlined were in Imperial Hands 

at Ancona with great reinforcements can have had only a 
good effect upon the war. 

BeUsarius had now secured himself to this extent that 
Todi and Chiusi were in his hands, and he hastened to meet 
Narses at Fermo forty miles south of Ancona. There a 


council of war was held in which Belisarius maintained his 
plan, namely, that Rimini should be abandoned because Osimo, 
very strongly held over Ancona, was in the hands of the Goths. 
Narses, on the contrary, looked only to the spiritual side of 
war. He maintained that if a city once recovered for the 
empire was abandoned the moral result would be disastrous. 
At any cost he was for the relief of Rimini. Somewhat 
reluctantly, realising the danger, Belisarius consented to try. 
A screen of a thousand men was placed before Osimo, an army 
was embarked for Rimini and another was sent out by the 
coast road, while Belisarius himself and Narses with a column 
of cavalry set out from Fermo westward, crossed the Apennines 
above Spoleto, struck into the Flaminian Way, recrossed the 
Apennines by the Furlo, andhad come within a day's journey of 
Rimini when they came upon a party of Goths, who fled and 
gave the alarm to Vitiges. But before the Goth could decide 
what to do, Ildiger was upon him from the sea, Martin was 
upon him with a great army from the south, and Belisarius 
and Narses came down from the mountains in time to rejoice 
at the delivery of the city. 

That deliverance but disclosed the two parties that divided 
the imperial army. When John refused obedience to 
Belisarius we may be sure he was not acting wholly without 
encouragement, and this at once became obvious after the 
deliverance of Rimini which Belisarius had carried out but 
which had been conceived by Narses. It will be remembered 
that Milan was by the act of BeHsarius in the hands of the 
Romans; it was, however, now besieged even as Rimini had 
been by a very redoubtable Gothic leader, Uraius. Orvieto 
and Osimo also were still in barbarian hands. Belisarius now 
proposed to employ the army in the relief of the one and the 
capture of the others. Narses, on the other hand, proposed to 
take his part of the army and with it to reoccupy the province 
of -Emilia between the Apennines and the Po. These 
rivalries and differences were to cost the life of a great city, 
Milan. For since Narses would not consent to the plan of 


Belisarius, only what seemed most urgent was done; Orvieto 
was taken, Urbino too, and the energy of the imperial army 
and its purpose, also, was expended upon many unimportant 
things, an attempt upon Cesena, the reduction of Imola, which 
involved a hopeless dispersal of forces upon no great end. 
BeHsarius, warned of the danger, ordered John to the relief of 
Milan; again that creature of Narses refused. And down 
came Milan before Uraius the Goth, who fell upon the helpless 
citizens and massacred three hundred thousand of them, 
being aU the men of the city; and the women he gave as 
payment to his Burgundian ally; and of Milan he left not one 
stone upon another. But when Justinian read the despatch 
of Belisarius, he recalled Narses, for if the fall of Rimini would 
have injured so sorely the imperial cause, what of the fall of 
Milan, the massacre of its inhabitants, the utter destruction 
of the city? So great was its effect that we read even 
Justinian thought of treating with the Goths; for he was 
haunted by the weakness of his Persian frontier, and he had 
soon to look to the western Alps. 

Not so Belisarius. He went on his way and first he reduced 
two fortresses that had long threatened him, Osimo and 
Fiesole, and then and at long last he began the great advance 
upon Ravenna. 

In this he was attempting with a small and weary force 
what had never before been accompHshed. Theodoric, it is 
true, had entered Ravenna as a conqueror , but only by 
stratagem and deceptive promises after a siege of three years. 
BeUsarius, none knew it better than he, had neither the time 
nor the forces that were at the disposal of the great Gothic 
king. He must act quickly if at all, and nowhere and on no 
occasion does this great and resourceful man appear to better 
advantage than in his achievement at Ravenna, which should 
have been the last military action of the reconquest. 

Procopius, who was perhaps an eye-witness of the whole 
business of the siege and certainly entered Ravenna in triumph 
with Belisarius, tells us that, after the fall of Osimo, Belisarius 


made haste to Ravenna with his whole army. He sent one 
of his generals, Magnus, before him with a sufficient force, to 
march along the Po and to prevent provisions being taken 
into the impregnable city from the ^milian Way; while 
another general, Vitalius, he called out of Dalmatia with his 
forces to hold the northern bank of the river. When this was 
done a most extraordinary accident occurred which it seems 
impossible to explain. " An accident then befell," says 
Procopius, " which clearly shows that Fortuna determines even 
yet every struggle. For the Goths had brought down the Po 
many barges from Liguria ^ laden with corn, bound for 
Ravenna; but the water suddenly grew so low in the river 
that they could not row on; and the Romans coming upon 
them took them and all their lading. Soon after the river 
had again its wonted stream and was navigable as before. 
This scarcity of water had never till then occurred so far 
as we could hear." 

Owing to this accident and the closeness of the investment 
the Goths began to be short of provisions, for they could import 
nothing from the sea, since the Romans were masters there. 
In their need, however, the King of the Franks, knowing how 
things were, sent ambassadors to Vitiges in Ravenna, and 
so did Belisarius. The Franks offered to lead an army of 
five hundred thousand men over the Alps and to bury the 
Romans in utter ruin if the Goths would consent to share 
Italy with them. But the Goths feared the Franks, and the 
ambassadors of Belisarius were able to persuade them to 
reject their offers. From this time forward negotiations went 
on without ceasing between Belisarius and the Goths, for the 
one was short of time, the other of food. Nevertheless, the 
Romans did not relax their investment of the city in any way. 
Indeed, Belisarius chose this moment for his shrewdest and 

' Cf. Cassiodorus, Varies, ii. 20, where we read of Theodoric in a time 
of scarcity supplying Liguria with food from Ravenna. " Let any 
provision ships which may be now lying at Ravenna be ordered round 
to Liguria, which in ordinary times supplies the needs of Ravenna 


cruellest blow. " For hearing how there was much corn in 
the public magazines of Ravenna, he won a citizen with 
money to set them afire; which loss, some say, happened by 
Matasuntha's advice, the wife of Vitiges. It was so suddenly 
done that some thought it was by lightning, as others by 
design, and Vitiges and the Goths, taking it in either kind, fell 
into more irresolution, mistrusting one another, and thinking 
that God himself made war against them." 

At this misfortune Uraius, the destroyer of Milan, proposed 
to attempt to relieve Ravenna, but Belisarius easily outwitted 
him and his intervention came to nothing. 

Nevertheless time, so scarce with the Romans, was running 
short. Justinian was impatient to have done with the 
Italian war, for the general situation was extremely grave; 
upon the Danube an invasion of Slavs was gathering; in 
Asia, Persia threatened the empire. It is not altogether 
surprising then that Justinian now made an attempt to come 
to terms with Vitiges behind the back of Belisarius. He sent 
two ambassadors to offer peace upon the following really amaz- 
ing terms, namely, that the Goths were to have half the royal 
treasure and the dominion of the country beyond the Po, that 
is to say, to the north of the Po; the other half of the revenues 
and the rest of Italy with Sicily were to be the emperor's. 
The ambassadors showed their instructions to Belisarius, 
who had them conducted into Ravenna, where Vitiges and 
the Goths gladly consented to make peace and to accept these 
conditions. But both sides had reckoned without Belisarius, 
who doubtless saw that such a peace could not endure and 
that all his labour, if such terms were to be made, had gone 
for nothing. Nothing would satisfy his ideas of security 
save the absolute defeat of the Goths with its natural sequel, 
the bringing of Vitiges to Constantinople as a prisoner. He, 
therefore, refused to sign the treaty, leaving it to be established 
by the ambassadors alone. But when the Goths saw this 
they thought that the Romans cozened them, and refused to 
conclude anything without the signature and oath of 


That Belisarius was right we cannot doubt; but his action 
naturally laid him open to be accused of a design, against the 
emperor's intentions, to prolong the war for his own glory. 
Nor were certain of his generals slow to make such an accusa- 
tion. When he heard of it, he (who had suffered more than 
enough from the disloyalty of subordinates) called them all 
together, and in the presence of the ambassadors confessed 
that Fortune was the great decider of war, and that a good 
opportunity for peace should ever be seized. Then he bade 
them speak their minds in the present case. They declared 
then, one and all, that it were best to follow the instructions 
of the emperor. When Belisarius heard them speak thus he 
was glad and bade them put their opinions in writing, that 
neither he nor they might afterwards deny their confession 
that they were not able to subdue the enemy by war. 

But BeHsarius was sure of his ground. The Goths pressed 
by famine could hold out no longer, and weary of Vitiges, who 
had given them no success, yet afraid of yielding to the 
emperor lest he should remove them out of Italy to Con- 
stantinople and thereabout, they resolved, of all things, to 
declare Behsarius emperor in the West. Secretly they sent 
to entreat him to accept the empire, professing to be most 
willing to obey him. Such an astonishing proposal must 
have filled Belisarius with delight. He, indeed, had no 
intention of receiving from such hands a gift so fantastic, for 
he hated the name of usurper; but he saw at once how this 
proposal might help his ends. He immediately called his 
generals and the ambassadors together and asked them if 
they did not think it a matter of importance to make all the 
Goths and Vitiges the emperor's captives, to capture their 
wealth, and to recover all Italy to the Romans. They 
answered it would be an extreme high fortune and bade him 
effect it if he could. Then Belisarius sent to the Goths and 
bade them perform what they had offered. And they, for 
the famine was too hard to bear, agreed and sent ambas- 
sadors to take the oath of the great Roman for their indemnity 


and that lie would be King of Italy, and when they had it, to 
return into Ravenna with the Roman army. Now as to their 
indemnity Belisarius bound himself, but touching the kingdom 
he said he would swear it to Vitiges himself and the Gothic 
commanders. And the ambassadors, not thinking he would 
forego the kingdom, but that he desired it above all things, 
prayed him forthwith to march into Ravenna. And he 
himself with his army and the Gothic ambassadors entered 
Ravenna; and he commanded also ships to be laden with 
corn and to come into Classis. 

" When I saw," says Procopius, whose account of the siege 
and faU of Ravenna I have followed so far, " when I saw the 
entrance of their army into Ravenna, I considered how actions 
are not concluded by valour, multitudes, or human virtue, 
but by some Divinity that steers the acts and judgements of 
men. The Goths had much the advantage in numbers and 
power, and since they came to Ravenna no defeat there had 
overthrown them, yet they became prisoners and thought it 
no shame to be slaves to fewer in number. The women (who 
had heard from their husbands that the enemy were tall and 
gallant men and not to be numbered) looked with contempt 
upon the Roman soldiers when they saw them in the city, and 
spat in the faces of their husbands, revihng them with cowar- 
dice, pointing at their conquerors." 

Thus Ravenna, the impregnable city, was taken by strata- 
gem and wilhngly; never again to pass out of Roman hands 
till Aistulf the Lombard in 752 seized it for a few years and 
thus caused Pepin to cross the Alps to vindicate the Roman 

The first Gothic war, against Vitiges, (536-540) had thus 
for its crown and end, the capture of Ravenna; the second, 
against Totila (541-553), proceeded from Ravenna for the 
reconquest, yet once again, of Italy. 

In 540, after Ravenna had been occupied, BeHsarius 


recalled, and Vitiges taken as a captive to Constantinople, the 
Romans held all Italy except the city of Pavia. In 544, when 
Belisarius returned, they held only Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, 
and a few other strongholds such as Perugia and Piacenza. 
Nor was this aU. In this second war aU Italy was laid waste 
and ruined, Rome was twice besieged and occupied by the 
Goths, and in 546, when Totila had done with her, during a 
space of forty days the City remained utterly desolate, with- 
out a single inhabitant. How had such a miserable and 
unexpected catastrophe befallen the Catholic cause ? 

In the first place it must be admitted that the capture of 
Ravenna by stratagem was not the final catastrophe it 
appeared for the Goths. It is true that that triumph seemed 
to give, and indeed did give, aU Italy into the hands of the 
Romans, but that gift was never secured. Belisarius, partly 
from necessity, partly on account of the suspicious jealousy 
of the emperor, was withdrawn from Italy too soon. He was 
victorious, but he was not given time to secure his victories. 
The extraordinary incompetence and rivalries of the com- 
mittee of generals which succeeded him let the opportunity 
for securing and establishing an enduring peace slip through 
its fingers ; the inevitable reaction that followed the departure 
of Belisarius was not met at all, the whole situation that then 
developed was misunderstood, with the result, that the Goths 
were soon able to find a leader, perhaps the most formidable, 
and certainly the most destructive, that they had ever 

The cause of the imperial incompetence and failure would 
appear to have been financial. The empire had been per- 
haps always, certainly for two hundred years, bankrupt. Its 
administration and above all its defence were beyond its 
means. The Gothic war had been a tremendous strain upon 
the imperial finances already incredibly involved in the 
defence of the East. It was necessary to find in Italy the 
money for that war and for the future defence of that 
country; but Italy had been ruined by the Gothic war and 


above all things needed capital and a period of reproductive 
repose. These Justinian was unable to give her. His 
necessities forced him to cover the peninsula with tax 
gatherers, to bleed an already ruined country of the little that 
remained to her. If the result was a reaction, in the north 
actively Gothic, in the centre and south certainly indifferent 
to the imperial cause, we cannot wonder at it. The spiritual 
situation and the economic or material would not chime. 
The result was the appalling confusion we know as the second 
Gothic war. 

I say it was a confusion. No clear issue seems to present 
itself from beginning to end; the old democratic cause, the 
Catholicism of the people rising in rage and fury against the 
Arianism of the courts, burnt low for a moment, and was indeed 
in part extinguished by the appalling misery of the material 
situation of Italy. Upon this materiaHsm, the material 
benefits that Theodoric had undoubtedly conferred upon the 
Italian people, Totila, that formidable chieftain who now 
came to the front as the Gothic leader, based his appeal 
and his hope of victory. " Surely," he says to the Roman 
senate, " you must remember sometimes in these evil 
days the benefits which you received not so very long ago 
at the hands of Theodoric and Amalasuntha." And again: 
" What harm did the Goths ever do you ? And tell me then 
what good you received from Justinian the emperor? . . . 
Has he not compelled you to give an account of every solidus 
which you received from the pubHc funds even under the 
Gothic kings ? All harassed and impoverished as you are 
by the war, has he not compelled you to pay to the Greeks 
the full taxes which could be levied in a time of profoundest 
peace ? " Totila based his appeal upon the material well- 
being of the people. It was a formidable appeal; it nearly 
succeeded. That it did not succeed, though it had so much 
in its favour, is the best testimony we could have to the real 
nature of the war, which was not a struggle between two 
races or even primarily, at any rate, betweeen barbarism and 


civilisation, but something greater and more fundamental, a 
fight to the death between two religions Arianism and 
Catholicism, upon the result of which the whole future of 
Europe depended. 

The confusion of the second Gothic war, in which the future 
of the world and the major interests of man were in jeopardy, 
may be divided into three parts. The first of these is that 
in which the whole administration precariously established 
by Belisarius fell to pieces before the earthquake that was 
Totila, who, never systematically met and opposed, by the 
year 544 held all Italy with the exception, as I have said, of 
Ravenna, Rome, Spoleto, Perugia, Piacenza, and a few other 
strongholds. The second is that in which BeHsarius again 
appears, and from the citadel of Ravenna, without ceasing or 
rest, but without much success, opposes him everywhere. 
In this period Rome was occupied and reoccupied no less than 
four times, and, as I have said, in 546 was left utterly desolate. 
Nevertheless, when for the second time Belisarius was recalled, 
in 548, he left things much as he had found them. He had 
at least — and with what scarcity of men and money we may 
see in his letters to the emperor — opposed and perhaps 
stemmed the overwhelming Gothic advance. At his de- 
parture the imperialists held Ravenna, Rome (but after the 
sack of 546), Rimini, Spoleto, Ancona, and Perugia. But 
before he arrived in Constantinople, Perugia had fallen; in 
the same year, 549,. a mutiny in Rome gave the City to the 
Goths and Rimini was betrayed. In the year 551, the year 
of Narses' appointment as general-in-chief in Italy and the 
opening of the third period, only Ravenna and Ancona, with 
Hydruntum (Otranto) and Crotona in southern Italy, 
remained to the empire. 

In that year, 551, however, everywhere the Gothic cause 
began to fail. In a sea-fight off Sinigagha the imperial forces 
disposed of the Gothic sea power and relieved Ancona, which 
was in grave danger. About the same time Sicily was 
delivered from the Gothic yoke, and in the spring of 552 



Crotona was relieved. Meanwhile, in Illyricum, Narses 
gathered his army, in which Ardoin, King of the Lombards, 
rode at the head of two thousand of his people, and prepared 
for the great march into Italy. 

He came through Venetia round the head of the Adriatic, 
close to the sea (for a formidable Prankish host held the great 
roads), crossing with what anxiety we may guess, the mouths 
of the Piave, the Brenta, the Adige, and the Po by means of 
his ships, and having thus turned the flank of the Prankish 
armies he triumphantly marched into Ravenna. There he 
remained for nine days, as it were another Caesar about to 
cross the Rubicon. 

While he waited in Ravenna an insulting challenge reached 
him from the barbarian Usdrilas who held Rimini. " After 
your boasted preparations, which have kept aU Italy in a 
ferment, and after striking terror into our hearts by knitting 
your brows and looking more awful than mortal men, you 
have crept into Ravenna and are skulking there afraid of the 
very name of the Goths. Come out with aU that mongrel 
host of barbarians to whom you want to dehver Italy and 
let us behold you, for the eyes of the Goths hunger for the 
sight of you." ^ And Narses laughed at the insolence of the 
barbarian, and presently he set forward with the army he 
had made, upon the great road through Classis for Rimini, 
tiU he came to the bridge over the Marecchia, there which 
Augustus had built and which was held by the enemy. 
There in the fight which followed — ^little more than a skirmish 
— the barbarian Usdrilas came by his end, and Narses ignor- 
ing Rimini marched on, his great object before him, TotUa and 
his army, which he meant, before aU things else, to seek out 
and to destroy. So he went down the Plaminian Way to 
Pano and there presently left it for a by-way upon the left, 
rejoining the great highway some miles beyond the fortress 
of Petra Pertusa, which he disregarded as he had done that 
of Rimini. He marched on till he came to the very crest of 
^ Hodgkin's free translation of Procopius, op. cit. iv. 28. 



the Apennines, over which he passed and camped upon the 
west under the great heights, at a place then called Ad Ensem 
and to-day Scheggia, 

Meanwhile Totila had come to meet him from Rome, and 
had managed to reach Tadinum, the modern Gualdo Tadino, 
when he found Narses, unexpectedly, for he must have 


thought the way over the mountains securely barred by the 
fortress of Petra Pertusa, upon the great road before him. 

Narses sent an embassy to Totila to offer, " not peace, but 
pardon;" this the barbarian refused. Asked when he would 
fight Totila answered, " In eight days from this day." But 
Narses, knowing what manner of man his enemy was, made 
aU ready for the morrow, and at once occupied the great hill 
upon his left which overlooked both camps. In this he was 
right, for no sooner had he seized this advantage than Totila 
attempted to do the same, but without any success. 

Then on the morrow Totila, having meanwhile been rein- 
forced with two thousand men, rode forth before the two 
armies and " exhibited in a narrow space the strength and 
agility of a warrior. His armour was enchased with gold; his 
purple banner floated with the wind; he cast his lance into 
the air; caught himself backwards; recovered his seat and 
managed a fiery steed in all the paces and evolutions of the 
equestrian school." ^ No doubt Narses the eunuch smiled. 
The barbarians were all the same, and they remain unaltered. 
Totila's theatrical antics are but the prototype to those 
amazing cavalry charges, excellently stage-managed, that may 
be seen almost any autumn during the German manoeuvres, 
a new Totila at their head. 

When Totila had finished his display the two armies faced 
one another, the imperiahsts with Narses and John upon the 
left, the Lombards in the centre, and Valerian upon the right 
with John the Glutton; the Goths in what order of battle we 
do not know. At length at noon the battle was joined. The 
Gothic charge failed. Narses drew his straight line of troops 
into a crescent, and the short battle ended in the utter rout 
of the Goths. Totila flying from the field. In that flight one 
Asbad a Gepid struck at him and fatally wounded him. He 
was borne by his companions to the village of Caprae, more 
than twelve miles away, and there he died. 

Thus ended Totila the Goth and with him the Gothic cause 
1 Gibbon's free translation of Procopius, iv. 31. 


in Italy. A remnant of his army made its way to Pavia, 
where it was contained by Valerian; and all over Italy the 
Gothic fortresses hastened to surrender, Perugia, Spoleto, 
Narni, all opened their gates, and Narses marched on to 
occupy Rome which he did without much difficulty. All 
Italy lay open to the imperialists, and when Totila's successor 
Teias was slain all hope of recovery was gone. The Goths 
offered to leave Italy, and their offer was accepted. For a 
year longer a desultory war, the reduction of Cumse and 
Lucca, occupied Narses; but by 554 this too was brought to 
an end, and unhappy Italy was once more gathered into the 
government of the empire. 




Such was the inevitable end of the Gothic war in Italy. The 
issue thus decided was, as I have tried to show, something 
much more tremendous than the mere supremacy of a race. 
Nothing less than the future of the world was assured upon 
those stricken fields and about those ruined fortresses, the 
supremacy of the Catholic rehgion in which was involved the 
whole destiny of Europe, the continuance of our civilisation 
and culture. For let it be said again: these wars of the sixth 
century were not a struggle to the death between two races, but 
between two rehgions ; the opponents were not really Roman 
and Goth, but Catholic and Arian, and in the victory of the 
former was involved the major interest of mankind. The 
whole energy of that age was devoted to the final establish- 
ment of what for a thousand years was to be the universal 
religion of Europe, the source of all her greatness and the 
reason of her being. What was saved in those unhappy 
campaigns was not Italy, but the soul of Europe. 

Certainly it was not Italy. Materially the result of those 
eighteen years of war, which began with the invasion of Italy 
by Belisarius in 536, reached their crisis in 540 with the capture 
of Ravenna, and were finally decided by Narses in 552-554, 
was the ruin of Italy. Exhausted, devastated, and untilled, 
the prey, for half a generation, of a fundamental war, Italy 



was materially ruined by Justinian's Gothic campaigns, and 
so hopelessly that, when in 568 the Lombards fell upon her, she 
was almost unable to defend herself, to offer any resistance to 
what proved — and in part for this reason — the only barbaric 
invasion which had upon her any enduring consequences. 
Visigoths, Huns, Vandals, Ostrogoths, all poured over her, and 
presently, Uke winter floods, retreated and subsided, leaving 
nothing to remind us of their fear and devastation; the 
Lombards remained. 

I say this was largely due to the appalling exhaustion and 
ruin of Italy in the Gothic war; but there was something else 
which we must not forget. The Gothic war was a religious war. 
The Arianism of the Goths had really threatened our civilisa- 
tion. But the Lombards were largely mere heathens. Their 
heathenism was not at all dangerous to us as a heresy must 
always be.^ Therefore Italy never roused herself from her 
exhaustion, one might almost say her indifference. It was 
only her material well-being that was at stake, her future was 
safe. Her great attempt against the Lombards was a spiritual 
effort, was an effort for their conversion, and their final dis- 
comfiture, wrought not from within the peninsula, but from 
over the Alps, did not involve their expulsion from Italy, but 
was seized upon as the opportunity for the re-establishment in 
name and in fact of the Western Empire, and for the great 
crowning of Charlemagne by the pope in S. Peter's church. 

Italy, and with Italy Europe, were, then, saved from 
nothing less than death when Narses finally disposed of Totila 
in the Apennines in 552; but that war which had a result so 
very glorious had materially ruined the country. 

From this general bankruptcy one city certainly escaped; 
that city was Ravenna, which since the year 540, when she had 
opened her gates to Belisarius, had been free from attack, and 
had more than ever been established as the capital of the 

1 It was not the paganism, of the Italian Renaissance but the heresy 
of the Teutons which destroyed the unitv of Europe in the sixteenth 


West. That position was secured to her, as I have already- 
said, by her geographical position, which now that Con- 
stantinople had reasserted the claim of the empire to Italy- 
established her more than at any time in her history as the 
necessary seat of military and administrative power; and 
from Ravenna as from the citadel the whole of the second part 
of the Gothic war was waged by the imperiahsts. As we 
might expect the true nature of that war is immediately 
manifested in her history at this time. 

It would seem that very shortly after the occupation of 
Ravenna by the imperialists in 540, the re-edification of the 
city and its splendid embellishment was begun. The church 
of S. VitaHs begun by S. Ecclesius (c. 521-532) was finished 
and gloriously adorned with mosaics by S, Maximianus 
{c. 546-556), and not long after S. ApoUonaris in Classe begun 
by S. Ursicinus (532-536) was completed and adorned by the 
same great bishop. 

But this eagerness to mark and to express in such glorious 
monuments as these the great victory for CathoHcism and 
civilisation that was then in the winning becomes even 
more manifest after the death of Totila and the end of the 
war. To the S. AgneUus and to the Church of Ravenna 
Justinian " recUe jiiei Augustus^'' gave all the substance of the 
Goths, according to the Liber Pontijicalis^ " not only in 
Ravenna itself, but in the suburban towns and in the villages, 
both sanctuaries and altars, slaves and maidens, whatever 
was theirs, S. Mater Ecclesia Ravennas, vera mater, vera 
orthodoxa nam ceterce multcB Ecclesice falsam propter metum 
et terrores Principum superinduxere doctrinam; haec vero 
et veram et unicam Sanctam Catholicam tenuit Fidem, nunquam 
mutavit Jluctuationem sustinutt, a tempestate quassata im- 
mobilis permansit. Therefore S. Agnellus the archbishop 
reconciled all the churches of the Goths, which in their time 
or in that of King Theodoric had been built or had been 

^Agnellus, Liber Pontificahs (ed. Holder-Egger. n. 334) ad vitam 
Sancti Agnelli. 


occupied by the false doctrines of the Arians. . . . He thus 
reconciled the church of S. Eusebius which Unimundus the 
(Arian) bishop had built in the twenty-third year of King 
Theodoric. In the same year he reconciled the church of 
S. Georgius (S. Giorgio ad Tabulam fuori deUe Mura) . . . 
the church of S. Sergius which is in Classis and of S. Zenone 
which is in Caesarea." In Ravenna itself he reconciled the 
churches of S. Theodoras (S. Spirito), S. Maria in Cosmedin 
(the Arian Baptistery), the church of S. Martin (S. ApoUinare 
Nuovo) which Theodoric had built, which was called Cesium 
Aureum and which AgneUus re-decorated with the mosaics of 
the Martyrs and Virgins we see and the effigies of Justinian 
and himself. 

Such was the work achieved in the fortunate capital. But 
ruined Italy awaited a more necessary, if less splendid, labour. 
This can have been nothing less than the resurrection of the 
country, which, in those eighteen years of war, can have 
become little less than a desert; and, as we might expect, all 
Italy desolate and depopulated looked to Justinian to succour 
her in her misery if she was not to perish under her ruins and 
'her debts. I The first step in that work was undertaken in the 
very year of the peace, in the August of the year 554, and it 
took the form of a solemn " Pragmatic Sanction " addressed 
to Narses and to Antiochus, the Prefect of Italy,^ in Ravenna. \ 
It had for its object the social peace of Italy, the re-establish- 
ment of order out of the chaos of the Ostrogothic war; and it 
is significant of the true position of affairs that this decree 
asserts that it is issued by the emperor in reply to the petition 
of the pope. 

It consists of twenty-seven articles, and first establishes 
what is to be considered as still having authority in that 
tempestuous past; what part of it is to remain and to be 

^ The fact that it was addressed to both surely seems to show that 
Narses at this time only held a military power in Italy. This is in- 
teresting as touching the discussion later on of the genesis of the 


confirmed and what is to be utterly swept away. Thus the 
emperor confirms all dispositions made by Amalasuntha, 
Athalaric, and Theodahad, as weU as all his own acts — and 
these would include Theodoric's — and those of Theodora. 
But everything done by " the most wicked tyrant Totila " is 
null and void, " for we will not allow these law-abiding days 
of ours to take any account of what was done by him in the 
time of his tyranny." ^ Totila had indeed most cruelly 
attacked the great landed proprietors whom he suspected of 
too great an attachment for Constantinople; he had attacked 
them in their persons and in their wealth. With a single 
stroke of the pen Justinian, as it were, effac ed all the ordinances 
of the tyrant and rendered again to their legitimate masters, 
as far as it could be done, their lands, their flocks, their 
peasants, and their slaves which had been taken from them, 
or which fear had caused them to alienate. 

Such were the political achievements of the decree. Nor 
were its financial provisions less far-reaching. Something 
had to be done to meet the crisis resulting from the enormous 
quantity of debt. Everywhere Justinian undertook great 
public works, and tried to repair the destruction caused by 
the war; but it is probable that in reality he achieved very 
little. He had enriched the Church; he had re-established 
the great proprietors in their lands and their rights, but the 
industry and commerce of Italy, save perhaps at Ravenna and 
at Naples, he cOuld not restore. And we seem to understand 
that the mere lack of men left whole districts of Italy unculti- 
vated and desert. 

As for the administrative and legal clauses of the decree, 
they gave the Italian — the Roman as he is caUed — the right 
to have his suit heard by a civil judge instead of a military 
official. This established the security of the Italian against 
the barbaric hosts the imperial armies had brought into the 
country. But perhaps more important, and certainly more 
significant, is the twelfth clause of the decree which relates 
1 Cf. Hodgkin, op. cit. vi. pp. 519-520. 


to the way in which the Judices Provinciarum are to be 
appointed. " We order," says Justinian, " that only fit and 
proper persons able to administer the local government shall 
be chosen, and this by the bishops and chief persons of each 
province from the inhabitants of that province." This clause 
was soon proved to contain so much wisdom that in 569 by 
Justinian's successor it was extended to the provinces of the 
Eastern empire. 

In all this we recognise the work of the great reformer who 
had already produced the Corpus Juris Civilis, consisting of 
the Institutes, Digest, Code, and Novelise, which more than 
anything else he did — and he did everything — determined 
that Europe, which he had secured for ever, should be a Roman 
thing established upon Roman Law. But are we also to see 
in this great man the creator of the exarchate, that citadel of 
the empire in Italy which was to endure, though almost all 
else perished, tiU Charlemagne appeared and the empire 
itself suddenly re-arose, armed at all points and ready for 
battle? It might seem that we are not to attribute that 
great scheme to Justinian, but rather to a later recognition 
of the force and reaHty of the disasters that so few years after 
his death descended once more upon Italy. 

When Narses at the head of the armies of Justinian had in 
554 conquered the Goths and possessed Italy, the administra- 
tive divisions of the peninsula would seem to have remained 
almost the same as they had been in the time of Honorius. 
Indeed the re-entry of Italy within the empire was accom- 
panied by no important change in the provincial divisions of 
the peninsular because there was no necessity for it. Narses, 
who ruled just eleven years in Ravenna, was never known 
by the title of exarch. On the contrary, Procopius and 
Agathias call him simply the general-in-chief of the Roman 
army 6 Pa)/Aa6'a)v crr/Darr/yds, and pope Pelagius calls him 
Patricius et Dux in Italia, and others, among them Gregory 
the Great and Agnellus, simply Patricius. But it is obvious 
that there was something new in the official situation and that 


certain extraordinary powers were conferred upon Narses. 
And it is the same with his successor Longinus. All the texts 
that mention him, including the Liber Pontificalis, call him 
PrcEJectus. But the transformation from which the exarchate 
arose was more obscure and far more slow than any official 
reform of Justinian's could have been. It is in part the result 
of the new condition of the country, which Justinian had had 
to take into account, but it is much more the result of the 
progress of the Lombard conquest and the new necessities of 
defence, which not one of the three great men who had 
restored Italy to the empire lived to see. 

For BeHsarius and Justinian both died in 565, and Narses, 
who was recalled in that year by the fooHsh and insolent 
Sophia, the wife of the new emperor Justin II., seems to have 
died about 572. 

It is difficult to determine to which of these three great 
and heroic figures Italy, and through Italy, Europe, owes 
most, but since it was Justinian who chose and employed 
them we must, I think, accord him, here too, the first place in 
our remembrance. 

BeHsarius, who had fought the first great war so gloriously 
against Vitiges, and for so long and with so little encourage- 
ment had opposed Totila in the second, is of course one of 
the great soldiers of the world and perhaps the greatest the 
empire ever employed. His capture of Ravenna, by stratagem 
it is true, but against time and, as it were, in spite of the 
emperor, brought the first Gothic war to an end, and would, 
had he been left in Italy a few months longer, have prevented 
all the long drawn out agony of the second. As it was his 
achievement, and his achievement alone, made that second 
war something better than the hopeless affair it seemed for so 
long, and though he himself to all appearances made Httle 
headway against Totila, it was his series of heroic campaigns, 
in which he refused despair, that made the ever glorious march 
of Narses possible, and the final crushing of the barbarian in 
the Apennines after aU but the crown of his endeavour. 


Of his master, the great emperor, it is not for me to 
speak since to this day his works speak for him. The thirty- 
eight years of his reign are the most brilliant period of the 
later Roman empire, and if the military triumphs he conceived 
were the work of Belisarius and Narses we must attribute to 
him alone the magnificent conception, the tireless energy, and 
the heroic purpose which established the great pillars of the 
Corpus Juris Civilis which is the legal foundation of mediaeval 
and of modern Europe, the basis of all Canon Law and of all 
Civil Law in every civilised country. Of his great ecclesias- 
tical polity perhaps we must speak with less enthusiasm, 
though not with less wonder; while his glorious buildings 
remain only less enduring than his codification of the laws. 
If in Ravenna we are most nearly and splendidly reminded of 
him in S. Vitale, we do not forget that he was the creator of 
perhaps the greatest ecclesiastical building left to us, the 
'mighty church — lost to us now for near five hundred years — 
of S. Sophia in Constantinople. On the whole we see in 
Justinian the greatest of all the emperors save Augustus, and 
perhaps Constantine. Nor can any later state show us so 
great a ruler. 

Justinian in his Itahan designs had been very well served 
by Belisarius, nor were his ideas less splendidly carried out by 
Narses. Indeed, in many ways" the eunuch was the better 
instrument and especially in administration. He ruled in 
peace in Ravenna as I have said for eleven years, devoting 
himself to the resurrection of unhappy Italy. In this we may 
think he was as successful as the shortness of the time of his 
rule would allow. The catastrophe that put an end alike to 
his work and to the regeneration of Italy was the death of 
Justinian. In that very year, 565, the great eunuch was 
deposed, an insulting recall reached him from the empress 
Sophia, and he retired to Rome, where he passed the few years 
that remained to him in retirement, and died there, it is 
thought, in 572. 

A curious and certainly an unproved accusation hangs 


over his name. It seems that his government of Italy was 
not wholly grateful to the Italians, who it must be remembered 
were ruined and whom many years of eager self-denial would 
hardly render solvent again. Now the business of Narses 
was to achieve this solvency and to pay out of Italy some sort 
of interest upon the enormous sums Justinian had disbursed 
for the great war. If he incurred the hatred of the Italians 
it would not be surprising, nor would it lead us to accuse him 
of tyranny. " Where Narses the eunuch rules," they said, 
" he makes us slaves." This cry came to the ears of the 
emperor for whom it was meant. No doubt, being a fool, he 
was anxious to be rid of Justinian's pro-consul. However 
that may be, Narses was recalled, the empress, it is said, send- 
ing him a message to the effect that as he was a eunuch she 
would appoint him to apportion the spinning to the women 
of her household. To this Narses is reported to have replied, 
doubtless with much the same smile as that with which he 
had greeted the equestrian display of Totila, that he would 
spin her a thread of which neither she nor the emperor Justin 
would be able to find the end. In the course of time this 
mysterious threat, which was probably never uttered, was said 
to refer to the enormous catastrophe which within three years 
of Narses' recall feU upon Italy — the Lombard invasion. And 
Narses, who had employed the Lombards in the last campaign 
against Totila, was said to have revenged himself by inviting 
them into Italy to possess it. 

The accusation rests upon no good authority, and is 
altogether unlikely when we remember how great a part of his 
life had been devoted to the incorportion of Italy within the 
empire. But there is this much truth in it we may perhaps 
think; that had the great eunuch been left in command, Alboin 
would not have dared to come on, and if he had dared, would 
have found an army and an Italy ready to fling him back into 
his darkness. 




It was upon the second day of April 568, upon the Monday 
within the octave of Easter, that Alboin set out to cross the 
Julian Alps, to descend upon an Italy which even the great 
'Narses had not been able, in the short sixteen years of peace 
he had secured her, to recover from the utter exhaustion of a 
generation of war. No army awaited him, no attempt was 
made to crush his rude and barbarous army in the marches, 
he was unopposed, save that the bishop of Treviso begged him 
to spare the property of his church, and presently the whole 
province of Venetia, with the exception of Padua, Mantua, 
and Monselice, was in his hands. Those who could, doubtless 
fled away, for the most part to that new settlement in the 
Venetian lagoons which was presently to give birth to Venice 
and which had been founded by those who had fled from 
Attila ; but there were many who could not flee. These came 
under the cruel yoke of the invader. Perhaps Alboin spent 
the winter in Verona, perhaps in Friuli; wherever it was, he 
but prepared his advance and stiU no one appeared to say 
him nay. By the end of 569 all Cisalpine Gaul with Liguria 
and Milan, except Pavia, the coast, Cremona, Piacenza, and 
a few smaller places, were in his hands. Indeed, in all that 
terrible flood of disasters we hear of but one great city which 
offered even for a time a successful resistance. This was 


Pavia, naturally so strongly defended by the Po and the 
Ticino. Alboin established an army about it, and swore 
to massacre all its inhabitants since it alone had dared to 
resist him, Pavia fell to the Lombard, after a three years' 
siege, in 572; but Alboin was prevented from carrying out his 
vow, and not long after Pavia became the capital of the 
Lombard power in Italy. 

Meantime, those three years, during which Pavia held her 
own, had not been wasted by the barbarian. He crossed the 
Apennines, we may beheve as Totila had done, by the old 
deserted way to Fiesole, brought all Tuscany under his 
yoke and a great part both of central and of southern 
Italy, establishing there two " duchies " as the centres of 
his power at Spoleto and Benevento. Then he returned 
to take Pavia, aU this time besieged, and in the same year, 
572, it is probable that Piacenza fell also, and Mantua. 
All Italy was in confusion, the system of government re- 
established by Narses broken; the work of Justinian's recon- 
quest seemed all undone. That it was not wholly undone, 
that it Hved on and was at last re-established, we owe to two 
great facts: the conversion of the Lombards to Catholicism 
by Gregory the Great and the establishment of the exarchate, 
the entrenchment of Roman power and civilisation in Ravenna. 
Let us consider these things. 

The Lombards were barbarians and therefore pagans or 
Arians, but their Arianism was of a different kind from that of 
the Huns, different even from that of the Ostrogoths. Indeed, 
though the Lombards may be called Arian, for indeed such 
Christianity as they possessed was wholly Arian, they were 
but little removed from mere heathenism. It is true that 
they sacked churches, slaughtered priests, and carried off the 
holy vessels everywhere as they came into Italy; but they 
did this, it would seem, not from a sectarian hatred of the 
Catholic Faith, but from mere heathenism. As pagans, 
heathen or semi-heathen, they might be converted, and thus 
their advent was ultimately less dangerous to our civilisation 



than the conquest of the Ostrogoths threatened to be. I do 
not mean to suggest that that advent was without danger. 
It was of course full of dreadful peril, but that peril was 
chiefly material and not spiritual; it could destroy, but not 
create; moreover, since in the main it was pagan, it could only 
destroy material things. 

It is unthinkable that the Italy of the sixth century was 
for a moment in danger of losing its Faith, of being de- 
christianised. That, all things considered, in the third 
fourth and fifth centuries there had more than once been a 
real danger of the victory of some heresy, and especially of 
that subtle Arianism, the forerunner of Mahometanism, 
which all the invaders professed, and most of them so bitterly, 
we know; as we know that with the hard won victory of 
the Catholic Faith the whole of the future was safe; but 
that in the Italy of the sixth century the Faith was in danger 
from a horde of semi-pagan barbarians is not to be thought of. 
To this extent, and it is three parts at least of the whole, the 
Lombard invasion was less perilous than those which had 
come and passed away before it. Once more, the Catholic 
church was to be victorious, but in a different fashion. It 
cast out the Visigoths, the Huns, the Vandals, and the Ostro- 
goths from Italy, for it could not convert them; the Lombards 
it converted and they remained. It converted them because 
they were rather heathen than Arian, and the victory was 
won by that great Gregory who, seeing our forefathers in the 
Forum of Rome, and loving them for their bright hair and 
open faces — non Angli sed Angeli si Christiani — sent S. Austin 
to turn them too from their pagan rites and gather them into 
the fold of Christ. 

But there was something else beside the fact that the Lom- 
bards were pagan, and therefore to be converted, which was 
a part of the salvation of Italy. 

It is possible that the Lombards might have been as 
Catholic as the Franks and yet, barbarians as they were, have 
destroyed civilisation in Italy, have broken the continuity 


of Europe, have obliterated all our traditions, and altogether 
undone the great work of Justinian. It is possible, but it is 
highly improbable; that it was impossible we owe to Ravenna, 

Ravenna was impregnable and her seaward gate was always 
open. During all the years of the Lombard domination she 
was the citadel of the empire in Italy, the seat of the prefect 
and the exarch, the imperial representatives. 

It must be grasped that even after the fall of Ticinum in 
572, as the Byzantine historian tells us, perhaps no one, 
and certainly no one in Ravenna, regarded the invasion as 
anything but a passing evil Uke all the other barbarian 
incursions. No one believed Italy to be irrevocably lost; on 
the contrary, everyone was assured that the lost provinces 
could soon be delivered again. 

This may explain, though perhaps it cannot excuse, the 
passive attitude of Longinus, the successor of Narses, who in 
Ravenna represented the emperor in Italy, perhaps till the 
year 584. We know nothing of any attempts he may have 
made to stem the barbarian flood, and indeed the only incident 
in his career with which we are acquainted is romantic rather 
than military or political. For when Rosamond, the queen of 
the Lombards, murdered her husband Alboin in his palace at 
Verona, because he had forced her to pledge him in a goblet 
fashioned from the skuU of her father, she fled away with 
her stepdaughter Albswinda, the great Lombard spoil, and 
her two accomplices, Helmichis her lover and Peredeus the 
chamberlain, and came to seek shelter in Ravenna. It 
seems she had written to Longinus and he, perhaps, hoping for 
some political advantage, and certainly full of the tales of her 
beauty, sent a ship up the Po to bring her to him with her two 
companions. When he saw her he found that rumour had 
not Hed, and longing for her, suggested that she should kill 
Helmichis and marry himself. Whether from fear or 
ambition she did this thing, and slew her lover with a cup of 
poison as he came from the bath. But he, even as he drank v/ 
understanding all, suddenly forced the same cup upon her, 


and standing over her with a naked sword forced her to 
drink; so that they both lay dead upon the pavement. 

Albswinda and the Lombard treasure, the spoU of the cities 
of Italy, were sent with Peredeus to Constantinople. And it 
may be that it was in them Longinus hoped to find his 
political advantage; in this, however, he was deceived. It 
is true that a pause in the Lombard advance followed the 
death of Alboin, and that Cleph, his successor, was soon 
murdered. But the pause in the advance, though, through 
it all, Rome was blockaded, was due to the fact that Authari, 
the heir to the Lombard throne, was but a boy. Nevertheless, 
this interval was used by Constantinople to despatch Badu- 
arius, the son-in-law of the emperor Justin, to Italy with an 
army, but without success; and in 578, the year in which 
Justin died, the Lombards were bought off from Rome with 
imperial gold, only to turn upon the very citadel of the empire 
in Italy, Ravenna itself. In the year 579 Faroald, duke of 
Spoleto, fell upon Classis, and took it and spoiled it. 

