Imperium Romanum

The Name of the Empire:
Part 1: Romanitas

"Nostrum est Romanum Imperium", Gerbert of Reims
Ours is the Roman Empire.” When he said these words to Otto III, Gerbert was perfectly aware that the Roman Empire in the west had fallen long before he was born. But he was equally convinced that the Eastern Frankish kings were the right Emperors of a restored Roman Empire.
The Latin titles of Augustus and Imperator Romanorum have been vigorously claimed, although with respect to the Eastern Emperor the “Romanorum” was sometimes omitted. In fact, the western thinking did not require the connection of the highest power (Imperator) with a certain people or place. This is why the Imperium itself also had no specification, it was simply the Imperium. The Eastern Frankish kings knew an Imperium Francorum as well as an Imperium Romanorum. Otto the Great is attested as Imperator Augustus Romanorum ac Francorum in 966. However, these were not interchangeable, but distinct.

In fact, the idea of the Roman Empire was threefold: 1) limited to Italy, 2) a super Empire encompassing other kingdoms, and 3) universal. All these notions could be meant when a contemporary western scholar or politician spoke of the Roman Empire.

For many contemporaries, Otto stood in line with the old Caesars and in time, the Eastern Frankish kings became increasingly enchanted with that. Otto III, grandson of Otto the Great and son of the Eastern Roman princess Theophanu, proclaimed the rebirth of the Roman Empire under his reign. His teacher Gerbert did everything to enforce that thought. Interestingly enough, Gerbert argued that Otto was also legitimized by being Homo genere Grecus. His “Greek” ancestry of course is his Eastern Roman mother. Otto ruled over the Roman Empire, including