This, however, was but an isolated effort, and though the 
Lombards held Classis, they achieved little else in Italy till 
after Authari was chosen king in 584. 

In the following year Smaragdus, as we may think, was 
appointed to succeed Longinus and apparently with new 
powers, and three years later, in the very year that the heroic 
Insula Comacina was taken by the Lombards, Classis was 
recovered for the empire. 

The Lombards had then been ravaging Italy for twenty 
years, an extraordinary change had come over the provinces 
that Justinian had so hardly recovered, and this change is 
at once visible in the imperial administration in Italy. The 
exarchate appears. 

It has been maintained by many historians that the great 
reform of which the establishment of the exarch and the 
exarchate is the result was the work of that very great 
reformer Justinian. It was worthy of him ; but the Italy he 
knew and saved was not in need of any change in her 


administrative divisions which, as I have said, remained under 
Narses almost the same as they had been in the last days of 
the Western empire.^ 

The transformation out of which the exarchate arose was 
slow and obscure, not the work of a great creative mind, but 
of necessity. It was the result of many causes which it is not 
difficult to name; they were the progress of the Lombard 
conquest, the condition imposed upon the unconquered parts 
of Italy by that conquest, and especially the new necessity 
for defence imposed on the imperial power. 

It is obvious that the result of the first ten years of that 
conquest was a complete destruction of the limits of the old 
Roman provinces of Italy. A new grouping of territories 
was not only necessary but was already forming itself under 
the pressure of the conquest and its terror. The regions 
which had escaped the barbarians were drawing together 
without any regard for the ancient provincial divisions and 
were grouping themselves about the cities, where the resist- 
ance, such as it was, was concentrating itself, and where the 
imperial administration had taken refuge. 

If we confine ourselves for the moment to Italy north of the 
Apennines, we shall find that in the old province of Liguria 
the vicar of the prefect of the praetorium had fled from Milan 
to Genoa, and that about that city the debris of the old 
province was slowly re-assembling itself. In Venetia we shall 
find that the governor had departed to Grado, and about 
this town as a centre the eastern part of the old province 
was gathered. The western part of that province, cut off 
from its capital, attached itself by force of circumstances 
to what remained of .Emilia and of Flaminia, whose neighbour 
she was, and these fragments of the ancient provinces all 
together grouped themselves about, or found their centre 
in, Ravenna, the capital of Flaminia and the residence of 
the prefect of Italy. 

1 For what follows cf. Diehl, Etudes sur I' administration Byzantine 
dans V Exarchat de Ravenne {li 


In these new groupings the great pre-occupation and the 
supreme interest are defence — the defence of civilisation 
against the barbarian. 

Now, it was to regulate this new state of affairs that the 
exarchate was created; or rather the exarchate was the 
official acknowledgment of a state of affairs that the disastrous 
invasion of the Lombards had brought about. The new 
order was established at the end of the reign of Justin II. 
(565-578) under a new and supreme official. Without doing 
away with the prefect of Italy the emperor placed over him 
as supreme head of the new administration the exarch ^ who 
was both the military commander-in-chief and the governor- 
general of Italy; and, since the chief need of Italy was defence, 
without entirely suppressing the civil administration, he 
placed at the head of each of the re-organised provinces a 
certain military officer — the duke. 

The earliest document that remains to us in which we find 
definite mention of the exarch is the famous letter, dated 
October 4, 584, of pope Pelagius II. to the deacon Gregory, 
his nuncio in Constantinople. It is probable that the 
exarch at this time was Smaragdus, but it is extremely 
improbable that he was the first to bear the new title. 
This it would seem was a much nobler and more notable 

It will be remembered that in the year 575 Baduarius, the 
son-in-law of the emperor, had appeared in Italy at the head 
of an army, had been beaten by the Lombards, and a little 
later had died, probably in 575.* This man was not only a 
great Byzantine official, but the destined successor of Justin 
and one of the first personages of the empire. It is obvious, 
if at such a moment he commanded the imperial armies in 
Italy, he was supreme governor of the province. And it 

^ For the discussion of the derivation of the title " Exarch," see 
Diehl, op. cit. pp. 15-16. 

" Migne, Ixxii. 865; Joannes Biclarensis, s.a. 575; cf. Hodgkin, op, 
cit. V. p. 195, and Diehl, u.s. 


seems certain that it was to mark the amalgamation in him 
of the two offices, mihtary and civil, that the new title of 
exarch was created.^ 

At the same time as the central government took on a new 
form the provincial administration was re-organised. Before 
the year 590, this had been certainly achieved. Istria, as we 
have seen, was divided from Venetia and formed a new and 
a special government. In Flaminia Rimini, which till now had 
been a part of the same province as Ravenna, was detached 
and became the capital of a new government in which a part 
of the Picenum, Ancona, and Osimo were involved. While the 
exarchate properly so called, that is the region of Ravenna 
from which Rimini and Picenum were now separate, formed 
a new province under the direct authority of the governors- 
general of Italy, that is to say, of the exarch of Ravenna. 
By the year 590, then, we see Italy thus divided into seven 
districts or governments: (i) the Duchy of Istria, (2) the 
Duchy of Venetia, (3) the Exarchate to which Calabria is 
attached, (4) the Duchy of Pentapolis, (5) the Duchy of Rome, 
(6) the Duchy of Naples, (7) Liguria. 

Geographically the exarchate of Ravenna was bounded 
on the north by the Adige, the Tartaro, and the principal 
branch of the Po as far as its confluence with the Panaro. 
Hadria and Gabellum were its most northern towns in the 
hands of the imperialists. The western frontier is more 
difficult to determine with exactitude; it may be said to have 
run between Modena and Bologna. On the south the 
Marecchia divided the exarchate from the duchy of Penta- 
polis whose capital was Rimini. The Pentapolis consisted 
of Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, and Ancona upon 
the sea and of the five inland cities of Urbino, Fossom- 
brone, Jesi, Cagli, and Gubbio ; while the great towns of 

* " It is only an hypothesis," says M. Charles Diehl, the originator 
of this theory, " but it explains how, between the prefect Longinus 
(569-572) and the exarch Smaragdus (584) was produced in the years 
572-576 the administrative transformation out of which rose the 



the exarchate were set along the Via ^Emilia and were Bologna, 
Imola (Forum Cornelii), Faenza, Forli, Forlimpopoli, and 

Such then, before the year 590, was the new imperial 
administration in the Italy formed by the Lombard invasion. 


In the year after the recapture of Classis from the Lombards, 
that is to say, in 589, the exarch Smaragdus was recalled. 
He had apparently become insane and had been guilty of 
extraordinary violence towards the patriarch of Aquileia 
and three other bishops whom he dragged to Ravenna. His 
successor was Romanus who held ofhce till 597. In the same 
year, 589, Authari was married at Pa via to Theodelinda, who 


was to be so potent an instrument in the conversion of the 
Lombards and therefore in the salvation of Italy. And in the 
following year, 590, pope Pelagius 11. died, and Gregory the 
Great was chosen to succeed him. 

With the advent of the new exarch a brighter prospect 
seemed for a moment to open for Italy. In the first year of 
Romanus's appointment the imperialists regained the greater 
part of the cities of the plain; they re-occupied Modena, 
Reggio, Parma, Piacenza, Altinum, and Mantua. But the 
strength of the Latin position in Italy lay, and continued to 
lie, in the two great imperial cities, Ravenna and Rome. 
Little by little this position had crystallised and now a new 
state appeared, a state which in one way or another was to 
endure till our day and which our fathers knew as the States 
of the Church. With the two cities of Ravenna and Rome as 
nuclei, this state formed itself in the very heart of Italy along 
the Via Flaminia which connected them. It cut, and effectu- 
ally, the Lombard kingdom in two, and isolated the duchies 
of Spoleto and Benevento from the real Lombard power in 
Cisalpine Gaul, with its great capital at Pavia; and indestruc- 
tible as it was, it absolutely insured the final success of the 
Catholic Faith, the Latin nationality, and the imperial power, 
the three necessities for the resurrection of Europe 

This achievement was in the first place due to three great 
personahties : to Justinian who had succeeded in estabhshing 
the imperial power with its capital at Ravenna, and whose 
work had such Hfe in it that, in spite of every adverse cir- 
cumstance, it was able to develop and to maintain itself 
during more than two hundred years and uphold the imperial 
idea in Italy until the pope was able to re-establish the 
empire in the West as a self-supporting state; to Gregory the 
Great in whom we see personified the hope and strength of 
the papacy and the Latin idea which it was to uphold and 
to glorify; and to Theodelinda, that passionately Catholic 
Lombard queen, who was able to lead her Lombards into the 
fold of the Roman church, and who in her son Adalwald by 


her second husband Agilulf, whom she had raised to the 
throne, presented the Lombard kingdom with its first Catholic 
king, and had thus done her part to secure the future. 

Of these three powers those of Ravenna and Rome were, of 
course, by far the more important; for indeed the conversion 
of the Lombards was, rightly understood, but a part of the 
work of Gregory. Yet though both were working for the 
same end they did not always propose to march by the same 
road. In 592, for instance, the pope, seeing Naples the 
capital of the little isolated duchy upon his southern flank 
very hard pressed, proposed at all costs to relieve it; but the 
exarch Romanus, perhaps seeing further, was not to be 
moved to the assistance of the peasants of Campania from 
the all-important business of the defence of central Italy and 
the Flaminian Way, the line of communication between 
Ravenna and Rome. He proposed to let Naples look after 
itself and at all costs to hold Perugia. Gregory, however, 
who claimed in an indignant letter of this date (592) to be 
" far superior in place and dignity " to the exarch, proceeded 
to save Naples by making a sort of peace with the Lombard 
duchy of Spoleto. It is possible that this peace saw the 
Lombard established in Perugia, which was the Roman key, 
till now always in Roman hands, of the great line of com- 
munication between Rome and Ravenna. However that 
may be, Gregory's peace not only aroused great anger in 
Constantinople, but brought Romanus quickly south with an 
army to re-occupy Perugia, Orte, Todi, Ameria, and various 
other cities of Umbria. But Romanus had been right. His 
movement southward alarmed Agilulf, who immediately left 
Pavia, and crossing the Apennines, we may suppose,^ as 

1 All that Paulus Diaconus, Hist. Lang. lib. iv. cap. 8, says is: " Hac 
etiam tempestate Romanus Patricius et Exarchus Ravennae Romam 
properavit. Qui dum Ravennam revertitur retenuit civitates, quae a 
Langobardis tenebantur, quarum ista sunt nomina: Sutrium, Poli- 
martium Hortas, Tuder, Ameria, Perusia, Luceolis et alias quasdam 
civitates. Quod factum cum regi Agilulfo nunciatum esset statim 
Ticino egressus cum valido exercitu civitatem Perusium petiit ..." 


Totila had done, threatened Rome itself. Then, however, 
he had to face something more formidable than an imperial 
army. Upon the steps of S. Peter's church stood the Vice- 
gerent of God, great S. Gregory, who alone turned him back 
and saved the city. 

The truth of all this would appear to be that Gregory was 
really working for peace. The Lombards were in a fair way 
to becoming Catholic, and as such they were no longer reaUy 
dangerous to Italy. The real danger was, as the pope saw, 
the prolongation of a useless war. Two years later, in 595, 
we find Gregory writing to the " assessor " of the exarch 
enjoining peace. " Know then that Agilulf, king of the 
Lombards, is not unwilling to make a general peace, if my 
lord the patrician is of the same mood. . . . How necessary 
such a peace is to all of us you know well. Act therefore with 
your usual wisdom, that the most excellent exarch may be 
induced to come in to this proposal without delay, and may 
not prove himself to be the one obstacle to a peace so 
expedient for the state. If he will not consent, Agilulf again 
promises to make a separate peace with us; but we know 
that in that case several islands and other places wiU neces- 
sarily be lost. Let the exarch then consider these points, 
and hasten to make peace, that we may at least have a little 
interval in which we may enjoy a moderate amount of rest, 
and with the Lord's help may recruit the strength of the 
republic for future resistance." ^ 

It is obvious from this letter that the pope and the emperor 
no longer understood one another, and it is not surprising 
that the one thought the other a fool and told him so. Doubt- 
less the emperor recalled the long and finally successful war 
against the Ostrogoths, in which Belisarius had always refused, 
not only terms of peace other than unconditional surrender, 
but even to treat. That policy had been, at least from the 
point of view of Constantinople, successful. From the point of 
view of the papacy and of Italy, it had had a more doubtful 
1 Gregory, Ep. v. 36 (34), trs. Hodgkin, op. cit. v. p. 382. 


result, but the fact that the Ostrogoths were Arians had 
satisfied perhaps both, and certainly the papacy, that a truce 
could not be thought of. 

From the imperial point of view things remained much the 
same in the Lombard war as they had been in the war with 
the Ostrogoths. From the papal and Italian point of view 
they were very different. To begin with, the Lombards were 
fast accepting the Catholic Faith, and then if Italy had 
suffered in the Ostrogothic wars, which were everywhere 
eagerly contested by Constantinople, what was she suffering 
now when the greater part of the country was open to a 
continual and an almost unopposed attack ? " You think 
me a fool," the pope wrote to the emperor. In Ravenna the 
papal envoy was lampooned and laughed at. Then in the end 
of 596 the exarch Romanus died. 

Romanus was succeeded by CaUinicus (GaUicinus) in whom 
' the pope found a more congenial and perhaps a more reason- 
able spirit. By 598 an armistice had been officially concluded 
between the imperialists and the Lombards, and at length in 
599, after some foolish delays in which it would appear that 
the pope was not without blame, a peace was concluded. 
Gregory, however, for all his reluctance at the last, had won 
his way. Henceforth it would be impossible to regard the 
Lombards as mere invaders after the pattern of their pre- 
decessors, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, and Ostrogoths. They 
were, or would shortly be, a Catholic people; they held a very 
great part of Italy; they had entered into a treaty with the 
emperor not as fcederati but as equals and conquerors. 
Gregory the Great had permanently established the barbarians 
in Italy, and in his act, the act be it remembered of the 
apostle of the English, of the apostle of the Lombards, we 
seem to see the shadowy power that had been Leo's by the 
Mincio suddenly appear, a new glory in the world. The new 
power in the West, the papacy, which thus shines forth reaUy 
for the first time in the acts of Gregory, unlike the empire, 
whether Roman or Byzantine, will know no frontiers, but will 


go into all the world and compel men to come in as its divine 
commission ordained. 

In Italy from the time of the peace with the Lombards (599) 
onwards what we see is the decline of the imperial power of 
Constantinople and the rise of the papacy. And this was 
brought about not only by the circumstances in which Italy 
and the West found themselves, but also by the character 
of the imperial government. 

When Justin II. disappeared in 578, and made way for 
Tiberius II., he was already a madman, and though Tiberius 
was renowned for his virtues, he reigned but four years, and 
in 582 Maurice the Cappadocian sat upon the throne of 
Justinian and ruled for twenty years not unwisely, but, so 
far as Italy was concerned, without success. It was he who 
was at last brought to make peace with the Lombards and 
thus for the first time to acknowledge a barbarian state 
independent of the empire in Italy. He and his children 
were all murdered in 602 by Phocas, a centurion, whose 
shame and crimes and cruelties doubtless did much to 
weaken the moral power of the empire face to face with the 

The peace of 599, the usurpation of Phocas in 602, and the 
death of Gregory the Great in 604, close a great period and 
stamp the seventh century in its very beginning with a new 

That character is in a sense almost wholly disastrous. 
Those vague and gloomy years, of which we know so little, are 
almost unrelieved in their hopeless confusion. It is true that 
Italy had found a champion in the papacy which would one 
day restore the empire in the West, as Justinian himself had 
not been able to do; it is true that already Arianism was 
defeated if not stamped out. But it is in the seventh cen- 
tury that Mahometanism, the greater successor of the Arian 
heresy, first appears; and it is in the seventh century that it 
first becomes certain that East and West are philosophically 
and politically different and irreconcilable. The whole period 


is full of disasters, and is as we may think the darkest hour 
before the dawn. 

As I have said, the history of those disastrous years is 
everywhere in the West vague and confused, and this is not 
least so in Italy and Ravenna. 

Ravenna as always remains the citadel of the imperialists 
in Italy and the West, and as such we must regard her, passing 
in review as well as we may those miserable years in which 
she played so great and so difficult a part. 

When the Emperor Maurice was assassinated with his 
family in the year 602, Callinicus was, as we have seen, exarch 
in Ravenna, but with the usurpation of Phocas that Smaragdus 
who had already been exarch and had been recalled, perhaps 
for his too great violence, in 589, was again appointed. He 
seems to have ruled from 602 to 611. In the last year of the 
government of Callinicus an attempt had been made by the 
'exarch to force the Lombards to renew the two years' peace 
established in 599, and on better terms, by the seizure of a 
daughter of Agilulf's, then in Parma, with her husband. They 
were carried off to Ravenna. But the imperialists got 
nothing by their treachery. Agilulf at once moved against 
Padua and took it and rased it to the ground. In the 
following year Monselice also fell to his arms, and though 
after the murder of the emperor Maurice in 602 the exarch 
Callinicus, the author of the abduction, fell, and Smaragdus 
was appointed by Phocas, the hostages were not returned, and 
in July 603, Agilulf, after a campaign of less than three months, 
had possessed himself of Cremona, Mantua, and Vulturina, 
and probably of most of those places which the imperialists 
had re-occupied in Cisalpine Gaul in 590. Smaragdus was 
forced to make peace and to give up his hostages. The peace 
he made, which left Agilulf in possession of all the cities he 
had taken, was to endure for eighteen months, but it seems 
to have been renewed from year to year, and when in 
610 Phocas was assassinated and with the accession of 
Heraclius (610-641) Smaragdus was again recalled and 


Joannes appointed to Ravenna, the same policy seems to 
Kave been followed. 

Joannes Lemigius Thrax, as Rubeus, the sixteenth-century 
historian of Ravenna, calls him, ruled in Ravenna from 611 
to 615, and in the latter year was assassinated there apparently 
in the midst of a popular rising, though what this really was 
we do not know. His successor, the eunuch Eleutherius (616- 
620), seems to have found the now fragmentary imperial state 
in Italy in utter confusion, and indeed on the verge of dis- 
solution. Naples had been usurped by a certain Joannes of 
Compsa, perhaps " a wealthy Samnite landowner," who 
proclaimed himself lord there, and it is obvious that even in 
Ravenna there was grave discontent. Eleutherius soon dis- 
posed of the usurper of Naples, but only to find himself faced 
by a renewal of the Lombard war, which he seems to have 
prevented by consenting to pay the yearly tribute which 
perhaps Gregory the Great had promised when he made a 
separate peace with the Lombard in 593, when Rome was 
practically in the hands of the barbarian. It was obvious 
that the imperial cause was failing. That the exarch thought 
so is obvious from the fact that in 619 he actually assumed 
the diadem and proclaimed himself emperor in Ravenna, and 
set out with an army along the Flaminian Way for Rome to 
get himself crowned by the pope Boniface V. But the 
eunuch was before his time; moreover, he was a defeated and 
not a victorious general. At Luceoh upon the Flaminian Way, 
not far from Gualdo Tadino where Narses had broken Totila, 
in that glorious place his own soldiers slew him and sent his 
head to Heraclius. 

Of his immediate successor we know nothing — not even his 

name,^ but in or about 625 Isaac the Armenian was appointed 

1 Mr. Hodgkin [op. cit. vi. 157) suggests that the predecessor of Isaac 
was that Eusebius who, as ambassador for Constantinople, persuaded, 
or is said to have persuaded, Adalwald, King of the Lombards since 
the death of his father, Agilulf (615), to slay all his chief men and 
nobles, and to hand over the Lombard kingdom to the empire; but 
was poisoned, it is suggested, by Isaac in Ravenna, whither he had 
fled when he had killed twelve among them. Ariwald succeeded him 



and he ruled, as his epitaph tells us, for eighteen years (625- 
644). Isaac's rule was not fortunate for the imperialists. 
He is probably to be acquitted of the murder of Taso, Lombard 
duke of Tuscia, but it is certain that Rothari, the Lombard 
king in his time, " took all the cities of the Romans which are 
situated on the sea-coast from Luna in Tuscany to the 

The Sarcophagus of Exarch Isaac 

boundary of the Franks; also he took and destroyed 
Opitergium, a city between Treviso and Friuli, and with the 
Romans of Ravenna he fought at the river of Emilia which 
is called Scultenna (Panaro). In this fight 8000 fell on the 
Roman side, the rest fleeing away." ^ 

Nor was this all. It is in Isaac's time that the growing 
jealousy of the empire in regard to the papacy for the first 
time breaks into flame. Isaac, who as exarch had the right 
1 Paulus Diaconus; cf. Hodgkin, vi. 168. 


to " approve " the election of the pope, on the accession of 
Severinus (638) sent Maurice his chartularius to Rome as his 
ambassador. This Maurice it seems was eager against the 
papal power, and finding an opportunity in Rome suddenly 
seized the Lateran and its wealth at the head of " the Roman 
army," and wrote to Isaac that he might come and enjoy the 
spoil. The exarch presently arrived in Rome, resided in the 
Lateran during eight days, banished the cardinals, and pro- 
ceeded to steal everything he could lay his hands on in the 
name of the emperor, to whom he sent a part of the booty. 
A little later Maurice attempted to repeat his rape, but doubt- 
less hoping to enrich himself he began by repudiating Isaac, 
who then dealt with him, had him brought northward, and 
beheaded at a place called Ficulse, twelve miles from Ravenna ; 
but before he could decide what punishment to mete out to 
Maurice's accomplices the exarch himself died, " smitten," as 
it was said, " by God," and the exarchate was filled apparently 
by Theodore Calliopas (644-646). 

Theodore Calliopas was twice exarch. Of his first 
administration we know nothing at all; but in 646 he was 
succeeded by Plato (646-649), whose name we learn from a 
letter of the emperor Constans II. to his successor Olympius 
(649-652), who had been imperial chamberlain in Con- 
stantinople. Theodore CaUiopas was then again appointed and 
ruled in Ravenna for eleven years (653-664). 

We have seen the empire and the papacy politically at 
enmity and certainly bent on attaining different political 
ends in Italy and the West, and this is emphasised by the 
economic condition of Italy which the empire taxed heavily. 
Philosophically Constantinople had never perhaps been very 
eagerly Catholic — or must one say papal? But now at this 
dangerous moment a doctrine definitely heretical was to be 
officially adopted there and supported by emperor and 
patriarch with insistance and perhaps enthusiasm. Herac- 
lius, the grandfather of Constans II., had asserted the 
Monothelete heresy which maintained that although Christ 


had two distinct natures yet He had but one Will — ^his human 
will being merged in the divine. The patriarch of Constanti- 
nople, always jealous of the popes, eagerly upheld this doctrine 
which the papacy continually and consistently denounced. 
Now Constans II. cared for none of these things. He 
refused to allow that either pope or patriarch was right, but 
as though he had been living in the sixteenth instead of the 
seventh century gravely announced that " the sacred 
Scriptures, the works of the Fathers, the Decrees of the five 
General Councils are enough for us ; " and asked : " Why 
should men seek to go beyond these ? " Roundly he refused 
to allow the question to be either supported or attacked. 

Now the whole of the West was very heartily with the pope 
in sentiment ; but save for the bishops of Italy he stood alone 
against the great patriarchates of the East. Nevertheless, 
he refused to be silent and to obey the emperor. Therefore 
Olympius, Constans' chamberlain in 649, came to Italy as 
exarch with orders to arrest the pope and bring him to 
Constantinople: this it seemed to him a prudent thing to 
do; he was to judge for himself. Olympius decided it was 
not a prudent thing to do. He found the Italian bishops 
and the people eagerly Catholic. There is a story that he 
attempted instead to take the pope's Hfe as he said Mass, 
but this is probably untrue, for we find pope and exarch 
presently excellent friends. He went on into Sicily to meet 
the first invasion of the Saracens in that island, and died 
there of the pestilence. 

Theodore CaUiopas was appointed exarch for the second 
time as his successor in 652. He had either less sagacity or 
less scruple than his predecessor, for in the following year he 
appeared with an army in Rome. He found the pope ill and 
in bed before the high altar of S. John Lateran. He sur- 
rounded the church and entered it with his men, who were 
guilty of violence and desecration. But the pope, to save 
bloodshed, surrendered himself to the exarch, shouting as he 
emerged from the church, " Anathema to all who say that 


Martin has changed a jot or tittle of the Faith. Anathema 
to aU who do not remain in his orthodox Faith even to the 
death." Through the tumultuous and weeping city the pope 
passed to the palace of the exarch upon the Palatine Hill. 
He entered it a prisoner and was presently smuggled away on 
board ship to Constantinople, where he was examined and 
condemned to death, insulted in the Hippodrome, and his 
sentence commuted to imprisonment and exile to Cherson, 
where he died in 655. 

The controversy slumbered. Before long, surely to the 
amazement of the West, the emperor landed in Italy at 
Tarentum with the object of finally dealing with the Lom- 
bards, for Rothari was dead. It is said he asked some hermit 
there in the south: " Shall I vanquish and hold down the 
nation of the Lombards which now dwelleth in Italy ? " The 
answer was as follows, and, rightly understood, contained at 
least the fundamental part of the truth : " The nation of the 
Lombards," said the hermit after a night of prayer, " cannot 
be overcome because a pious queen coming from a foreign 
land has built a church in honour of S. John Baptist who 
therefore pleads without ceasing for that people. But a time 
wiU come when that sanctuary will be held in contempt, and 
then the nation shall perish." ^ 

That prophecy contained the fundamental truth that since 
the Lombards were Catholic it was not possible to turn them 
out of Italy. But Constans heeded it not. He marched on, 
besieged Beneventum, was not successful, and went on to 
Rome, and himself spoiled the City. From Rome he returned 
southward to Naples and Sicily, where in 668 he died. 

All that time Gregory was exarch. He had succeeded 
Theodore Calliopas in 664, and he ruled till ()']']. We know 
little of him save that he appears to have attempted to con- 
firm Maurus, archbishop of Ravenna, in his " independence " 

^ Paulus Diaconus, v. 6; cf. Hodgkin, op. cit. vi. 272. Paulus adds 
that the prophecy was fulfilled when adulterous and vile priests were 
ordained in the church at Monza and the Lombards fell before Pepin. 


of the Papal See.^ This Maurus was undoubtedly a schismatic 
and Agnellus teUs us that he had many troubles with the 
Holy See and many altercations. Indeed the position of the 
archbishop of Ravenna can never have been a very enviable 
one and especially at this time when the breach between 
pope and emperor, papacy and empire, was continually 
widening. Always the archbishop of Ravenna, as the bishop 
of the imperial citadel in Italy, must have been tempted to 
follow the emperor rather than the pope, and more especially 
since, personally, he might expect to gain both in power and 
wealth that way. 

The exarch Gregory was succeeded apparently by a certain 
Theodore whose contemporary archbishop in Ravenna was 
also a Theodore. He ruled it seems for ten years, Syj-S^y^ 
and built near his palace an oratory, or a monastery, not far 
from the church of S. Martin (S. ApoUinare Nuovo), and was, 
according to Agnellus, a pious man, presenting three golden 
chalices to the church in Ravenna and composing the differ- 
ences of his namesake the archbishop and his clergy. 

Theodore in his turn was succeeded by Joannes Platyn 
(687-701). Two years before his appointment in 685 
Justinian II. (685-695) had succeeded to the imperial throne, 
and in that same year pope Benedict II. died. John V. 
succeeded him and reigned for a few months, when there 
followed two disputed elections, those of Conon and of 
Sergius. In the latter Joannes Platyn the exarch played a 
miserable and disastrous part. For he suddenly appeared in 
Rome as the partisan of Paschal, the rival of Sergius, who had 
obtained his support by a promise of one hundred pounds of 
gold if he would help him to the papal throne. On his advent 
in Rome, however, the exarch found that he must abandon 
Paschal and consent to the election of Sergius, in which all 

* That was the " Privilegium," whatever it was worth and whatever 
exactly it meant, conferred by Constans II. Constantine Pogonatus, 
the successor of Constans, is still to be seen in S. ApoUinare in Classe 
the " Privilegium " in his hands in mosaic. See infra, p. 208. 


concurred. He refused, however, to abandon his bribe 
which he now demanded of the new pope. Sergius replied that 
he had never promised anything to the exarch and that he 
could not pay the sum demanded. And he brought forth in 
the sight of the people the holy vessels of S. Peter, saying 
these were all he had. As the pope doubtless intended, the 
Romans were enraged against the exarch, the money was 
scraped together, and the holy vessels rescued. 

In all this we see the growing distrust and hatred of Con- 
stantinople, which the taxation had first aroused on the part 
of the Italian people and their champion the papacy. These 
feeHngs were to be crystallised by the extraordinary and 
tactless council that the emperor convened in 691, in which 
the empire attempted to avenge the defeat it had sustained 
at the hands of the papacy in regard to the Monothelete 
heresy. The council, which was mainly concerned with 
discipline, altogether disregarded Western custom and the 
See of Rome, and especially asserted that " the patriarchal 
throne of Constantinople should enjoy the same privileges as 
that of Old Rome, and in all ecclesiastical matters should be 
entitled to the same pre-eminence and should count as second 
after it." The pope promptly forbade the publication of 
the decrees of this council which he had refused to sign. 
Then the emperor sent a truculent soldier, one Zacharias, to 
Rome with orders to seize Sergius and bring him to Con- 
stantinople as Martin had been arrested and dragged away. 
It only needed this to make the whole situation clear once 
and for all. 

For it was not only the people of Rome who rose to prevent 
this outrageous act. When Zacharias landed in Ravenna, 
the citadel of the empire in Italy, the " army of Ravenna," 
no longer perhaps Byzantine mercenaries, but Italians, 
mutinied and determined to march to Rome to defend the 
pope. As they marched down the Flaminian Way, the soldiers 
of the Pentapolis joined them, a Holy War, a revolution, 
declared itself, and for this end : " We will not suffer the Pontiff 


of the Apostolic See to be carried to Constantinople." This 
curious mob of soldiers, gathering force and recruits as it 
marched with songs and shouting down the Way, hurled itself 
against the walls of the Eternal City, battered down the gate 
of S. Peter which Zacharias, afraid and in tears, had ordered to 
be closed, and demanded to see the pope who was believed to 
have been spirited away in the night on board a Byzantine 
ship like his predecessor Martin. Zacharias took refuge under 
■" the pope's bed, and Sergius showed himself upon the balcony 
of the Lateran and was received with the wildest enthusiasm. 
J In that revolution was destroyed all hope of the Byzantine 
empire in Italy. A new vision had suddenly appeared to those 
whom we may call, and rightly now, the Italian people. The 
long resurrection of the West, the greatest miracle of the 
papacy, was upon that day secured for the future. And 
henceforth the mere appearance of the exarch in Rome was 
' regarded as an insult and a declaration of war. 

In the year 695 Justinian II. was deposed and mutilated 
by Leontius, but he was to appear again as emperor ten years 
later when Sergius was dead and John VII. sat on the throne 
of Peter.. Pope John reigned but for three years, in which 
he was successfully bullied by Justinian. He was then 
succeeded by Sisinnius, who reigned for a few months, and 
then by Constantine who ruled for seven years (708-715). 
The archbishops of Ravenna had certainly not dared openly 
to side with the imperial party and the exarch during the 
revolution, but, with the restoration of Justinian, archbishop 
Felix (708-724) felt himself strong enough to oppose the pope 
when he categorically required of him an oath " to do nothing 
contrary to the unity of the Church and the safety of the 
empire." He had, however, chosen a bad time to set himself 
against his superior, who in the minds of aU was the champion 
of Italy. 

Justinian II. had by no means forgotten the injuries he 
had received at the hands of the Ravennati: " ad Ravennam^^ 
says Agnellus, " coria revolvens retorsit, et -per noctem plurima 


volvens, infra se taliter agens; heu quid agam et contra Ravennam 
qucs exordia sumam?^^ "What can I do against Ravenna? " 
What he did was this. Theodore the patrician, one of his 
generals, was despatched with a fleet to Ravenna by way of 
Sicily. He proceeded up the Adriatic and when far off he 
saw the great imperial city, he first, according to Agnellus, 
lamented its fate, " for she shall be levelled with the ground 
which Hfted her head to the clouds; " and then having landed 
and been greeted with due ceremony, set his camp on the 
banks of the Po a few hundred yards outside the city walls. 
There he invited all the chief men of the Ravennati to a 
banquet in the open air. As two by two they entered his 
tent to be presented to their host they were bound and 
gagged and put aboard ship. Thus all the nobles and Felix 
the archbishop were taken and the soldiers of Theodore 
entered Ravenna and burned their houses to the ground. 

Theodore took his captives to Constantinople where they 
were aU slain save FeHx, who, however, was bhnded. Later 
he returned to Ravenna, was reconciled with the Holy See, 
and died archbishop in 725. 

It would appear that all this happened when Theophylact 
(702-709) was exarch, though Theodore the patrician may 
have superseded him for a moment on his arrival. The 
exarch in 710 was Joannes Rizocopus, and in that year 
pope Constantine visited Constantinople with the future 
pope Gregory II. in his train. They met in Rome, the pope 
about to set sail, the exarch on his way to Ravenna, where he 
was apparently assassinated in a popular tumult, " the just 
reward of his wickedness." The people of Ravenna then 
elected a certain Giorgius as their captain, and all the neigh- 
bouring cities, Cervia, Forli, ForHmpopoli, and others, placed 
themselves under his government and turned upon the 
imperial troops. We know very Httle of this revolution, what 
directly was the cause of it, or how it was suppressed; but it 
is clear that the exarchate, if it did not actually perish, was 
from this time forth for all intents and purposes dead. 


Three more exarchs were to reign in Ravenna, but not to 
govern. In 713, Scholasticus was appointed and remained 
till 726. He was followed by Paulus (726-727) who attempted 
to arrest Leo III., was prevented by the joint action of the 
Romans and the Lombards, and met his death at the hands of 
the people of Ravenna; and by Eutychius (727-752) who it 
seems saw the fall of Ravenna before the assault of the 
Lombard Aistulf. He was the last representative of the 
Byzantine empire to govern in Ravenna or in Italy. 

But the faU of the imperial power in Italy was not the 
work of the Romans or of the Lombards. It fell because 
it had ceased to be Catholic, 

We have seen the invasions of the Visigoths and the Huns 
fade away into nothing; we have seen the greater attempt of 
the Ostrogoths to found a kingdom in Italy brought to nought. 
One and aU they failed for this fundamental reason, that they 
were not Catholic. The future belonged to CathoUcism, and 
since it is only what is in the mind and the soul that is of 
any profound and lasting effect, to be Arian, to be heretic, 
was to fail. The great attempt, the noble attempt of Justinian 
to refound the empire in the West, to gather Italy especially 
once more into a universal government, succeeded, in so far 
as it did succeed, because the circumstances of the time in 
Italy forced it to be a pre-eminently Catholic movement. 
When that movement ceased to be Catholic it failed. 

Let us be sure of this, for our whole understanding of the 
Dark Age depends upon it. Justinian's success in Italy was 
a Catholic success. What had always differentiated the 
imperialists from the barbarians since the fall of the old 
empire was their Catholicism. Justinian, a great CathoHc 
emperor, perhaps the greatest, faced and outfaced the Arian 
Goths. He succeeded because his cause was the CathoHc cause. 
But when his successors had to meet the Lombards they soon 
found that, for aU they could do, they had no success. The 
Lombards, never very eagerly Arian, were open to conversion, 
slowly they became Catholic, and from the day they became 


Catholic there was no longer any hope of turning them out 
of Italy. It is only what is in the mind that is of any funda- 
mental account. Face to face with such a thing as reHgion, 
race is as a tale that is told. But though all hope of turning 
the Lombards out of Italy ceased with their conversion, and 
the plan of Justinian, with nothing as it were to kick against, 
was thus rendered a thousand times more difficult, it did not 
become utterly hopeless and impossible tiU the empire, the 
East, that is, Constantinople, fell into heresy and ceased 
itself to be Catholic. It was the gradual failure of Con- 
stantinople in CathoHcism that disclosed the pope to the 
Italians as their champion. It was this failure that raised up 
even in the imperial citadel, even in Ravenna, men and 
armies passionately antagonistic to the emperor, passionately 
papal too. During a hundred years this movement grew 
tiU, in the eight century, the coup de grace, as we might 
say, was given to the Justinian plan by the Iconoclastic 

The Iconoclastic decrees of the emperor Leo are said to 
have appeared in Italy in the year 726, Leo was an 
adventurer from the mountains of Isauria. He was, so 
Gibbon tells us, "ignorant of sacred and profane letters; 
but his education, his reason, perhaps his intercourse with 
the Jews and the Arabs, had inspired the martial peasant with 
an hatred of images." It was his design to pronounce the 
condemnation of images as an article of faith by the authority 
of a general council. This, however, he was not able to do, 
for he was at once met and his iconoclasm pronounced 
heretical by the greatest of all opponents, the pope — 
Gregory II. 

Gregory had been elected to the papacy in 715 upon the 
death of Constantine. He was a man of great strength of 
purpose and nobihty of character. Upon the Lombard 
throne sat Liutprand whose boast it was that " his nation was 
Catholic and beloved of God," and who acknowledged the 
pope as " the head of all the churches and priests of God 


through the world." These three men were the great 
protagonists who decided the fate of the empire in 

The Lombards though they were thus Catholic had certainly 
not ceased to make war upon the empire. In this ceaseless 
quarrel, for instance, they had, perhaps about 720, possessed 
themselves of Classis, the seaport of Ravenna, and not long 
after of the fortress of Narni upon the Flaminian Way, and 
a Uttle later, about 752, Liutprand himself laid siege to 
Ravenna, apparently without much result, though Classis 
seems to have suffered pillage. But if Ravenna did not then 
fall it was because the emperor's Iconoclastic decrees had not 
then reached Italy. They appear to have arrived in the 
following year and immediately the whole peninsula was 
aflame. " No image of any saint, martyr, or angel shall be 
retained in the churches," said Leo, " for all such things are 
accursed." The pope was told to acquiesce or to prepare to 
endure degradation and exile. Then, says Gibbon, surely 
here an unbiassed authority, " without depending on 
prayers or miracles, Gregory II. boldly armed against the 
public enemy and his pastoral letters admonished the Italians 
of their danger and their duty. At this signal Ravenna, 
Venice, and the cities of the Exarchate and Pentapolis adhered 
to the cause of religion; their military force by sea and land 
consisted for the most part of the natives; and the spirit of 
patriotism and zeal was transfused into the mercenary 
strangers. The Italians swore to live and die in the defence 
of the pope and the holy images; the Roman people were 
devoted to their Father and even the Lombards were 
ambitious to share the merit and advantage of this holy war. 
The most treasonable act, but the most obvious revenge, was 
the destruction of the statues of Leo himself; the most 
effectual and most pleasing measure of rebellion was the with- 
holding of the tribute of Italy and depriving him of a power 
which he had recently abused by the imposition of a new 


The life of the pope was attempted by the imperial officials 
and the exarch appears to have been privy to the plot. The 
Romans rose and prevented the murder by slaying two of 
the conspirators, and when the exarch attempted to arrest 
the pope the very Lombards " flocked from all quarters " to 
defend him. In Ravenna itself there was revolution; Paulus 
the exarch was slain it seems in 727, and Ravenna apparently 
swore allegiance to the Holy See. Leo sent a fleet and an 
army to chastise her; " after suffering," says Gibbon, 
" from the wind and wave much loss and delay, the Greeks 
made their descent in the neighbourhood of Ravenna; they 
threatened to depopulate the guilty capital and to imitate, 
perhaps to surpass, the example of Justinian II. who had 
chastised a former rebellion by the choice and execution of 
fifty of the principal inhabitants. The women and clergy in 
sackcloth and ashes lay prostrate in prayer; the men were in 
arms for the defence of their country; the common danger had 
united the factions, and the event of a battle was preferred 
to the slow miseries of a siege. In a hard-fought day, as the 
two armies alternately yielded and advanced, a phantom 
was seen, a voice was heard, and Ravenna was victorious by 
the assurance of victory. The strangers retreated to their 
ships, but the populous sea-coast poured forth a multitude of 
boats ; the waters of the Po were so deeply infected with blood ^ 
that during six years the public prejudice abstained from the 
fish of the river; and the institution of an annual feast per- 
petuated the worship of images and the abhorrence of the 
Greek tyrant." 

So Gibbon, following Agnellus whose account is obscure and 
perhaps altogether untrustworthy. What is certain is that 
Liu tp rand was advancing against the empire in war; that he 
took Bologna and without difficulty made himself master of 
the whole of the Pentapolis. 

Yet the emperor took no heed. The eunuch Eutychius 
was appointed as exarch. He appeared in Naples and sent " 
orders to Rome to have the pope murdered; but again the 


Roman people saved their champion and swore to him a new 
allegiance. Then Eutychius turned to the Lombards. 

He attempted to bribe both Liutprand and the dukes. 
At first he was unsuccessful, but presently they began to Hsten 
to him. Liutprand certainly hoped to make himself king 
of Italy, and it may be that it was this which Eutychius 
offered him under the emperor. Moreover, he was jealous, 
and not without cause, of the dukes of Spoleto and Bene- 
vento, who had raUied to the pope, and was anxious to have 
them under his feet. This, too, he may have hoped to 
attain as King of Italy and the emperor's representative 
in Italy. 

When the pope saw Liutprand march southward with the 
exarch he must have known that the whole of the future 
depended upon the outcome of this act. Liutprand presently 
encamped with his army in the plain of Nero between the 
Vatican and Monte Mario. There the pope met him and, 
even as Leo the Great had done upon the banks of the Mincio, 
and as Gregory the Great had done upon the steps of S. Peter's, 
overawed the barbarian. Liutprand laid his crown and his 
sword at the pope's feet and begged, not only for his own 
forgiveness, but for that of the exarch his ally. The moment 
of enormous danger passed, the pope received both his 
enemies; but from that moment it was evident that the 
Lombards were not to be trusted and must one day feel the 
weight of the papal arm. 

Gregory died in February 731, and was succeeded by 
Gregory III. who continued his predecessor's Italian policy. 
The great and terrible danger which had suddenly threatened 
the whole of papal policy when Liutprand and the exarch 
approached one another seems to have haunted the third 
Gregory. His obvious defence was to support the dukes 
against Liutprand, and this he did. Liutprand marched down 
against him and seized several towns in the duchy of Rome. 
It is now that the future begins to declare itself. The pope 
in his peril, a peril that would presently increase, made an 


appeal to the great Christian champion, Charles Martel; he 
appealed to the Franks; in the event, as we know, it was the 
Franks who saved the situation. In 740, however, Charles 
Martel refused to interfere; he was the kinsman of Liutprand 
and his son was a guest at the court of Pavia; that son was 
to be king Pepin the Deliverer — the father of Charlemagne, / 
the first emperor of the restored West. 

That appeal for help was in all probability not made only 
on account of the threat of Liutprand against Rome. It was 
obvious and more and more obvious that the imperial power 
in Italy was about to dissolve. What was to take its place ? 
The papacy? Yes, but the state of Italy, the hostility of 
Liutprand, the whole attitude and condition of the Lombards, 
forced upon the papacy the necessity of finding a champion, 
a soldier and an army. That champion Gregory hoped to 
find in Charles Martel ; his successors found him in Charles's 
son Pepin and in Charlemagne. 

I say the appeal of the pope for help was not made only on 
account of the Lombard threat against Rome. It was the 
sudden dissolution of the imperial power that called it forth. 
In or about 737, the city of Ravenna, as we may believe, was 
besieged and taken by Liutprand and for some three years 
remained in his hands, till at the united prayers of exarch 
and pope the Venetians fitted out a fleet and recaptured it for 
the empire as we may think in 740.^ 

We know nothing of that siege and capture and practically 
nothing of the splendid victory of the Venetians. But the 
tremendous significance of the fall of Ravenna, which had been — 
the impregnable seat of the empire in Italy since Belisarius 
entered it in 540, must not escape us. Rightly understood it 
made necessary all that followed. 

At this dramatic moment the Emperor Leo died, to be 

^ I follow Hodgkin, vi. p. 482 et seq., and Appendix F. Cf. also for 
discussion as to the date, Pinton in Archivio Veneto (1889), pp. 368-384, 
and Monticolo in Archivio della R. S. Romana di St. Pat. (1892), 
pp. 321-365. 


followed in 741 by Pope Gregory and Charles Martel. Gregory 
was succeeded by Pope Zacharias, who in the year of his 
election met Liutprand at Narni and obtained from him the 
restoration of the four frontier towns he had taken two years 
before. But though Rome was thus secured Ravenna was 
in worse danger than ever, for Liutprand now renewed his 
attack upon it and it was only the intervention of the pope 
in person at Pavia that saved the city, Zacharias set forth 
along the Flaminian Way; at Aquila perhaps near Rimini the 
exarch met him, and he entered Ravenna in triumph, the 
whole city coming out to meet him. In spite of the opposition 
of Liutprand he made his way to Pavia, and was successful in 
persuading him to give up his attempt to take the once im- 
pregnable city and to restore much he had captured, Liut- 
prand was an old man; perhaps he was not hard to persuade, 
for he was on the eve of his death, which came to him in 744. 
'His successor Hildeprand reigned for six months and was 
deposed, Ratchis became king, a pious man who made truce 
with the pope, and in 749 abdicated and entered a monastery, 
Aistulf was chosen king, and at once turned his thoughts to 
Ravenna, The crisis so long foreseen, so often prevented by 
the papacy, came at last with great suddenness. In 751 
Ravenna fell and the Byzantine empire in Italy thereby came 
to an end. 

We know nothing of this tremendous affair; we do not 
know whether the great imperial city, full of all the strange 
wonder of Byzantium, and heavy with the destiny of Europe, 
was taken suddenly by assault or after a long siege. We 
know only that it fell, and that Aistulf was master there in 
the year of our Lord 751. 

A sort of silence followed that fall. In 752 Pope Zacharias 
died. His successor was never consecrated, but died within 
three days of his election and made way for Pope Stephen. 
In the confusion of all things it is said that a party in Rome 
urged Aistulf to usurp the empire. This was enough; it 
might have been, and perhaps was, expected. The pope had 


his answer ready. The heir of the empire in Italy was not 
the Lombard but the Holy See. Aistulf threatened to invade 
Roman territory, and, indeed, occupied Ceccano in the duchy 
of Rome. Again the pope had his answer. That answer 
was the appeal to Pepin and his Franks. The papacy had 
found a champion. 




The appeal of Stephen, which was to have for its result the 
resurrection of the empire in the West and the establishment of 
the papacy as a temporal power and sovereignty, was made 
in a letter now lost to us, which a pilgrim on his way back to 
France from Rome carried to Pepin the king of the Franks. 
In reply to it, the abbot of Jumi^ges appeared in Rome as 
Pepin's ambassador to invite the pope himself to cross the Alps. 

Meantime two events occurred, which cannot but have 
hardened the resolve of the pope to find a champion. These 
events were the occupation of Ceccano in the duchy of Rome 
by Aistulf and the appeal of the emperor to the pope that he 
should go to Pavia and attempt to persuade the Lombard 
king to give up Ravenna and the cities he had lately taken. 
The appeal of the emperor must have assured the pope, if 
indeed he had any doubt about it, that the emperor, so far as 
Italy was concerned, was helpless; while the occupation of 
Ceccano made it doubly obvious that the Lombard intended, 
now that the empire was helpless, to be absolute master 
throughout the peninsula. 

Stephen considered what course he should pursue, received 
two other Prankish envoys in Rome, consented to go to 
Pavia on behalf of the emperor, and determined at the 
same time to visit Pepin in the north. He set out for Pavia 
upon October 13, 753, leaving Rome with a vast concourse of 



(Exhib. R.A. 191 1 ) 


people, which accompanied him some distance along the Way, 
out of the Flaminian Gate. His mission on behalf of the 
empire was naturally entirely fruitless, and early in November 
the pope left Pavia with the hardly won consent of Aistulf to 
cross the Alps by the Great S. Bernard — a difficult and 
dangerous business at that time of year — and to meet the 
Prankish king at S. Maurice in the valley of the Rhone. In 
the latter he was disappointed. Pepin had been called away 
to deal with an incursion of the Saxons, and now awaited his 
amazing visitor at Ponthion in Champagne, but he sent his 
son Charles, destined to be the first emperor of the Holy 
Roman Empire, a hundred miles down the long roads to meet 
the pope, and it was in the company of this youthful hero that 
upon the Feast of the Epiphany 754 Stephen entered Ponthion 
at last, and was greeted by Pepin, who cast himself upon 
the ground before him and walked as his lackey beside him 
as he rode. 

The result of their interview is given in the Liber Pontiji- 
calis : "The most blessed pope tearfully besought the said 
most Christian king that by means of a treaty of peace 
( ? with him the pope) he would dispose of the cause of the 
blessed Peter and the republic of the Romans, who by an 
oath there and then (de praesenti) satisfied the most blessed 
pope that he would obey all his commands and admonitions 
with all his strength and that it pleased him to restore by 
every means the exarchate of Ravenna and the rights and 
territories of the republic." ^ 

That winter the pope spent at S. Denis, where he solemnly 
crowned Pepin and his queen, and Charles and Carloman 
their children, pronouncing an anathema upon all or any who 

1 As this is very important I give the original Latin: " Ibidem 
beatissmus Papa praefatum Christianissimum regem lacrimabiliter 
deprecatus est ut per pads foedera causam beati Petri et reipublicae 
Romanorum disponeret. Qui de praesenti jurejurando eundem 
beatissimum Papam satisfecit omnibus ejus mandatis et ammoni- 
tionibus sese totis nisibus obedire, et ut illi placitum fuerit Exarchatum 
Ravennae et reipubhcae jura seu loca reddere modis omnibus." 



should ever attempt to elect a king not of their house. Upon 
Pepin too he conferred the title of patrician. Can it be that 
by this he intended the king of the Franks to be his executor 
in the exarchate as the exarch had been the executor of the 
emperor? ^ We do not know; but a little later a document 
was drawn up in which Pepin declared and enumerated the 
territories he was ready to secure for the pope. This docu- 
ment, the Donation of Pepin, would seem to have confirmed 
in detail and in writing the oath he had sworn to the pope at 
Ponthion. Unhappily the document has disappeared, and 
we can only judge of its contents by what actually happened. 

The adventure into Italy to which the pope had persuaded 
Pepin was not universally popular with the Prankish nobles. 
We find Pepin attempting to gain his end by negotiation with 
Aistulf, but aU to no purpose, and probably in March 755 the 
Franks set out with the pope at their head to march into Italy 
to curb and chastise the Lombard. 

The great army of Pepin crossed the Alps by the Mont 
Cenis, and in what was little more than a skirmish upon the 
northern side of the pass defeated the Lombard army and 
proceeded to invest Pavia and ravish the country round about. 
Aistulf, who was rather an impetuous than a great soldier, had 
soon had enough and was ready to entertain proposals for 
peace. A treaty was made in which he agreed " to restore " 
Ravenna and divers other cities, and to attempt nothing 
in the future against Rome and the Holy See. This having 
been decided, the pope took leave of Pepin, who returned to 
France, and went on his way to Rome. 

The pope had won and had really established the Holy See 
as the heir of the empire; but Aistulf was by no means done 
with. He forgot alike his treaty and his promises. " Ever 
since the day when we parted," the pope writes to Pepin and 
the young kings, his sons Charles and Carloman, " he has 
striven to put upon us such afflictions and on the Holy Church 

1 The title patrician was not exclusively borne by the exarch; the 
Dux Romae, for instance, bore that title in 743. 


of God such insults as the tongue of man cannot declare. . . . 
You have made peace too easily, you have taken no sufficient 
security for the fulfilment of the promises you have made 
to S. Peter, which you yourselves guaranteed by writing 
under your hand and seal. . . ." 

But the Franks were deaf. An expedition to crush the 
Lombards was a laborious and an expensive business, and 
Pepin had much to occupy him at home. 

In January 756, however, Aistulf, mad from the start, laid 
siege to Rome, and for three months laid waste the farms of 
the Campagna, S. Peter's patrimony. Narni was taken and 
indeed aU seemed as hopeless as ever. Then the pope took up 
his pen and as the successor of the Prince of the Apostles 
wrote a letter as from S. Peter himself and sent it to the three 
kings, Pepin, Charles, and Carloman, to the bishops, abbots, 
priests and monks, the dukes, counts, armies, and people of 
Francia. Gibbon thus summarises this extraordinary and 
dramatic epistle: " The apostle assures his adoptive sons the 
king, the clergy, and the nobles of France that dead in the 
flesh, he is still alive in the spirit; that they now hear and 
must obey the voice of the founder and guardian of the Roman 
Church; that the Virgin, the angels, the saints, and the 
martyrs, and aU the host of heaven unanimously urge the 
request, and will confess the obligation; that riches, victory, 
and paradise will crown their pious enterprise; .and that 
eternal damnation wiU be the penalty of their neglect, if they 
suffer his tomb, his temple, and his people to fall into the 
hands of the perfidious Lombards." 

Pepin could not be deaf to such an appeal. He again 
crossed the Mont Cenis, and again the Lombards were as chaff 
before him. On his march to Pavia he was met by two 
envoys from Constantinople who had ill-treated, detained, 
and outstripped the papal ambassador. They besought Pepin 
to restore Ravenna and the exarchate to the empire, but he 
denied them and declared roundly that " on no account what- 
soever should those cities be alienated from the power of the 


blessed Peter and the jurisdiction of the Roman Church and 
the Apostolic See, affirming too with an oath that for no 
man's favour had he given himself once again to this con- 
flict, but only for love of S. Peter and for the pardon of his 
sins; asserting, also, that no abundance of treasure would 
bribe him to take away what he had once offered for 
S. Peter's acceptance." ^ 

Pepin marched on ; Pavia was besieged, Aistulf was beaten 
to the dust. A treaty was drawn up in which the Lombard 
gave to " S. Peter, the Holy Roman Church, and all the 
popes of the Apostolic See forever " the Exarchate, the Penta- 
polis, and Comacchio. An officer was commissioned to receive 
the submission of every city, and their keys and the deed of 
Pepin's donation were placed upon the tomb of S. Peter in 
Rome. The papal state was founded; where the empire had 
ruled so long there appeared the heir of the empire, the 
papacy " sitting crowned upon the grave thereof." 

The cities that with their contadi and dependencies thus 
formed the temporal dominion of the pope were, according to 
the papal biographer, twenty-three in number ; Ravenna 
first and foremost, then Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia 
(but not Ancona) that had formed the old Pentapolis, 
To them was added La Cattolica. The whole of the inland 
Pentapolis — though Fossombrone is not mentioned — Urbino, 
Jesi, Cagli, Gubbio — passed to the pope as well as the follow- 
ing places: Cesena and the Mons Lucatium, Forlimpopoli, 
Forli, Castro, Caro, S. Leo, Arcevia, Serra dei Conti, the 
Republic of S. Marino, Sarsina, and Cantiano together with 
Comacchio and Narni. A few months after all this was 
accomplished, in December 756, Aistulf, " that follower of the 
devil," as the pope called him, died. 

Every state that is nearing dissolution is the prey of civil 

discord. So it was with the Lombards. Ratchis, who had 

more than seven years before become a monk, claimed the 

throne; so did Desiderius, " mildest of men." Pope Stephen 

1 Cf . Hodgkin, op. cit. vii. p. 217. 


supported the latter on condition that Ancona, that last city 
of the Pentapolis, Osimo which dominated it, and Umana, 
together with Faenza, Imola, and Ferrara, were " restored " 
to the papacy. Desiderius agreed and became king, but 
failed, as the Lombards always failed, to keep his promise, 
for though he handed over Faenza, Bagnacavallo, and Gavello, 
he withheld Imola, Bologna, Ancona, Osimo, and Umana; 
this was in 757, the year of Stephen's death. 

In the same year Pope Paul I. seems to have visited the 
chief city of his new state, Ravenna, mainly perhaps on 
ecclesiastical business, for the archbishop Sergius was by no 
means a loyal subject and had only been brought to heel 
when nothing but submission was left open to him. He had 
then, according to Agnellus, promised to deliver to the pope all 
the " gold, silver, vessels of price, hoards of money," and so 
forth stored up in Ravenna. Agnellus tells a long and 
incoherent tale of the way the pope obtained this treasure 
and of certain plots to murder him therefor. All that seems 
fairly certain is that in the first year of his reign pope Paul I. 
visited Ravenna. Indeed the chief difficulty of the papacy 
at this time must have been the occupation of the state it had 
won so consummately. How were the popes to make good 
their somewhat shadowy hold upon Ravenna, and the Penta- 
polis, and those other strongholds in central Italy and JEmilia ? 

That they were not to hold them easily was soon evident. 
The empire was plotting to win Pepin to its side, and when 
that failed again, rumours of an imperial invasion reached 
Rome. Politically all relations ceased between Constantinople 
and Rome about this time ; for though the pope in reality had 
long ceased to be a subject of the emperor, when he had pos- 
sessed himself of the exarchate even theory had to give way 
to fact. Nor was the papacy more fortunate in its relations 
with Desiderius. The pope's object was doubtless to keep 
the Lombard kingdom weak, if not to destroy it. The first 
step to that end was obviously to encourage the achievement 
of a real independence by the duchies of Spoleto and Bene- 


vento, which, again, bordering as they did upon the duchy 
of Rome, would be easier to deal with if they stood alone. 
There can be little doubt that the pope fostered the sleepless 
disaffection of the dukes, but when their revolt matured 
Desiderius was able to crush it, laying waste the Pentapolis 
on his way. He was then wise enough to visit Rome and 
to arrange a peace which was only once broken during 
pope Paul's pontificate: in 761 when Desiderius attacked 

It was easier, however, for the pope to arrange successfully 
a foreign policy than to administer his new state. No 
machinery existed for the secular government by the Holy 
See of a country so considerable; nor was this easy to invent. 
The pope was forced to fall back upon his representative in 
Ravenna, namely, the archbishop. Now the archbishops 
of Ravenna had always been lacking in loyalty. Ravenna 
and the exarchate were governed in the name of the pope by 
the archbishop, assisted by three tribunes who were elected 
by the people. This government was never very successful, 
for at every opportunity, and especially after the resurrection 
of the empire in the West, the archbishops were eager to con- 
sider themselves as feudatories of the empire. This was 
natural and it may be worth while briefly to inquire why. 

Because Ravenna had for so long, ever since the year 404, 
been the seat of the empire in Italy, the bishops of that city 
had acquired extraordinary privileges and even a unique 
position among the bishops of the West. As early as the time 
of Galla Placidia, the bishop of Ravenna had obtained from 
the Augusta the title and rights of metropolitan of the fourteen 
cities of iEmilia and Flaminia. It is true that the bishop 
continued to be confirmed and consecrated by the pope — 
S. Peter Chrysologus was so confirmed and consecrated — 
but the presence of the imperial court and later of the exarch 
encouraged in the minds of the bishops a sense of their unique 
importance and a certain spirit of independence in regard to 
Rome. Of course the Holy See was not prepared to cede any 


of its rights; but the spirit of disloyalty remained, and 
presently the bishop of Ravenna at the time of his consecration 
was forced to sign a declaration of loyalty, in which was set 
forth his chief duties and a definition of his rights. 

After the Byzantine conquest the church of Ravenna, 
which the empire regarded as a bulwark against the papal 
claims, received important privileges and its importance in 
the ecclesiastical hierarchy was greatly increased. Like the 
bishop of Rome, the bishop of Ravenna had a special envoy 
at Constantinople and was represented, again like Rome, in a 
special manner in the councils of the Orient. In religious 
ceremonies the bishops of Ravenna took a place imme 
diately behind the pope, and in ecclesiastical assembhes 
they sat at the right hand of the pontiff. There can be Httle 
doubt indeed of the Erastianism of Justinian nor of his 
encouragement of the bishop of Ravenna, 

The declaration that the bishops were forced to sign 
upon their consecration by the pope by no means settled 
matters. In 648 this declaration itself was in dispute as to 
its interpretation, for Constans II. had conferred upon the 
See of Ravenna the privilege of autonomy, and at this time 
the bishop did not go to Rome for consecration. The 
Iconoclastic heresy of Constantinople, however, indirectly 
brought about peace between the pope and his suffragan, for 
Ravenna was in this whole heartedly Roman. 

It was then, by means of an instrument still very uncertain, 
that the papacy was forced to govern its new state, and in 
these circumstances, friendly relationship with Constantinople 
daily becoming more impossible, it is not surprising that we 
see the pope making an attempt to come to some sort of 
permanent reconciliation with Desiderius; and indeed when 
pope Paul died in ']6'] undoubtedly a peace had been arranged. 

All might have been well if pope Paul's successor had been 
regularly chosen; but a layman Constantine was elected by 
a rabble at the instigation of his brother To to of Nepi. 
Christopher and his son Sergius, who held two of the greatest 


offices in the papal chancery, decided to call in the aid of the 
duke of Spoleto to attack Constantine, Rome was entered, 
and in the appalling confusion the Lombards elected a certain 
priest named Philip to be pope. Christopher appeared, 
Philip was turned out, and Stephen III., a Sicilian, was 
regularly chosen. That was in 768, and in the same year 
king Pepin died and was succeeded by his two sons, Charles 
to whom apparently fell Austrasia and Neustria, and Carlo- 
man who took Burgundy, Provence, and Swabia. 

The death of Pepin left the papacy without a champion. 
Nor was this all, as soon appeared. Charles and Carloman 
began to quarrel and to effect their reconciliation, or to avert 
its consequences, Bertrada, their mother, counselled and 
succeeded in forcing upon them a friendship and an alliance 
with the Lombards which meant the complete abandonment 
of Italy upon the part of the Franks. This alliance was to be 
secured by a double marriage. Charles was to marry 
Desiderata, the daughter of the Lombard king, while Gisila, 
Bertrada's daughter, was to marry Desiderius' heir. It is 
obvious that S. Peter was in peril, nor was pope Stephen slow 
to denounce the whole arrangement. His remonstrance, 
however, was ineffectual and there remained to him but one 
thing to do: to arrange himself with the now uncurbed 
Lombard king. This was exceedingly difficult, because his 
own election had been achieved only by the humiliation of 
the Lombards. However, he managed it at the price of 
civil war. Desiderius and his army entered Rome at the 
behest of the pope, who celebrated Mass before the king in 
S. Peter's. The Franks were checkmated. 

It was not long before Charles saw that he had been out- 
witted. An immediate change of his policy was necessary. 
In 771 it came with the repudiation of Desiderata, who was 
sent back to her father's court at Pa via. Henceforth Charles 
and Desiderius were implacable enemies. And now every- 
thing went in favour of the papal policy, just as before 
everything had seemed to cross it. Carloman, who had not 


quarrelled with Desiderius, and might have opposed Charles 
and changed all the future, suddenly died in December of the 
year of the quarrel. Charles became thus sole king of the 
Prankish nation. When pope Stephen came to die in 
February 772 he must have laid him down with a quiet 

In Stephen's stead there was elected as pope a pure Roman, 
born in the Via Lata of the nobility of the City; he took the 
famous name of Hadrian L Desiderius, who had watched 
with a growing anxiety the amazing policy of Stephen, now 
turned to his successor, and both demanded and begged a 
renewal of friendship, Hadrian answered his ambassador at 
last with the mere truth. " How can I trust your king when 
I recall what my predecessor Lord Stephen of pious memory 
told me in confidence of his perfidy ? He told me that he had 
lied to him in everything as to the rights of Holy Church, 
though he swore upon the body of the Blessed Peter. . . . 
Look you, such is the honour of king Desiderius and the 
measure of the confidence I may repose in him." 

Desiderius' answer was not to the point. He seized the 
cities of Faenza, Ferrara, and Comacchio and ravaged the 
territory about Ravenna, burned the farms and carried off 
the cattle. Then he fell upon the Pentapolis, seized Sini- 
gaglia, Jesi, Urbino, Gubbio, S. Leo, and other "Roman" 
cities, and indeed possessed himself of everything save only 
Ravenna and Rimini, and proceeded upon a raid into the 
duchy of Rome. 

The answer of the pope was mild but firm: mild, for the 
hour was not yet come; firm, for it would strike ere long. 
*' Tell your king," said he, " that I swear in the presence of 
God that if he choose to restore those cities which in my time 
he has taken from S. Peter, I will hasten into his presence 
wherever he may appoint a meeting place, at Pavia, Ravenna, 
Perugia, or here in Rome, that we may confer together. . . . 
But if he does not restore what he has taken away he shall 
never see my face." 


The hour was not come. Charles was busy with the Saxon 
hordes upon the north and east of his kingdom. It was not 
till the beginning of January 773 that the pope sent his 
messenger Peter to summon him to his aid. Meanwhile, 
Desiderius marched on Rome. But even without Charles 
the pope was not defenceless. The Vicegerent of God who 
had without a soldier turned back Attila on the Mincio and 
had thrust back Liutprand from Rome was not to be at the 
mercy of such a king as Desiderius, At Viterbo his messengers, 
the three bishops of Albano, Palestrina, and Tivoli, met the 
Lombard king and gave him the pope's last word : "Anathema." 
Desiderius shrank back. In that moment as it seems the am- 
bassadors of Charles arrived in Rome, satisfied themselves of 
the justice of the papal summons, and carried back to the 
great Frank the prayer of the pope that he would " redeem 
the Church of God." In the late summer of that year the 
Frankish host was assembled at Geneva and was already 
beginning to cross the mountains in two mighty commands 
by the Great S. Bernard and the Mont Cenis; in October the 
siege of Pavia was begun. 

That siege endured for more than eight months. Mean- 
while Charles had made himself master of Verona and of many 
of the cities of the plain. The men of Spoleto hastened to 
" commend " themselves to the pope and the citizens of 
Fermo, Osimo, and Ancona, and of Citta di Castello, we read, 
followed their example, and for the feast of Easter 774, Charles 
appeared in Rome, and was greeted and embraced by the 
pope at S. Peter's. On Easter Day Charles heard Mass in 
S. Maria Maggiore, on Easter Monday in S. Peter's, on 
Easter Tuesday in S. Paul's. On the Wednesday in that 
Easter week, according to Hadrian's biographer, he made that 
great Donation to the papacy which confirmed and extended 
and secured the gift of Pepin his father. The duchies of 
Spoleto and Benevento, and much else, were added to the 
exarchate " as it was of old " and given to the pope. Then 
in June Pavia, the Lombard capital, fell and Desiderius and his 

Guardhouse of the Palace of Theodoric 


wife were sent by Charles as prisoners to a convent in Picardy 
where it is said they ended their lives. 

The Donation of Pepin, confirmed, renewed, and enlarged 
by Charles, may, of course, be understood in various ways; 
at any rate it has been so understood; but it is certain that 
the pope saw in it both the fulfilment of his hopes and the final 
establishment of the papal monarchy. Yet while he utterly 
refused, and rightly, to admit the claim of Charles — not yet 
emperor — to interfere in the election of the archbishop of 
Ravenna, the head of his new dominion, he graciously per- 
mitted the king to take away certain mosaics from the old 
imperial city to adorn his palace at Aix; and that in the 
following letter, which Dr. Hodgkin translates: "We have 
received your bright and honeysweet letters brought us by 
Duke Arwin. In these you expressed your desire that we 
should grant you the mosaics and marbles of the palace in 
the city of Ravenna, as well as other specimens to be found 
both in the pavement and on the walls. We willingly grant 
your request because by your royal struggles the Church of 
your patron S. Peter daily enjoys many benefits, for which 
great will be your reward in heaven. . . ." On no theory 
yet put forward can the pope be considered as the subject of 
the king of the Franks. That he had been and was to be 
the subject of the emperor can be defended, but when has 
S. Peter been the creature of a king ? 

It was not Hadrian as we know but Leo who was destined 
to crown what pope Stephen had begun, and to re-establish 
the empire in the West, and as he thought to create for S. 
Peter not an occasional but a permanent champion. 

Twenty-five years after that great Easter in Rome, pope 
Leo, who succeeded Hadrian, whose long pontificate lasted for 
twenty-three years, was attacked in the streets of Rome and 
thrown to the ground in the Corso by two nephews of 
Hadrian's. Exactly what was the nature of their quarrel 
with Leo we do not know, but they managed to imprison the 
pope, who presently escaped and, assisted by Winichis, duke 


of Spoleto, made his way to the court of Charles. During the 
summer of 799 the pope remained in France, and probably 
in October returned to Rome with a Prankish guard of honour. 
In the following autumn Charles set out on his fourth journey 
to Rome. It was now that he visited Ravenna, as he had 
already done in 787, and remained for seven days. On the 
24th November he arrived in Rome. A month later upon 
Christmas Day the great king, attended by his nobles, amid 
a vast multitude, went to S. Peter's to hear Mass. It was 
there in the midst of that great basilica, before the tomb of 
the Prince of the Apostles, that upon the birthday of Christ 
the empire re-arose; the pope placed upon the head of . 
Charlemagne the golden diadem and the Roman people cried 
aloud, " Carolo Piissimo Augusto Deo, Coronato Magno a 
Pacifico Ini'peratori Vita et Victoria^ Three times that great 
acclamation echoed over the tomb of the Fisherman. Once 
more there was an emperor in the West, a champion of the 
Faith and defender of the Holy See. 

It has been asserted, and is still I believe maintained, 
that that coronation was a surprise to Charles. But such 
things do not come unforeseen, nor was Charlemagne the man 
to permit or to tolerate so amazing an astonishment. All 
Rome knew what was about to be accomplished and had 
gathered in the ancient basihca to await it and complete it. 

Such a question, however, concerns us but httle. For 
us it remains to note that with the re-creation of the empire, 
and the appearance of the Holy See as a great temporal 
sovereignty in Italy, the historical importance of Ravenna 
comes to an end. We have seen that in the autumn of the 
most famous year save that of the birth of Our Lord, Charle- 
magne had visited Ravenna and had spent seven days in the 
city. Once more he was to visit it, and that upon his return 
journey northward in May 801. From this time Ravenna / 
ceases to be of any significance in the history of Europe. The 
pass it held was no longer of importance, for the barbarian 
invasions were at an end, and a new road into Italy over the 


Apennines was coming into use, the Via Francigena, the way 
of the Franks. As the port upon the sea which was the 
fault between East and West it, too, ceased to exist; 
for East and West were no longer of any real importance the 
one to the other, and already the alteration of the coast line, 
which was one day to leave the old seaport some miles from 
the shore, had begun. 

The history of Ravenna, her importance in the history of 
\/ Europe and Italy, thus comes to an end with the appearance 
of Charlemagne and the resurrection of the West. The 
ancient and beautiful city which had played so great a part 
in the fortunes of the empire, which had, as it were, twice 
been its birthplace and twice its tomb, herself passes into 
oblivion when that empire. Holy now and Roman still, rises 
again and in the West with the crowning of Charlemagne in 
S. Peter's Church upon Christmas Day in the year of Our 
Lord 800. With her subsequent story, interesting to us 
mainly in two of its episodes — the apparition of Dante and 
the incident of 15 1 2 — I shall deal when I come to con- 
sider the Mediaeval and Renaissance city. 

But in fact we always think of Ravenna as a city of the 
Dark Age, and in that we are right. She is a tomb, the tomb 
of the old empire, and like the sepulchre outside the gates of 
Jerusalem, that was Arimathean Joseph's, she held during 
an appalling interval of terror and doubt the most precious 
thing in the world, to be herself utterly forgotten in the morn- 
ing of the resurrection. And surely to one who had 
approached her in the dawn, while it was yet dark, of the 
ninth century, of mediaeval Europe that is, her words would 
have been those of the angels so long ago : Non est hie ; sed 
surrexit. While to us to-day she would say : Venite et videte 
locum ubi positus erat Dominus. 




Ravenna, as we see her to-day, is like no other city in Italy. 
As in her geography and in her history, so in her aspect, she 
is a place apart, a place very distinctive and special, and with 
a physiognomy and appearance aU her own. What we see in 
her is still reaUy the city of Honorius, of Galla Placidia, of 
Theodoric, of Belisarius and Narses, of the exarchate, in a 
word, of the mighty revolution in which Europe, all we mean 
by Europe, so nearly foundered, and which here alone is still 
splendidly visible to us in the great Roman and Byzantine 
works of that time. 

For the age, the Dark Age, of her glory is illumined by no 
other city in Italy or indeed in the world. She was the 
splendour of that age, a lonely splendour. And because, 
when that age came to an end, she was practically abandoned 
— abandoned, that is, by the great world — just as about the 
same time she was abandoned by the sea, much of her ancient 
beauty has remained to her through all the centuries since, 
even down to our own day, when, lovelier than ever in her 
lonely marsh, she is a place so lugubrious, so infinitely still 



and sad, full of the autumn wind and the rumours of silence 
of the tomb, of the most reverent of all tombs — the tomb of 
the empire. 

We shall not find in Ravenna anything at all, any building, 
that is, or work of art, of classical antiquity; all she was, all 
she did, all she possessed in the great years of the empire has 
perished. Nor shall we find much that may have been hers 
in the smaller life that came to her in the beginning of the 
Middle Age, or that was hers in the time of the Renaissance; 
the memory and the dust of Dante, a few churches, a few 
frescoes, a few pictures, a few palaces; nothing beside. For 
all these we must go to Pompeii and to Rome, or to Florence, 
Siena, Assisi, and Venice; in Ravenna we shall find something 
more rare, but not these. She remains a city of the Dark 
Age, of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, and 
she is full of the churches, the tombs, and the art of that time, 
. early Christian and Byzantine things that we shall not find 
elsewhere, or, at any rate, not in the same abundance, 
perfection, and beauty. 

And yet though so much remains, her story since the time 
of Charlemagne might seem to be little else but a long cata- 
logue of pillage and destruction. Charlemagne himself began 
this cruel work when he carried off the mosaics and the 
marbles, the ornaments of the imperial palace, to adorn Aix- 
la-Chapelle, and since his day not a century has passed without 
adding to this vandalism; the worst offenders being the 
fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and 
nineteenth centuries, which by rebuilding, by frank pillage, 
by mere destruction, by earthquakes, by contempt, and worst 
of all by restoration have utterly destroyed much that should 
have remained for ever, and have altogether spoilt and trans- 
formed most of that which, almost by chance it might seem, 

And so it comes to pass that the oldest buildings remaining 
to us to-day in Ravenna are to be found in the baptistery, the 
cathedral, the arcivescovado, and the mausoleum of GaUa 


Placidia, the oldest complete building being the last. Let 
us then first consider these. 

The first bishop, the " Apostle " of Ravenna, according to 
Agnellus, was S. ApoUinaris, a Syrian of Antioch, the friend 
and disciple of S, Peter, who, as we know, had been bishop of 
Antioch for seven years before he went to Rome. ApoUinaris 
followed S. Peter to the Eternal City and was appointed by him 
bishop of Ravenna, whither he came to estabhsh the church. 
There might seem to be some doubt as to his martyrdom; but, 
according to Agnellus, he was succeeded by his disciple S. 
Aderitus, and he in his turn by S. Eleucadius, a theologian, 
who is said to have written commentaries upon the books of 
the Old and New Testaments, and to have been followed as 
bishop by S. Martianus, a noble whom S. ApoUinaris had 
ordained deacon. There foUows in the Liber Pontificalis of 
AgneUus a list of twelve bishops, S. Calocerus, S. Proculus, 
S. Probus, S. Datus, S. Liberius, S. Agapetus, S. MarceUinus, 
S. Severus {c. 344), S. Liberius II., S. Probus II., S. Florentius, 
and S. Liberius III., who occupy the see before we come to 
S. Ursus, who " first began to buUd a Temple to God, so that 
the Christians previously scattered about in huts should be 
coUected into one sheepfold." ^ S. Ursus, according to Dr. 
Holder-Egger, ruled in Ravenna from 370 to 396, and his 
church was dedicated in 385; but a later authority ^ would 
seem to place his pontificate later, and to argue that it im- 
mediately preceded that of S. Peter Chrysologus, who, the 
same authority asserts, was elected in 429. AU agree that S. 
Ursus reigned for twenty-six years, and therefore, if he im- 
mediately preceded S. Peter Chrysologus, he was elected not 

^ " Iste primus hie initiavit Templum construere Dei, ut plebes 
Christianorum quae in singulis tuguriis vagabant in unum ovile piissimus 
collegeret Pastor . . . Igitur sedificavit iste Beatissimus Praesul 
infra banc Civitatem Ravennam Sanctam Ecclesiam Catholicam, quo 
omnes assidue concurremus, quam de suo nomine Ursianam nomina- 
vit . . ." 

* A. Testi Rasponi, Note Marginali al Liber Pontificalis di Agnello 
Ravennate in Atti e Memorie della R. Dep. di St. Pat. per la Romagna, 
iii. 27 (Bologna, 1909-10). 




in 370, but in 403 ; that is to say, in or about the same time as 
Honorius took up his residence in Ravenna. 

However that may be, we must attribute the foundation 
of a new cathedral church in Ravenna to S. Ursus, for till this 
day it bears his name, Ecclesia Ursiana, though it appears 

5^ =* '- f^A 

The Cathedral [Basilica Ursiana) 

to have been dedicated in honour of the Resurrection 

Agnellus gives us a fairly full account of this^hurch, which 
consisted of five naves divided and upheld by four rows of 
fifty-six ^ columns of precious marble from the temple of 
Jupiter^ That the church was approached by steps we learn 

^ Fabri, however, in his Sacre Memorie, says there were forty-nine 


from Agnellus in his life of S. Exuperantius, for he there tells 
us that Felix the patrician was killed " on the steps of the 
Ecclesia Ursiana." Both the vault and the walls were 
adorned with mosaics,^ which Agnellus describes and which 
would seem to have covered then or later the whole of the 
interior; the wall on the women's side of the church being 
decorated with a figure of S. Anastasia, while over aU was a 
dome " adorned with various coloured tiles representing 
different figures." When Agnellus wrote (ninth century) 
this great church was of course standing, but doubtless it had 
been added to and adorned from century to century, and it 
is impossible to learn from his description, or indeed any other 
that we have, what was due therein to S. Ursus and what to 
his successors. One of the most splendid ornaments the 
church possessed would seem to have been a ciborium of 
silver, borne by columns which stood over the high altar also 
of silver. This is said by Agnellus to have been placed there 
by the bishop S. Victor, who seems to have ruled in Ravenna 
from about 537 to 544. It is said to have cost, with the 
consent of Justinian, the whole revenue of Italy for a year 
and to have weighed some one hundred and twenty pounds. 
The whole stood in the midst of a circular choir of marble, 
itself covered with silver it might seem, if we may believe 
a chronicler of Vicenza. of the fifteenth century, quoted by 
Zirardini,^ who says : U^ In the great church of Ravenna all 
the choir, the altar, and the great tabernacle over the 
altar are of silver."^ Before the altar was the Schola 

Agnellus teUs us further in his life of S. Felix (c. 693) that 
that bishop built a Salutatorium (? Sacristy), "whence the 
bishop and his assistants proceeded at the Introit of the Mass 
into the presence of the people." But the Epigram which 
Agnellus quotes from this building would seem to suggest 

1 Agnellus gives the names of the mosaicists : Euserius or Cuserius, 
Paulus, Agatho, Satius, and Stephanus. 

* Zirardini, De A ntiquis Sacris Ravenncs Mdificiis. 


that the salutatorium was rather then rebuilt than added for 
the first time to the church. 

The magnificent basilica, one of the most splendid in Italy, 
was sacked by the French in April 15 12, but, as Dr. Corrado 
Ricci says, it was not they who destroyed the church itself, but 
the accademici of the eighteenth century, who, instead of 
conserving the glorious building, then some thirteen hundred 
years old, began in 1733 to pull it down, to break up the 
beautiful capitals and columns of precious marbles, and to 
make out of the fragments the pavement of the new church 
we still see, begun in 1734 by Gian Francesco Buonamici da 
Rimini. Only the apse with its beautiful great mosaic 
remained for a few years till at last it too was destroyed. 

Thus the church we have in place of the old Basilica Ursiana 
is a building of the eighteenth century, and all that we care 
for in it is the fragments that are to be found there of its 
glorious predecessor. 

These are few in number and of little account. Support- 
ing the central arch of the portico are two marble columns 
which belonged to the old basilica, and by the main door 
are two others of granite which came perhaps from the old 

Entering the church we find ourselves in a cruciform 
building consisting of three naves, divided by twenty-four 
columns of marble, transept, and apse, with a dome over the 
crossing. In the second chapel on the right is an ancient 
marble sarcophagus said to be that of S. Exuperantius, bishop 
of Ravenna about 470. The magnificent tomb carved in high 
relief did not, however, belong to the old cathedral, but was 
brought here when the church of S. Agnese was destroyed. 
In the south transept is the chapel of the Madonna del Sudore, 
where on either side are two other sarcophagi of marble 
adorned with figures and symbols. That on the right is 
said to be the tomb of S. Barbatianus, confessor of Galla 
Placidia, and was originally in the church of S. Lorenzo in 
Caesarea, whence it was brought to the cathedral in the thir- 


teenth century by the archbishop Bonifazio de' Fieschi, 
whom Dante found in Purgatory among the gluttons : 

" Bonifazio 
che pastiird col rocco molte genii. . ." 

He brought the sarcophagus to the cathedral for his own tomb 
and there I suppose he was buried. The sarcophagus upon 
the left was likewise used in 1 32 1 as a tomb for himself by the 
archbishop, Rainaldo Concoreggio. This, too, is sculptured 
with a bas-relief of Christ, a nimbus round His head, a book 
in His hand, seated on a throne set on a rock, out of which 
four rivers flow. With outstretched hand He gives a crown 
to S. Paul, while S. Peter bearing a cross holds a crown, just 
received, in his hand. The sculpture on the sarcophagus of 
S. Barbatianus is ruder. 

The high altar is of course modern, but within it is an 
ancient marble sarcophagus of the sixth century, in which 
it is said the dust of nine bishops of about that time lies. 

But one noble thing remains here among all the modern 
trash to remind us of all we have lost: the glorious pro- 
cessional cross of silver called of S. Agnello. Yet even this, 
noble as it is, does not come to us from Roman or Byzantine 
times it seems, but is rather a work of the eleventh century. 

In the midst of this great cross, upon one side, is the Blessed 
Virgin praying, and upon the other Christ rising from the 
tomb. Upon the arms of the cross, and the uprights, are forty 
medallions of saints, of which three would seem to be arch- 
bishops. I say this beautiful and precious thing comes to us 
from the eleventh century; but it has been very much 
restored at various times and is now largely a work of the 
sixteenth century. Dr. Ricci tells us that on the side 
where we see the Madonna only the five medallions on the 
lower upright and the two last of the upper are original ; 
while upon that of the Risen Christ, only the five medallions on 
the lower upright are untouched, all the rest is restoration. 

Beneath the eighteenth-century apse of the cathedral is the 


ancient crypt, no longer to be seen; it does not, according to 
Dr. Ricci, date earlier than the ninth century nor do any of 
the other crypts in the city. 

In the left aisle a few fragments from the old church remain 
recognisable. They are the marble slabs of an ambo erected 
by S. Agnellus, archbishop of Ravenna in the middle of the 
sixth century. There we read: Servus Christi Agnellus 
Efiscopus hunc pyrgum fecit. Among these are some earlier 
panels of the fifth century. In the treasury, again, we find 
two other panels from the ambo of S. Agnellus, and a strange 
calendar carved upon a slab of marble to enable one to find 
the feast of Easter in any year from 532 to 626; this is 
certainly of the sixth century. 

A certain number of Mediaeval and Renaissance things are 
also to be seen in the church. Here in the treasury we have 
a cross of silver gilt, with reliefs of the Crucifixion, God the 
Father, the Blessed Virgin, S. John Baptist, and S. Mary 
Magdalen, dating from the middle of the fourteenth century 
(1366). Over the entrance to the sacristy is a fresco by 
Guido Reni of Elijah the prophet fed by an angel. Within, 
is a good picture by Marco Palmezzano: a Pieta with S. 
John Baptist; while the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament 
is decorated by him and his pupils. 

It is obvious, then, that very little remains to us of the 
original Basilica Ursiana; nor can we reckon among that 
little the beautiful round and isolated campanile. This is not 
older than the ninth century, and has been much tampered 
with, especially in the sixteenth century, after an earthquake, 
and in the seventeenth century after both earthquake and 
fire. Indeed, the upper storey dates entirely from 1658. 

As it is with the cathedral, so it is with the Arcivescovado. 
Of the old palace of the Bishops of Ravenna only a few walls, 
a tower, and a wonderful little chapel remain. What we 
see now is work of the sixteenth and the seventeenth cen- 
turies after a restoration at the end of the nineteenth. 
The old vast palace Avhich has been destroyed was the work 


of many archbishops, achieved during many centuries. It 
consisted of a series of buildings grouped about the palace 
which the archbishop S. Peter Chrysologus built in the fifth 
century, and its most magnificent part was due to S. Maximian, 
archbishop of Ravenna in the time of Justinian. All their 
work, which we would so gladly see, is gone except the little 
chapel of S. Peter Chrysologus, which he built and signed in 
one of the arches in the fifth century.'^ 

Of this great man Agnellus records: "He was beautiful in 
appearance, lovely in aspect; before him there was no bishop 
like him in wisdom, nor any other after him." He was a 
native of Imola, then called Forum Cornelii, and was ordained 
deacon by the bishop of that city, one Cornelius, of whom he 
always speaks with affection and gratitude. When the 
bishop of Ravenna died, it is said the clergy of the cathedral, 
then just built or building, with the people, chose a successor, 
and besought the bishop of Imola to go to Rome to obtain 
the confirmation of the pope. Cornelius took with him his 
deacon Peter, and the pope, who had been commanded so to 
do by the Prince of the Apostles in a dream, refused to ratify 
the election already made, but proposed Peter the deacon as 
the bishop chosen by S. Peter himself. Peter was there and 
then consecrated bishop, was conducted to Ravenna, and 
received with acclamation. He is said to have found a 
certain amount of paganism still remaining in his diocese, 
and to have completely extirpated it. He often preached 
before the Augusta GaUa Placidia and her son Valentinian III., 
and he was perhaps the first archbishop of the see, Ravenna 
till his time having been suffragan to Milan. He seems to 
have died about 450 in Imola. Among his many buildings, 
which included the monastery of S. Andrea at Classis, is the 

1 According to Rasponi the chapel was dedicated originally to S. 
Andrea and is to be identified with the Monasterum di S. Andrea, 
which was not built by S. Peter Chrysologus (429-c. 449), but by 
Peter II. (494-c. 519). Cf. Rasponi, Note Marginali al Liber Pontifi- 
calis di Agnello Ravennate (Atti e Memorie della R. Dep. di Stor. Pat. 
per la Romagna, iii. 27), Bologna, 1909-1910. 


little chapel now dedicated in his honour in the Arcivescovado 
of Ravenna. It is perhaps the only one of his works which 
remains. The little square chamber, out of which the sanc- 
tuary opens, is upheld by four arches, which are covered, as is 
the vaulting, with most precious mosaics, still of the fifth 
century, though they have been and are still being much 
restored. On the angles of the vaulting, on a gold ground, 
we see four glorious white angels holding aloft in their up- 
raised hands the symbol of Our Lord. Between them are the 
mighty signs of the Four Evangelists, the angel, the lion, the 
ox, and the eagle. In the key, as it were, of the arches east 
and west is a medallion of Our Lord, and three by three under 
the arch on either side the eleven Apostles and S. Paul, who 
takes the place of Judas instead of Matthias. In the key of 
the arches north and south is a medallion of the symbol of 
Christ, and three by three under the arch on either side six 
saints, the men to the right SS. Damian, Fabian, Sebastian, 
Chrysanthus, Chrysologus, and Cassianus; the women to the 
left SS. Cecilia, Eugenia, Eufemia, Felicitas, Perpetua, and 
Daria. Here the SS. Fabian, Sebastian, and Damian, Dr. 
Ricci tells us, are altogether restorations. For the rest, these 
mosaics have suffered much, both from restoration, properly 
so called, and from painting. 

The pavement is old and beautiful, as I think are the walls, 
but the frescoes, once by Luca Longhi, are most unworthy and 
out of place. The recess which now contains the altar might 
seem not to have made a part of the original chapel or oratory; 
it appears it was only in the eighteenth century that the 
two were thrown into one. At that time the mosaics of 
the Blessed Virgin and of S. Apollinaris and S. Vitalis were 
brought here from the old cathedral. 

Just outside this wonderful little chapel in the Arcivescovado 
there is an apartment devoted to Roman and other remains 
found from time to time in Ravenna: a torso of a statue, a 
work of Roman antiquity, should be noted, as should certain 
fragments of a frieze, also an antique Roman work. Here, 


too, is preserved the splendid cope of S. Giovanni Angeloptes 
who was archbishop from 477 to 494 ^ when he died. 

In another apartment of the Arcivescovado is preserved a 
relic of another great archbishop of Ravenna : the ivory- 
throne of S. Maximianus. This is a magnificent work of the 
early part of the sixth century, and is one of the most splendid 
works known to us of its kind. It was made for the cathedral 
of Ravenna, but in or about the year looi it was carried off by 
the Venetians and given by doge Pietro Orseolo II. to the 
emperor Otto III., who left it to the church of Ravenna on 
his death. It is entirely formed of ivory leaves, most of them 
carved sumptuously in relief. In front we see the monogram 
of Maximianus Episcopus and under it are carvings of S. 
John Baptist between the Four Evangelists ; all these between 
elaborately carved decorative panels. About the throne to 
right and left is the story of Joseph in ten panels, and upon the 
back in the seven panels that remain ^ the miracles of Our 
Lord. Altogether it is a work of the most lovely kind, and 
certainly Byzantine. 

We shall come upon S. Maximianus again in S. Vitale, 
where something must be said of him. He lies, as has already 
been noted, in one of the great sarcophagi in the second 
chapel on the right in the cathedral. 

From the Arcivescovado we pass to what is now^ the most 
remarkable building of the group — the Baptistery. 

Dr. Ricci tells us that it was originally one of the halls of 
the baths that were near the present cathedral. But it was 
converted into a baptistery and ornamented with mosaics 
by the archbishop Neon of Ravenna {c. 449-459) as its in- 
scriptions tell us and is signed with his monogram. The 
original floor is three metres below that we see, and a second 
floor about a metre and a half above the original floor has 

1 Cf. A. Testi Rasponi, op. cit. supra. 

* Four of those missing, Dr. Ricci tells us, have of late years been 
discovered, one in the Naples Museum (1893), ^^^ ^^ ^^^ collection of 
Count StroganoflE (1903), one at Pesaro (1894), and another in the 
Archaeological Museum at Milan (1905). 


been discovered; this it would seem is that made by Neon, 
while a third remains about half a metre under the pavement 
we use, and upon this are set the eight columns, with their 
capitals, two of them Byzantine and the rest Roman, which 
uphold the arches of the upper arcade upon which is set 
the great drum of the dome. The plan is a simple octagon, 
bare brick without, covered with a " tent " roof of amphors 
under the tiles; but within, everywhere encrusted mth 
glorious marbles and mosaics. 

It is to the mosaic of the cupola that we instinctively turn 
first, for it is, perhaps, the finest left to us in Ravenna. It is 
divided into three parts. In the midst is the Baptism of 
Our Lord on a gold ground. Christ stands up to His waist 
in the clear waters of the Jordan, the god of which river waits 
upon Him. S. John high up on the bank, his staff, topped 
with a cross, in his hand, pours the water from a shell upon 
Pur Lord's head while the Dove, an almost heraldic figure, is 
seen above. About this circular mosaic is set a greater 
circle in which we see, upon a blue ground, the twelve Apostles 
in procession, each bearing his crown. Nothing left to us of 
that age is finer or more gravely splendid than these mosaics, 
they seem to be the highest expression of a great art which 
has known how to reject the brutal reahsm of an earUer time 
and to seize perfectly the secret of decoration. Nothing of 
the kind more masterly remains to us in Europe. 

Beneath these two circles another is set in which are eight 
panels, each of three parts, where are represented eight 
temples, four of them with thrones signed with the Cross, and 
four of them Vidth altars upon which the book of the Gospel 
is open. 

The whole cupola is borne by the upper arcade, where we see 
sixteen figures of the Prophets in stucco. The upper arcade 
is in its turn borne by the lower, which is everywhere encrusted 
with mosaics, restorations of our own time. The walls are 
panelled with various marbles. In the midst of the building 
is a huge octagonal font with its ambo, and in one of the 


'^'' " <. 

The Baptistery and Campanile of the Cathedral 


wall niches is an ancient altar, and in another a vase of 

The effect of all this splendour is even to-day very lovely 
and glorious; what it might have been if it had been properly 
cared for instead of " restored " we can only guess. Un- 
happily the " restoration " has been very radical. Even in 
the central Baptism, the head and shoulders and right arm 
of the figure of the Saviour, the head and shoulders and right 
arm, the right leg and foot of the Baptist and the cross in his 
his left hand have been destroyed and the whole dimmed and 
even spoiled. Such as it is, however, where shall we find its 
equal or anything to compare with it ? 

From the cathedral group we now turn to the other churches 
which were built in the time of the old empire in Ravenna for 
the most part, in the days, that is, of GaUa Placidia and her son 
Valentinian III. 

Among these is the church of S. Agata (entrance Via 
Mazzini 46), which though entirely rebuilt, with its campanile, 
in the later part of the fifteenth century is since the " restora- 
tion " of 1893 interesting, if at all, because the church dates 
originally from the fifth century. It would seem indeed that 
it was founded in the time of the Augusta, and to this the walls 
of part of the nave bear witness, but it was continued later 
perhaps by the archbishop Exuperantius (c. 470) whose 
monogram appears upon the second column to the left in the 
nave, and finally completed or in part rebuilt in the sixth 
century. In the fifteenth century (1476-94), the church was 
largely rebuilt again, but its tribune with its great mosaic 
remained tiU 1688 when it fell. In the sixth century it would 
seem to have had an atrium or narthex. Its main interest 
for us to-day lies in the beauty of its columns of bigio antico, 
cipoUino, porphyry, granite, and other marbles belonging to 
the original church, with their Roman and Byzantine capitals. 
Also to the right of the nave we see a curious amhone hollowed 
out of a fragment of a gigantic column of Greek marble. The 


altar, too, is formed from an ancient sarcophagus which is 
said to hold the dust of the two archbishops, Sergius, with 
whom the pope had so much trouble, and Agnellus. Accord- 
ing to AgneUus the chronicler there was a portrait of the 
archbishop S. John Angeloptes in the apse, but this like the 
great mosaic of the tribune is gone. It was here, however, 
that S. John got that strange surname of his — ^Angeloptes. 
He and his predecessor S. Peter Chrysologus with S. Maximian 
and Sergius were the great archbishops of this great see. We 
hear that the emperor Valentinian HI., according to AgneUus 
— but we should place the bishopric of S. John Angeloptes 
477-494 — " was so much affected by the preaching of this holy 
man that he took off his imperial crown and humbly on his 
knees begged his blessing. . . . Not long after he gave him 
fourteen cities with their churches to be governed by him 
Archieratica potestate. And even to this day (ninth century), 
these fourteen cities with their bishops are subject to the 
church of Ravenna.^ This bishop first received from the 
emperor a Pallium of white wool, just such as it is the custom 
for the pope to wear over the Duplum ; and he and his suc- 
cessors have used such a vestment even to the present day." 

This passage of AgneUus is important, but does not seem, 
on examination, to have any real bearing upon the question 
of the dependence of the See of Ravenna upon Rome. The 
PaUium was originaUy an imperial gift to the popes, probably 
in the fourth century. And the fact that it is the emperor 
and not the pope who bestowes it upon the archbishop of 
Ravenna in the fifth century, if it be true, can have no mean- 
ing at aU in the question of papal supremacy. 

AgneUus, whom I have quoted, goes on to teU us of that 
miracle which gave S. John, archbishop of Ravenna, his sur- 
name of Angeloptes or Angel-seer. " When the said John," 
he teUs us, " was singing Mass in the BasiUca of S. Agata and 

^ The Archbishop of Ravenna at the present day has seven sufiragans, 
Bertinoro, Cervia, Cesena, Comacchio, Forli, Rimini, Sarsina. It is 
hard to decide whether this man or Peter Chrysologus was the first 
archbishop of Ravenna. 


had accomplished all things according to the pontifical rite, 
after the reading of the Gospel, after the Protestation (? the 
Credo), the catechumens to whom it was given to see saw 
marvellous things. For when that most blessed man began 
the Canon, and made the sign of the Cross over the sacrifice, 
suddenly an angel from heaven came and stood on the other 
side of the altar in sight of the bishop. And when after 
finishing the consecration he had received the Body of the 
Lord, the assisting deacon who wished to fulfil his ministry 
could not see the chalice which he had to hand to him. 
Suddenly he was moved aside by the angel who offered the 
holy chalice to the bishop in his place. Then all the priests 
and people began to shake and to tremble beholding the holy 
chalice self-moved, inclined to the bishop's mouth, and again 
lifted into the air, and laid upon the holy altar. A strange 
thrill passed through the waiting multitude. Some said: 
'The deacon is unworthy;' others affirmed, 'Not so, but 
it is a heavenly visitation.' And so long did the angel stand 
by the holy man until all the solemnities of the Mass were 

Soon after this strange miracle S. John Angeloptes died 
and was buried in the basilica of S. Agata behind the altar in 
the place where he saw the angel standing. 

Nothing seems to remain of his tomb or his grave; but 
the church is full of curious fragments, broken pillars, bits of 
mosaic, ancient marble panels, beautifully carved^ and more 
than one old sarcophagus. Somewhere there no doubt the 
dust of S. John Angeloptes awaits the resurrection. 

From S. Agata we pass to S. Francesco. This church was 
founded by S. Peter Chrysologus (429-f. 449) and was com- 
pleted by S. Peter Chrysologus' successor, the archbishop 
S. Neon {c. 459). Its first title would seem to have been that 
of S. Peter Major; we hear, too, that it was called SS. Peter 
and Paul, and Agnellus in his life of S. Neon calls the church 
Basilica Apostolorum. The region of the city in which it 
stands would seem to have borne also the name Regio Aposto- 


lorum, though whether it got the name from the church or the 
church from it is impossible to decide.^ 

Unhappily the church has been entirely rebuilt in the 
eighteenth century, and our interest in it is confined for the 
most part to the tower, the crypt, the twenty-two columns 
of Greek marble which uphold the nave, two of which are 
signed ' P. E.' and four others ' E. V. G.,' and the tombs. 
The tall square tower dates, perhaps, from the tenth century, 
the crypt from the ninth, but the columns are of the fifth 
century. Perhaps the oldest thing in the church is the 
sarcophagus on the right of the main door which has on its 
front Pagan sculptures and on its sides Christian. Close to 
the holy water stoup is a very lovely sarcophagus of the 
fourth century with reliefs of Our Lord and eight Apostles. 
The ribs of the cover have as finials the heads of lions; 
altogether this is a very splendid and noble tomb. In the 
last chapel upon the right we find the great sarcophagus, 
still used as an altar, of S. Liberius, bishop of Ravenna 
{c. 375), " a great man, a never-failing fountain of charity; 
who brought much honour to the church," according to 
Agnellus. The sarcophagus dates from the end of the fourth 
century and is sculptured in high relief. 

I shall return to S. Francesco when I consider Mediaeval 
Ravenna.^ At present I would direct the reader's attention 
to S. Giovanni EvangeHsta. 

This church was originally founded by Galla Placidia 
herself, in fulfilment of a vow made by her to S. John 
Evangelist, when, on her way from Constantinople to Ravenna, 
she was in danger of shipwreck.^ Agnellus tells us that of old 
the church bore an inscription to this effect, and he gives it 
to us : Sancto ac Beatissimo Apostolo Johanni Evangelistce 
Galla Placidia Augusta cum jilio suo Placidio V alentiniano 
Augusto etjilia sua Justa Grata Honoria Augusta, Liherationis 

^ The Franciscans conventuals would ^eem to have possessed the 
church from 1261 to 18 10. 

* See infra, p. 245 et seq. ' See supfa, p. 41. 


periculum maris votum solvientes. The mosaic of the apse of 
old represented the incident. Unhappily the church was 
almost entirely rebuilt in 1747, only the tower of the eleventh 
century and the portico of the fourteenth being left as they 
had been. The beautiful fourteenth-century door, however, 
bears above it a relief of that time in which we see Our Lord, 
S. John Evangelist, Valentinian III., Galla Placidia with her 
soldiers and her confessor, S. Barbatian, with priests. Below 
this on either side of the arch of the doorway is a representa- 
tion of the Annunciation and within the arch itself a relief 
which recounts the miracle which attended the consecration 
of the church. For the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista 
was not only founded in recompense for a miracle, but a 
miracle attended its consecration. It seems that when the 
church was to be consecrated no relic of S. John Evangelist 
was to be had. Therefore the Augusta and her confessor gave 
themselves a whole night to prayer, and suddenly there 
appeared to them S. John himself, vested like a bishop with 
a thurible in his hand, with which he incensed the church. 
Then when he came to the altar to incense it, and they would 
have venerated him, he suddenly vanished, only leaving in 
the hand of the Augusta one of his shoes. This legend, which 
is represented in relief in the fourteenth-century doorway of 
S. Giovanni Evangelista, is also the subject of a picture by 
Rondinelli of Ravenna in the Brera at Milan. 

The church has, as I have said, been ruined by the 
rebuilding of 1747; but there still remain the twenty-four 
columns of bigio antico with their Roman capitals, which 
upheld the old basilica, and in the crypt is the ancient high 
altar of the fifth century. Something, too, of the old church 
would seem to remain in the much repaired walls of the apse 

The frescoes by Giotto, sadly repainted, in the fourth chapel 
on the left, must be noted. They represent the four Evan- 
gelists with their symbols over them, and the four Latin 
fathers of the Church, S. Jerome, S. Ambrose, S. Austin, and 



ill! jtn 

The Campanile of S. Giovanni Evangelista 



S. Gregory. Certain fragments of a thirteenth-century mosaic 
pavement are to be seen in the chapel of S. Bartholomew, 
which is itself perhaps the oldest part of the church. 

We turn now to the church of S. Giovanni Battista 
which was founded by a certain Baduarius, according to 
Agnellus, and consecrated by S. Peter Chrysologus. It is 
possible that Baduarius was the mere builder, and that he 
built by order of Galla Placidia. Nothing, however, is left 
of the old church, which was entirely rebuilt in 1683, except 
the apse as it is seen from the outside, the round campanile 
in its first story and the beautiful columns sixteen in number, 
four of bigio antico, two of pavonazzetto, one of cipollino, 
and the rest of greco venato, according to Dr. Ricci. 

There remains to be considered what is, when all is said, I 
suppose the noblest monument of the fifth century left to us 
in Italy or in Europe — the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. 

Agnellus tells us that the Augusta built close to her palace 
a great church in the shape of a Latin cross. This she 
dedicated in honour of the Holy Cross which it will be re- 
membered her predecessor S. Helena had discovered in 
Jerusalem. Of this church, though it has long since dis- 
appeared — the " western " part of it having been destroyed 
in 1602 and what remained restored out of all recognition in 
171 6 — we know a good deal. According to Agnellus it was 
covered with most precious stones ( ? marbles) and apparently 
with mosaics and was full of splendid ornaments. It had, too, 
a great narthex, and at the end of this Galla Placidia presently 
built a cruciform oratory for her own mausoleum, where 
she was to lie between her brother Honorius and her son 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is the oldest complete 
building left to us in Ravenna, for it dates from well within the 
first half of the fifth century, whereas the baptistery, altered 
and transformed as it was by S. Neon, is as we see it a work 



of the first years of the second half of that century. Simple 
as it is, without, a cruciform building of plain brick, within 
it is so sumptuously and splendidly adorned that not an inch 
anywhere remains that is not encrusted with mosaic or 
precious marbles. These mosaics were, before their radical 
" restoration," perhaps finer and more classical than those 
of the baptistery. It might seem, indeed, that they were 
perhaps the finest and subtlest work done in the Roman 
reahstic tradition, nor was there perhaps anywhere to be 
found so noble a representation of the Good Shepherd as that 
which adorned this great monument. It is, however, im- 
possible to speak with any confidence of what we see there 
now, for all has been restored again and again, and is now Httle 
better than a rifacimento of our own time, a copy, faithful 
perhaps, but still a copy, of the work of the fifth century. 

Nevertheless, the impression of the whole is very splendid 
and solemn. The roofs and dome are covered with mosaics 
of a wonderful and indescribable night blue, powdered with 
stars. In the cupola is a cross and at the four angles are set 
the symbols of the four Evangelists, glorious heraldic figures. 

Above the door we see Christ the Good Shepherd, youthful, 
classic in form and repose, very noble and Roman, seated 
on a rock in a broken hilly landscape, a cross in His left hand, 
caressing His sheep with His right. This figure even after 
" restoration " gives us more than a ghmpse of what it once 
was. Nowhere had Christian art produced so majestic a 
representation of its Lord; nor had the subject of the Good 
Shepherd been anywhere more splendidly treated than here. 

Over the great sarcophagus, opposite the entrance, we 
see a very different scene. Here is no longer a youthful 
Christ, with the hair and the noble aspect of Apollo, but 
a bearded and majestic figure in the fullness of manhood. 
His eyes full of anger, His draperies flying about Him, 
moving swiftly, the cross on His shoulders, in His left hand 
an heretical, probably Arian, book which he is about to 
cast into the furnace in the midst. Upon the extreme left is 


a case or cupboard in which we see the books of the four 
Gospels. In the other lunettes we see very gorgeous decora- 
tive work of arabesques and stags at a fountain and two doves 
drinking from a vase. Above in the spandrils of the arches 
are figures of apostles or saints. Nothing in the world is more 
solemnly gorgeous in effect than this beautiful rich interior. 
The pavement is composed of fragments of the same precious 
marbles as those which line the lower parts of the walls. 

Under the mosaic of the burning of the heretical books 
we see the mighty sarcophagus of plain Greek marble which 
once held the body of the Augusta. This, of old, was richly 
adorned with carved marbles and perhaps with silver or 
mosaic ; and we know that in the fourteenth century certainly 
it was possible to see within the figure of a woman richly 
dressed seated in a chair of cedar and this was believed to be 
the mummy of the Augusta GaUa Placidia. However, we hear 
nothing of it before the fourteenth century, and Dr. Ricci 
suggests that it may have been an imposture of about that 
time. It is possible, but perhaps unlikely, for the Augusta 
was not a saint, and what reason could men have in the 
thirteenth century, when the very meaning of the empire 
was about to be forgotten, for such an imposture ? However 
this may be, the figure remained there seated in its chair during 
the fourteenth, fifteenth, and the greater part of the sixteenth 
centuries. And indeed, it might have been there still but 
that in 1577 some children, curious about it and anxious to 
see a thing so wonderful, thrust a lighted taper into the tomb 
through one of the holes in the marble, when mummy, vest- 
ments, chair and all were consumed, and in a moment nothing 
remained but a handful of dust. 

The sarcophagi under the arches on either side, according 
to various authorities, hold the dust of the emperor Honorius, 
the brother of the Augusta, and of Constantius her husband, 
or of the emperor Valentinian III. her son. It is impossible 
to decide at this late day exactly who does and who does not 
lie in these great Christian tombs. 


The Mausoleum of the Augusta was long known, though 
not from its origin, as the sanctuary of SS. Nazaro e Celso. 
When it was so dedicated I am ignorant, but it was not in the 
time of the Augusta. Then, in the fifteenth century, when 
so much was remembered and so much more was forgotten, 
it bore the title of SS. Gervasio e Protasio, and this name 
remained to it till the seventeenth century, when the old 
title was revived. To-day although it retains its name of 
SS. Nazaro and Celso, it is more rightly and universally known 
as the Mausoleum of GaUa Placidia. 



If was, as we have seen, upon March 5, 493, that Theodoric, 
king of the Ostrogoths, entered Ravenna as the representative 
of the emperor at Constantinople, One of his first acts seems 
to have been the erection of a palace designed for his habitation 
and that of his successors. Why this should have been so we 
do not know. It might seem more reasonable to find the 
Gothic king taking possession of the imperial palace, close 
to which the Augusta Galla Placidia had erected the church 
of S. Croce and her tomb. Perhaps this had been destroyed 
in the revolution or series of revolutions in which the empire 
in the West had fallen, perhaps it had been ruined in the Gothic 
siege which endured for some three years. Whatever had 
befallen it, it was not occupied, restored, or rebuilt by Theo- 
doric. He chose a situation upon the other side of the city 
and there he built a new palace and beside it a great Arian 
church, for both he and his Goths were of that sect. We 
call the church to-day S. ApoUinare Nuovo. 

The palace, of which nothing actually remains to us, though 
certain additions made to it during the exarchate are still 
standing, was, according to the various chroniclers whose 



works remain to us, surrounded by porticoes, such as Theodoric 
built in many places, and was carved with precious marbles 
and mosaics. It was of considerable size, set in the midst of a 
park or gardens. Something of what it was we may gather 
from the mosaics of S. ApoUinare Nuovo in which it is con- 
ventionally represented. It came to owe much to Amalasuntha 
who lived there during her brief reign, and more to the exarchs 
who made it their official residence. 

In 751 when Ravenna fell into the hands of the Lombards 
Aistulf established himself there, but it might seem that the 
place had suffered grievously in the wars, and it was probably 
little more than a mighty ruin when, in 784, Charlemagne 
obtained permission from the pope to strip it of its marbles 
and its ornaments and to carry them off to Aix-la-Chapelle. 
Among these was an equestrian statue in gilded bronze, 
according to Agnellus a portrait of the great Gothic king, but 
as Dr Ricci suggests a statue of the Emperor Zeno. This too in 
the time of Leo III. Charlemagne carried away. According to 
the same authority the back of the palace was not then very 
far from the sea, and this was so even in 1098. Nothing I 
think can give us a better idea of the change that has come 
over the contado of Ravenna than an examination of its 
situation to-day, more than four miles from the sea coast. 

The only memorial we have left to us in situ of that palace 
of the Gothic king is a half-ruined building, really a mere 
facade with round-arched blind arcades and a central niche in 
the upper story, a colonnade in two stories, and the bases of 
two round towers with a vast debris of ruined foundations, 
walls, and brickwork, scarcely anything of which, in so far as 
it may be said to be still standing, would seem to have been a 
part of the palace Theodoric built. Indeed the ruined 
fagade would seem to belong to a guard house built in the 
time of the exarchs in the seventh or eighth century. If we 
seek then for some memory of Theodoric in this place we shall 
be disappointed. 

Far otherwise is it with the great church, the noblest in 


Ravenna, of S. Apollinare Nuovo. This was built about the 
same time as the palace, in the first twenty years of the sixth 
century, as the Arian cathedral by the Gothic king. It was 
the chief temple in Ravenna of that heresy, and it remained 
in Arian hands till with the re-establishment of the imperial 
power in Italy it was consecrated, in 560, for Catholic use by 
the archbishop S. Agnellus. It consists of a basilica divided 
into three naves by twenty-four columns of Greek marble 
with Romano-Byzantine capitals. Of old it had an atrium, 
but this was removed in the sixteenth century, as was the 
ancient apse in the eighteenth. The original apse, however, 
was ruined in an earthquake, as Agnellus tells in his life of 
S. Agnellus, in the sixth century, and of the atrium only a 
single column remains in situ before the church. The cam- 
panile, a noble great round tower, dates from the ninth 
century for the most part, its base is, however, new. The 
portico before the church is a work of the sixteenth century, 
as is the facade, which nevertheless contains certain ancient 
marbles, among which are two inscribed stones, one of the 
fourth century and the other of the eleventh. 

When Theodoric built this great and glorious church he 
dedicated it to Jesus Christ. It seems to have been dedicated 
in honour of S. Martin in 560 by the archbishop S. Agnellus 
who consecrated it for Catholic worship, and finally in the 
middle of the ninth century to have been given the title of 
S. Apollinare by the archbishop John, who asserted that he 
had brought hither the relics of the first archbishop of the 
see from S. Apollinare in Classe when that church was 
threatened by the Saracens. 

The oldest name by which the church was generally known, 
however, is that of Caelum Aureum. Agnellus in his life of the 
archbishop S. Agnellus says, speaking of the Catholic consecra- 
tion of the church, "Then the most blessed Agnellus the bishop 
reconciled within this city the church of S. Martin Confessor, 
which Theodoric the king founded, and which was called 
Cesium Aureum. . . ." And he goes on to say that it was 


found from an inscription that " King Theodoric made this 
church from its foundations in the name of Our Lord 
Jesus Christ." ^ It got the name of Ccelum Aureum perhaps 
from its glorious roof of gold. This, however, was destroyed 
in 161 1. 

The church has indeed suffered very much in the course of 
the fourteen hundred years of its existence, and yet in many 
ways it is the best preserved church in Ravenna. In the 
sixteenth century, for instance, it was fast sinking into ruin; 
the floor of the church and the bases of the columns were then 
more than a metre and a half beneath the level of the soil, 
and it was decided that something must be done if the build- 
ing was to be saved. In 15 14 this work was undertaken; 
the columns were raised and the arches cut and thus the 
church and its great mosaics were preserved. It is, however, 
still sinking; the new pavement of the sixteenth century 
has disappeared, and that of 1873 which was brought from 
the suppressed church of S. Niccol6 covers the bases of the 

If S. ApoUinare Nuovo had been allowed to fall, nothing 
that we possess in the world would have compensated us for 
its loss. For not only have we here a beautiful interior very 
largely of the sixth century, but the great mosaics of the nave 
which cover the walls above the arcade under the windows 
are, I suppose, at once the largest and the most remarkable 
works of that time which ever existed. They are also of an 
extraordinary and exceptional beauty. They represent upon 
both sides, through the whole length of the nave, as it were 
two long processions of saints. Upon the Epistle side are the 
martyrs issuing out of the city of Ravenna to lay their crowns 
at the feet of Our Lord on His throne, guarded by four angels. 
Upon the Gospel side are the virgins headed by the three 
kings, who offer gifts to Our Lord in his Mother's arms 
enthroned between four angels. There is nothing in Christen- 
dom to compare with these mosaics. They are unique and, as 
^ Cf. also Agnellus, Liber Pontificalis, Vita Theodori, cap. ii. 


I like to think, in their wonderful significance are the key to a 
mystery that has for long remained unsolved. For these long 
processions of saints, representing that great crowd of witnesses 
of which S. Paul speaks, stand there above the arcade and 
under the clerestory where in a Gothic church the triforium 
is set. But the triforium is the one inexplicable and seemingly 
useless feature of a Gothic building. It seems to us, in our 
ignorance of the mind of the Middle Age, of what it took for 
granted, to be there simply for the sake of beauty, to have no 
use at all. But what if this church in Ravenna, the work 
indeed of a very different school and time, but springing out 
of the same spiritual tradition, should hold the key ? What if 
the triforium of a Gothic church should have been built as it 
were for a great crowd of witnesses — the invisible witnesses 
of the Everlasting Sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary, the 
sacrifice of the Mass? It is not only in the presence of the 
living, devout or half indifferent, that that great sacrifice is 
offered through the world, yesterday, to-day, and for ever, 
but be sure in the midst of the chivalry of heaven, a multitude 
that no man can number, none the less real because invisible, 
among whom one day we too are to be numbered. Not for 
the living only, but for the whole Church men offer that 
sacrifice fro redemptione animarum suarutn, pro spe salutis et 
incolumiiatis sues. Memento eiiam Domine famulorum 
famularumque tuarum qui nos pmcesserunt cum signo fidei et 
dormiunt in somno pads. . . . Here in S. Apollinare at any 
rate for ever they await the renewal of that moment. 

Those marvellous figures that appear in ghostly procession 
upon the walls of S. Apollinare here in Ravenna are really 
indescribable, they must be seen if the lovely significance of 
their beauty is to be understood. What can one say of 
them ? 

Upon the Epistle side we see as it were a procession of 
twenty-five figures all in white with palms in the right hands 
and crowns in their left. They are the martyrs SS. Clement, 
Sixtus, Laurence, Cyprian, Paul, Vitalis, Gervasius, Protasius, 


Hippolytus, Cornelius, Cassianus, John, Ursinus, Namor, 
Felix, Apollinaris, Demetrius, Polycarp, Vincent, Pancras, 
Chrysogonus, Protus, Jovenius, and Sabinus, and their names 
are written in a long line over them; each is aureoled, and 
each upon his white robe bears a letter the significance of which 
is hidden from us. This procession comes out of the city of 
Ravenna which is magnificently represented, occupying indeed 
a fifth of the whole length of the mosaic. 

In the foreground is the palace of Theodoric, the whole 
fagade of it, the triple arched peristyle in the midst flanked 
on either side by two triple arched loggias, each having a 
second story of five arches. In the spandrils of the arches 
are figures of Victories, and of old in the tympanum we might 
have seen Theodoric on horseback. Within, the arches are 
hung with curtains. On the extreme right is the great gate of 
the palace in the wall of the city, flanked on either side by 
towers. In the lunette over the gateway we see three small 
figures of Christ with the cross between two Apostles, and 
within the gate, I think, a great figure, seated. Over the 
fagade of the palace we look into the city and see four churches, 
which Dr. Ricci suggests may be, on the right, this very church 
with its baptistery, now destroyed, together with the church 
of S. Teodoro (now S. Spirito) and the Arian baptistery: 
they are altogether Byzantine in type. Out of this city come 
the martyrs; there are twenty-five of them all in white, as I 
have said, and they are led by S. Martin Confessor, who bears 
of course no palm, is robed in purple, and bears his crown in 
both his hands. He leads the procession along a way strewn 
with flowers to the throne where Christ sits guarded by four 

Above this great scene, between the windows, above each 
of which there is an ornamental mosaic, we see sixteen figures 
of Prophets or perhaps Fathers. Over these are twenty- 
seven compartments each filled with a mosaic. Those over 
the heads of the prophets are, except in the case of him who 
stands, at each end, last but one, filled with a sort of recessed 


throne in mosaic, over which in each case are set two doors. 
But the eleven compartments over the windows and the two 
over the two figures last but one at either end are filled with 
thirteen scenes from the New Testament, beginning on the 
left as follows: (i) The Last Supper, (2) The Agony in the 
Garden, (3) The Kiss of Judas, (4) Christ taken, (5) Christ 
before the High Priest, (6) Christ before Herod, (7) The Denial 
of Peter, (8) Judas trying to restore the money to the priests, 
(9) Christ before Pilate, (10) The Via Crucis, (11) The Maries 
at the Sepulchre, (12) The way to Emmaus, (13) The In- 
creduHty of S. Thomas. 

Turning now to the Gospel side of the church, we find a 
similar procession over the arcade, but of twenty-one virgin 
martyrs bearing palms and crowns richly dressed with 
precious ornaments and jewels. They bear the following 
names: SS. Pelagia, Agatha, Eulalia, Cecilia, Lucia, Crispina, 
Valeria, Vincentia, Agnes with her lamb, Perpetua, FeHcitas, 
Justina, Anastasia, Daria, Paulina, Victoria, Anatolia, 
Christina, Savona, Eugenia. They issue out of the towered 
gate of the Castello of Classis, whose wall stretches before us 
to the great sea gate through which we look upon the port 
with three ships on the water, one of which is sailing in or out. 
Within the castello over the wall of it we see buildings of a 
distinctly Roman type. 

The procession of virgins which issues forth from this 
castello is led by S. Eufemia, who does not bear a palm, but 
carries her crown in her two hands. Before her go the three 
Magi, Balthassar, Melchior, and Caspar, bearing their gold, 
frankincense, and myrrh under the palms of the long way, 
guided by the star to where Madonna sits enthroned with her 
little Son between four angels. 

. Above between the windows, as on the Epistle side, are 
sixteen figures in mosaic of the Prophets or Fathers; and 
over them again, as before, are thirteen scenes from the life of 
Our Lord: (i) The HeaHng of the cripple at Capernaum, (2) 
The Herd of Swine, (3) The Healing of the paralytic who was 


let down in a bed to Jesus, (4) The Parable of the sheep and 
the goats, (5) The Widow's mite, (6) The Pharisee and the 
Pubhcan, (7) The Raising of Lazarus, (8) The Woman of 
Samaria at the well, (9) The Heahng of the woman wdth an 
issue of blood, (10) The Healing of the two bhnd men, (11) The 
Miraculous draught of fishes, (12) The Miracle of the Loaves 
and Fishes, (13) The Water turned into Wine. 

And what are we to say of these marvellous things ? This 
first of all, that for the most part they are not of the time of 
Theodoric, but rather of that S. Agnellus who consecrated the 
church for Catholic use. This is not to deny that there were 
always in the church mosaics occupying the place which these 
we see fiU; on the contrary. But the processions of the 
martyrs and of the virgins with the three Magi are certainly 
Catholic works, and of the middle or end of the sixth century; 
they obviously took the place of certain mosaics perhaps full 
of Arian doctrines which then stood there. On the other hand, 
the castello of Classis, the Christ enthroned with angels, the 
Virgin enthroned with angels, the Prophets or Fathers, and 
the scenes of Our Lord's life and teaching, above them, are 
of Theodoric's time. The city of Ravenna I am perhaps alone 
in attributing to the later period. Dr. Ricci — and he is of 
course an almost infallible authority — attributes it to the 
time of Theodoric. It does not seem to me to be so. All this, 
however, must be understood to refer to such parts of these 
mosaics as have not suffered restoration, which, however, has 
not often been as drastic as that which has befallen the 
figures of the Magi; of which the upper parts are new, as are 
the figures of the two outer angels. 

We have here then under our eyes the two schools of 
mosaics, that of Rome and that of Constantinople. It is 
easy to see that the Roman work, the original work that is, 
is more classical and realistic than the rich and glorious 
figures of the processions; but it is not decoratively so 
successful. Indeed I know of nothing anywhere that is more 
artistically, dramatically, and as it were HturgicaUy satisfying 


than these long processions on either side of S. Apollinare 

Little else remains in the church worth notice except an 
ancient ambo under the arcade in the nave and the chapel of 
the Relics at the top of the left aisle. This was largely built 
of ancient fragments in the sixteenth century. We see there 
two beautiful alabaster columns with capitals of serpentine 
with two small columns of verde antico also with ancient 
capitals. The screen is Byzantine. The walls are ornamented 
with bas-reliefs and paintings, but above all these we see there 
a marvellous portrait in mosaic of the emperor Justinian as 
an old man, unhappily restored in 1863. The altar is 
ancient and above it'is a marble coffer with Renaissance orna- 
ments, upheld by four columns of porphyry, having two 
Byzantine and two Roman capitals. On the Epistle side of 
the altar here is a marble chair — a Roman thing. 

From that splendid and well-preserved church we pass to 
that of the Spirito Santo. Unhappily this once glorious 
building has suffered as much as any church left to us in 
Ravenna, for it was almost entirely rebuilt in 1543 when the 
portico we see was added to it, and in 1627 was restored and 
adorned, as it was in 1854 ^^^ 1896. That it was founded 
and built by the Goths and reconciled later for CathoHc use 
appears in Agnellus' life of the archbishop S. Agnellus, where 
we read that of old the Arian Episcopio stood near by, together 
with a bath and a monaster of S. ApoUinare. What the 
monastero may have been we do not know, but the bath was 
perhaps the Arian baptistery known as S. Maria in Cosmedin. 

The church of the Spirito Santo was not in Arian times 
known under that dedication, but was called of S. Theodore. 
It owes the pleasing portico it now possesses, as I have said, 
to the sixteenth century, but that portico is itself largely 
constructed of old materials, being upheld by eight antique 
columns, of which six are of Greek marble. These originally 
supported the baldacchino over the high altar. Within, the 
church is divided into three naves by fourteen columns, 


thirteen of which are of bigio antico, and the other, the last on 
the Epistle side towards the altar, of a rare and curious marble 
known as verde sanguigno. The capitals are of Theodoric's 
time, late Roman work. 

Very Httle remains in the church that is of any interest to 
us. In the sacristy, however, we may see in the present 
lavabo some fragments of the ancient ciborio. And in the 
nave at the western end on the Gospel side is an 
ancient sarcophagus of Greek marble which was carved 
in the Renaissance and in the seventeenth century became 
the sepulchre of one of the Pasolini family. In the first 
chapel on this side of the church is the ancient ambone 
removed from the nave in the sixteenth century, and in the 
second are two columns of pavonazzetto marble. 

Something better is to be had in the utterly desolate 
baptistery close by known as S. Maria in Cosmedin. This 
was originally, as we may think, the ancient bath of which 
Agnellus speaks, and it was converted into a baptistery by 
the Arians, and later consecrated for CathoUc uses under the 
title of S. Maria in Cosmedin and used as an oratory. It is an 
octagonal building whose walls support a cupola which is 
covered with mosaics in circles hke that of the original 
baptistery of the city. In the midst we see Christ almost a 
youth standing naked in Jordan immersed to his waist. 
Upon His left, S. John stands upon a rock, his staflF in his left 
hand, while his right rests upon the head of Our Lord. 
Opposite to him sits enthroned the old god of Jordan, a reed 
in his hand, Hstening, perhaps, to the words of the Father: 
" This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." 
Over Christ's head the Dove is displayed in the golden 

About the central mosaic is set a band of palm leaves, 
while on the outer circle we see the twelve Apostles very much 
like the martyrs of S. ApoUinare standing dressed in white, 
their crowns in their hands between palms. Only S. Peter and 
another, perhaps S. John or S. Paul, do not bear crowns, but 


S. Peter his keys and the other a book. Between them is set 
a throne on which stands a jewelled cross. 

It is exceedingly difficult to say when these mosaics were 
executed, for they have been so entirely restored that very 
little of the original work is left to us. They are certainly 
very early for work of the Catholic restoration; and yet they 
remind one strongly of the processions of S. ApoUinare Nuovo. 
If as a whole the design of these mosaics is of the time of the 
archbishop S. Agnellus, it is curious that the subject of the 
Baptism should have been used for a church which by his 
act had ceased to be a baptistery. The most reasonable 
hypothesis would seem to be that the design and choice of 
subject is in the main due to the Arians; that the central disc 
remains late work of their time in so far as it is original at all. 
While the apostles may be in the main the work of the Catholic 

Theodoric was, as these works serve to show, a great builder 
of churches in his capital. Not aU of them have remained to 
our day. Dr. Ricci has thought that we see something of one 
of them in the Portico Antico of the Piazza Maggiore where 
there are eight columns of granite upon the left of the Palazzo 
del Comune with late Roman capitals, four of which have the 
monogram of the Gothic king. The church of S. Andrea,-*^ 
according to Dr. Ricci, stood by the city wall, near where the 
Venetians in the fifteenth century built their Rocca, destroy- 
ing the church to make room for it. Dr. Ricci suggests that 
when they began to construct the Portico of the Piazza they 
used, as indeed they more than any other people were wont 
to do, the material of the demolished church in their new 
building and among it these great columns with their Roman 
capitals and strange monograms. 

But astonishing though these churches are which Theodoric 
built by the art and hands of the Italians during the genera- 
tion of his rule in Ravenna, they would not impress us with 

^ S. Andrea was, according to Rasponi, op. cit. ut supra, the same 
as the chapel of the Arcivescovado called S. Pier Crisologo. 


the strength and importance of his personality and govern- 
ment, as undoubtedly they do, if we had not in his mausoleum 
perhaps the most impressive late Roman building left to us 
practically intact in all Italy, a thing which, quite as much as 
the mightier tomb of Hadrian, assures us of the enormous 
vitality of Roman civilisation, its weight, endurance, and 
unfailing continuance through every sort of disaster and 

This mighty monument is situated upon the north-east 
of the city, perhaps upon the old Roman road the Via Popilia. 
That it was built by Theodoric himself might seem certain. 
For though it has been said that it was erected by Amalasuntha 
the Anonymus Valesii tells us that Theodoric built it before 
he died. " While yet he lived he made a monument of 
squared stone, a work of marvellous greatness, covered with 
a single stone." It is perhaps of little consequence to whom 
we owe this mighty tomb, for it is absolutely, and in any 
case, Roman work, and might seem to have been modelled 
upon the far larger and more tremendous mausoleum of 
Hadrian. •'^ 

The mausoleum is built in two stories of block after block 
of hewn and squared stone. The lower of the two stories is 
decagonal and has in every side a vast archway or niche, one 
of which forms the gateway. Within we find a huge cruciform 
chamber lighted by six square openings. The upper story, 
now reached by two stairways, built with ancient materials in 
1774, is circular, having about it eighteen blind arches and 
over it a vast circular roof hewn out of a single block of 
Istrian stone that weighs, it is said, two hundred tons. It 
may be that this upper story, smaller as it is than the lower, 
was of old surrounded by a colonnade, and it may be that 
the twelve projections upon the vast monolith of the roof 

^ Choisy points out that the mausoleum of Theodoric has stylistic 
affinities with Sjnrian work, and Strzygowski, who reminds us that 
several bishops of Ravenna were Syrians, thinks that Ravenna in much 
derived from Syria especially from Antioch. 



once upheld statutes of the twelve Apostles. We do not 

Here in this mighty tomb, which is known in Ravenna as 
La Rotonda, abandoned now in an unkempt garden, Theodoric, 
who expected to found a line of kings who would one day lie 
beside him; as long as he lay there at all, lay there alone. 
Not for long, however, did he enjoy that solitude. Already, 
when Agnellus wrote his Liber Pontificalis, the tomb was 
empty. He tells us that the porphyry urn, which had served 
as sepulchre for the Gothic king, then stood at the door of the 
Benedictine monastery close by, and that it was empty. And 
it seemed to him, he says, that the body of the king had been 
thrown out of the mausoleum because a heretic and a bar- 
barian, as we may suppose, was not worthy of it. At any rate 
the body of Theodoric was no longer in the mausoleum in the 
beginning of the ninth century, and it is certain that it had 
been ejected thence many years before. In the year 1854 ^ 
gang of navvies who were excavating a dock between the 
railway station and the Corsini Canal, some two hundred 
yards perhaps from the mausoleum, and on the site of an old 
cemetery, came upon a skeleton " armed with a golden cuirass, 
a sword by its side, and a golden helmet upon its head. In 
the hilt of the sword and in the helmet large jewels were 
blazing." Most of this booty they disposed of, but a few 
pieces were recovered and these are now in the Museo. It 
might seem that this can have been none other than the body 
of the great Gothic king. Indeed Dr. Ricci finds the orna- 
ment upon the armour to be similar to the decoration upon 
the cornice of the mausoleum. If this be so it puts the matter 
almost beyond doubt. 

Theodoric was not allowed to rest in the mighty tomb that 
Latin genius had built for him; but for ages many, famous 

1 On the other hand, these projections are thought by many to have 
been used as rings for the ropes by which the roof was hauled up an 
inchned bank of earth into place. They each bear the name of an 
Apostle, and are similar to the small abutting arches round the dome 
of S. Sophia at Salonica. 


and distinguished in their day, sought to lie under a monument 
so splendid. The place became a sort of pantheon. Long 
before then, however, it had been consecrated as a church, 
S. Maria della Rotonda, and a Benedictine monastery had 
been founded close by whose monks served it. To-day that 
monastery has utterly disappeared, and there are no signs 
of a church in the Rotonda. Only the mausoleum remains 
in a tangled garden, far from any road, empty and deserted. 



When Belisarius entered Ravenna in 540, he apparently 
found more than one new building begun but not finished; 
of these the chief was the church of S. Vitale. This magnifi- 
cent octagonal building with its narthex and atrium had, 
according to Agnellus, been founded by the Archbishop S. 
Ecclesius, that is to say, between 521 and 534, It was 
apparently finished and decorated later by Julius Argentarius, 
and was consecrated by the archbishop S. Maximianus in 547. 
In plan it resembles very closely the church of SS. Sergius 
and Bacchus in Constantinople built by Justinian about 527. 
As we know both Justinian and Theodora, his empress, con- 
tributed largely to the perfecting of S. Vitale, which remains 
certainly his most glorious monument in the West. 

The plan of the church, as I have said, is octagonal, sur- 
mounted by a dome octagonal without but circular within. 
From one of these eight sides the sanctuary is thrust out, 
flanked on either side by a circular chapel with a rectangular 
presbytery. Standing obliquely across one of the two angles 
of the octagon, directly opposite this sanctuary, stretched the 
narthex flanked by circular towers. The great octagon is 
divided into two stories, each of which has three windows 
upon each of the eight sides, the octagonal dome being lighted 
by eight single windows. 



Within the great octagon formed by the walls is a smaller 
octagon formed by an arcade of mighty piers which upholds 
the cupola. This arcade contains a double loggia which thus 
runs round the whole church with the exception of the pres- 
bytery, where it ends in lofty tribunes. It is upheld between 
the piers by columns of precious marble having capitals of 
the most marvellous beauty. 

The space within this inner octagon is covered with a pave- 
ment laid down in the sixteenth century, consisting of all 
sorts of fragments of mosaics and marbles which that century 
destroyed. The upper loggia was of old the gyneceo, the place 
of the women. Nothing I think left to us in the world is more 
sumptuous and gorgeous than this interior. Everywhere are 
glittering mosaics, precious slabs of marble, priceless columns 
of beautiful marble. And where the mosaics have been 
destroyed or left unfinished, as in the cupola and the body 
of the church, baroque artists have filled the place with 
their paintings, paintings which in their own style are 
matchless and which it is now foolishly proposed should be 

In our examination of the church we turn first to the 

presbytery, which is entirely encrusted with most precious 

marbles and mosaics. In the midst of it stands the altar 

consisting of slabs of semi-transparent alabaster, within which 

of old lights were set. The marvellously lovely piece which 

serves for the altar stone itself is supported by four columns, 

and that piece which serves for frontal is carved with a great 

cross between two sheep. This altar had long disappeared, 

but piece by piece it was recovered; the beautiful altar stone 

itself was found behind an altar in a chapel now destroyed in 

this church, and was re-erected as we see it in 1899. 

' We know nothing of any mosaics other than those in the presby- 
tery and the tribunes; it may be that the church was covered with 
mosaic or was painted by the Byzantine artists, and this as well where 
the marble slabs now cover the piers as elsewhere. If so it must have 
been glorious indeed. Nothing that we can do can restore this work 
to us, and we achieve nothing but desti'uction by destroying the work 
that is now there. 

s. vitale: the presbytery. 

(Exhtb. R.A. igii) 


In the same chapel stood till then the beautiful low fretted 
screens that now are set across the apse behind the altar, 
where indeed they remained till 1700, according to Dr. Ricci. 
The lower part of the apse and the piers of the presbytery 
have been covered with fine marbles, some of which are 
ancient, but the vault, the lunettes, and the walls are entirely 
encrusted with gorgeous mosaics. 

The presbytery is approached from the inner octagon of 
the church under a triumphal arch. In the curve of this we 
see amid much decorative ornament fifteen circular discs 
containing the head of Our Lord, the twelve Apostles, S. 
Gervasius, and S. Protasius. Beneath these are two monu- 
ments variously formed. Dr. Ricci tells us, in the sixteenth 
century. The four columns which they contain originally 
supported the baldacchino over the high altar here; three 
of them are of verde antico. Framed by these columns are 
two Roman reliefs from a frieze originally in the Temple of 
Neptune, other parts of which are in the Sala Lapidaria in the 
Arcivescovado here, in the Louvre, in the Uffizi, in the 
CasteUo of Milan, and in the Museo Archeologico at Venice. 
They are indubitably of course the oldest things in the church. 

Within this triumphal arch upon either side rise the 
tribunes in which the upper loggia of the church itself comes 
to an end. These tribunes, which are exceedingly beautiful, 
consist of two triple arches, one above the other on either 
side, and the columns which support them, with their marvel- 
lous capitals, are I suppose among the most glorious left in 
Christendom. The arches themselves and the lunettes upon 
either side are encrusted with mosaics. In the lunette upon 
the right on either side an altar gorgeously draped, Abel 
offers to God the firstling of his flock and Melchizedek Bread 
and Wine. Upon the face of the arch we see Moses tending 
the sheep of Jethro, Moses upon Mount Hebron, and Moses 
before the burning bush. In the lunette upon the left we have 
the sacrifice of Abraham of his only son, and the visit of the 
three angels to Abraham and Sara. Upon the face of the arch 


we see Jeremiah the Prophet and Moses upon Mount Sinai. 
Above, upon the bahistrades, as it were, of the upper loggia 
we see angels upholding a circle in which is the sign of the 
Cross, and above again upon the face of the arches on either 
side the four Evangelists and their symbols. The vault is 
entirely covered with ornaments in mosaic, amid which three 
angels rise and support with uplifted hands the central disc in 
which is represented the Agnus Dei. 

Though these mosaics have suffered much from unforeseen 
disaster and from restoration they still delight us with their 
richness and splendour, and nothing I think can well be finer 
than their effect, their decorative effect as a whole. They 
seem to hang there like some gorgeous Eastern tapestry of 
Persian stuff, as Dr. Ricci says, some unfading and inde- 
structible tapestry of the Orient left by chance or forgetful- 
ness in the old capital of the West. 

We now turn to the apse, which we enter under a second 
triumphal arch upon the face of which we see upon the left 
the city of Hierusalem and upon the left Bethlehem. A 
cypress stands at the gate of each, and between them two 
angels in flight uphold a discus or aureole having within it 
eight rays. Above this again are three windows about which 
is spread a gorgeous decoration in mosaic. 

Beneath within the tribune of the apse we see Our Lord, 
" beautiful as Apollo," enthroned upon the orb of the world, 
an angel upon either hand, while to his right stands S. Vitalis 
to whom He hands a crown, to His left S. Ecclesius bearing 
the model of this church in his hand. 

Beneath upon either side stand the two great mosaic pictures, 
the most marvellous works of the sixth century that have come 
down to us and perhaps the most glorious and splendid works 
of art which that age was able to achieve, and it is needless to 
say that there is nothing like them anywhere in the world. 

Upon the left we see the great emperor, perhaps the 
greatest of all the Caesars, Justinian, bearing in his hands a 
golden dish; beside him stands the archbishop of Ravenna, 



S. Maximianus. A little behind these two figures and on 
either side stand five attendant priests, and on the extreme 
left of the picture is a group of soldiers. 
ji^ In the mosaic upon the right we see the empress Theodora, 
straight browed, most 
gorgeously arrayed, 
very beautiful and a 
little sinister, bearing a 
golden chalice, attended 
by her splendid ladies 
and two priests. Upon 
the extreme left of the 
picture stands a Httle 
fountain before an open 
doorway hung with a 

What can be said of 
these gorgeous and 
astonishingly lovely 
works ? Nothing. They 
speak too eloquently for 
themselves. Not there 
do we see the mere 
realism of Rome, the 
careful and often too 
careful arrangement 
that Roman art, able 
to speak but incapable 

of song, always gives us. Here we have something at 
once more gorgeous and more mysterious and more artistic, 
a symbohcal and hieratic art, the gift of the Orient, of 
Byzantium. In the best Roman art of the best period 
there is always something of the street, something too 
close to life, too mere a transcription and a copy of actual 
things, a mere imitation without life of its own. But here 
is something outside the classical tradition, outside what 

Capital from S. Vitale 



imperial Rome with its philistinism and its puritanism has 
made of the art of Greece and thrust perhaps for ever upon 
Europe. Here we are free from the overwhelming common- 
place of Roman art, its mediocrity and respectable endeavour. 

It is, however, not in the gorgeous mosaics alone that we find 
the delight and originality of S. Vitale. The whole church 
is amazingly different from anything else to be seen in Italy, 
for it is altogether outside the Roman tradition, an absolutely 
Byzantine building as well in its construction as in its decora- 
tion. It must be compared with the later S. Sophia and 
SS. Sergius and Bacchus of Constantinople. These, however, 
are works more assured and more gracious than S. Vitale, and 
yet in its plan at least S. Vitale is a masterpiece, and altogether 
the one great sanctuary of Byzantine art of the time of 
Justinian that we have in the West. Every part of it is 
worthy of the strictest and most eager attention, from the 
ambulatory, which was covered in 1902 with old marble slabs 
and where there are two early Christian sarcophagi, to the 
restored Cappella Sancta Sanctorum with its fifth-century 
sarcophagus, the tomb of the exarch Isaac, and the lofty 
Matronceum, the women's gallery, from which the best view 
of the mosaics and the marvellously carved Byzantine 
capitals may be had. Nor should the narthex be forgotten, 
mere skeleton though it be. It is characteristic of such a 
church as this, and set as it is obliquely to it, is original in 
conception and curious. 

When we have finished with S. Vitale it is well to leave 
Ravenna and to drive by the lofty road over the marshes to 
the solitary church of S. ApoUinare in Classe which was built 
also by Giuliano Argentario for archbishop Ursicinus (535-538) 
and was consecrated by archbishop Maximianus in 549. 

Classis, Classe, as we know, was the station or port of the 
Roman fleet, established and built by Augustus Caesar. It was 
doubtless a great place enjoying the busy and noisy life of a 
great port and arsenal and possessed vast barracks for the 
soldiers and sailors of the imperial fleet. Later even when 


disasters had fallen upon that great civilisation it maintained 
itself, and from the fifth to the seventh centuries we hear of 
its churches, S. Apollinare, S. Severo, S. Probo, S. Raffaele, 
S. Agnese, S. Giovanni " ad Titum," S. Sergio juxta mridarium, 
and the great Basilica Petriana. 

It was joined to the city of Ravenna by the long suburb of 
the Via Csesarea, much I suppose as the Porto di Lido is 
joined to Venice by the Riva or as Rovezzano is joined to 
Florence by the Via Aretina. Of all the buildings that 
together made up the Castello of Classe and the suburb of 
Caesarea nothing remains to us but the mighty church of 
S. Apollinare and its great and now tottering campanile. For 
Classe and Caesarea seem to have been finally destroyed in 
the long Lombard wars, either as a precautionary measure by 
the people of Ravenna and the imperialists or by the attack- 
ing Lombards, while the sea which once washed the walls of 
Classe has retreated so far that it is only from the top of her 
last watch tower it may now be seen. 

Nothing can be more desolate and sad than the miserable 
road across the empty country between Ravenna and that 
lonely church of S. Apollinare. In summer deep in dust 
that rises, under the heavy tread of the great oxen which 
draw the curiously painted carts of the countryside, in great 
clouds into the sky; in winter and after the autumn rains lost 
in the white curtain of mist that so often surrounds Ravenna, 
it is an almost impassable morass of mud and misery. Even 
at its best in spring time it is melancholy and curiously mean 
without any beauty or nobility of its own, though it commands 
so much of those vast spaces of flat and half desolate country 
which the sea has destroyed, on the verge of which stands the 
lonely church. 

One comes to this great basilica always I think as to a ruin, 
to find without surprise the doors closed and only to be opened 
after long knocking. The round campanile that towers and 
seems to totter in its strange dilapidation beside the church 
is so beautiful that it surprises one at once by its melancholy 


nobility in the midst of so much meanness and desolation. It 
is a building of the ninth century, and may well have been 
used as much as a watch tower as a bell tower. Till recently 
it had at its base a sacristy, but this has been swept away. 
Of old the church too had before it a great narthex of which 
certain ruins are left, among them a little tower on the left. 

Within we find ourselves in a vast basilica divided into three 
naves upheld by twenty-four marvellous columns of great 
size and beauty, of Greek marble, with beautiful Byzantine 
bases and capitals. The central nave is closed by a curved 
apse set high over a great crypt thrust out beyond the rest of 
the church. Beyond the two aisles are two chapels each with 
its little curved apse. The walls of the church and the walls 
above the arcade were undoubtedly originally covered, in 
the one case with splendid marbles, in the other with mosaics. 
The walls of the church were, however, stripped in 1449 by 
Sigismondo Malatesta of Rimini when he was building, or 
rather encasing, the church of S. Francesco in Rimini with 
marbles, and turning what had been a Gothic church of brick 
into what we know as the Tempio Malatestiano, by the hands 
of Alberti. We know that a great quantity of marble of 
different kinds was gathered by Sigismondo from all parts of 
Italy, not only to furnish the interior of his Tempio, but to 
cover the exterior also according to the design of Leon Alberti. 
Even the sepulchral stones from the old Franciscan convent 
of S. Francesco in Rimini were used and the blocks which the 
people of Fano had collected for their church. S. ApoUinare 
in Classe was then in Benedictine hands. With the consent of 
the Abate there, very many ancient and valuable marbles 
were torn from the walls and carried off by Sigismondo to 
Rimini; so many in fact that the people of Ravenna com- 
plained to the Venetian doge Francesco Foscari, saying that 
Sigismondo had despoiled the church. The doge, however, 
seems to have cared nothing about it and Sigismondo sent to 
Ravenna and to the Abate two hundred gold florins, so that 
both declared themselves satisfied. Then the church passed 

Interior of S. Apollinare in Classe 


into the hands of the cardinal bishop of Bologna, brother of 
the pope, the learned humanist Nicholas V., who was friendly 
disposed towards Sigismondo. The cardinal appears readily 
to have given Sigismondo leave to take all he desired. And 
presently a hundred waggons arrived in Rimini laden with 
various marbles, the spoil of the church. In 1476, however, 
the Republic of Venice, which had held Ravenna since 1441, 
determined to restore S. Apollinare, but achieved very little. 
The portraits which now stand over the arcade of the bishops 
and archbishops of Ravenna from S. Apollinaris, the first 
bishop and titular of this church, are not the work of the 
fifteenth but of the eighteenth century. 

But in spite of vandalism and ruin S. Apollinare remains 
one of the most interesting churches in Italy. In the midst 
of the nave there still happily stands the altar which S. 
Maximianus, the archbishop who consecrated the church in 
549, erected. Doubtless of old it was surrounded by screens, 
as is the altar of the Duomo; these were probably lovely with 
tracery and over them rose the amhone. In the ninth century 
we learn that this altar, dedicated in honour of the Blessed 
Virgin, was covered with a beautiful baldachin upheld by 
four porphyry columns. Beneath was the confession where 
were laid the bones of S. Apollinaris, the first bishop of 
Ravenna, the disciple of S. Peter in Antioch. There, as it is 
said, they remained from the time of S. Maximianus, who 
brought them into the church from some other sanctuary, 
possibly, as Dr. Ricci suggests, from the church of S. Romoaldo, 
finally destroyed in the eighteenth century, till 1 173, save for 
the brief period in which it is asserted the archbishop Maurus 
removed them and hid them away in the seventh century. 
In 1 1 73 they were placed in the crypt in a beautiful sar- 
cophagus of Greek marble. This sarcophagus still remains 
in the crypt, but the bones of the first bishop of Ravenna 
are now under the modern high altar of the church. 

The high altar is reached by a flight of steps built in the 
eighteenth century. Over it was set a baldachin upheld by 



four ancient columns of black and white Egyptian marble 
that dated from the end of the ninth century. In the apse 
itself we find at the ends of the choir part of the marble 
throne of Archbishop Damianus (688-708), and in the tribune 
here the great mosaic, the latest in Ravenna, dating, in so far as 
it is still original, from 
the sixth century. 

There we see in the 
midst a vast Cross en- 
closed in a great circle. 
In the midst of the 
Cross is the head of the 
Saviour of the world. 
Above in the heavens 
the hand of the Eternal 
Father points down- 
wards to the Cross be- 
neath and upon either 
side kneel Moses and 
Elias. Beneath this 
great Cross, his hands 
uplifted as though he 
were calling us to prayer 
with the words Dominus 
vobiscum, stands S. Apol- 
linaris vested in alb 
and chasuble, the Pal- 
lium about his shoulders. Towards him in the midst, 
on either side, six sheep seem to move among the flowers 
and trees and stones of a wood, in the background of 
which are three other sheep, two on one side and one on the 
other. According to Crowe and Cavalcaselle the space in 
which S. Apollinaris stands is divided into three courses, the 
first containing a Christian flock of twelve sheep, the second 
rocks and trees, and the third three sheep symbolising 
Apostles, separated from each other by trees. As it seems 

Capital from S. Vitale 


to me, these three sheep belong rather to the upper part of 
the mosaic which, with the Cross in the midst, bearing the 
face of Our Lord, and on either side Moses and Ehas, symbolises 
the Transfiguration. These three sheep would thus represent 
S. Peter, S. James and S. John. 

Beneath between the windows we see represented four 
Bishops of Ravenna, S. Ursinus, S. Ursus, S. Severus, and 
S. Ecclesius. To the right are the sacrifices of Abel, Mel- 
chizedek, and Abraham. To the left the privileges of the 
church of Ravenna. In the midst we see an archbishop and 
the emperor who hands him a scroll on which is written 
privilegia. To the left are three priests bearing fire, incense, 
and a thurible. To the right are three other figures supporting 
the emperor as the three priests support the archbishop. 
Doubtless this mosaic records the privileges granted to the 
church of Ravenna by Constantinople. The archbishop is 
-probably Reparatus who received so much from the Emperor 
Constantinus IV. Two of the figures who attend the emperor 
represent Herachus and Tiberius. This mosaic is the latest 
in the church, dating from 668. 

Over the arch of the tribune is a medallion bust of the 
Saviour holding a book in His left hand and blessing us with 
His right. Upon either side are symbols of the four 
Evangelists in the clouds of the sky. Beneath we see on 
either side the cities of Bethlehem and Hierusalem, from each 
of which issue six sheep — perhaps the twelve apostles. 
Beneath again are two palm trees and again the archangels 
Gabriel and Michael and S. Luke and S. Matthew. 

These mosaics have often been remade and repaired. When 
Crowe and Cavalcaselle examined them before i860 they 
found that the whole tunic of the Moses had been repainted 
and half the face of the Elias had been restored. They 
proceed: " The head of S. ApoUinare is in part damaged, the 
left hand and lower part of the figure destroyed. The sheep 
beside S. ApoUinare, but particularly those on the right of 
that figure, are almost completely modern. A large part of the 


left side of the apsis is repainted, of the four bishops between 
the windows of the tribune the head of Ecclesius is preserved, 
the lower part repainted. The head of S. Ursinus is a new 
mosaic, and the lower half of the figure is restored. In the 
mosaic of the sacrifice half the head from the eyes upwards 
and part of the arms of Abel are repainted, the legs have 
become dropsical under repair. The figures of Abraham and 
Isaac are almost completely repainted, and the hands and feet 
are formless for that reason. This mosaic is repaired in two 
different ways with white cubes coloured over and with 
painted stucco. In the mosaic representing the tender of 
privileges the nimbi as already stated are new, but besides, 
the lower part of all the figures is repainted in stucco and the 
heads are all more or less repaired. Of the figures in the arch 
that of the archangel Gabriel is half ruined and half restored, 
and part of S. Matthew and S. Luke are new." 

Since Crowe and Cavalcaselle wrote a vast restoration has 
been undertaken, and this was finished in 1908. It was very 
carefully carried out and it is to be believed that the work as 
we see it is now secure. 

There is much else of interest in the church: the beautiful 
crypt with its ancient sarcophagus of S. ApolHnare and its 
columns; the ten great sarcophagi which stand about the 
church, three of which contain the rehcs of archbishops of 
Ravenna ; the curious tabernacle at the end of the north aisle. 
But a whole morning, or for that matter a whole day, is not 
too much to spend in this beautiful and deserted sanctuary 
which bridges for us so many centuries and in which we are 
made one with those who helped to estabUsh the foundations 
of Europe, 



The last great original work to be undertaken in Ravenna as 
the capital of the empire in the West was the building and 
decoration of the churches of S. Vitale and S. Apollinare in 
Classe. All the Byzantine work that was done later in 
Ravenna is merely imitative, an expression of failing power 
under the crushing disaster of the Lombard invasion. When 
at last Aistulf in 75 1 made himself master of the impregnable 
city, it ceased, and suddenly, to be a capital, and though in 
754 Pepin " restored " it to the papacy and established the 
pope throughout the Exarchate and the Pentapolis, he by that 
act founded the Papal States, whose capital of necessity was 
Rome. Thus Ravenna found herself when Charlemagne had 
been crowned emperor in 800 little more than a decaying 
provincial city, without authority or hope of resurrection, 
and it is as a city of the provinces full only of gigantic 
memories that she appears in the Middle Age and the Renais- 
sance and remains to our own day. 

The appearance of Charlemagne, the resurrection of the 
empire in the West, confirm and consoHdate the misfortune 
of 751 in which indeed she lost everything. But when we see 
the great Frank strip the imperial palace of its marbles and 
mosaics it is as though the fate of Ravenna had been expressed 
in some great ceremony and not by unworthy hands. An 
emperor had set her up so high, an emperor had kept her 




there so long; it was an emperor who, as in a last great rite, 
stript her of her apparel and left her naked with her memories. 

Those memories, not only- 
splendid and glorious, but gaunt 
and terrible too, smoulder in 
her ruined heart as the fire may 
do in the ashes when aU that 
was living and glorious has been 
consumed. Almost nothing as 
she became when Charlemagne 
left her, a mere body stiU wrapt 
in gorgeous raiment stiff with 
gold, but without a soul, she 
still dreamt of dominion, of 
empire, and of power. Gov- 
erned by her archbishops, she 
rebelled against Rome, struggled 
for a secular and sometimes a 
religious autonomy, and came at 
last, as surely might have been 
prophesied, to consider herself 
as a feudatory of the Empire, 
not of the Church, 

But though this struggle 
might have been foreseen it is 
futile, it has no life in it, it is 
without any real importance, it 
leads nowhere and fails to in- 
terest us. All that really con- 
cerns us in the confused story 
of Ravenna from the time of 
the resurrection of the empire till our own day are two strange 
incidents that have nothing fundamentally to do with her, 
that befell her by chance; I mean the apparition of Dante, 
when we see the most eager mediaeval apologist of the imperial 
idea fortunately and rightly find in her a refuge and a tomb; 

The Campanile of S. Apollinare 


and the battle of 15 12 in which fell Gaston de Foix and which 
cost the lives of twelve thousand men and achieved nothing. 
Nevertheless Ravenna, for so long the citadel of the empire 
in the West, of all the cities of Italy was least likely to forget 
her origin or to forsake her memories, and it is both curious 
and interesting to watch her entry, little splendid though that 
entry be, into the marvellously vital world of the Middle Age 
in Italy. 

The slow re-establishment of Latin power which followed 
the crowning of Charlemagne, and which the Church secured 
by that act, first began to come to its own with the rise of the 

^ bishops to civil power in the cities of Italy. Now Ravenna had 
certainly been governed by her archbishop ever since Pepin in 
754 had forced Aistulf to place the keys of the city upon the 
tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. If nowhere else in the 
Cisalpine plain, Latin civilisation and law, then, never failed 
in Ravenna, and whatever may have happened elsewhere it 
might seem certain that here in Ravenna and probably 
throughout the exarchate the curia existed and endured 
throughout the barbarian confusion. 

This would explain the early and extraordinary develop- 

"" ment of communal institutions in Ravenna. And since, one 
may believe, the Roman legions were replaced throughout 
the empire by the religious orders, it is interesting to know 
that in the tenth century her Latin energy is borne witness to 
by the fact that in 956 she produced S. Romuald of the 
Onesti family of Ravenna, who was educated in the Bene- 
dictine monastery of Classe and who founded the Order of 
Camaldoli, and toward the end of the same century, in 988, she 
produced S. Peter Damian, the brother of the arch-priest of 
Ravenna, cardinal-bishop of Ostia and papal legate in Milan. 
Nor with the rise of the " spirito italico " everywhere in 
Italy do we find Ravenna exhausted. Far from it, she is as 
ardent as any other city of the peninsula whatsoever. Only 
""' always she is anti-papal, as though, living in her memories, as 
she could not but do, and this was her greatest strength, she 


remembered her old allegiance to the emperor and could not 
forget that when the pope became his heir in Italy she had 
fallen from her old eminence. Thus as early as the first years 
of the eleventh century her archbishop obtains confirmation 
from the emperor of his temporal powers, in which confirma- 
tion no recognition of the sovereignty of the pope appears at 
all. This act of allegiance to the emperor was repeated when 
Barbarossa appeared, and indeed the archbishops of Ravenna 
soon became the most eager if not most the serious supporters 
of the emperors in all the great plain and perhaps in all Italy, 
Ravenna, once the imperial capital, though fallen was 
imperial still. She was haunted, haunted by ghosts that 
were restless in those marvellous tombs, that litter her 
churches, loom out of the grey curtain of mist like a fortress, 
or shine and glitter with imperishable colours and are full of 
memories as imperishable as themselves. 

Yet though it was to her the emperors so often looked for 
aid and succour and rest, it was not always so. The present, 
even with her, was more than the past. With the great 
development of communal institutions which marked especi- 
ally the twelfth century, compelled too to face, though never 
with success, the increasing state of Venice, which, indeed, 
and successfully, had usurped her place in the world and had 
realised what she had failed to achieve, she was ready and 
able in 1198 to place herself at the head of the league of the 
cities of the Romagna and the Marches against the imperial 
power then both oppressive and feeble; so that pope Innocent 
III. found it easy to restore the unforgotten rights of the Holy 
See there and these were ratified by Otto IV. and by 
Frederick II. as the price of papal siipport. 

It will thus be readily understood that if, at the opening 
of the thirteenth century, there was one city in Italy more 
certain than another to be at the mercy of the universal 
quarrel of Guelf and Ghibelline, that city was Ravenna. 
In its larger sense that quarrel was her inheritance. It was the 
one thought which filled her mind. But here, as elsewhere, 


the great quarrel was insoluble or at any rate not to be solved. 
It merely bred faction and divided the city against itself. 
Guelf and GhibeUine tore Ravenna as they tore Florence and 
Siena in pieces. 

The two great GhibeUine families were the Ubertini and 
the Mainardi and these at first gained the mastery of the city; 
but in 1 21 8 Pietro Traversari with the aid of the Mainardi 
turned the Ubertini out and, what is more, made himself 

Pietro Traversari was succeeded as Podesta in 1225 by his 
son Paolo, who became Guelf and fought in Innocent IV.'s 
quarrel against the emperor Frederick II.; Frederick was 
able to turn the Traversari out of Ravenna in 1240 and 
to hold the city for eight years, but in 1248 the pope retook 
it and the Traversari were restored though not I think to 
the chief power. They remained in power tiU in the last 
year of the reign of Gregory X., 1275, Guido da Polenta 

Rudolph of Hapsburg was now king — not emperor, for he 
was never crowned by the pope. He had been a partisan of 
the second Frederick's, but pope Nicholas III. did not find in 
the founder of the Hapsburg dynasty the stuff of the Hohen- 
staufen. In 1278 he forced Rudolph to secure to him by an 
" irrevocable decree " all that the papacy had ever claimed in 
the Exarchate and the Pentapolis. The empire renounced 
all its claims in the Romagna and the Marches; the confines 
of the states of the Church were defined anew, and the cities 
of which the pope was absolute lord were named one by one. 
Of course among these was Ravenna. 

The Polentani appear first in the story of Ravenna in or 
about the year 1 167, when we find them acting as vicars for the 
archbishops. We next hear of them as Podesta, their long 
rule really beginning, as I have said, in 1275, when Guido il 
Vecchio, a rather formidable soldier, appears as captain of 
the people and victor over Cervia, whose territory he added 
to the dominion of Ravenna, It was indeed this man 


who first in the Ravenna of the Middle Ages attempted 
to establish an independent or semi-independent state, by 
adding territory to territory and thus creating a lordship. 
For this end he allied himself with the Malatesta of Rimini — 
a master stroke, for the Polentani of Ravenna and the Mala- 
testa of Rimini had long been bitter foes. 

The alliance was cemented by a marriage which all the 
world knows as an immortal tragedy. Guido Vecchio had 
a beautiful daughter, Francesca. Malatesta had two sons, 
the elder Giovanni called, for he was a cripple, lo Sciancato, 
the younger, for he was very fair, known as Paolo il Bello. 
To secure their alliance Polenta married his daughter 
Francesca to Malatesta's elder son Giovanni; but she had 
already learned to love, or she soon came to love, his brother 
Paolo il Bello. Giovanni came upon them one night in 
Rimini and killed them both with one thrust of his sword. 
The tragedy, however, should only be told in the immortal 
words of Dante, who recounts the tale Francesca told him in 
the second circle of the Inferno. For seeing Francesca and 
her lover floating for ever in each other arms " light before 
the wind," as the wind swayed them towards Virgil and 
himself the Florentine addressed them : 

" ' O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse 
With us, if by none else restrained.' As doves 
By fond desire invited, on wide wings 
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home. 
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along; 
Thus issued, from that troop where Dido ranks. 
They, through the ill air speeding ; mth such force 
My cry prevailed, by strong afiection urged. 
' O gracious creature and benign! who go'st 
Visiting, through this element obscure. 
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued ; 
\i, for a friend, the King of all, we own'd, 
Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise. 
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight. 
Of whatsoe'er to hear or to discourse 
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that 
Freely with thee discourse, while e'er the wind 
As now, is mute. The land that gave me birth 


Is situate on the coast, where Po descends 

To rest in ocean with his sequent streams. 

' Love that in gentle heart is quickly learnt 

Entangled him by that fair form, from me 

Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still; 

' Love that denial takes from none beloved 

Caught me with pleasing him so passing well 

That as thou seest, he yet deserts me not. 

' Love brought us to one death ; Caina waits 

The soul who spilt our life.' Such were their words; 

At hearing which downward I bent my looks 

And held them there so long, that the bard cried: 

' WTiat art thou pondering ? ' I in answer thus : 

' Alas ! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire 

Must they at length to that ill pass have reached ! ' 

Then turning, I to them my speech address'd. 
And thus began : ' Francesca ! your sad fate 
Even to tears my grief and pity moves. 
But tell me ; in the time of your sweet sighs. 
By what, and how Love granted, that ye knew 
Your yet uncertain wishes ? ' She replied : 
' No greater grief then to remember days 
Of joy when misery is at hand. That kens 
Thy learn'd instructor. Yet so eagerly 
If thou art bent to know the primal root 
From whence our love gat being, I will do 
As one who weeps and tells his tale. One day 
For our delight we read of Lancelot, 
How him love thrall' d. Alone we were and no 
Suspicion near us. Oft-times by that reading 
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue 
Fled from our altered cheek. But at one point 
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read, 
That wished smile, so rapturously kissed 
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne'er 
From me shall separate, at once my lips 
All trembling kissed. The book and writer both 
Were love's purveyors. In its leaves that day 
We read no more.' While thus one spirit spake 
The other wailed so sorely, that heart-struck 
I, through coinpassion fainting, seem'd not far 
From death, and like a corse fell to the ground." 

With the name of Dante we come to the real importance 
Ravenna has for us in the Middle Age. Dante, however, 
was not the guest of Guido Vecchio. That great lord ruled 
in Ravenna as perpetual captain till his death in 1310, when 


he was succeeded by his son Lamberto who had for some 
time been the leading spirit in the city. He altogether 
abolished the so-called democratic government, that is to 
say, the consulship which was filled in turn by two consuls, 
the one succeeding the other every fifteen days. Lamberto 
made himself lord and reigned till 13 16, when he was succeeded 
by his nephew Guido Novello, the consul of Cesena, who thus 
brought Cesena into the lordship. It is with this man that a 
universal interest in Ravenna may be said for a moment to 
revive, for it was he who had the honour to be the host of 
Dante Alighieri. 

Guido Novello was not a mere adventurer Hke Guido 
Vecchio, he was a man of considerable culture, with a love of 
learning and of the arts. It was, as we shall see, at his earnest 
solicitation that Dante came to visit him, and if we may beHeve v/ 
Vasari it was at the poet's suggestion he invited Giotto to his 
court. " As it had come to the ears of Dante that Giotto 
was in Ferrara, he so contrived that the latter was induced to 
visit Ravenna, where the poet was then in exile, and where 
Giotto painted some frescoes which are moderately good . . . 
for the Signori da Polenta." 

Dante as we may think spent the last four years of his life '^ 
in Ravenna. Those four years we shall consider presently. 
Here it will be enough to note that he met his death at last in 
the service of his host and benefactor Guido Novello. The 
most disastrous action of his life was, it will be remembered, 
the embassy he made on behalf of his own city of Florence to 
pope Boniface VIII. That business cost him his home and 
the city he loved with so cruel a passion; it made him an exile. 
It was upon the longest journey of all that his last embassy 
sent him. He set out it seems as ambassador of Guido 
NoveUo for Venice, which so far as the sea and all its business 
are concerned had long replaced Ravenna as mistress of the 
Adriatic. The recent acquisition of the city and the salt 
flats of Cervia by Ravenna had become a grievance with 
the Venetians who desired that monopoly for themselves. 


It seems that in some local quarrel at Cervia certain Venetian 
sailors had been killed and Dante went on Guide's behalf to 
clear the matter up. He was to be as it happened as un- 
successful in his last embassy as he had been in his first. The 
old doge, according to the legend which I am bound to say 
is now generally regarded as a fable, received him coldly and, 
so the tale runs, invited him to dinner upon a fast day. " In 
front of the envoys of other princes who were of greater 
account than the Polentani of Ravenna, and were served 
before Dante, the larger fish were placed, while in front of 
Dante was placed the smallest. This difference of treatment 
nettled Dante who took up one of the Uttle fish in his hand 
and held it to his ear as though expecting it to say something. 
The doge observing this asked him what his strange 
behaviour meant. To which Dante replied: 'As I knew that 
the father of this fish met his death in these waters I was 
asking him news of his father.' 

" ' Well,' said the doge, ' and what did he answer ? ' 
Dante replied : ' He told me that he and his companions were 
too little to remember much about him; but that I might 
learn what I wanted to know from the older fish, who would 
be able to give me the news I asked for.' 

" Thereupon the doge at once ordered Dante to be served 
with a fine large fish." 

Thus Dante called attention to his great achievement, by 
which I suppose he hoped at once to vindicate his dignity as 
a great man, certainly greater than any one present, and by 
this means to lend importance to his mission. Whatever may 
have been the personal result of his sally, it did his mission no 
good at all. When the official interview took place Dante, 
if we may believe something of the apocryphal " Letter of 
Dante to Guido da Polenta," began to address the doge in 
Latin and was bidden to speak in Italian or to obtain an 
interpreter. His mission was a failure and Venice, who in the 
person of her doge did her best to show either her ignorance 
of the great poet who did her the honour of crossing her 



Piazza or of her philistine contempt of him, lives in the Divine 
Comedy only as an illustration of Hell: 

" Thus we from bridge to bridge . . . 

Pass'd on; and to the summit reaching, stood 

To view another gap, within the round 

Of Malebolge, other bootless pangs. 

Marvellous darkness shadow'd o'er the place. 

In the Venetian arsenal as boils 

Through wintry months tenacious pitch, to smear 

Their unbound vessels. . . . 

So not by force of fire but art divine 

Boiled here a glutinous thick mass, that round 

Limed all the shore." 

On his way back to Ravenna by land, for the Venetians 
added to their shame by refusing him the sea passage, he caught / 
a fever in the marshes and returned to Ravenna only to die: 
the mightiest of all those — emperors and kings — who lie in 
that " generate sepolcro di santissimi corpiP 

That was in 1321 ; and with the death of Dante our interest 
in Ravenna again becomes cold. Guido Novello soon fell, 
driven out of Ravenna, never to return, by Ostasio who had 
assassinated Guido's brother the archbishop-elect Rinaldo. 
Ostasio ruled with the title of vicar which he received both 
from Lewis the Bavarian and from pope Benedict XII. This 
vicious and cruel despot was succeeded by his equally cruel 
son Bernardino. He ruled for fourteen years, 1 345-1 359, not, 
however, without mishap, for his brothers conspired against 
him and flung him into prison at Cervia. He contrived, 
however, to turn the tables upon them and to hold them in the 
same dungeon where he himself had been their prisoner. He 
was succeeded at last by Guido Lucio, a man of some integrity; 
but he too was the victim of his family, his own sons rising up 
against him in his old age and in 1389 flinging him into prison 
where he died. 

He was followed in the lordship of Ravenna by his son 
Ostasio. This man died in 143 1, that is to say, in the midst 
of all the confusion, here in Romagna and the Marches, of the 


fifteenth century, when the condottieri were one and all 
looking for thrones and such ambitions as those of the Visconti, 
of Francesco Sforza, of Sigismondo Malatesta, of Federigo 
of Urbino and of a host of parvenus were struggling for 
dominion and mastery. Thus it was that Ostasio's successor, 
Ostasio, in 1438 was compelled to make aUiance with duke 
Fihppo Maria of Milan. Venice, ever watchful, saw Visconti's 
game, remembered Cervia, and insisted upon Ostasio coming 
to Venice. While there he learned that Venice had annexed his 
dominion. Nor are we surprised to learn that he ended his 
days in a Franciscan convent, where he was mysteriously 
assassinated, probably by order of Venice. But with the entry 
of Venice into Ravenna the Middle Age, even in that far place, 
comes to an end. The Polentani were done with. A new and 
vigorous government ushered the old imperial city into the 



Before following the fortunes of Ravenna under that new 
and alien government into the Renaissance and the modern 
world, it will be well if we turn to examine more closely her 
one great moment in the Middle Age, the moment in which 
Dante found in her a last refuge, and then linger a Httle among < 
such of her mediaeval buildings as the modern world has left 

In any attempt to deal, however briefly, with Dante's 
sojourn in Ravenna we must first find out what we really 
know concerning it and distinguish this from what is mere 
conjecture or deduction. Now the first authority for Dante's 
life generally, is undoubtedly Boccaccio, and as it happens 
he was in Ravenna, where he had relations, certainly in 1350 
and perhaps in 1346. In 1350 he was the envoy of the Or 
San Michele Society, who by his hand sent Beatrice, the 
daughter of Dante, then a nun in the convent of S. Stefano 
dell' Uliva in Ravenna, ten gold florins. He was thus in com- 
munication with Dante's daughter so that when he came to 
write the Vita di Dante^ probably in 1356-1357, he was 
certainly in possession of facts. It will be well then if 
we state to begin with in his own words what he has told us 
of the years Dante spent in Ravenna. 

But first as to the date of Dante's coming to Ravenna. 
Boccaccio would seem to place it immediately after the death 
of Henry VII. in 131 3. To modern scholarship this has 



seemed incredible for various reasons, and it prefers to allow 
Dante to visit Verona first and to come to Ravenna in 13 17. 
Yet let us hear Boccaccio. 

He begins by telling us that the too early death of the 
emperor, who was poisoned, as is thought, at Buonconvento 
in southern Tuscany on S. Bartholomew's day in 1313, cast 
every one of his faction into despair " and Dante most of all; 
wherefore no longer going about to seek his own return from 
exile he passed the heights of the Apennines and departed 
to Romagna where his last day, that was to put an end to all 
his toils, awaited him. 

" In those times was Lord of Ravenna (a famous and 
ancient city of Romagna) a noble cavalier whose name was 
Guido Novello da Polenta; he was well skilled in the liberal 
arts and held men of worth in the highest honour, especially 
such as excelled others in knowledge. And when it came to 
'his ears that Dante, beyond all expectation, was now in 
Romagna and in such desperate plight, he, who had long time 
before known his worth by fame, resolved to receive him and 
do him honour. Nor did he wait to be requested by him to 
do this, but considering with how great shame men of worth 
ask such favours, with liberal mind and with free proffers he 
approached him, requesting from Dante of special grace that 
which he knew Dante must needs have begged of him, to wit, 
that it might please him to abide with him. The two wills, 
therefore, of him who received and of him who made the 
request thus uniting on one same end, Dante, being highly 
pleased by the liberality of the noble cavalier, and on the other 
side constrained by his necessities, awaited no further invita- 
tion but the first, and took his way to Ravenna, where he was 
honourably received by the lord thereof, who revived his 
fallen hope by kindly fosterings; and giving him abundantly 
such things as were fitting, he kept him with him there for 
many years, yea, even to the last year of his hfe. 

" Never had his amorous longings, nor his grieving tears, 
nor his domestic anxieties, nor the seducing glory of public 



oflBces, nor his miserable exile, nor his unendurable poverty, 
been able with all their force to turn Dante aside from his 
main intent, to wit, from sacred studies; for as will be seen 
hereafter, when mention shall be made severally of the works 
that he composed, he will be found to have exercised himself 
in writing in the midst of all that is fiercest among these 

Casa Polentana 

passions. And if in the teeth of such and so many adversaries 
as have been set forth above, he became by force of genius and 
of perseverance so illustrious as we see, what may we suppose 
he would have been if, hke many another, he had had even as 
many supports; or, at least, had had no foes; or but few? 
Indeed I know not. But were it lawful so to say, I would 
declare that he had surely become a God upon the earth. 
" Dante then, having lost all hope of a return to Florence, 


though he retained the longing for it, dwelt in Ravenna for a 
number of years, under the protection of its gracious lord. 
And here by his teachings he trained many scholars in poetry, 
especially in the vernacular, which vernacular to my thinking 
he first exalted and brought into repute amongst us Italians 
no otherwise than did Homer his amongst the Greeks or Virgil 
his amongst the Latins. Before him, though it is supposed 
that it had already been practised some short space of years, 
yet was there none who by the numbering of the syllables 
and by the consonance of the terminal parts had the feeling 
or the courage to make it the instrument of any matter dealt 
with by the rules of art; or rather it was only in the hghtest 
of love poems that they exercised themselves therein. But 
he showed by the effect that every lofty matter may be treated 
in it; and made our vernacular glorious above every other. 

" But since his hour is assigned to every man, Dante 
when already in the middle or thereabout of his fifty-sixth 
year fell sick and in accordance with the Christian rehgion 
received every Sacrament of the Church humbly, and devoutly, 
and reconciled himself with God by contrition for everything, 
that, being but man, he had done against His pleasure; and 
in the month of September in the year of Christ one thousand 
three hundred and twenty-one, on the day whereon the 
Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated by the Church, not 
without greatest grief on the part of the aforesaid Guido and 
generally all the other Ravennese citizens, he rendered up to 
his Creator his toil-worn spirit, the which I doubt not was 
received into the arms of his most noble Beatrice, with whom, 
in the sight of Him who is the supreme good, the miseries of 
this present life left behind, he now Hves most joyously in that 
life the fehcity of which expects no end. 

" The magnanimous cavaUer placed the dead body of 
Dante, adorned with poetic insignia, upon a funeral bier, and 
had it borne on the shoulders of his most distinguished 
citizens to the place of the Minor Friars in Ravenna, with 
such honour as he deemed worthy of such a corpse. And here. 


public lamentations as it were having followed him so far, he 
had him placed in a stone chest, wherein he still lieth. And 
returning to the house in which Dante lately hved, according 
to the Ravennese custom he himself delivered an ornate and 
long discourse both in commendation of the profound know- 
ledge and the virtue of the deceased, and in consolation of his 
friends whom he had left in bitterest grief. He purposed, had 
his estate and his Hfe endured, to honour him with so choice a 
tomb that if never another merit of his had made him 
memorable to those to come, this tomb should have accom- 
pHshed it. 

" This laudable intent was in brief space of time made 
known to certain who in those days were most famous for 
poetry in Ravenna; whereon each one for himself, to show 
his own power and to bear witness to the goodwill he had to 
the dead poet, and to win the grace and love of the signore, 
who was known to have it at heart, made verses which, if 
placed as epitaph on the tomb that was to be, should with due 
praises teach posterity who lay therein. And these verses 
they sent to the glorious signore, who, by great guilt of 
Fortune, in short space of time lost his estate, and died at 
Bologna; wherefore the making of the tomb and the placing 
of the verses thereon were left undone. Now when these 
verses were shown to me long afterward, perceiving that they 
had never been put in their place, by reason of the chance 
already spoken of, and pondering on the present work that I 
am writing, how that it is not indeed a material tomb, but is 
none the less — as that was to have been — a perpetual pre- 
server of his memory, I imagined that it would not be un- 
fitting to add them to this work. But in as much as no more 
than the words of some one of them (for there were several) 
would have been cut upon the marble, so I held that only the 
words of one should be written here; wherefore on examining 
them all I judged that the most worthy for art and for matter 
were fourteen verses made by Messer Giovanni del Virgilio 
the Bolognese, a most illustrious and great poet of those days, 



and one who had been a most especial friend of Dante. And 
the verses are these hereafter written: 

" ' Theologus Dantes, nullius dogmatis expers, 
Quod f oveat claro philosophia sinu ; 
Gloria musarum, vulgo gratissimus auctor, 
Hie iacet, et f ama pulsat utrumque polum ; 
Qui loca defunctis, gladiis regnumque gemellis, 
Distribuit, laicis rhetoricisque modis. 
Pascua Pieriis demum resonabat avenis; 
Atropos heu letum livida rupit opus. 
Huic ingrata tulit tristem Florentia fructum, 
Exilium, vati patria cruda suo. 
Quem pia Guidonis gremio Ravenna Novelli 
Gaudet honorati continuisse ducis. 
Mille txecentenis ter septem Numinis annis, 
Ad sua septembris idibus astra redit.' " i 

So far Boccaccio. Though his account tells us much it 
certainly does not permit us to make many definite statements 
as to Dante's life in Ravenna. One of the first things, for 
instance, that any modern biographer would have noted with 
accuracy would have been the house in which Dante lived. 
Something definite, too, we might have expected as to his 
friends and correspondents, as to his occupations and habits. 
Of all this there is almost nothing. It will, however, especi- 
ally be noted that Boccaccio speaks of Dante as " training 
many scholars in poetry especially in the vernacular." What 
can this mean ? 

It has been suggested and with some authority that Dante 

^ The translation is Mr. Wicksteed's The Early Lives of Dante. He 
adds a translation of the verses: " Theologic Dante, a stranger to no 
teaching that philosophy may cherish in her illustrious bosom; glory 
of the Muses, author most acceptable to the commonalty; lieth here 
and smiteth either pole with his fame; who assigned their places to 
the dead, and their jurisdictions to the twin swords, in laic and rhetoric 
modes. And lastly, with Pierian pipe he was making the pasture 
lands resound; black Atropos, alas, broke off the work of joy. For 
him ungrateful Florence bore the dismal fruit of exile, harsh fatherland 
to her own bard. But Ravenna's piety rejoices to have gathered him 
into the bosom of Guido Novello, her illustrious chief. In one thou- 
sand three hundred and three times seven years of the Deity, he went 
back on September's Ides to his own stars." 


was not entirely dependent upon his host Guido Novello, 
that he was able to gain a livelihood, at least, by lectures either 
in his own house or in some public place, and that it is even 
probable that he occupied an official position in Ravenna of a 
very honourable sort, that he was, in fact, professor of Rhetoric 
in that city. There is no evidence to support such a theory. 
It is true that though we know the names of the professors of 
Grammar or Rhetoric in the very ancient schools of Ravenna, 
schools which date from the time of Theodosius the Great, we 
do not find the name of him who filled that chair during the 
time of Dante's sojourn in Ravenna. In 1268 Pasio della 
Noce was lecturing on Jurisprudence in Ravenna; in 1298 
Ugo di Riccio was professor of Civil Law there; in 1304 Leone 
da Verona is teaching Grammar and Logic in the city. Then 
we hear no more till we come to the year 1333, when a certain 
Giovanni Giacomo del Bando is professor.^ The mere absence 
of names — a silence which does not coincide in any way with 
Dante's advent or with Dante's death — is, certainly, not 
enough to allow us to assert the probability of the great poet's 
having filled the office of lecturer or professor of Civil Law in 
the school of Ravenna. It is true that Saviozzo da Siena tells 

" Qui comincid a leggere Dante in pria 

Retorica vulgare e molti aperti 

Fece di sua Poetica armonia," 

and that Manetti, an early biographer, seems to support the 
theory. But the best evidence, if evidence it can be called, 
which we have for this theory is to be found in a codex in the 
Laurentian Library, quoted byBandini and cited by Dr. Ricci, 
which says : " It is commonly reported that Dante, being in 

^ For a full discussion of all that may be known of Dante at the 
Polenta court see Dr. Ricci' s large work, L' Ultimo Rifugio di Dante 
(1891). A charming book in English, Dante in Ravenna (1898), by 
Catherine Mary Phillimore, is to a great extent based upon Dr. Ricci's 
work. A valuable book that should be consulted is the more recent 
volume by P. H. Wicksteed and E. G. Gardner, Dante and Giovanni 
del Virgilio (1902). 


Ravenna, studying and giving lectures as a doctor to his 
pupils upon various works, the schools became the resort of 
many learned men." This statement upon hearsay, however, 
does little more than confirm the definite assertion of Boc- 
caccio that Dante " trained many scholars," not in civil law, 
but in " poetry, especially in the vernacular." 

It is quite unproved then that Dante lectured in Ravenna as 
a professor of Civil Law. It might seem equally certain that 
he did lecture upon Poetry and the vulgar tongue, and it seems 
likely that we have the text of his lectures in the latter if not 
in the earlier part of the De Vulgari Eloquentia " in which in 
masterly and polished Latin he reproves all the vulgar dialects 
of Italy." Boccaccio tells us he composed this when he was 
" already nigh his death," and though modern criticism seems 
inclined to date its composition not later than 1306 the 
evidence of Boccaccio is not Hghtly to be set aside. •'^ 

Lonely as he doubtless was in Ravenna he was not alone 
there. With him it would seem was his daughter Beatrice, 
who became a nun in S. Stefano dell' Uliva, and his sons 
Pietro and Jacopo. The latter, though a lawyer and not in 
holy orders, held two benefices in Ravenna, but most of his 
time seems to have been spent in Verona where Jacopo, his 
brother, later held a canonry. And then there were his friends. 

In his lectures upon Poetry one of his most eager pupils 
would seem to have been his best friend and host, Guido 
Novello, who evidently knew well at least those parts of the 
Divine Comedy, chiefly the Inferno be it noted, which deal 
with his ancestors, for he quotes one of the most famous of 
them — an unforgettable line spoken by his aunt Francesca da 
Rimini : 

" Questi che mai da me non fia diviso." 

in a sonnet of his own.^ 

^ The first part of this work was certainly not written later than 
1306: the second part may well have been later. 

" Cf. Ultimo Rifugio, p. 384, where the sonnet is given in full. 


After the lord Guido Novello, we must name the arch- 
bishop of Ravenna, Rainaldo Concorreggio, as among Dante's 
friends. It is possible that he had known Dante at the 
University of Bologna and he had been a chaplain of Boniface 
VIII. He was a brave man, learned in theology, law, and 
music, and devoted to his rehgion, an eager student, and he 
had composed a treatise which has come down to us upon 
Galla Placidia and her church. 

And then there was Giotto who came to paint if not in 
S. Maria in Porto fuori, certainly in S. Giovanni Evangelista. 
He was Dante's dear friend and it was probably at the poet's 
suggestion he had been invited to Ravenna. We do not 
know whether these two men attended Dante's lectures. But 
the true audience there which came simply to hear was 
probably various, consisting of poets, notaries, and all sorts of 
men, some of whom were Dante's friends and companions. 
There was Set Dino Perini, Ser Pietro di Messer Giardino — 
he was a notary — and Fiduccio dei Milotti, who walked with 
Dante in the Pineta. All these names have come down to us 
in the Latin eclogues written by Dante while in Ravenna to 
his friend Giovanni del Virgilio — del Virgilio because he could 
so well imitate Virgil. 

These eclogues are full of shrewd and curious thought, a 
real correspondence, and they help us to see the men who 
surrounded the poet in Ravenna. They do not, however, 
give us so extraordinary an impression of the strength and 
keenness of Dante's powers of observation as many a passage 
in the Divine Comedy in which Ravenna and the rude and 
fierce world of the Romagna of that day hve for ever. It is 
in answer to the inquiries of the great Guido of Montefeltro 
that Dante speaks of Romagna in the Inferno. Feeble and 
anaemic though the great Hnes become in any translation, 
even so all their virtue is not lost: 

" Never was thy Romagna without war 
In her proud tyrants' bosoms, nor is now; 
But open war there left I none. The state 
Ravenna hath maintained this many a year 


Is steadfast. There Polenta's eagle ^ broods, 
And in his broad circumference of plume 
O'ershadows Cervia.* The green talons * grasp 
The land, that stood e'erwhile the proof so long 
And piled in bloody heap the host of France. 
The old mastiff of Verrucchio and the young * 
That tore Montagna * in their wrath still make 
Where they are wont, an augre of their fangs, 
Lamone's • city and Santerno's ' range 
Under the lion of the snowy lair,» 
Inconstant partisan, that changeth sides 
Or ever summer yields to winter's frost. 
And she whose flank is washed of Savio's wave ' 
As 'twixt the level and the steep she lies. 
Lives so 'twixt tjnrant power and liberty." 

All Romagna with its untamable fierceness and confusion 
lies in these Unes which, as Dante wrote them, seem as 
unalterable as those in which the creation of the world is 

Nor is Dante forgetful of the great destiny that had been 
Ravenna's. In the sixth canto of the Paradiso it is Justinian 
himself, " Cesarefui e son Giustiniano^'' who recounts to Dante 
the victories of the Roman eagle: 

" When from Ravenna it came forth and leap'd 
The Rubicon ; ' ' 

" with Belisarius 
Heaven's high hand was linked; " 

' The Lombard tooth with fang impure 
Did gore the bosom of the Holy Church 
Under its wings, victorious, Charlemagne 
Sped to her rescue." 

J The coat of the Polenta. 

* Cervia, the least secure of the Polenta possessions. 

* The green lion of the Ordelafh of Forli. 

* Malatesta and Malatestino, lords of Rimini, deriving from Verrucchio, 
a castle in the hills. 

* The Malatesta were Guelfs; Montagna de' Parcitati, whom they 
murdered, was the leader of the Ghibelline party in Rimini. 

« Faenza. ' Imola. 

* Maghinardo Pagano, whose arms were a blue lion in a white field. 

* Cesena. 



Nor is Dante forgetful of Ravenna's other claims to glory. 
In the seventh heaven, which is the planet Saturn, led by- 
Beatrice, he finds S. Romualdo, and speaks of S. Peter 
Damiano, and blessed Peter // Peccatore, the founder of the 
church of S. Maria in Porto fuori, two of them of the Onesti 
house of Ravenna. 

" In that place was I Peter Damiano 
And Peter the sinner dwelt in the house 
Of our blest Lady on the Adriatic shore." 

Of the earlier Podesta, too, he is not unmindful: 

" Arrigo Mainardi, Pier Traversaro, ... 
Wonder not, Tuscan, if thou seest me weep 
When I recall those once loved names ... 
With Traversaro' s house and Anastagio's, 
Each race disinherited." 

With the pitiful story of Francesca da Polenta we have seen 
how he dealt and how he spoke of Guido Vecchio. These 
people live because of him, and Ravenna in the Middle Age 
still holds our interest and our love because he dwelt there 
and she harboured him. 

It was in her service, too, he met his death as we have seen, 
and in her church of the Friars Minor that he was laid to rest 
by Guido Novello. 

Nine months later the lord of Ravenna received the first 
complete copy of the Divina Commedia, made by Jacopo 
Alighieri from his father's autograph. A very curious incident 
is related by Boccaccio in connection with this. It was Dante's 
custom, Boccaccio tell us, " whenever he had done six or 
eight cantos, more or less, to send them from whatever place 
he was in before any other had seen them to Messer Cane della 
Scala, whom he held in reverence above all other men; and 
when he had seen them, Dante gave access to them to whoso 
desired. And having sent to him in this fashion all save the 
last thirteen cantos, which he had finished, but had not yet 
sent him, it came to pass that, without bearing it in his mind 
that he was abandoning them, he died. And when they who 


were left behind, children and disciples, had searched many- 
times, in the course of many months, amongst all his papers, if 
haply he had composed a conclusion to his work, and could by 
no means find the remaining cantos; and when every admirer 
of his in general was enraged that God had not at least lent 
him to the world so long that he might have had opportunity 
to finish what little remained of his work ; they had abandoned 
further search in despair since they could by no means find 

" So Jacopo and Piero, sons of Dante, both of them poets in 
rhyme, moved thereto by certain of their friends, had taken it 
into their minds to attempt to supplement the parental work, 
as far as in them lay, that it might not remain imperfect, when 
to Jacopo, who was far more zealous than the other in this 
work, there appeared a wondrous vision, which not only 
checked his foolish presumption but showed him where were 
the thirteen cantos which were wanting to this Divine Comedy 
and which they had not known where to find. A worthy 
man of Ravenna whose name was Piero Giardino, long time a 
disciple of Dante's, related how, when eight months had 
passed after the death of his master, the aforesaid Jacopo 
came to him one night near to the hour that we call matins, 
and told him that that same night a little before that hour he, 
in his sleep, had seen his father, Dante, approach him, clad in 
whitest garment, and his face shining with an unwonted light; 
whom he seemed to ask if he were yet living, and to hear in 
reply that he was, but in the true life, not in ours. Whereon 
he seemed further to ask him if he had finished his work or ever 
he passed to that true life; and if he had finished it, where was 
the missing part, which they had never been able to find. To 
this he seemed to hear again in answer, ' Yea ! I finished it.' 
Whereon it seemed that he took him by the hand and led him 
to that chamber where he was wont to sleep when he was living 
in this life; and touching a certain spot said, 'Here is that which 
ye so long have sought.' And no sooner was uttered that word 
than it seemed that both Dante and sleep departed from him at 

Daxte's Tomb 


the same moment. Wherefore he averred that he could not hold 
but come and signify what he had seen, that they might go 
together and search in the place indicated to him, which he 
held most perfectly stamped in his memory, to see whether a 
true spirit or a false delusion had shown it him. Wherefore 
since a great piece of the night still remained, they departed 
together and went to the place indicated, and there found a 
mat fixed to the wall, which they lightly raised and found a 
recess in the wall which neither of them had ever seen, nor 
knew that it was there; and there they found certain writings 
all mouldy with the damp of the wall and ready to rot had 
they stayed there much longer; and when they had carefully 
removed the mould and read, they saw that they contained 
the thirteen cantos so long sought by them. Wherefore, in 
great joy, they copied them out, and after the author's wont 
sent them first to Messer Cane and then joined them on, as 
was meet, to the imperfect work. In such a manner did the 
work of so many years see its completion." 

As Boccaccio tells us, Guido Novello had scarce buried 
Dante in that temporary tomb in the church of the Friars 
Minor when he lost his lordship. On April i, 1322, he was 
elected captain of the people in Bologna, and when he was 
about to return to Ravenna he suddenly heard that the 
archbishop had been murdered and that the city was in the 
hands of his enemies. Do what he would he never returned 
to his own city, and thus his intentions with regard to the tomb 
of the poet were never carried out. The noble sepulchre which 
Guido had planned was not built and the body of Dante 
reposed in the ancient sarcophagus in which it had been first 
placed. There it remained when Boccaccio came to Ravenna, 
probably in 1346 and certainly in 1350, as the bearer of a gift 
from the Or San Michele Society to Beatrice di Dante, then a 
nun in S. Stefano dell' Uliva. 

Boccaccio, it will be remembered, had in his life of Dante 
bitterly upbraided Florence for her treatment of her greatest 
son, and to his blame had added a prophecy that she would soon 


repent of her shameful ingratitude and would envy Ravenna 
*' the body of him whose works have held the admiration of 
the whole world." This prophecy fulfilled itself many times 
and first in 1396. In that year, upon December 22, Florence 
made the first of her many demands for the body of Dante, 
which she now wished to bury in S. Maria del Fiore. The 
demand, as Boccaccio had foreseen, was refused. It was 
repeated in 1429 and again refused. By 1476, when her next 
attempt was made, Ravenna had passed into the power of the 
Venetian Republic. It was therefore to Venice that Florence 
now turned through the Venetian ambassador, who is said to 
have been none other than Bernardo Bembo. 

Bembo's request on behalf of Florence was, of course, a 
failure, but he seems to have himself repaired the tomb and to 
have placed upon it an epitaph. 

" Exigua tumuli Dantes hie sorte jacebas 

Squallenti nulli cognite pene situ. 
At nunc marmoreo subnixus conderis arcu 

Omnibus et cultu splendidiore nites. 
Nimirum Bembus musis incensus ethruscis 

Hoc tibi quern in primis hoc coluere dedit. 

Ann. Sal. mcccclxxxiii. vi. Kal. Jvn. 

Bernardus Bemb. Praet. sere suo Posuit." 

His work of reparation and of adornment was carried out by 
Pietro Lombardo who was already at work in Ravenna for the 
Venetian republic, the sculptured effigy of Dante in relief 
being also from his hand. 

But Florence was by no means at the end of her resources. 
In 1509 Ravenna had passed into the hands of the pope. 
In 15 19 Leo X., a Medici, being on the throne of Peter, the 
Accademia Medicea of Florence petitioned the pope (among 
the signatories of the petition was Michelangelo, who offered to 
" make a worthy sepulchre for the divine poet in an honoured 
place " in Florence), to be allowed to carry away the bones of 
Dante from Ravenna to the City of Flowers. The pope gave 
the Florentine envoys the permission they required as was 


expected. They proceeded to Ravenna and opened the 
sarcophagus; but when they lifted the lid, they found it 
empty, save for " a fragment of bone and a few withered leaves 
of the laurel which had adorned the poet's head." From that 
time till our own day the resting place of Dante's bones has 
been a complete mystery. 

It is recorded that in the middle of the seventeenth century 
the Franciscans rebuilt and repaired the so-called chapel of 
Braccioforte at S. Francesco, which till then had been joined 
by a portico to the tomb of Dante. In 1658 this portico 
among other alterations was removed, and the exterior of the 
tomb itself was reconstructed with an entrance into the Piazza, 
as we see it. The interior of the tomb was, however, left in 
some confusion so that the papal legate determined himself 
to repair it. In this he met with much opposition from the 
^friars who claimed, as of old, jurisdiction over the sepulchre. 
Nevertheless he completed the work, and in 1692 placed the 
following upon the tomb: 

Exulem a Florentia Dantem Liberalissime 
Excepit Ravenna. 
Vivo fruens Mortuum col ens 
Magnis cineribus licet in parvo magnifici parentarunt 
Polentani Principes erigendo 
Bembus Praetor Luculentissime extruendo 
Praetiosum Musis et Apollini Mausoleum 
Quod injuria temporum pene squallens 
E. mo Dominico Maria Cursio Legato 
Joanne Salviato Prolegato 
Magni civis cineres Patriae reconciliare 
Cultus perpetuitate curantibus 
S. P. Q. R. 
Jure Ac Aere suo 
Tanquam Thesaurum suum munivit 
Instauravit ornavit 

Outside the tomb he placed his coat-of-arms, and on either 
side that of the legate of the province and that of the 
Franciscan Order. 


In 1760 the third restoration was undertaken and the tomb 
assumed the form we now see and was given yet another 
inscription : 

Danti Alighiero 

Poetae sui temporis primo 


Politioris humanitatis 

Guido et Hostasius Polentiani 

clienti et hospiti peregre defuncto 

monumentum fecerunt. 

Bernard us Bembus Praetor Venet. Ravenn. 

Pro meritis eius ornatu excoluit. 

Aloysius Valentius Gonzaga Card. 

Leg. prov. Aemil. 

Superiorum Temporum negligentia corruptum 

Operibus ampliatis 

Munificentia sua restituendum 



At the same time the tomb was opened again and was found 
to be empty. In spite of this fact in 1864 the municipal 
authorities in Florence wrote to Ravenna again demanding 
the body of the poet, only to be again refused. This, however, 
was the sixth centenary of Dante's birth and the sarcophagus 
was again to be opened to " verify the remains." The work- 
men were indeed at work upon some necessary repairs and 
draining, when it was found that a part of the wall of the 
Braccioforte chapel would have to be removed. In setting to 
work upon this — little more than the removal of a few stones — 
— the pickaxe of one of the workmen struck against wood, 
and presently a wooden box appeared which partly fell to 
pieces, revealing a human skeleton. Within the box was 
found this inscription: 

Dantis ossa 

Denuper revisa die 3 Junii 



and without, this : 

Dantis ossa 
A me Fre Antonio Santi 

hie posita 
Ano 1677 die 18 Octobris 

Medical experts were summoned. They made, Miss Philli- 
more tells us, " a careful examination of the bones, and 
proceeded to reconstruct the skeleton. . . , The stature 
answered to that of the poet as nearly as the measurement 
of a skeleton can represent the living form, and the skull 
found in the chest corresponded exactly with the mask taken 
from Dante's face immediately after his death, which was 
brought from Florence for the purpose of making this 

What seems to have happened has been made clear for us 
by Dr. Ricci. Between 1483, when Bembo reconstructed the 
tomb, and 1520, when the Florentines again claimed the body, 
and for the first time with a certainty of success, the body of 
Dante disappeared. It seems that in 1520 the Franciscans 
entered the mausoleum, abstracted the body, and hid it to save 
it for Ravenna. In June 1677 Fra Antonio visited the bones 
in their hiding place and verified them. In October of the same 
year they were built into the new wall where the old entrance 
to the Braccioforte chapel had been; to be discovered by 
chance in 1865. 

It is curious that even as the last cantos of the Divine 
Comedy were discovered by means of a dream, so a dream 
went before the discovery of the bones of Dante. 

" The sacristan of the Franciscan confraternity," we read, 
" called La Confraternita della Mercede, was wont to sleep 
in the damp recesses of the ancient chapel of Braccioforte. 
His name was Angelo Grillo. . . . This sacristan declared 
himself to have seen in a dream a shade issue from the spot 
where the body was found, clad in red, that it passed through 
the chapel into the adjoining cemetery. It approached him, 



and on being asked who it was, replied, ' I am Dante.' 
The sacristan died in May 1865, a few days before the dis- 
covery of the bones on the 27th of that month. Upon 
June 26, 1865, the bones of Dante were replaced in their 
original sarcophagus, ornamented by Pietro Lombardi, after 
having lain in state for three days, during which thousands 
from all over Italy passed before them. There it is to be hoped 
they will remain. 

Campanile of S. Francesco 



When we come to examine what is left to us of mediaeval 
Ravenna, of the buildings which were erected there during the 
Middle Age, we shall find, as we might expect, very little that 
'is either great or splendid, for, as we have seen, after the first 
year of the ninth century Ravenna fell from her great position 
and became nothing more than a provincial city, perhaps more 
inaccessible than any other in the peninsula. Her achieve- 
ment such as it was in the earlier mediaeval period consisted 
in the production of three men of real importance, S. Romuald 
of the Onesti family of Ravenna, who was born in the city 
about the year 956 and who founded, as we know, the Order of 
Camaldoli; S. Peter Damian, who was born there about 988; 
and Blessed Peter of Ravenna, Pietro degli Onesti, called 
// Peccatore, of the same stock as S. Romuald. 

The work of S. Romuald was a reform of the Benedictine 
Order. The Order of Camaldoli which he founded was the 
second reform which had come out of the great brotherhood 
of S. Benedict; it was younger than the Cluniac but older 
than the Cistercian reform, and it was begun in 1012, In 
that year S. Romuald, who was a Benedictine abbot, having 
been dismissed by all the houses over which he had succes- 
sively ruled, for they would not bear the penitential strict- 
ness of his government, founded a hermitage at Camaldoli 

240 ^ 



above the upper valley of the Arno called the Casentino. 
There each monk lived in a separate dwelling, all being 
enclosed in a great wall some five hundred and thirty yards 
about, beyond which the monks were forbidden to go. 
They followed the Rule of S. Benedict, kept two Lents in 
the year, and never tasted meat. They had, of course, a church 
in common where they were bound to recite the divine office, 
for this is of the essence of the Rule of S. Benedict, but 
certain among them — and this is the essence of the reform 
of Camaldoli — never quitted their cells, their food being 
brought to them in their huts, where, if the recluse were a 
priest, he said his Mass, assisted by some one close by but not 
in the same room. Thus we see the monks and the hermits 
living side by side, but scarcely together, and so they con- 
tinued from the year 1 01 2 till our own day, which has seen 
the great Camaldoli suppressed. The device of the order 
was a cup or chaHce out of which two doves drank, represent- 
ing thus the two classes of hermits and monks, the con- 
templative and the active life. 

The second great Ravennese of the Middle Age, S. Peter 
Damian, who was born about 988 in Ravenna, of a good but 
at that time poor family, was the youngest of many children. 
He was early left an orphan, and living in his brother's house 
was treated, it would appear, rather as a beast than a man. 
Presently, however, another brother, then archpriest of 
Ravenna, took pity on him and had him educated, first at 
Faenza but after at Parma, where he studied under a famous 
master. Here he became immersed in the religious life so 
that when two monks belonging to Fonte Avellana, " a desert 
at the foot of the Apennines in Umbria," happened to call at 
the place of his abode he followed them. After a life of 
penitence and hardship, in 1057 pope Stephen IX. prevailed 
upon him to quit his desert and made him cardinal-bishop of 
Ostia, and later pope Nicholas H. sent him to Milan as his 
legate, till in 1062 the successor of Nicholas allowed him to 
return to his solitude; but in 1063 he was sent to France as 



papal legate. Later we find him as papal ambassador in 
Ravenna — this in 1072. He was then a very old man, and on 
his way back to Rome he died at Faenza. 

This famous saint has often been confused with the third 
great Ravennese of this time, Pietro degli Onesti, called 
Pietro // Peccatore} This confusion, which Dante disposes 
of in the well-known passage of the Paradiso : 

" In quel loco fui io, Pier Daniiano, 
e Pietro Peccator fu'nella casa 
ri nostra Donna in sul li^-Q Adriano,^ 

is commented upon iu one ot Boccaccio's letters to his friend 
Petrarch.^ It is true both Peters were of Ravenna, but 
whereas Blessed Pietro // Peccatore was of the Onesti family, 
as was S. Romuald, S. Pietro Damiano was not; the last 
died in 1072 at Faenza as we have seen, the first as we may 
think in 11 19. 

Now though all were famous and all were of Ravenna it is 
the last and I suppose the least of them who is most closely 
connected with the city. The others went away and won, not 
only great place in the world, but an everlasting fame. Blessed 
Pietro // Peccatore stayed in Ravenna and built there outside 
the walls in the marsh between Ravenna and Classe the great 
home of Our Lady, S. Maria in Porto fuori. About the middle 
of the eleventh century, Dr Ricci tells us, certain religious 
retired into the solitude by the shore of the Adriatic and there 
built a little church or oratory that was called S. Maria in 
fossula. In this act we may certainly see the example of 
S. Romuald. But about 1096 there joined himself to them 
Pietro degli Onesti called // Peccatore, and perhaps because he 

^ It is I confess doubtful whether Pietro degli Onesti was ever called 
II Peccatore till a later epoch. The authenticity of the letters in which 
he so styles himself is open to question and the inscription on his tomb 
is it seems of the fifteenth century. 

2 Paradiso, xxi. 121-123. " In quel loco " refers to Fonte Avellana. 

* Cf. Corazzini, Lettere edite ed inedite di Giovanni Boccaccio (Firenze, 
1877), p. 307. 



was of the Onesti he built there a new and a larger church, it is 
said in fulfilment of a vow made, as was Galla Placidia's, in a 
storm at sea. It is this church which in great part we still see, 
with additions of the thirteenth century, a lonely and beauti- 
ful thing in the emptiness of the sodden fields to the south- 
east of Ravenna between the 

Canale del Molino and the f--/^'^'^ ""^ ^^ - 

Fiumi Uniti. 

The lonely and melancholy y^#^// 

church of S. Maria in Porto ^^ 

fuori is a basilica consisting 
of three naves which formed a 
part of the original church of 
the Blessed Pietro, and a 
presbytery, apse, and chapels 
which are of the thirteenth 
century. There we see some 
frescoes of a very beautiful 

and early character which "^^^^^ "^^^J;. :;;.. ' >^.\ 
have been erroneously attri- ■--^'-^■y' ^^ _ ;.;;,.• 

buted to Giotto, and as ,^''''' '^^'~^£----^^.\^-'" \ 

erroneously it might seem to 
Peter of Rimini. 

They were the gift of a 
certain Graziadeo, a notary who in 1246 provided the 
cost of the work, which was carried out it would seem 
by Maso da Faenza (13 14), Rastello da Forli (1350-60), 
Giovanni da Ravenna (1368-96), and other painters of the 
Romagnuol school.^ These works, which are among the 
loveliest we have of the school, may be noted as follows : in 
the nave to the left we see the Madonna and Child with four 
saints; here, too, is S. Julian. Upon the triumphal arch we see 
in the midst the Saviour and on the one side Antichrist and 

Interior of S. Maria in Porto 

^ Cf. Dr. Ricci, Guida di Ravenna (Bologna, fourth edition), and see 
Anselmi, Memorie del Pittore Trecentista Petrus da Rimini in La 
Romagna (1906), vol. ill. fasc. Settembre. 


the martyrdom of the saints, on the other the defeat and end 
of Antichrist who is beheaded by angels. Beneath are scenes of 
Paradise and Hell. On the roof of the choir we see the 
Evangelists with their symbols and the Doctors of the Church. 
Upon the right the Death, Assumption, and Coronation of the 
Blessed Virgin, together with the Massacre of the Innocents 
and the Last Supper and perhaps S. Francis and S. Clare. 
Upon the left we have the Birth and Presentation of the 
Blessed Virgin in the Temple. The last two figures upon the 
right here are said to be portraits of Giotto and Guido da 
Polenta by those who attribute these works to the Florentine 
master. In the chapel on the left we see pope John I. before 
Theodoric, pope John in prison, and in the lunette the 
martyrdom of a saint. Close by are other frescoes repainted 
of S. ApoUinaris and S. Antony Abbot. In the chapel on the 
right we see perhaps S. John baptising a king, S. John 
preaching, and Blessed Pietro // Peccatore healing the blind 
and sick. Here too would appear to be scenes from the life 
of S. Matthew, but unhappily the subjects are all of them 
obscure and difficult to interpret. At the end of the apse we 
see the three Maries at the Sepulchre and the Incredulity of 
S. Thomas. 

Of these majestic but spoilt works undoubtedly the noblest 
in design is that of the Death of the Blessed Virgin. The Last 
Supper is also exceedingly beautiful, and the Incredulity of 
S. Thomas is a splendid piece of work. But in the course of 
ages these latter works especially have suffered grievously, as 
of course has the whole church. 

Built in the marsh it has sunk so deeply into it that its 
pillars are covered half way up, and the church seems always 
about to be wholly engulfed. It was called S. Maria in 
Porto because it was originally built near to the famous Port 
that Augustus Caesar had established and which for so long 
was the headquarters of the eastern fleet. In the sixteenth 
century when the Canons Regular of the Lateran, who then 
served it, were compelled to abandon it, they built within the 


city of Ravenna another church which they named after that 
they had left, S. Maria in Porto. Thereafter the old church 
without the walls was known as S. Maria in Porto fuori. 

The mighty tower which rises beside S. Maria in Porto fuori 
has been thought to be in part the famous Pharos of which 
Pliny speaks.^ It is almost certainly founded upon it, but 
the lower part in its huge strength is, as we see it, a work of 
the end of the twelfth century, as is the lofty campanile which 
rises from it. 

S. Maria in Porto fuori is undoubtedly the greatest monu- 
ment that remains to Ravenna of the Middle Age; nothing 
really comparable with it is to be found in the city itself. 

The earliest of the friars' churches, those great monuments 
of the Middle Age in Italy, is S. Chiara which with its convent 
is now suppressed and lost in the Recovero di Mendicita 
(Corso Garibaldi, 19). This convent, which dates certainly 
from 1255, was founded by Chiara da Polenta and was re- 
built in 1794. It is from its garden that we get our best 
idea of the church which within possesses frescoes of the 
Romagnuol school, where in the vault we see the four Evange- 
lists with their symbols and the four Doctors of the Church. 
Upon the walls we see a spoiled fresco of the Presepio, that 
peculiarly Franciscan subject, and again the Annunciation, 
the Adoration of the Magi, the Baptism of Our Lord, Christ 
in the Garden, the Crucifixion, and various saints. These 
frescoes are the work of the men who painted in S. Maria in 
Porto fuori. 

It cannot have been much later that the church of S. Pier 
Maggiore, of which I have already spoken,^ came into Francis- 
can hands, and certainly from 1261 it was called S. Francesco, 
when the archbishop Filippo Fontana handed it over to the 
Conventuals who held it till 1 8 10. Its chief mediaeval interest 
lies for us of course in the fact that Dante was buried, probably 
at his own desire, within its precincts. But there are other 
things too. Close to the entrance door is a slab of red Verona 
^ See supra, p. 24. " See supra, pp. 174 et seq. 


marble dated 1396, which is the tomb of Ostasio da Polenta 
who was a Tertiary of the Franciscan Order, and was therefore 
buried in the habit of the friars. The figure carved there in 
relief to represent Ostasio is evidently a portrait and a very 
fine and noble piece of work. To the left, again, is another 
slab of red Verona marble which marks the tomb of the 
General of the Franciscan Order, Padre Enrico Alfieri, who 
died of fever in Ravenna in 1405. The fine Renaissance 
pilasters in the Cappella del Crocefisso should be noted, and 
the beautiful sixteenth-century monument of Luffo Numai by 
Tommaso Flamberti at the end of the left aisle. 

The Dominicans have not been more fortunate than the 
Franciscans. Somewhat to the north of the Piazza Venti 
Settembre in the Via Cavour we find their church S. Domenico. 
It is said that originally there stood here a Byzantine church 
dedicated in honour of S. Maria Callopes, but this Dr. Ricci 
denies. S. Domenico was built from its foundations it seems 
in October 1269 for the Dominicans and was enlarged in 1374 
according to an inscription in the sacristy; but it was almost 
entirely rebuilt in the beginning of the eighteenth century. 
The fagade and the side portico are perhaps now the most 
genuine parts of the church. The chief treasure is, however, 
not of the Middle Age at all, but of the Renaissance, and con- 
sists of four large pictures painted in tempera, probably organ 
shutters, representing the Annunciation, S. Peter Martyr, and 
S. Dominic. They are the excellent work of Niccolo Rondi- 
nelli the pupil of Giovanni Bellini.^ 

From S. Domenico we pass again to S. Giovanni Evange- 
lista if only to note the beautiful Gothic portal of the four- 
teenth century, of which I have already spoken,^ and the 
spoiled frescoes by Giotto in the vaulting of the fourth chapel 
on the left. Giotto, according to Vasari, came to Ravenna at 
the instigation of Dante and painted in S. Francesco, but 
whatever he may have done there has utterly perished, and 
there only remains in Ravenna his spoilt work in this little 

^ See infra, pp. 267 et seq. ^ See supra, pp. 17s ^f seq. 

1?.-^ -a; 

Torre del Comune 


chapel in S. Giovanni Evangelista. Here we see in a ceiling 
divided by two diagonals, at the centre of which the Lamb 
and Cross are painted on a medallion, the four Evangelists 
enthroned with their symbols and the four Doctors of the 
Church, a subject common everywhere and especially so in 
Ravenna. These works have suffered very greatly from 
restoration, but they seem indeed to be the work of the master 
in so far as the design is concerned, all surely that is left after 
the repaintings that have befallen them. 

The mosaic pavements of 121 3, representing scenes from 
the third crusade, in the chapel to the left of the choir should 
be noted. 

We must not leave S. Giovanni Evangelista without a look 
at the great tower of the eleventh century which overshadows 
it. It might seem to be contemporary with the greater 
Torre Comunale in the Via Tredici Giugno as the street is 
n'ow absurdly named. Nor should any one omit to visit the 
Casa Polentana near Porta Ursicina and the Casa Traversari 
in the Via S. Vitale, grand old thirteenth-century houses 
that speak to us, not certainly of Ravenna's great days, but 
of a greater day than ours, and one, too, in which the most 
tragic of Italians wandered up and down these windy ways 
eating his heart out for Florence. Indeed Dante consumes 
all our thoughts in mediaeval Ravenna. 

There is a tale told by Franco Sacchetti that I will set down 
here, for it expresses what in part we must all feel, and what 
in the confusion of philosophy at the end of the Middle Age 
was felt far more keenly by men who visited this strange 

" Maestro Antonio of Ferrara was a man of very great parts, 
almost a poet, and as entertaining as a jester, but he was very 
vicious and sinful. Being in Ravenna during the time that 
Messer Bernardino of Polenta held the lordship, it chanced 
that this Messer Antonio, who was a very great gambler, had 
been gambling one day and had lost nearly all he possessed. 
Being in despair, he entered the church of the Friars Minor, 



where there is the tomb which holds the body of the Florentine 
poet Dante, and having seen an antique Crucifix half-burned 
and smoked by the great number of lights placed around it, 
and finding just then many candles lighted there, he im- 
mediately went and took all the tapers and candles which were 

f ^?>^W 

Portal of S. Giovanni Evangelista 

burning there and going to the tomb of Dante he placed them 
before it saying, ' Take them, for thou art far more worthy 
of them than it is.' The people beholding this and marvelling 
greatly said, ' What doth this man ? ' And they all looked 
at one another. , . ." 

Sacchetti does not answer the question asked by the 
astonished people of Ravenna, but goes on to tell us of the 


lord " wh.0 delighted in such things as do all lords." He could 
not have answered it for he did not know himself what it 
meant. We are in better case, I think, and know that what 
that wild and half - blasphemous act meant was that the 
Renaissance had made an end of the Middle Age here in 
Ravenna as elsewhere. 



When in the year 1438 duke Filippo Maria Visconti of Milan 
forced Ostasio da Polenta, the fifth of that name, into an 
alliance and the Venetians thereupon invited him to visit them, 
Venice had decided for her own safety to annex Ravenna 
and Ostasio soon learned that the new government had pro- 
claimed itself in his old capital. He, as I have said, presently 
disappeared, the victim of a mysterious assassination; and 
Venice governed Ravenna by provveditori and podesthy as 
happily and successfully, it might seem, as she governed 
Venetia and a part of Lombardy. For her doubtless the 
acquisition of Ravenna was not a very great thing, nor does 
it seem to have changed in any very great degree the half- 
stagnant life of the city itself, which, as we may suppose, had 
for so long ceased to play any great part in the life of Italy, 
that a change of government there was not of much import- 
tance to any one except the Holy See, the true over-lord. 

The Holy See, however, had no intention of submitting to 
the incursion of the republic into its long estabhshed terri- 
tories without a protest. In the war of Ferrara, Venice had 
come into collision with the pope and had in reaUty been 
worsted, though the peace of Bagnolo (1484) gave her Rovigo, 
the Polesine, and Ravenna. But she had adoped a fatal 
policy in appealing to the French, a policy which led straight 



on to Cambray, which, as we may think, so unfortunately 
crippled her for ever. 

The descent of the French was successful at least in this, 
that it aroused the cupidity and ambition of the king of Spain 
and of the emperor. Italy was proved to be any one's prize 
at Fornovo, and when Louis XII. succeeded Charles VIII. in 
1498 and combined in his own person the claim of the French 
crown to Naples and to Genoa and the Orleans claim to Milan, 
Venice, instead of being doubly on guard, thought she saw a 
chance of extending her Lombard dominions. She refused the 
alliance Sforza offered and promised to assist Louis in return 
for Cremona and its contado. In other words, she committed 
treason to Italy and thus justified, if anything could justify, 
the League of Cambray. 

Sforza's first act was to urge the Turk, who needed no 
inyitation, to attack the republic, whose fleet in 1499 was 
utterly defeated at sea by the Orientals, who presently raided 
into Friuli. Venice was forced to accept a humiliating peace. 
It was in these circumstances that, with all Italy alienated 
from her, the papacy began to act against her. 

Its first and most splendid effort to create a reality out of the 
fiction of the States of the Church was the attempt of Cesare 
Borgia, who actually made himself master of the whole of the 
Romagna. Venice watched him with the greatest alarm, but 
chance saved her, for with the death of Alexander VI., Cesare 
and his dream came to nothing. Venice acted at once, for 
indeed even in her decline she was the most splendid force 
in Italy. She induced by a most swift and masterly stroke 
the leading cities of the Romagna to place themselves under 
her protection. It was a great stroke, the last blow of a great 
and desperate man; that it failed does not make it less to be 

The rock which broke the stroke as it fell and shattered the 
sword which dealt it was Pope Julius 11. 

Louis and the emperor had come together, and when in 
June 1508 a truce was made they would have been content 



to leave Venice alone; it was the pope who refused, and by 
the end of the year had formed the European League for the 
purpose of " putting a stop to losses, injuries, rapine, and 
damage which Venice had inflicted not merely on the Holy 
See, but also on the Holy Roman Empire, the House of 


RoccA Vexiziana 

Austria, the Duchy of Milan, the King of Naples and other 
princes, seizing and tyrannically occupying their territories, 
cities, and castles as though she were conspiring to the common 
iU. . . ." So ran the preamble of the League of Cambray. 
It contemplated among other things the return of Ravenna, 
Faenza, Rimini, and the rest of the Romagna to the Holy 
See ; Istria, Fruili, Treviso, Padua, Vicenza, and Verona 
being handed to the emperor; Brescia, Bergamo, Crema, and 


Cremona passing to France, and the sea - coast towns in 
Apulia to the king of Spain ; Dalmatia was to go to the king 
of Hungary and Cyprus to the duke of Savoy. 

In the spring of 1507, Julius launched his bull of excom- 
munication against Venice; Ravenna, which was held by the 
podesta Marcello and by Zeno, was attacked by the pope's 
general, the duke of Urbino, and after the disastrous defeat 
of the Venetians by the French and Milanese, at Aguadello, 
on the Adda, the repubhc ordered the restoration of Ravenna 
to the Holy See, together with the other cities of the Romagna. 

The pope was now content, but France and the emperor 
were not, and Venice was forced to ally herself first with one 
side and then with the other. 

In the brutal struggle of the foreigner for Cisalpine Gaul 
there were two desperate battles, that of Ravenna in 15 12, 
in which the French, though victorious, lost their best leader, 
Gaston de Foix, and that of No vara in 15 13, which induced 
the French to leave Italy. As the first of these battles 
concerns Ravenna we must consider it more closely. 

At this time Venice was in alliance with Spain and the 
pope against the French, who were commanded by Gaston de 
Foix, Duke of Nemours, a nephew of the French king. The 
combined Spanish and papal troops, about 20,000 strong, were 
led by Raimondo da Cardona. The French were south of the 
Apennines when the Papal-Spanish force swung round from 
Milan into the Ferrarese, seized the territory south of the Po, 
and laid siege to Bologna. A Venetian force was hurrying to 
aid them. 

Gaston de Foix did not hesitate. On February 5, he flung 
himself over the ice-bound Apennine and hastened to reheve 
Bologna. Cardona retreated before him down the ^milian 
Way; but Brescia opened its gates to the Venetians, and this, 
which hindered Gaston, so enraged him that when he had 
taken the city he gave it up to a pillage in which more than 
■^ eight thousand were slain and his men " were so laden with 
spoil that they returned to France forthwith to enjoy it." 


Gaston was compelled to return to Milan to re-form his 
troops, for he was determined both by necessity and by his 
own nature, which loved decision, to force a battle with the 
allies. The truth was that the position of France was pre- 
carious, her career in Italy was deeply threatened by the allies, 
Henry VIII. of England contemplated a descent upon Nor- 
mandy, and until the enemy in Italy was disposed of her way 
was barred to Naples. 

So Gaston set out with some 7000 cavalry and 17,000 
infantry, French, ItaHan, German, to pursue and to defeat 
Cardona, who did not wish to fight. The army of the allies 
was chiefly Spanish and it numbered some 6000 cavalry and 
16,000 infantry of most excellent fighting quality. 

As the French advanced along the Via ^Emiha, Cardona 
withdrew to Faenza. Gaston went on to Ravenna, which he 
besieged. Cardona was forced to intervene and try to save 
the city. He, too, approached Ravenna. Upon Easter Day, 
1512, the two armies met in the marsh between Ravenna 
and the sea; and, in the words of Guicciardini, " there then 
began a very great battle, without doubt one of the greatest 
that Italy had seen for these many years. . . . All the 
troops were intermingled in a battle fought thus on a plain 
without impediments such as water or banks, and where both 
armies fought, each obstinately bent on death or victory, and 
inflamed not only with danger, glory, and hope, but also with 
the hatred of nation against nation. It was a memorable 
spectacle in the hot engagement between the German and 
Spanish infantry to see two very noted officers, Jacopo 
Empser, a German, and Zamudio, a Spaniard, advance before 
their battahons and encounter one another as if it were by 
challenge, in which combat the Spaniard went off conqueror 
by killing his adversary. The cavalry of the army of the 
League was not at best equal to that of the French, and having 
been shattered and torn by the artillery was become much 
inferior. Wherefore after they had sustained for some time, 
more by stoutness of heart than by strength of arms, the fury of 


the enemy, Yves d'Allegre with the rearguard and a thousand 
foot that were left at the Montone under PaHose and now 
recalled charging them in flank, and Fabrizio Colonna, fighting 
valiantly, being taken prisoner by the soldiers of the Duke 
of Ferrara, they turned their backs, in which they did no more 
than follow the example of their generals; for the Viceroy 
and Carvagiale, without making the utmost proof of the 
valour of their troops, betook themselves to flight, carrying 
off with them the third division or rearguard almost entire 
with Antonio da Leva, a man of that time of low rank though 
afterwards by a continual exercise of arms for many years, 
rising through all the military degrees, he became a very 
famous general. The whole body of light horse had been 
already broken, and the Marchese di Pescara, their commander, 
taken prisoner, covered with blood and wounds. And the 
Marchese della Palude, who had led up the second division, 
or main battle, through a field full of ditches and brambles in 
great disorder to the fight, was also taken. The ground was 
covered with dead men and horses, and yet the Spanish infan- 
try, though abandoned by the horse, continued fighting with 
incredible fierceness; and though, at the first encounter with 
the German foot, they had received some damage from the 
firm and close order of the pikes, yet afterwards getting 
their enemies within the length of their swords, and many of 
them, covered with targets, pushing with daggers between 
the legs of the Germans, they had penetrated with very great 
slaughter almost to the centre of their battalions. The Gascon 
foot who were posted by the Germans on the ground between 
the river and a rising bank had attacked the ItaUan infantry, 
which, though they had greatly suifered by the artillery, 
would have repulsed them highly to their honour, had not 
Yves d'AUegre entered among them with a squadron of horse. 
But the fortune of that general did not answer his valour, for 
his son Viverais being almost immediately killed before his 
eyes, the father, unwilling to survive so great a loss, threw 
himself with his horse into the thickest of the enemies, where. 


fighting like a most valiant captain and killing several, he 
was at last cut to pieces. The Italian foot, unable to resist so 
great a multitude, gave way; but part of the Spanish infantry 
hastening to support them, they rallied. On the other side, 
the German infantry, being sorely pressed by the other part 
of the Spaniards, were hardly capable of making any resis- 
tance; but the cavalry of the confederates being all fled out 
of the field, Foix with a great body of horse turned to fall upon 
them. The Spaniards, therefore, rather retiring than driven 
out of the field, without the least disorder in their ranks, took 
their way between the river and the bank, marching slowly 
and with a close front, by the strength of which they beat 
off the French and began to disengage themselves ; at which 
time Navarre, choosing rather to die than to save himself, 
and therefore refusing to leave the field, was made a prisoner. 
But Foix, thinking it intolerable that this Spanish infantry 
should march off in battle array like conquerors and knowing 
that the victory was not perfect if these were not broken and 
dispersed like the rest, went furiously to attack them with 
a squadron of horse and did execution upon the hindmost; 
but being surrounded and thrown from his horse, or, as some 
say, his horse falling upon him while he was fighting, he 
received a mortal thrust with a pike in his side. And if it be 
desirable, as it is believed, for a man to die in the height of 
his prosperity, it is certain that he met with a most happy 
death in dying after he had obtained so great a victory. He 
died very young, but famous through the world, having in 
less than three months, and being a general almost before he 
was a soldier, with incredible ardour and expedition obtained 
so many victories. Near him lay on the ground for dead 
Lautrec, having received twenty wounds; but being carried to 
Ferrara he was by dQigent care of the surgeons recovered. 
" By the death of Foix, the Spanish infantry were suffered 
to pass off unmolested, the remainder of the army being 
already dispersed and put to flight, and the baggage, colours, 
and cannons taken. The pope's legate was also taken by the 



Stradiotti and carried to Federigo da Bozzolo, who made a 
present of him to the legate of the council. There were taken 
also Fabrizio Colonna, Pietro Navarra, the Marchese della 
Palude, the Marchese di Bitonto, and the Marchese di Pescara, 
with many other lords, barons, and honourable gentlemen, 
Spaniards and Neapolitans. Nothing is more uncertain than 
the number of the killed in battles; but amidst the variety of 
accounts it is the most common opinion that there died of both 
armies at least 10,000, of which a third was of the French and 
two-thirds of their enemies : some talk of many more, but they 
were without question almost all of them of the most valiant 
and choice soldiers, among whom, belonging to the papal 
forces, was RaffaeUo de' Pazzi, an officer of high reputation; 
and great numbers were wounded. But in this respect the loss 
of the conqueror was without comparison much the greater 
by the death of Foix, Yves d'Allegre, and many of the French 
nobility, and many other brave officers of the German infantry, 
by whose valour, though at vast expense of their blood, the 
victory was in a great measure acquired. Molard also fell with 
many other officers of the Gascons and Picards, which nation 
lost all their glory that day among the French. But their 
loss was exceeded by the death of Foix, with whom perished 
the very sinews and spirits of that army. Of the vanquished 
that escaped out of the field of battle the greater part fled 
towards Cesena, whence they continued their flight to more 
distant places; nor did the Viceroy stop till he came to Ancona 
where he arrived with a very few horse. Many were stripped 
and murdered in their flight; for the peasants scoured all the 
roads and the Duke of Urbino, who from his sending some time 
before Baldassare da Castiglione to the King of France, and 
employing some trusty persons as his agents with Foix, was 
supposed to have entered into a private agreement against 
his uncle, not only raised the country against those that fled, 
but sent his soldiers to intercept them in the territories of 
Pesaro; so that only those who took their flight through the 
dominions of the Florentines were by orders of the magis- 


trates, confirmed by the republic, suffered to pass un- 

" The victorious army was no sooner returned to camp than 
the people of Ravenna sent deputies to treat of surrendering 
their city; but when they had agreed or were upon the point 
of agreement, and the inhabitants being employed in preparing 
provisions to be sent to the camp were negligent in guarding 
the walls, the German and Gascon foot entered through 
the breach that had been made and plundered the town in a 
most barbarous manner, their cruelty being exasperated not 
only by their natural hatred to the name of the Italians, but 
by a spirit of revenge for the loss they had sustained in the 
battle. On the fourth day after this, Marcantonio Colonna 
gave up the citadel, into which he had retired, on condition of 
safety to their persons and effects, but obliging himself on the 
other hand, together with the rest of the officers, not to bear 
arms against the King of France nor the Pisan Council till 
the next festival of S. Mary Magdalen; and not many days 
after, Bishop Vitello, who commanded in the castle with a 
hundred and fifty men, agreed to surrender it on terms of safety 
for life and goods. The cities of Imola, Forli, Cesena, and 
Rimini, and all the castles of the Romagna, except those of 
Forli and Imola, followed the fortune of the victory and were 
received by the legate in the name of the council." 

The site of this great battle is marked by a monument, a 
square pilaster of marble, called the Colonna dei Francesi, 
adorned with bas-reliefs and inscriptions, raised in 1557 by the 
President of the Romagna, Pier Donate Cesi, on the right 
bank of the Ronco, some three miles from the city. We may 
recall Ariosto's verses: 

" lo venni dove le campagne rosse 
eran del sangue barbaro e latino 
che fiera Stella dianzi a furor mosse. 

" E vidi un morto all' altro si vicino 

clie, senza premer lor, quasi il terreno 
a molte miglia non dava il cammino. 


" E da chi alberga fra Garonna e Reno 
vidi uscir crudelti, che ne dovria 
tutto il mondo d'orror rimaner pieno." 

The League of Cambray had succeeded in breaking the real 
security and confidence of Venice; the death of Gaston de 
Foix, " the hero boy who died too soon," destroyed the energy 
of her ally, the French army, in Italy; and the battle of 
No vara, as I have said, in 15 13, inducing that ally to with- 
draw from the peninsula, left the republic to be menaced by 
Cardona, who failed only to take Venice itself. 

Nor was that great government more fortunate in the long 
struggles which followed between Francis I. and Charles V. 
In 1523, seeing that the French were failing, Venice came to 
terms with the emperor, by that time the real arbiter of Italy. 
In 1527, though then in alliance with pope Clement VII., 
she seized once more Ravenna and the Romagna, but the 
emperor intervened, and by the peace of Cambray in 1 5 29, 
which on payment of a fine confirmed Venice in her Lombard 
possessions as far as the Adda, she was compelled to restore 
Ravenna and the Romagna to the pope. 

The treaty of Cambray had so far as Ravenna was concerned 
a certain finality about it. Thenceforth the popes ruled the 
city through a cardinal legate, and an era of a certain social 
and artistic splendour began ; the city was adorned with at least 
one new church, S. Maria in Porto, with many monuments and 
palaces, and some great public works were undertaken. 

So Ravenna in the arms of the Church slumbered till, in 1797, 
the great soldier of the Revolution descended upon Italy in 
that marvellous campaign which so closely recalls the achieve- 
ment of Caesar. Ravenna then became a part first of the 
Cispadan and later of the Cisalpine republic. Then, as we 
know, came the Austrians who took Ravenna from the 
French, but were in their turn expelled in 1800, when the city 
was incorporated into the short-lived kingdom of Italy. 
But it was again attacked by the Austrians, and later restored 



once again to the pope. A period of uncertainty and con- 
fusion followed in which various provisional governments were 
established for Ravenna, but at last in i860 the city and its 
province were, by a vote of the people, included in the 
kingdom of United Italy. 






The period of the Renaissance which saw the papal govern- 
ment re-established in Ravenna in 1529, has left its mark 
upon the city in many a fine monument, indelibly stamped 
with the style of that fruitful period. Among such monu- 
ments we must note the beautiful tombs of Guidarello 
Guidarelli, by TuUio Lombardi, erected in 1557, now in the 
Accademia, and of Luffo Numai by Tommaso Flamberti 
in S. Francesco, erected about fifty years earlier (1509). 
Above all, however, must be named the great church of 
S. Maria in Porto (1553) and the palaces of Minzoni, Graziani, 
and others, with the Loggia del Giardino at S. Maria in Porto. 
And there is, too, the work of the painters Niccol6 Rondinelli, 
Cotignola, Luca Longhi and his sons, Guido Reni, and others. 
Later the papal government undertook many great public 
works. The Venetians had, as we shall see, re-fortified 
Ravenna; these fortifications the papal government enlarged, 
and in the middle of the seventeenth century undertook the 
digging and construction of the Canale Pamfilio, so named in 
honour of Innocent X., and in the following century of the 
Canale Corsini. These works were necessary, it is said, not 
only for the maritime commerce of the city, which one may 
think was scarcely large enough to have excused them, but 



for the preservation of Ravenna from inundation consequent 
upon the silting up of the rivers. 

But the earliest work done in Ravenna after the close of the 
Middle Age was that undertaken by the Venetians. It was in 
1457 that they began to build the really tremendous fortifica- 
tion or Rocca, the ruins of which we may still see. They 
were engaged during some ten years upon this great fortress, 
the master of the works being Giovanni Francesco da Massa. 
They employed as material the ruins of the church of S. 
Andrea dei Goti, built by Theodoric, which they had been 
compelled to destroy to make room for the fortress, as well as 
the materials of a palace of the Polentani. The Rocca with 
its great citadel played a considerable part in the battle 
of 15 12, and the subsequent sack of the city. But when 
Ravenna came again into the government of the Holy 
See, though the fortifications of the city as a whole were en- 
larged, the Rocca itself soon fell into a decay and was indeed 
in great part destroyed in the middle of the seventeenth 
century, the monastery and the church of Classe being 
repaired and enlarged with its ruins and the Ponte Nuovo 
over the Fiumi Uniti, according to Dr. Ricci, being also con- 
structed from its remains, as were other buildings in Ravenna. 
Then like the Rocca Malatestiana at Rimini it came to be used 
as a mere prison, and when it failed to prove useful for that 
purpose it was allowed to become the picturesque ruin we see. 

Upon the Torre del Ponte of old were set two great reliefs ; 
on high the Madonna and Child and beneath the Lion of S. 
Mark. The Madonna and Child, a mediocre work, remains, 
but when Venice was turned out of Ravenna the Lion was 
taken down and behind it were carved the papal arms. Both 
Madonna and Lion would seem to have been the work of 
Marino di Marco Ceprini. 

Another work undertaken and achieved by the Venetians 
was the enlargement and the adornment of the Piazza 
Maggiore. There in 1483, when their work was finished, they 
raised two columns which still stand before the Palazzo del 


Comune. They stand upon circular bases in three tiers, 
sculptured in relief by Pietro Lombardi with the signs of the 
Zodiac and other symbols and ornaments. The capitals of 
both the columns are beautiful. Upon the northern column 
of old stood a statue of S. Apollinaris, the true patron of the 
city, while upon the southern column stood the Lion of S. 
Mark, But when in 1509 Ravenna came into the hands of 
Julius II. the Lion was removed and in 1640 the statue of 
S. Apollinaris from the northern column took its place, while 
there, where of old S. Apollinaris had stood, a statue of 
S. Vitalis was set as we see to-day. The Palazzo del Comune 
was entirely reconstructed in 1681, while the Palazzo Govern- 
ativo was built in 1696 by the Cardinal Legate Francesco 
Barberini and the Orologio Pubblico, originally dating from 
1483, was transformed, as we see it, in 1785. Of the Portico 
Antico I have already spoken.^ 

One of the most interesting and accessible fifteenth-century 
houses in Ravenna is to be found in the Albergo del Cappello, 
with its fine original windows in the Via Rattazzi, not far 
from S. Domenico; it may stand as an example of many other 
old houses in the Via Arcivescovado, but I must especially 
name that beautiful Venetian house in the Via Ponte Marino — 
it is No. 15 — the Casa Graziani with its lovely balcony, the 
Casa Baldini (Via Mazzini, 31) with its double loggia in the 
coriile, the Casa Fabbri next door (No. 33), the Casa Zirardini 
(Via Belle Arti, No. i), the Casa Baronio (Via Romolo Gessi, 
Nos. 6 and 16), and the Casa Ghigi with its lovely door and 
portico (No. 7 of the same street). 

Undoubtedly the greatest monument which the sixteenth 
century has left us in Ravenna is the church of S. Maria in 
Porto. This was built by the Canons Regular of the Lateran, 
the most ancient community of canons still extant, in the 
year 1553, when for about fifty years they had been com- 
pelled to abandon the church of S. Maria in Porto fuori 
outside the city, in the marsh. They not only furnished 
^ See supra, p. 192. 


The Cloister of S. Giovanni Evangehsta 


their new church, but to a considerable extent built it, out of 
the materials of S. Lorenzo in Cesarea, ivhich they thus 

S. Maria in Porto as we see it has suffered from restoration, 
and the facade is a work of the eighteenth century, but 
the church itself remains a noble sixteenth-century building 
divided within into three naves by huge pilasters and 
columns and covered at the crossing with a great octagonal 
cupola. There is, however, little that is very precious to be 
seen, a few fine marbles and the beautiful marble relief of the 
Madonna in prayer in the transept, called the Madonna 
Greca, a Byzantine work probably brought to Ravenna, 
according to Dr. Ricci, at the time of the crusades. It was 
originally in S. Maria in Porto fuori. The noble choir should 
also be noticed and the beautiful ciborio. 

Close by the church is the Monastero of the Canons, within 
which there remains the lovely cloister which should be com- 
pared with those at S. Vitale and S. Giovanni Evangelista of 
the same period. This of S. Maria in Porto, however, is the 
finest, having doubled storied logge. Above all the exquisite 
Loggia del Giardino should not be missed. It was built in 
1508, and looks on to a piece of the sixth-century wall of 

Not far away in the Via Girotto Guaccimanni near the Hotel 
Byron is the church of S. Maria delle Croci, founded in the 
tenth century, but entirely rebuilt in the sixteenth. The rose 
in terracotta of the fagade is a work of this time, as is the 
exquisite baldacchino over the high altar within, upheld by 
two pilasters and two columns of Greek marble. The picture, 
too, of the Assumption over the altar is by a master, perhaps 
Gaspare Sacchi of Imola, of the sixteenth century. Of the 
same period is the massive Porta Serrata at the north end of 
the Corso Garibaldi. 

The best monument of later times left in Ravenna is the 
fine Palazzo Rasponi in Via S. Agnese (No. 2) built in or about 





Ravenna isolated in her marsh and altogether, both geo- 
graphically and poHtically, out of the Italian world that began 
to flower so wonderfully in Tuscany, then in Umbria, and 
later still in Venice in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth 
centuries, is the last city in which to look for pictures. 
Nevertheless a few delightful pieces among much that is 
negligible are to be found in the Accademia delle Belle Arti 
in the Via Alfredo Baccarini. The collection was begun 
about 1827, and though what is to be seen there is never of the 
first importance it is certainly more than we had the right to 

The first two rooms upon the upper floor are devoted to the 
Romagnuol and Bolognese painters, the best of them here 
pupils or disciples of the one master Ravenna can boast, 
Niccolo RondineUi. 

We have seen Rondinelli's organ shutters in S. Domenico, 
here we have something better. This really fine pupil of 
Giovanni Bellini was born it seems in Ravenna in the middle 
of the fifteenth century. Vasari tells us that " there also 
flourished in Romagna an excellent painter called RondineUo. 
. . . Giovanni Bellini, whose disciple he had been, had 
availed himself to a considerable extent of his services in 
various works. But after Rondinello had left Giovanni 
Bellini he continued to practise his art and in such a manner 



that, being exceedingly diligent, he produced numerous works 
which are highly deserving of and have obtained considerable 
praise. . . . For the altar of S. Maria Maddalena in the 
cathedral of Ravenna this master painted a picture in oil, 
wherein he portrayed the figure of that saint only; but in the 
predella he executed three stories, the small figures of which are 
very gracefully depicted. In one of these is our Saviour Christ 
appearing to Mary Magdalen in the form of the gardener; 
another shows S. Peter leaving the ship and walking upon the 
waves of the sea, and between them is the Baptism of Christ. 
All these representations are executed in an exceedingly 
beautiful manner.^ Rondinello likewise painted two pictures 
in the church of S. Giovanni Evangelista in the same city. 
One of these portrays the Consecration of the church by S. 
Giovanni ^ and the other exhibits three martyrs, S. Cancio, 
S. Canciano, and S. Cancianilla, all very beautiful figures.^ 
For the church of S. ApoUinare also in Ravenna this master 
painted two pictures, each containing a single figure, S. Gio- 
vanni Battista and S. Sebastiano, namely, both highly ex- 
tolled.* There is a picture by the hand of Rondinello in the 
church of S. Spirito likewise; the subject. Our Lady between 
S. Jerome and the virgin martyr S. Catherine.^ In S. Fran- 
cesco, Rondinello painted two pictures, in one of which are 
S. Catherine and S. Francesco; while in the other our artist 
depicted the Madonna accompanied by many figures, as well 
as by the apostle S. James and by S. Francesco.^ For the 
church of S. Domenico, Rondinello painted two pictures; 
one is to the left of the high altar and exhibits Our Lady with 
numerous figures; the other is on the facade of the church 

1 This picture would seem to be lost. 
^ This picture is now in the Brera at Milan, No. 452. 
" This picture would seem to be lost. Milanesi says it was taken to 
Milan. Vas. v. 254, n. 2. 

* There is a Sebastian by this master in the Duomo at Forli ; the 
S. Giovanni panel seems to be lost. 

' This is now in the Accademia of Ravenna, No. 6. 

• This would seem to have disappeared; but cf. Brera, 455. 


and is very beautiful.^ In the church of S. Niccolo, a monastery 
of Augustinians, this master painted a picture with S. Lorenzo 
and S. Francesco, a work which was most highly commended, 
in so much that it caused Rondinello to be held in the utmost 
esteem for the remainder of his life, not in Ravenna only, but in 
all Romagna.2 Tj^g painter here in question lived to the age 
of sixty years, and was buried in S. Francesco at Ravenna." ^ 

In another place, Vasari tells us that the pupil who copied 
Giovanni Bellini most closely and did him most honour 
was " Rondinello of Ravenna, of whose aid the master availed 
himself much in all his works. . . . Rondinello painted his best 
work for the church of S. Giovanni Battista in Ravenna. 
The church belongs to the Carmelite Friars and in the painting, 
besides a figure of Our Lady, Rondinello depicted that 
of S. Alberto, a brother of their order;^ the head of the 
saint is extremely beautiful, and the whole work very highly 
commended," ^ 

Of all the works thus named by Vasari as painted by Ron- 
dinelli in Ravenna only four remain, three in the Accademia 
and one in S. Domenico. I have already spoken of the tempera 
pieces in S. Domenico.^ Of the three pieces in the Accademia, 
the Madonna and Child between S. Catherine and S. Jerome 
(No. 6) comes from S. Spirito; the Madonna and Child be- 
tween SS. Catherine, Mary Magdalen, John Baptist, and 
Thomas Aquinas comes from S. Domenico, and is, I am 
convinced, the picture spoken of by Vasari rather than the 
sixteenth-century work that still hangs there, which is, accord- 
ing to Dr. Ricci, perhaps the mediocre work of Ragazzini. 
The third picture by Rondinelli in the Accademia, the Madonna 

1 The first of these remains in S. Domenico, the other is, I think, 
now in the Accademia, No. 7. 

"" This picture, too, seems to be lost. 

3 Vasari (trs. Foster), vol. iii. pp. 382-384. 

*■ Now in the Accademia, unnumbered ; it represents the Madonna 
between S. Alberto and S. Sebastian. 

^ Vasari (trs. Foster), vol. ii. pp. 171-172. 

* See supra, p. 246. 


and Child between S. Alberto and S. Sebastian, comes from 
the church of the Carmelites, S. Giovanni Battista. 

Beside these three fine works of Rondinelli hangs the work 
of a man he strongly influenced, Francesco Zaganelli da 
Cotignola. When Vasari tells us that Rondinelli was buried in 
S. Francesco at Ravenna, he goes on to say that " after him 
came Francesco da Cotignola, who was also greatly esteemed 
in that city and painted numerous pictures there. On the 
high altar of the church which belongs to the Abbey of Classe, 
for example, there is one from his hand of tolerably large 
size, representing the Raising of Lazarus with many figures.^ 
Opposite to this work in the year 1548 Giorgio Vasari painted 
another for Don Romualdo da Verona, the abbot of that place. 
This represents a Deposition of Christ from the Cross, and has 
also a large number of figures.^ Francesco Cotignola painted 
a picture in S. Niccol6, likewise a very large one, the subject 
of which is the Birth of Christ, with two in S. Sebastiano 
exhibiting numerous figures.^ For the hospital of S. Caterina, 
Francesco painted a picture of Our Lady, S. Caterina, and 
many other figures; * and in S. Agata, he painted a figure of 
our Saviour Christ on the Cross, the Madonna being at the 
foot thereof, with a considerable number of other figures; 
this work also has received commendation.^ In the church of 
S. Apollinare in the same city are three pictures by this 
artist, one at the high altar with Our Lady, S. Giovanni Bat- 
tista, S. Apollinare, S. Jerome, and other saints; in the second 
is also the Madonna with S. Peter and S. Catherine; ® and 
in the third and last is Jesus Christ bearing his Cross, but 
this Francesco could not finish having been overtaken by 
death before its completion.' Francesco coloured in a very 

1 This is in the ex-church of S. Romuald in Classe in the sacristy, now 
part of the Museo. 

2 This is now in the Accademia, No. 40. 

=> The first of these is in the Accademia (No. 10), as I suppose are the 
two other undescribed pictures. 

* Is this a Marriage of S. Catherine in S. Girolamo in Ravenna ? 

* Now in the Accademia, No. 13. * Of these I know nothing. 
^ Now in the canonica of S. Croce in Ravenna. 


pleasing manner, but had not such power of design as Rondin- 
ello; he was nevertheless held in great account by the people 
of Ravenna, It was his desire to be buried in S. Apollinare, 
where he had painted certain figures, as we have said, wishing 
that in the place where he had lived and laboured his remains 
might find their repose after his death." 

To-day in Ravenna there remain the three works described 
by Vasari, one in the ex-church S. Romualdo di Classe, the 
other, as I think, once in the Hospital of S. Catherine and 
now in S. Girolamo, and another at S. Croce. In the Acca- 
demia there are nine of his works, of which the S. Niccol6 
Presepio (No. 10) and the S. Agata Crucifixion (No. 13) are 
the better. A S. Sebastian (No. 12) and a S. Catherine (No. 11) 
should also be noticed. By his brother and assistant, Ber- 
nardino, there is one picture in the Accademia, the Agony 
in the Garden (No. 194). 

Another master of the Romagnuol school, Marco Palmezzano, 
the pupil of Melozza da Forli, a contemporary of Rondinelli, 
who influenced him to some small extent, is represented in 
the Accademia by two works in Sala II., the Nativity and the 
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin (Nos. 189 and 190); in 
the Vescovado there is a Madonna and Child with four saints 
from his hand. Vasari says nothing of him, but only mentions 
his name, yet he has a good deal to teU us of perhaps a lesser 
man, Luca Longhi (1507-1580), who was born in Ravenna. 

" Maestro Luca de' Longhi of Ravenna," he says, " a man 
of studious habits and quiet reserved character, has painted 
many beautiful pictures in oil, with numerous portraits from 
the life in his native city and its neighbourhood. Among 
other productions of Longhi are two sufficiently graceful little 
pictures which the reverend Don Antonio da Pisa, then abbot 
of the monastery, caused him to paint no long time since for 
the monks of Classe; many other works have also been executed 
by this painter. It is certain that Luca Longhi, being studious, 
diligent, and of admirable judgment as he is, would have 
become an excellent master had he not always confined himself 


to Ravenna where he still remains with his family ; his works 
are accomplished with much patience and study; and of this 
I can bear testimony since I know the progress which he made 
during the time of my stay in Ravenna both in the practise 
and comprehension of art. Nor will I omit to mention that 
a daughter of his, called Barbara, still but a little child, draws 
very well and has begun to paint also in a very good manner 
and with much grace." 

There are five pictures by Luca Longhi in the Accademia 
besides three portraits. In Sala I. we have an early work 
painted at the age of twenty-two, the Marriage of S. Catherine 
(No. 14); a Madonna and Child with S. Benedict, S. Apol- 
linaris, S. Barbara, and S. Paul (No. 23). In Sala II. the 
Dead Christ between S. Bartholomew and Don Antonio da 
Pisa, abbot of the monastery of Classe (No. 17), and two 
pictures of the Adoration of the Shepherds (Nos. 15, 16). 
Here, too, are the three portraits from his hand which represent 
Raffaele Rasponi (No. 22), Giovanni Arrigoni (No. 21), and 
Girolamo Rossi (No. 20). By Luca's son Francesco there is 
a feeble Crucifixion (No. 29) in Sala I.;^ and happily in 
Sala II. three pictures by Barbara, Luca's daughter, of whom 
Vasari speaks; a S. Catherine, which is really a portrait of the 
painter (No. 81), a Madonna and Child (No. 27), and a 
Judith (No. 28) .2 

Only one picture by a Bolognese master is really worthy 
of much notice here; I mean the S. Romuald of Guercino 
(No. 33) in Sala I. In the floor of this first room there is set 
a fine mosaic from S. Apollinare in Classe which should be 

The third room in the Accademia, filled with various works 
of little merit of the sundry schools of Italy, may be neglected. 
The fourth room, however, is devoted to the beautiful tomb 

^ There is another work, an Annunciation, by Francesco Longhi in 
S. Croce. 

^ Another work by Barbara Longhi, S. Peter visiting S. Agata in 
Prison, may be seen in S. Maria Maggiore. 


of Guidarello Guidarelli, the very glorious work of Tullio 
Lombardi. Of old this exquisite tomb stood in the Cappella 
Braccioforte at S. Francesco. Guidarello of Ravenna was 
killed in battle at Imola in 1501, and Tullio Lombardi, the 
son of Pietro, was employed to make his tomb. " I doubt," 
says M. de Vogiie, " whether, apart from the work of Donatello, 
the early Renaissance produced anything more beautiful." 
Guidarello the knight is represented in marble, a life-size 
figure, lying on his back, his body encased in armour, his 
helmet on his head, his visor raised, his gloved hands 
crossed over his sword which lies along his body. He seems, 
weary of fighting at last, to be sleeping, but the sweet expres- 
sion upon the tired face makes us think rather of a monk than 
a soldier. In truth he was a knight of the olden time. 

We leave the room in which he sleeps for ever in his marble, 
reluctantly, and, passing Sala V., which is full of late pictures 
of no interest, come to Sala VL where there are several delight- 
ful early Italian works. One would not certainly expect to 
find in Ravenna a picture of the most exquisite school in 
Tuscany, the school of Siena. Yet here is a delightful 
Madonna and Child with S. Peter and S. Barbara (No. 191) 
by Matteo di Giovanni (1435-1495); and a fourteenth-century 
Annunciation (No. 176) from Tuscany. In the Crucifixion 
(No. 225) we seem to have an early Venetian work, and another 
Crucifixion (No. 181) might almost be from the hand of 
Lorenzo Monaco. It is probable that we see a work of 
Antonio da Fabriano in the S. Peter Damiano (No. 188), and 
certainly an Umbrian work in the S. Francis receiving the 
Stigmata (216). But the most remarkable Umbrian picture 
here is the Christ with the Cross between two angels (No. 202), 
the work of Niccolo da Foligno. A few early works by the 
mediocre masters of the Romagnuol school (Nos. 174, 171, 172, 
182) are to be seen here also. 

Sala VI. is entirely devoted to an immense number of 
pictures in the Byzantine manner, of considerable interest 
and much beauty, but not yet to be discussed. 


We leave the Accademia for the Museo close by. The 
building in which the collections are housed is the old 
Camaldulensian monastery of Classe built in 15 15 by the 
monks of S. Apollinare in Classe, and since S. Romuald, the 
founder of the order, was a Ravennese one may think the 
monastery might have been left in the hands of the monks. 
Even as it is it has considerably more interest for us than the 
collections gathered within it. The beautiful seventeenth- 
century cloisters, the old convent church of S. Romualdo in 
the baroque style of 1630, and the convent itself are delight- 
ful. The collections are mediocre. But here we may see 
all that is to be seen of the Ravenna of Augustus and of the 
great years of the empire, fragments and inscriptions and 
reliefs now and then of real interest, as in the relief represent- 
ing the Apotheosis of Augustus, in the eastern walk of the 
cloisters, and in the remains of that suit of gold armour 
thought to be Theodoric's in the old sacristy. But for the 
most part the collection is without much attraction, yet 
certainly not to remain unvisited. 




Ravenna has so much that is rare and precious to show us 
that few among the many who spend a day or two within her 
walls have the incHnation to explore the melancholy marshes 
in which she stands. No doubt most of us drive out to 
S. Apollinare in Classe, but the road thither does not encourage 
a further journey, for it is rude and rough and the country 
over which it passes is among the most featureless in Italy. 
Nevertheless he does himself a wrong who leaves Ravenna 
for good without having spent one day at any rate in the 
Pineta which, ruined though it now be, is still one of the 
loveHest and most mysterious places in the Romagna. 

But lovely though it is, and full of memories, what can be 
said of this vast ruined forest of stone pines with its mystery 
of mere and fen, its coolness and shadow, its astonishing 
silence ? Only this I think, that if once you find it, nothing 
else in Ravenna will seem half so precious as this green wood. 
You will love it always and for its own sake more than any- 
thing else in Ravenna, and in this you will not be alone; 
every one who has come to it these thousand years has felt 



the same, Dante, Boccaccio, Byron, Carducci, the Pineta 
knows the footsteps of them all and they seem to haunt it 

Dante would seem to have loved it best in the morning; 
out of it he conjures his Paradiso Terrestre in the twenty- 
eighth canto of the Purgatorio: 

" Through that celestial forest, whose thick shade 
With lively greenness the new-springing day 
Attemper' d, eager now to roam, and search 
Its limits round, forthwith I left the bank; 
Along the champain leisurely my way 
Pursuing, o'er the ground, that on all sides 
Delicious odour breathed. A pleasant air 
That intermitted never, never veer'd. 
Smote on my temples, gently as a wind 
Of softest influence ; at which the sprays, 
Obedient all, lean'd trembling to that part 
Where first the holy mountain casts his shade; 
' Yet were not so disordered, but that still 

Upon their top the feathered quiristers 
Applied their wonted art, and with full joy 
Welcomed those hours of prime, and warbled shrill 
Amid the leaves that to their jocund lays 
Kept tenour; even as from branch to branch 
Along the piny forests on the shore 
Of Chiassi rolls the gathering melody 
When Eolus hath from his cavern loosed 
The dripping south. Already had my steps, 
Though slow, so far into that ancient wood 
Transported me, I could not ken the place 
Where I had entered ; when, behold, my path 
Was bounded by a rill which to the left 
With little rippling waters bent the grass 
That issued from its brink. On earth no wave 
How clear so'er that would not seem to have 
Some mixture in itself, compared with this 
Transpicuous clear; yet darkly on it rolled. 
Darkly beneath perpetual gloom, which ne'er 
Admits or sun or moon-light there to shine." 

Well, is not it the very place? And did not Dante, who 
knew Italy as few have known it, do well to remember it 
when he would describe for us the Earthly Paradise? In 
the forest the morning is sacred to him and there one should 


turn, with less misunderstanding than anywhere else, the 
precious pages of that poem which is in itself a universe. 

But if the clear morning there is Dante's, when we may 
stiU hear the voice he heard pass by there, in the stillness, 
singing, Beati quorum tecta sunt peccata, the long noon belongs 


The Pineta 

to Boccaccio, for it is fuU of the most tragic and pitiful of his 

" Ravenna being a very ancient City in Romania, there dwelt 
sometime a great number of worthy Gentlemen, among whom 
I am to speake of one more especially, named Anastasio, 
descended from the Family of the Honesti, who by the death 
of his Father, and an Unckle of his, was left extraordinarily 
abounding in riches, and growing to yeares fitting for marriage, 
(as young Gallants are easily apt enough to do) he became 
enamored of a very bountifuU Gentlewoman, who was Daugh- 
ter to Signior Paulo Traversario, one of the most ancient and 
noble Families in aU the Countrey. Nor made he any doubt. 


but by his meanes and industrious endeavour, to derive 
affection from her againe; for he carried himself e like a brave- 
minded Gentleman, liberall in his expences, honest and 
affable in all his actions, which commonly are the true notes 
of a good nature, and highly to be commended in any man. 
But, howsoever Fortune became his enemy, these laudable 
parts of manhood did not any way friend him, but rather 
appeared hurtfuU to himself e: so cruell, unkind, and almost 
meerely savage did she shew her self to him; perhaps in pride 
of her singular beauty, or presuming on her nobility by birth, 
both which are rather blemishes, then ornaments in a woman, 
especially when they be abused. 

" The harsh and uncivill usage in her, grew very distaste- 
full to Anastasio, and so unsufferable, that after a long time 
of fruitlesse service, requited still with nothing but coy 
disdaine; desperate resolutions entred into his brain, and often 
he was minded to kill himselfe. But better thoughts sup- 
planting those furious passions, he abstained from any such 
violent act; and governed by more manly consideration, 
determined, that as shee hated him, he would requite her with 
the like, if he could: wherein he became altogether deceived, 
because as his hopes grew to a dayly decaying, yet his love 
enlarged it selfe more and more. 

" Thus Anastasio persevering still in his bootlesse affection, 
and his expences not limited within any compasse; it appeared 
in the judgement of his Kindred and Friends, that he was 
falne into a mighty consumption, both of his body and meanes. 
In which respect, many times they advised him to leave the 
City of Ravenna, and live in some other place for such a while; 
as might set a more moderate stint upon his spendings, and 
bridle the indiscreete course of his love, the onely fuell which 
fed this furious fire. 

" Anastasio held out thus a long time, without lending 
an eare to such friendly counsell: but in the end, he was so 
neerely followed by them, as being no longer able to deny 
them, he promised to accomplish their request. Whereupon, 


making such extraordinary preparation, as if he were to set 
thence for France or Spaine, or else into some further distant 
countrey: he mounted on horsebacke, and accompanied 
with some few of his familiar friends, departed from Ravenna, 
and rode to a countrey dwelling house of his owne, about three 
or foure miles distant from the Cittie, which was called Chiasso, 
and there (upon a very goodly greene) erecting divers Tents 
and Pavillions, such as great persons make use of in the time 
of a Progresse: he said to his friends, which came with him 
thither, that there he determined to make his abiding, they all 
returning backe unto Ravenna, and might come to visite him 
againe so often as they pleased. 

" Now, it came to passe, that about the beginning of May, 
it being then a very milde and serrene season, and he leading 
there a much more magnificent life, then ever hee had done 
before, inviting divers to dine with him this day, and as many 
to morrow, and not to leave him till after supper: upon the 
sodaine, falling into remembrance of his crueU Mistris, hee 
commanded all his servants to forbeare his company, and 
suiJer him to walke alone by himselfe awhile, because he had 
occasion of private meditations, wherein he would not (by 
any meanes) be troubled. It was then about the ninth houre 
of the day, and he walking on solitary all alone, having gone 
some halfe miles distance from his Tents, entred into a Grove 
of Pine-trees, never minding dinner time, or any thing else, 
but onely the unkind requitall of his love. 

" Sodainly he heard the voice of a woman, seeming to make 
most mournfuU complaints, which breaking off his silent 
considerations, made him to lift up his head, to know the 
reason of this noise. When he saw himselfe so farre entred 
into the Grove, before he could imagine where he was; hee 
looked amazedly round about him, and out of a little thicket 
of bushes and briars, round engirt with spreading trees, hee 
espyed a young Damosell come running towards him, naked 
from the middle upward, her haire dishevelled on her shoulders, 
and her faire skinne rent and torne with the briars and 


brambles, so that the blood ran trickling downe mainely; 
she weeping, wringing her hands, and crying out for mercy 
so lowde as she could. Two fierce Blood-hounds also followed 
swiftly after, and where their teeth tooke hold, did most cruelly 
bite her. Last of all (mounted on a lusty blacke Courser) 
came galloping a Knight, with a very sterne and angry coun- 
tenance, holding a drawne short Sword in his hand, giving 
her very vile and dreadful speeches, and threatning 
every minute to kill her. 

" This strange and uncouth sight, bred in him no meane 
admiration, as also kinde compassion to the unfortunate 
woman; out of which compassion, sprung an earnest desire, 
to deliver her (if he could) from a death so fuU of anguish 
and horror: but seeing himself e to be without Armes, he 
ran and pluckt up the plant of a Tree, which handhng as 
if it had bene a staffe, he opposed himselfe against the Dogges 
and the Knight, who seeing him comming, cryed out in this 
manner to him. Anastasio, put not thy selfe in any opposi- 
tion, but referre to my Hounds and me, to punish this wicked 
woman as she hath justly deserved. And in speaking these 
words, the Hounds tooke fast hold on her body, so staying her, 
untill the Knight was come neerer to her, and alighted from 
his horse: when Anastasio (after some other angry speeches) 
spake thus unto him : I cannot teU what or who thou art, albeit 
thou takest such knowledge of me, yet I must say, that it is 
meere cowardize in a Knight, being armed as thou art, to offer 
to kill a naked woman, and make thy dogges thus to seize 
on her, as if she were a savage beast; therefore beleeve me, 
I will defend her so farre as I am able. 

" Anastasio, answered the Knight, I am of the same City 
as thou art, and do well remember, that thou wast a little 
Ladde, when I (who was then named Guido Anastasio, and 
thine Unckle) became as intirely in love with this woman, 
as now thou art of Paulo Traversarioes daughter. But 
through her coy disdaine and cruelty, such was my heavy 
fate, that desperately I slew my selfe with this short sword 


which thou beholdest in mine hand: for which rash sinfull 
deede, I was, and am condemned to eternall punishment. 
This wicked woman, rejoycing immeasurably in mine un- 
happy death, remained no long time aUve after me, and for 
her mercilesse sinne of cruelty, and taking pleasure in my 
oppressing torments; dying unrepentant, and in pride of her 
scorne, she had the hke sentence of condemnation pronounced 
on her, and sent to the same place where I was tormented. 

" There the three impartiall Judges, imposed this further 
infliction on us both; namely, that she should flye in this 
manner before me, and I (who loved her so deerely while 
I lived) must pursue her as my deadly enemy, not hke a 
woman that had a taste of love in her. And so often as I 
can overtake her, I am to kill her with this sword, the same 
Weapon wherewith I slew my selfe. Then am I enjoyned, 
therewith to open her accursed body, and teare out her hard 
and frozen heart, with her other inwards, as now thou seest me 
doe, which I give unto my Hounds to feede on. Afterward, 
such is the appointment of the supreame powers, that she 
reassumeth life againe, even as if she had not bene dead at 
all, and faUing to the same kinde of fhght, I with my Hounds 
am stUl to follow her; without any respite or intermission. 
Every Friday, and just at this houre, our course is this way, 
where she suffereth the just punishment inflicted on her. Nor 
do we rest any of the other dayes, but are appointed unto 
other places, where she cruelly executed her mahce against 
me, being now (of her deare affectionate friend) ordained to 
be her endlesse enemy, and to pursue her in this manner for 
so many yeares, as she exercised moneths of cruelty towards 
me. Hinder me not then, in being the executioner of divine 
justice; for aU thy interposition is but in vaine, in seeking to 
crosse the appointment of supreame powers. 

" Anastasio having attentively heard all this discourse, his 
haire stood upright Hke Porcupines quils, and his soule was 
so shaken with the terror, that he stept backe to suffer the 
Knight to do what he was enjoyned, looking yet with milde 


commisseration on the poore woman. Who kneeling most 
humbly before the Knight, and stearnely seized on by the two 
blood-hounds, he opened her brest with his weapon, drawing 
foorth her heart and bowels, which instantly he threw to the 
dogges, and they devoured them very greedily. Soone after, 
the Damosell (as if none of this punishment had bene inflicted 
on her) started up sodainly, running amaine towards the Sea 
shore, and the Hounds swiftly following her, as the Knight did 
the hke, after he had taken his sword, and was mounted on 
horse-backe; so that Anastasio had soone lost all sight of them, 
and could not gesse what was become of them. 

" After he had heard and observed all these things, he 
stoode a while as confounded with feare and pitty, like a 
simple silly man, hoodwinkt with his owne passions, not 
knowing the subtle enemies cunning illusions in offering false 
suggestions to the sight, to worke his owne ends thereby, and 
encrease the number of his deceived servants. Forthwith 
he perswaded himselfe, that he might make good use of this 
womans tormenting, so justly imposed on the Knight to 
prosecute, if thus it should continue still every Friday. Where- 
fore, setting a good note or marke upon the place, he returned 
backe to his owne people, and at such time as he thought 
convenient, sent for divers of his kindred and friends from 
Ravenna, who being present with him, thus he spake to them. 

" Deare Kinsmen and Friends, ye have a long while impor- 
tuned me, to discontinue my over-doating love to her, whom 
you all thinke, and I find to be my mortal! enemy: as also, to 
give over my lavish expences, wherein I confesse my selfe too 
prodigall; both which requests of yours, I will condiscend to, 
provided, that you will performe one gracious favour for me; 
Namely, that on Friday next, Signior Paulo Traversario, 
his wife, daughter, with all other women linked in linage to 
them, and such beside onely as you shall please to appoint, 
will vouchsafe to accept a dinner heere with me; as for the 
reason thereto mooving me, you shall then more at large be 
acquainted withall. This appeared no difficult matter for 


them to accomplish: wherefore, being returned to Ravenna, 
and as they found the time answerable to their purpose, they 
invited such as Anastasio had appointed them. And although 
they found it some-what an hard matter, to gaine her com- 
pany whom he so deerely affected; yet notwithstanding, the 
other women won her along with them. 

" A most magnificent dinner had Anastasio provided, and 
the tables were covered under the Pine-trees, where he saw 
the crueU Lady so pursued and slaine: directing the guests 
so in their seating, that the yong Gentlewoman his unkinde 
Mistresse, sate with her face opposite unto the place, where 
the dismaU spectacle was to be seen. About the closing up 
of dinner, they beganne to heare the noise of the poore prose- 
cuted Woman, which drove them all to much admiration; 
desiring to know what it was, and no one resolving them, they 
arose from the Tables, and looking directly as the noise came 
to them, they espyed the wofuU Woman, the Dogges eagerly 
pursuing her; and the armed Knight on horsebacke, gallop- 
ping fiercely after them with his drawne weapon, and came 
very nere unto the company, who cryed out with lowd ex- 
claimes against the dogs and the Knight, stepping forth in 
assistance of the injured woman. 

" The Knight spake unto them, as formerly he had done to 
Anastasio, (which made them draw backe, possessed with 
feare and admiration) acting the same cruelty as he did the 
Friday before, not differing in the least degree. Most of 
the Gentlewomen there present, being neere allyed to the 
unfortunate Woman, and Hkewise to the Knight, remembring 
well both his love and death, did shed teares as plentifully, 
as if it had bin to the very persons themselves, in usuall per- 
formance of the action indeede. Which tragicall Scoene being 
passed over, and the Woman and Knight gone out of their 
sight: all that had seene this straunge accident, fell into 
diversity of confused opinions, yet not daring to disclose them, 
as doubting some further danger to ensue thereon. 

" But beyond all the rest, none could compare in feare and 


astonishment with the cruell yong Maide affected by Anas- 
tasio, who both saw and observed all with a more inward 
apprehension, knowing very well, that the moral! of this 
dismall spectacle, carried a much neerer appHcation to her 
then any other in all the company. For now she could call 
to mind, how unkinde and cruell she had shewne her selfe 
to Anastasio, even as the other Gentlewoman formerly did 
to her Lover, still flying from him in great contempt and 
scorne: for which, she thought the Blood-hounds also pur- 
sued her at the heeles already, and a sword of vengeance to 
mangle her body. This feare grew so powerful! in her, that 
to prevent the like heavy doome from falling on her, she 
studied (by all her best and commendable meanes, and 
therein bestowed all the night season) how to change her 
hatred into kinde love, which at the length she fully obtained, 
and then purposed to prosecute in this manner. 

" Secretly she sent a faithfull Chamber-maide of her owne, 
to greete Anastasio on her behalf e; humbly entreating him 
to come see her: because now she was absolutely determined, 
to give him satisfaction in all which (with honour) he could 
request of her. Whereto Anastasio answered, that he 
accepted her message thankfully, and desired no other favour 
at her hand, but that which stood with her owne offer, namely, 
to be his Wife in honourable marriage. The Maide knowing 
sufficiently, that he could not be more desirous of the match, 
then her Mistresse shewed her selfe to be, made answer in her 
name, that this motion would be most welcome to her. 

" Heereupon, the Gentlewoman her selfe, became the sohci- 
tour to her Father and Mother, telling them plainly, that she 
was willing to be the Wife of Anastasio: which newes did 
so highly content them, that upon the Sunday next following, 
the marriage was very worthily solemnized, and they lived 
and loved together very kindly. Thus the divine bounty, 
out of the malignant enemies secret machinations, can cause 
good effects to arise and succeede. For, from this conceite 
of fearfull imagination in her, not onely happened this long 


desired conversion, of a Maide so obstinately scornfull and 
proud; but likewise all the women of Ravenna (being admon- 
ished by her example) grew afterward more kind and tractable 
to mens honest motions, then ever they shewed themselves 
before. And let me make some use hereof (faire Ladies) to 
you, not to stand over-nicely conceited of your beauty and 
good parts, when men (growing enamored of you by them) 
solicite you with their best and humblest services. Remember 
then this disdainfull Gentlewoman, but more especially her, 
who being the death of so kinde a Lover, was therefore con- 
demned to perpetual] punishment, and he made the minister 
thereof, whom she had cast off with coy disdaine, from which 
I wish your minds to be as free, as mine is ready to do you any 
acceptable service." ^ 

To Dante and to Boccaccio belong of right morning and 
noon in the Pineta; but the evening is ours for it belongs to 
Byron : 

" Sweet hour of twilight! in the sohtude 

Of the pine forest, and the silent shore 
Which bounds Ravenna's immemorial wood, 

Rooted where once the Adrian wave flowed o'er. 
To where the last Csesarean fortress stood, 

Evergreen forest! which Boccaccio's lore 
And Dryden's lay made haunted ground to me 
How have I loved the twilight hour and thee! 

" The shrill cicalas, people of the pine. 

Making their summer lives one ceaseless song, 

Were the sole echoes, save my steed's and mine, 
And vesper bells that rose the boughs along; 

The spectre huntsman of Onesti's line. 

His hell-dogs, and their chase, and the fair throng 

Which learn' d from this example not to fly 

From a true lover — shadow'd my mind's eye. 

1 This translation is from the English version of The Decameron, 
first published in 1620 ; but in 1569 had appeared A Notable Historye 
of Nastagio and Traversari, or rhymed version of Boccaccio's tale, by 
C. T., usually supposed to be Christopher Tye the musician. Dryden 
used this story for his fable Theodore and Honoria. It is curious to 
note that Anita, Garibaldi's wife, was actually hunted to death here 
in the Pineta by the Austrians. 



" Soft hour! which wakes the wish and melts the heart 
Of those who sail the seas, on the first day 

When they from their sweet friends are torn apart; 
Or fills with love the pilgrim on his way 

As the far bell of vesper makes him start, 
Seeming to weep the dying day's decay, 

Is this a fancy which our reason scorns ? 

Ah, surely nothing dies but something mourns! " 

That " sweet hour of twilight " in the Pineta is the most 
precious hour of the day, when far off across the marsh 
softly, softly comes the Ave Maria. . . . 

" . . . O tu rinnovellata 
itala gente da le molte vite 
vendi la voce 

" de ta preghiera ; la campana squilli 
ammonitrice ; il campanil risorto 
canti di clivo in clivo a la campagna 
Ave Maria. 

"Ave Maria ! Quando su I'aure covre 
I'umil saluto, i piccioli mortali 
scovrono il capo, curvano la fronte 
Dante ed Aroldo." 





Adalwald, king of the Lombards, 


Adda, battle on the, 60, 62 

Adriatic, strategic importance of 
the, 9 

Emilia, 117 

jEmihan Way, the, 60; the align- 
ment of, 7, 36 

Aetius, rival of Boniface, defeats 
Attila, 42, 44, 48, 50 

Africa, conquest of, 79, 80, 81 

Agapitus, Senator, 72 

Agathius, 108 

Agilulf, king of the Lombards, 
122, 123, 126 

Agneliusthe Chronicler, on Maurus, 
132; on Ravenna, 46 note, 61, 
74,, 134, 139, 149, 161-163, 173- 
176; on S. Peter Chrysologus, 

Aguadello, 254 

Ahenobarbus, Lucius Domitius, 1 5 

Aistulf, the Lombard, in Ravenna, 
95, 183, 210, 212; Pepin pro- 
ceeds against, 136, 142, 144-148 

Aix-la-Chapelle, 156, 160, 183 

Alaric invades Italy, 10, 29-38 

Albano, bishop of, 154 

Alberti, Leon, his work in Rimini, 

Albinus, 70 

Alboin, king of the Lombards, 
invades Italy, 99, iii, 112-116 

Albswinda, 115, 116 

Alexander VI., Pope, 252 

Alexandria, 24 ; Caesar at, 20 

Al&eri, Padre Enrico, 246 

Alighieri, Jacopo, 228, 231-234; 
Pietro, 228, 232-234 

Allegre, Yves d', 256, 258 

Alps, the, rampart of Cisalpine 
Gaul, 4 

Altinum, 8 note, 48, 121 

Amalafrida, Queen, 78, 79 

Amalasuntha, daughter of Theo- 
doric, 76-80, 97, 107, 183, 193 

Amelia, 122 

Anastasius, Emperor, 62, 

Ancona, 88, 90, 98, 119, 149, 258 

Anthemius, 51, 52 

Antiochus, Prefect of Italy, 106 

Antonio da Ferrara, 248-250 

Antonio da Pisa, Don, 271 

Antonius, Lucius, 19 

Antony, Mark, friend of Caesar and 
rival of Octavianus, 13, 18-20 

Apennines, the, division of Italy 
by, 4, 6 

Appian on Ravenna, 8, 12, 19 

Apulia, 254 

Aquileia, 21, 26, 41, 117, 120, 142; 
destroyed by Attila, 48, 59 

Arcevia, 148 

Arezzo, 34 note 

Argentarius, Julius, 196, 202 

Arianism, churches of, in Ravenna, 
182-195; defined, 69; over- 
whelmed by Catholicism, 68-76, 
97, 98, 103, 113, 125, 136; the 
mark of barbarism, 68-70, 76, 97 

Ariosto, quoted, 259 

Arrigoni, Giovanni, 272 

Arwin, Duke, 156 

Asbad a Gepid, loi 

Aspar, 40 

Asti, battle of, 34 




Ataiilfus, 52; marriage of, 38, 39, 
48; Roman influence on, n 

Athalaric, education of, 76-78, 

Attila invades Italy, 5, 31. 40. 44. 
47-50, 154 

Augustus Caesar establishes Ra- 
venna as a naval port, 20-24, 
29, no. See Octavianus 

Aure'lius Victor, 7 note 

Austrians in Italy, 260 

Authari, king of the Lombards, 
116, 120 

Avitus, the Gaul, 51, 52 


Baduarius, first exarch, 116, 118, 

Bagnacavallo, 149 
Bagnolo, peace of, 251 
Bandini, quoted, 227 
Bando, Giovanni Giacomo del, 

Barberini, Cardinal-Legate Fran- 
cesco, 264 
Barcelona, 39 
Beatrice, daughter of Dante, 221, 

228, 234 
Bedesis, the, 22, 25 
Belisarius, his African campaign, 
80-82 ; his campaign against the 
Goths, 88-98, 103, 109, 123; 
holds Rome against Vitiges, 83- 
95; in Ravenna, 92-95. HL 196 
Bellini, Giovanni, 246, 267, 269 
Bembo, Bernardo, 235-238 
Benedict II., Pope, 132 
Benedict XII., Pope, 219 
Benedictine order, 240 
Benevento, 113. 121; Duchy of, 

149. 154; siege of, 131 
Bergamo, 253; Attila at, 48 
Bernardino da Polenta, 219 
Bertrada, Queen, 152 
Bitonto, Marchese di, 258 
Boccaccio in Ravenna, 276-285; 
on Dante, 221-228, 231-234 

Boethius, murder of, 70-74 
Bologna, i, 34. 120, 225, 234; 

Dante in, 229; Liutprand seizes, 

139; siege of, 254 
Bolognese school of painting, the. 

Bolsena, Lago di, 78 
Boniface, betrays Africa, 42, 44 
Boniface V., Pope, 127 
Boniface VIII., Pope, 217, 229 
Bordeaux, 38 
Borgia, Cesare, 252 
Bozzolo, Federigo da, 258 
Brescia, 253, 254; Attila at, 48 
Brundusium, 20, 21 
Brutus, Decimus, 19, 20 
Buonamici da Rimini, 164 
Buonconvento, 222 
Buxentius, the, 36 
Byron, Lord, in Ravenna, 276, 285 
Byzantine churches in Ravenna, 

196-209, 210 
Byzantine Empire, its fall in Italy, 
142, 149 

C^SAREA, suburb of Ravenna, i, 

Cagli, 119, 148 
Caius Curio, Consul, 13-iS 
Cains Flaminius, the Censor, 7 
Calabria, 37. "9 
Callinicus, as exarch, 124, 126 
Camaldoli, Order of, 212, 240, 241, 

Cambray, League of, 252-260 
Cantiano, 148 
Caprae, loi 

Cardona, Raimondo da, 254, 260 
Carducci, 276, 286 
Carloman, King, I4S-I47. 1S2, I53 
Caro, 148 

Carthage, 51, 80. 8 1 
Carvagiale, 256 
Casentino, the, 241 
Cassiodorus, Letters of, quoted, 

66, 68, 92 note 
Cassius, 19 



Castiglione, Baldassare da, 258 
Castro, 148 

Catholicism, triumphs over Arian- 
ism, 68-76, 97, 103-106, 113, 125, 


Ceccano, Aistulf in, 143, 144 

Ceprini, Marino di Marco, 263 

Cer\'ia, 135, 214, 217-220 

Cesena, 56, 60, 90, 120, 148, 217, 
258, 259 

Cesi, Pier Donato, 259 

Chalcedon, Council of, 44 

Chalons, battle of, 44, 48 

Charlemagne, Emperor, corona- 
tion of ^2- 104. 145' 157. 158. 210 
212; in Ravenna, 156, 160, 183, 
211; proceeds against the Lom- 
bards, 141, 146, 147, 152-158 

Charles V., Emperor, 260 

Charles VIII., Emperor, 252 

Charles Martel, 141, 142 

Cherson, 131 

Chiusi, 88, 89 

Choisy, quoted, 193 note 

Christendom, develcpment of, 
26-28, 33 

Christopher, 151, 152 

Cisalpine Gaui, as the defence of 
Italj', 4, 5, 26, 31 

Citta di Castello, 154 

Classis, port of Ravenna, i, 22, 23, 
27. 53. 95. 99, 202, 244; history 
of, 116, 120; its churches. 203, 
210, 275; Lombards in, 138; S. 
Andrea, 167; Theodoric at, 61 

Claudius Caesar, his work in 
Ravenna, 21, 24 

Clement VII., Pope, 260 

Cleopatra, Queen, 19 

Cleph, 116 

Clovis, conversion of, 69 

Cluniacs, the, 240 

Colonna, Fabrizio, 256, 258 

Colonna, Marcantonio, 259 

Columellae, 52 

Comacchio, i, 148, 153 

Concordia, 48 

Concorregio, Rainaldo, bishop of 
Ravenna, 165, 219, 229 

Conon, Pope, 132 

Constans II., as religious arbi- 
trator, 129, 130, 151 

Constantine, Emperor, no 

Constantine, Pope. 134, 137 

Constantine, Pogonatus, 132 Kote 

Constantinople as the seat of 
empire, 32, 40, 53, 54, 57, 105, 
125; rise of heresy in, 130, 137, 
147, 151; Roman distrust of, 
133; SS. Sergius and Bacchus, 
196, 202; S. Sophia, 1 10, 202 

Constantinus I\'., Emperor. 208 

Constantius, Emperor, his mar- 
riage, 38-40 

Cornelius of Imola, 167 

Cosentia, 36 

Cotignola, his work in Ravenna, 
262, 270, 271 

Crassus as Trium\'ir, 12, 13 

Crema, 253 

Cremona, 4, 7, 60, 112, 126, 252, 

Crotona, 98, 99 
Crowe and Cavalcaselle, quoted, 

Cumae, 102 

Curio, Caius, tribune, 13-15 
Cj^rus, 254 


Dalmatia, conquest of, 82, 254 

Damianus, Archbishop, 207 

Dante Alighieri in Ravenna, 211, 
216-219, 221-239, 245, 248, 276, 
285; in Venice, 217-219; quoted, 
165, 215, 219, 228, 276; tomb of, 
3, 234-239, 249 

Danube, the river, 28, 93 

Desiderata, Queen, 152 

Desiderius, the Lombard, 148-156 

Diehl, M. Charles, on the exarch- 
ate, ixgnote 

Diocletian, Emperor, 28 

Dion Cassius, 23 

Dioscorus, 44 

Donatello, 273 



EccLESius, bishop of Ravenna, 72 
Eleutherius, 127 
Empser, Jacopo, 255 
Ennodius, bishop of Ticinum, on 

Theodoric, 58, 59 
Ephesus, Council of, 44 
Etruscans, the, 4 
Eucherius, 36 
Eudoxia, Empress, 46, 51 
Eusebius, bishop of Fano, 72 
Eutychius, exarch, 136, 139, 140 
Exarchate, creation of the, 1 1 5-1 1 9 

Fabriano, Antonio da, 273 
Faenza, i, 120, 149, 153, 241, 242, 

253; Theodoric at, 60, 68 
Fano, 99, 119, 148, 204 
Faroald, Duke of Spoleto, 116 
Federigo of Urbino, 220, 254 
Feletheus, king of the Rugians, 58 
Fehx, archbishop of Ravenna, 134 
FeUx the Patrician, 163 
Fermo, 154; Narses at, 89, 90 
Ferrara, i, 149, 153; Duke of, 256; 

war of, 251 
Ficulce, 129 
Fieschi, archbishop Bonefazio de', 

Fiesole, 34, 35; Behsarius at, 91 
Flamberti, Tommaso, his work in 

Ravenna, 246, 262 
Flaminia, 117, 119 
Flaminian Way, the, 121; the 

ahgnment of, 7 
Florence, 113; demands the body 

of Dante, 2 3 5 -2 3 8 ; embassies of, 

217, 221 
Foix, Gaston de, 212, 254-261 
Foligno, Niccolo da, 273 
Fontana, Filippo, archbishop, 245 
Fonte Avellana, 241 
Forli, 25, 120, 135, 148, 259 
Forlimpopoli, 120, 135, 148 
Fornovo, 252 

Foscari, Doge Francesco, 204 

Fossombrone, 119, 148 

Fra Antonio, 238 

Francesca da Rimini, 215, 228, 

Francis I., Emperor, 260 
Franks, the, offer to support the 

Goths, 92 
Frederick Barbarossa, 213 
Frederick II., Emperor, 213, 214 
French descend on Italy, 251, 252 
Friuli, 112, 128, 252, 253 
Fucinus, Lake, 21 
Fulvia, wife of Antony, 19 
Furlo Pass, the, 7, 88 

Gabellum, 119, 149 

Galla Placidia, Augusta, at Ra- 
venna, 40-46, 150, 167, 172, 175, 
176, 178, 243; marriage of, 36- 
40, 48; tomb of, 3, 42, 45, 160, 

Gallicinus, as exarch, 124, 126 

Gardner, E. G., 227 note; The Dia- 
logues of S. Gregory, 74 note 

Gauls invade Italy, the, 4 

Geneva, 154 

Genoa, 4, 6, 117, 252 

Genseric sacks Rome, 51 

Ghibellines, see Guelf - 

Giardino, Pietro di Messer, 229, 

Gibbon, on the Emperor Leo, 137- 
139; on Honorius, 30; on 
Pepin's invasion, 147 

Giorgius, captain of Ravenna, 135 

Giotto, his work in Ravenna, 
176, 217, 229, 243, 244, 246, 248 

Giovanni da Ravenna, 243 

Gisila, 152 

Glycerins, 51-53 

Gothic kingdom, fall of the, 69 

Gothic war, the first, 76-95; the 
second, 97-102 

Grado, 117 

Gratian, 36 



Graziadeo, 243 

Gregory as exarch, 131 

Gregory the Great, Pope, converts 

the Lombards, 108, 113, 121-125, 

Gregory II., Pope, 135, 137, 138, 

Gregory III., Pope, 140-142 
Gregory X., Pope, 214 
Grillo, Angelo, 238 
Gualdo Tadino, Totila at, 100, 127 
Gubbio, 119, 148, 153 
Guelf and Ghibelline struggles, 

213, 230 
Guercino, his work in Ravenna, 

Guicciardini, quoted, 255 
GuidarelK, Guidarello, 262, 273 
Guido da Polenta, 214-217 
Gundobald of Burgundy, 52, 60 


Hadria, 119 

Hadrian, I., Pope, 153-156; tomb 

of, 193 
Hannibal in Italy, 5 
Helmichis, 115 
Henry VII., Emperor, death of, 

Henry VIII., of England, 255 
Heraclian, Count, 35, 39 
Heraclius, Emperor, 50, 126, 127, 

208; heresy of, 129 
Hildebrand, the Lombard, 142 
Hilderic, 79, 80 

Hodgkin, Dr., on Theodoric, 59 
Holder-Egger,Dr.,i6i. SeeAgnellus 
Holy See, the, appeals to France 

against Venice, 251-260 
Honoria, daughter of Constantius, 

offers herself to Attila, 40, 41, 

Honorius, Emperor, retreats upon 

Ravenna, 2, 10, 29-36, 39, 108, 

162; tomb of, 178, 180 
Huns, invasion of Italy by the, 

42, 47-50 

Iconoclastic decrees of Emperor 

Leo, 137, 138 
Ildiger, 88, 90 
Ilerda, 20 
Illus, 58 
Illyricum, 99; Caesar's claim on^ 

14- 29, 35 
Imola, 91, 120, 149, 167, 259, 273 
Importunus, Senator, 72 
Innocent III., Pope, 213 
Innocent IV., Pope, 214 
Innocent X., Pope, 262 
Insula Comacina, 116 
Isaac the Armenian as exarch, 

127-129, 202 
Isauria, 137 
Isonzo, 59 

Istria, province of, 117, 119, 253 
Italy, geographical division of, 4 

Jesi, 119, 148, 153 

Jews, the, cause alienation be- 
tween Theodoric and the Catho- 
lics, 69 

Joannes, usurper, 40, 41 

Joannes of Compsa, 127 

Joannes Lemigius Thrax, 127 

Joannes Rizocopus, exarch, 135 

John I., Pope, 244; sent to Con- 
stantinople, 71-74 

John v., Pope, 132 

John VII. , Pope, 134 

John, general of Belisarius, 87, 88,. 
90, lOI 

John the Glutton, loi 

Jornandes, bishop of Crotona, on 
Ravenna, 23 

Julianus, Didius, 26 

Julius II., Pope, 252, 254, 264 

Julius Caesar, his unappreciation 
of sea power, 20; in Ravenna, 2, 
ID, 12-18; murder of, 18 

Julius Nepos, Emperor, 51, 53, 75. 

Jumieges, Abbot of, 144 



Justin II., Emperor, 79, 109, 118, 
125; reconciled with the pope, 
70, 72 

Justinian, Emperor, his brilliant 
reign, no; his gifts to Ravenna, 
10, 105, 121; his policy in Italy, 
75. 78, 79. 82, 88-91, 97, 104, 
113, 136, 137, 163, 190, 196, 200, 
230; his Pragmatic Sanction, 

Justinian II., Emperor, 132, 134 

La Cattolica, 148 

Lautrec, 257 

Lentulus, Consul, 14 

Leo the Great, Pope, turns back 
Attila, 31, 49, 50, 124 

Leo I., Emperor, 51, 1 37-141 

Leo III., Pope, 136, 183; crowns 
Charlemagne, 156, 157 

Leo X., Pope, 235 

Leone da Verona, 227 

Leontius, 134 

Lepidus, Consul ^Emilius, 7, 19 

Leudaris, 83 

Leva, Antonio da, 256 

Lewis the Bavarian, 219 

Libius Severus, 51, 52 

Liguria, province of, 119 

Lilybaeum, 78 

Lipari, island of, 74 

Liutprand the Lombard, invasion 
of, 137-142, 154 

Livy, on Roman roads, 34 note 

Lombardi, Pietro, his work in 
Ravenna, 235, 239, 264 

Lombardi, Tullio, 262, 273 

Lombards, the, converted to 
Catholicism, 131, 137, 138; in- 
vade Italy, 104, 111-125 

Longhi, Barbara, 272; Francesco, 
272 ; Luca, his work in Ravenna, 
168, 262, 271 

Longinus, his military power, 109, 
115, 116, 119 note 

Louis XII., 252 

Lucania, 36 

Lucca, 62; Julius Csesar at, 13 

Luceoli, 127 

Lucio, Guido, 219 

Lucullus, villa of, 53 

Luna, 128 


Magnus, general of Belisarius, 92 

Mainardi, the, 214, 231 

Majorian, 51, 52 

Malatesta, the, 220, 230; Gio- 
vanni, 215; Paolo, 215; Sigis- 
mondo, 220, 230; in Classe, 204- 
206, 215 

Manetti quoted, 227 

Mantua, 112, 113, 121, 126 

Marcello, podesta, 254 

Marcellus, Consul, 14 

Marcian, Emperor, 47, 51 

Marecchia, the, 99 

Martial, on Ravenna, 24, 25 

Martin, 88, 90 

Martin, Pope, 130, 131 

Maso da Faenza, 243 

Massa, Giovanni Francesco da, 

Massiliots, the 20 

Matasuntha, 93 

Matteo di Giovanni, 273 

Maurice, Chartularius, 129 

Maurice the Cappadocian, Em- 
peror, 125, 126 

Maurus, Archbishop of Ravenna, 
131, 132, 206 

Medici, Leo de', 235 

Melozza da Forli, 271 

Metellus at Ravenna, 8, 12 

Michelangelo Buonarroti, 235 

Middle Age, the, in Ravenna, 210- 
220, 240-250 

Milan, 241, 252; Alaric descends 
on, 29, 35; Attila at, 48; 
Brera, 176; fall of, 90, 91, 93; 
Theodoric at, 59, 60; under 
Lombard rule, 117 

Milotti, Fiduccio dei, 229 



Misenum, fleet of, 20, 21 

Modena, 4, 7, 119, 121 

Mohammedanism, 125 

Molard, 258 

Monaco, Lorenzo, 273 

Monothelete heresy, the, 129, 133 

Monselice, 112, 126 

Mons Lucatium, 148 

Montefeltro, Guido da, 229 

Monza, 131 note 

Mundus, campaign of, 82 


Naples, Belisarius in, 80, 81, 83; 
duchy of, 119, 122, 127; king- 
dom of, 131, 252 
Napoleon I., in Italy, 260 
Narbonne, Ataulfus at, 37, 38 
Narni, 85, 102; Lombards in, 138, 

142, 148 
Narses, his campaigns against the 
Goths, 88-91, 98-104, 108, 127; 
military power of, 106, 108-111, 

113. 117 
Navarra, Pietro, 258 
Nemours, Due de, see Gaston de 

Nero, Emperor, 21 
Nestorius, 44 
Nicene Creed, the, 42, 69 
Nicholas II., Pope, 241 
Nicholas III., Pope, 214 
Nicholas V., Pope, 206 
Noce, Pasio delta, 227 
Nonianus, Marcus Servilius, 15 
Nova, 58 

Novara, battle of, 254, 260 
Novello, Guido, 217-219, 222-229, 

231. 234 
Numai, LufEo, 246, 262 


OcTAViANUS, wars against An- 
tony, 18-20. See Augustus 

Odoacer, becomes king of Italy, 2, 
49, 52-54, 63; is overthrown by 
Theodoric, 57-62, 73 

Olybrius, Emperor, 51, 52 

Olympius as exarch, 35, 129, 130 

Onesti, the, 212, 231, 240, 242, 277; 
Anastasio, 277-285 

Opiterguim, 128 

Ordelaffi, the, 230 

Orestes, 53, 57 

Orleans family, the, 252 

Orosius, on Alaric and Ataulfus, 

34. 37 
Orte, 122 
Orvieto, 88, 90 
Osimo, 149, 154; held by the 

Goths, 88, 90, 91, 119 
Ostia, 24, 241 
Ostrogothic invasion of Italy, 

58-64, 69 
Otranto, 98 

Otto III., Emperor, 169 
Otto IV., Emperor, 213 

Padua, 112, 253 

Palermo, fall of, 80, 81, 83 

Palestrina, bishop of, 1 54 

Paliose, 256 

Palmezzano, Marco, 166, 271 

Palude, Marchese della, 256, 258 

Panaro, battle of, 128 

Papal power, rise of the, 49, 144- 

Parma, 121; university of, 241 

Parthian war, the, 1 3 

Paschal, rival of Sergius, 132 

Pasolini, the, 191 

Paul I., Pope, 149-15 1 

Paulus, brother of Orestes, 53 

Paulus, Exarch, 136, 139 

Pavia, 102; Attila at, 48; battle 
of, 34, 35; Boethius at, 70, 71; 
Charlemagne at, 154; held by 
the Goths, 96; Lombards in, 
112, 113, 121, 141, 142, 144, 148, 



153; Orestes in, 53; Theodoric 

at, 60, 65 
Pax Romana, the, 25-27 
Pazzi, Ra£faello de', 258 
Pelagius II., Pope, 108, 118, 121 
Pelasgi, the, 11 
Pentapohs, the, 119, 148 
Pepin, donation of, 148, 156; his 

invasion of Italy, 2, 33, 95, 141, 

143-152, 210 
Peredeus, 115, 116 
Perini, Dino, 229 
Persia, threatens the empire, 93 
Pertinax, 26 
Perugia, held by the Empire, 85, 

88, 96, 98, 102, 122, 153 
Pesaro, 119, 148 
Pescara, Marchese da, 256, 258 
Peter, ambassador of Justinian, 79 
Petra Pertusa, 7 note, 99, loi 
Petronius Maximus, Emperor, 51 
Pharsalus, battle of, 18 
Philip, Pope, 152 
Philippi, battle of, 19 
Phillimore, Miss, quoted, 238 
Phocas, 125, 126 
Piacenza, held by Rome, 96, 98, 

Picenum, campaign in, 88 
Pietro da Rimini, 243 
Pietro Orseolo II., Doge, 169 
Piraeus, the, 21 

Placentia, 4, 7, 53; bishop of, 52 
Plato, Exarch, 129 
Platyn, Joannes, Exarch, 132, 133 
Pliny, on Ravenna, 12, 21, 22, 24, 

Plutarch, on Julius Caesar, 16 note, 


Po, the valley of the, 5 

Polenta, Bernardino da, 248-250; 
Chiara da, 245 ; Francesca da, 
215,228,231; Guido Novello da, 
217-219, 222-229, 231, 234, 244; 
Lamberto da, 217; Ostasio da, 
219, 220, 246, 251 

Polentani, the, 214, 220, 230 

Polesine, the, 251 

Pollentia, battle of, 34 

Pompeius, Sextus, 20 

Pompey as Triumvir, 12-15, 18 

Ponthion, 145, 146 

Porto Leone, 61 

Praetoria, the, 21 

Procopius, on the Gothic war, 86, 
87, 91, 92, 95, 99, loi; on Theo- 
doric, 58, 65 ; quoted, 42, 46, 72 

Pulcheria, Empress, 47, 51 

Pupienus, 26 

Puteoli, 20 


Radagaisus invades Italy, 34-36, 

Ragazzini, 269 
Raimondo da Cardona, 254 
Rasponi, Raffaele, 272; quoted, 

167 note, 192 note 
Rastello da Forli, 243 
Ratchis the Lombard, 142, 148 
Ravenna, Accademia, 267-273; an- 
nexed by Rome, 1 1 ; annexed 
by Venice, 2 5 1 -260 ; Archbishop 
of, 150, 156, 213; besieged by 
Theodoric, 60; Belisarius in, 92- 
95, 141, 196; Charlemagne in, 
157, 159, 183, 512, 211; — 
Churches: Arian, 1S2-195; By- 
zantine, 196-209; Catholic, 159- 
181; Mediaeval, 240-250; Ren- 
aissance, 262-266; S. Agata, 42, 
172-174; S. Apollinare in Classe, 
202-209; S. Apollinare Nuovo, 
183-190; Arcivescovado chapel, 
166-170; Baptistery, 169-172; 
S. Chiara, 245 ; S. Croce, 46, 178, 
272 note ; S. Domenico, 246; 
Duomo (Basilica Ursiana), 42, 
162-166; S. Francesco (S. Pietro 
Maggiore), 174, 245-246; S. Gio- 
vanni Battista, 178; S. Giovanni 
Evangelista, 41, 175, 246-250; 
S. Maria delle Croci, 266; S. 
Maria in Cosmedin, 191 -192; 



S. Maxia in Porto, 264-266; S. 
Maria in Porto fuori, 243-245; 
Mausoleum of Gallo Placidia, 
46, 1 78-18 1 ; Mausoleum of 
Theodoric, 73-74, 192-195; S. 
Romualdo, 274; S. Spirito, 190- 
191; S. Vitale, 196-202; — Galla 
Placidia in, 3, 41-46, 160, 180, 
181; Dante in, 3, 211, 216-219, 
221-239, 249; exarchate of , 106- 
iio, 1 18-145; foundation of, 11; 
geographical position of, 1-10,21, 
29, 56, 105; Guelf and Ghibel- 
line in, 214; Honorius in, 2, 30- 
41, 55; its fleet, 21-24, 56; its 
water supply, 22, 24, 25, 29; 
Julius Caesar in, 2, 10, 12-18; 
Lombards in, 2, 112, 126, 138- 
142; Museo, 274; Narsesin, 99; 
Odoacer in, 57-62; Pinacoteca, 
267-273; Pineta, the, 61, 275- 
286; popes in, 149-157; recon- 
quest of by Rome, 78, 86, 91-96, 
103-106, 148, 210; revolution 
against Constantinople in, 133- 
135; Rocca, 263; seat of the 
empire, 2, 30, 51-55, 150, i57. 
158; seized by Aistulf, 95, 138- 
142, 146; strategic position of, 7, 
18, 30, 105, 115; Theodoric in, 
2, 61-75, 91, 182-195; under the 
empire, 18-29 
Reggio, 121 

Renaissance in Ravenna, 262 
Reni, Guido, his work in Ravenna, 

166, 262 
Reparatus, Archbishop, 208 
Ricci, Dr. Corrado, quoted, 164- 
166, 168, 178, 180, 183, 187, 192- 
200, 206, 227, 238, 242, 246, 263, 
266, 269 
Ricimer the Patrician, genius of, 52 
Rimini, 1,4, 148; Belisarius in, 88, 
90; held by Rome, 98; its 
origin, 1 1 ; its strategic position, 
5-7; Julius Csesar at, 17, 19; 
murder of Paolo and Francesca 
in; 215, 231, Odoacer at, 60, 61 ; 
S. Francesco, 204, 206 

Romagna, Dante on the, 229, 230; 
league of the, 213, 260 

Romagnuol school of painting, the, 
243, 245, 267, 273 

Roman Empire, bankruptcy of, 
96, 104, iii; cause of its 
decay, 136; fall of, 47-54; 
re-created by Charlemagne, 157, 

Roman Law, principles of, 108, 

Romanus as exarch, 120-124 

Rome, accepts Christianity, 33; 
annexes Ravenna, 11, 12, 19; 
Charlemagne in, 157; duchy of, 
119, 150; Gothic rule in, 8 1 ; held 
by Belisarius, 83-95, 98; the 
Lombards in, 147, 150, 153; 
rises against Constantinople, 133, 
134; sacks of, 51, 96, 131 

Romualdo da Verona, abbot, 270 

Romulus Augustulus, 49, 51-53 

Rondinelli, Niccolo, his work in 
Ravenna, 176, 246, 262, 267-271 

Rosamond, queen of the Lom- 
bards, 115 

Rossi, Girolamo, 272 

Rothari, king of the Lombards, 
128, 131 

Rovigo, 251 

Rubeus, historian, 127 

Rubicon, the, crossed by Csesar, 
5, 7, 12, 16-18 

Rudolph of Hapsburg, 214 

Rugians, the, 58 

Sabinus, bishop of Campania, 72 
Sacchetti, Franco, 248-250 
Sacchi of Imola, Gaspare, 266 
S. Aderitus, 161 
S. Agnellus, bishop of Ravenna, 

105, 106, 166, 173, 184, 189, 

Salimbene, Fra, 74 note 
Salona, bishopric of, 53, 57 



S. Ambrose, Letters of, quoted, 

S. Apollinaris, bishop of Ravenna, 

27, 41, 161, 206 
Saracens, the, invade Sicily, 130 
Sardica, Council of, 42 
Sarsina, 148 
S. Austin, 114 
Saviozzo da Siena, 227 
S. Barbatianus, 164, 165, 176 
Scala, Cane della, 231, 234 
Scheggia, 7; Narses at, 100 
Scholasticus, Exarch, 136 
Scipio, 15 

S. Denis, Pope Stephen at, 145 
Sea-power, value of, 20 
S. Ecclesius, bishop, 105, 196 
S. Eleucadius, 161 
Serena, wife of Stilicho, 36 
Sergius, bishop of Ravenna, 149, 

151. 173 

Sejgius, Pope, 132-134 

Serra dei Conti, 148 

Severinus, 129 

Severus, bishop of Ravenna, 42 

Severus Septimius, 26; in Ra- 
venna, 29 

S. Exuperantius, bishop of Ra- 
venna, 163, 164, 172 

S. Felix, Life of, 163 

Sforza, Francesco, 220, 252 

S. Giovanni Angeloptes, bishop 
of Ravenna, 42, 169, 173, 174 

S. Gregory the Great, 74 note 

S. Helena, 178 

Sicily, Belisarius in, 80 

Sidonius Apollinaris on Ravenna, 
55. 56 

Sienese school of painting, the, 273 

Silverius, Pope, 83 

Singeric, King, 39 

Singleida, her work in Ravenna, 

Sinigaglia, 98, 119, 148, 150, 153 

Sisinnius, Pope, 134 

S. Jerome, 37 

S. John, invocation of, 41 

Slavs, invasion of the, 93 

S. Leo, 148, 153 

Smaragdus as exarch, 116, 118, 

119 note, 120, 126 
S. Maria in Acquedotto, 25 
S. Maria in Porto fuori, 242-245, 

260, 264 
S. Marino, republic of, 9, 148 
S. Martianus, 161 
S. Maurice, 145 

S. Maximian, bishop of Ra- 
venna, 26, 29, 64 note, 105, 

167, 169, 196, 201, 202, 206 
S. Neon, bishop of Ravenna, 169, 

170, 174, 178 
Socrates, 40 

Sophia, Empress, 109, no 
S. Peter, Pope, 27, 41, 161 
S. Peter Chrysologus, bishop of 

Ravenna, 150, 161, 167, 174; 

on S. Apollinaris, 27; his work 

in Ravenna, 42 
S. Peter Damian, 212, 231, 240- 

242, 273 
S. Pietro degli Onesti, II Peccatore, 

231, 240-244 
Spoleto, duchy of, 113, 121, 122, 

149,152,154; heldby Rome, 85, 

90, 98, 102 
S. Romualdo, 212, 231, 240, 

Stephen III., Pope, 152, 153, 156; 

appeals to Pepin, 142-149 
Stephen IX., Pope, 241 
Stilicho defeats Alaric, 31, 34, 35 
Strabo on Ravenna, 8, 11, 22 
Stromboli, 74 

Strzygowski, quoted, 193 note 
Suetonius, on Julius Caesar, 14, 16, 

17; on Ravenna, 23 
Sulla, wars of, 8, 12 
S. Ursicinus, bishop of Ravenna, 

S. Ursus, 161-163 
S. Victor, bishop of Ravenna, 

Symmachus, murder of, 73, 74 
Syrian work in Ravenna, 193 




Tacitus, 84; on Ravenna, 22 

Tarentum, 131 

Taso, duke of Tuscia, 128 

Teias, 102 

Thelane, son of Odoacer, 61 

Theodahad, 78-81, 107 

Theodelinda, Queen, leads the 

Lombards into Catholicism, 1 20- 

Theodora, Empress, 79, 196, 

Theodore Calliopas, as exarch, 

129, 130, 132 
Theodore the Patrician, 135 
Theodore the Ostrogoth, invades 

Italy, 58-62, 91; as governor of 

Italy, 62-75, 80, 92, 97, 105-107; 

in Ravenna, 2, 25, 182-195; tus 

tomb, 3, 263, 274 
Theodorus, Senator, 72 
Theodosius the Great, Emperor, 36, 

Theodosius II., Emperor, 40, 46. 

Theophylact, exarch, 135 
Thessalians, the, 11 
Thrasamund, 78, 79 
Thuringians, the, 64 
Tiberius II., Emperor, 125, 208 
Ticinum, fall of, 115 
Tivoli, bishop of, 154 
Todi, 122; held by Vitiges. 85, 88, 

Tortona, 52 
Totila, 34 note; campaign against, 

95, 97-102, 104, 107, 109 
Toto of Nepi, 1 5 1 
Toulouse, 38 
Trajan, his aqueduct at Ravenna, 

25, 29, 64, 66 
Traversari, Pietro, and Paolo, 214, 

231, 277, 280, 282 
Treviso, 128, 253 ; bishop of, 

Trieste, 16 

Tufa, deserts Theodoric, 59, 60 
Turks attack Venetia, 252 


Ubertini, the, 214 

Umana, 149 

Umbri, the, 11 

Unimundus, bishop of Ravenna, 

Uraius, the Goth, besieges Milan, 

90, 91. 93 
Urbino, 119, 148, 153; dukes of, 

220, 254, 258; held by Vitiges, 

88, 91 
Ursicinus, Archbishop, 202 
Ursus, bishop of Ravenna, 42 
Usdrilas, the Goth, in Rimini, 99 


Valentinian II., 64 

Valentinian III., Emperor, 40, 46, 


Valentinian III., Emperor, policy 
of, 50, 51, 167, 172, 173, 176, 

Valerian, loi 

Vandal invasions of Italy, 42, 5 1 

Vasari, quoted, 217, 246, 267-271 

Venetia, province of, 59, 119 

Venice builds the Rocca, 263; 
Dante in, 217-219; League of 
Cambray formed against, 252- 
260; recaptures Ravenna, 141, 
192. 206, 220, 235, 251, 263; 
situation of, 8, 22, 24, 112 

Verona, 112, 115, 154, 253; Attila 
at, 48; Dante in, 222; Odoacer 
at, 59; siege of, 34; Theodoric 
at, 64 

Vespasian, Emperor, 7 note, 21 

Via Francigena, 158 

Via Salaria, the, 86 

Vicenza, 253; Attila at, 48 

Virgilio, Giovanni del, 225, 229 

Visconti, the, 220 

Visconti, Filippo Maria, 251 

Visigoths, the, 64 

Vitalius, 92 

Vitello, bishop, 259 



Viterbo, 154 

Vitiges, overthrown by Belisarius, 

8i-9S, 109 
Vogiie, M. le Vte. de, 273 
Vulturnia, 126 


Wallia, king of the Goths, 39, 52 
Wicksteed, Philip H., 226 note, 
227 note 


duke of Spoleto, 

Zach ARIAS, Pope, 142 
Zacharias, soldier, 133, 134 
Zamudio, 255 
Zeno, Emperor, 183; policy of, 53, 

57, 58 
Zirardini, quoted, 163 
Zosimus, quoted, 35, 36 


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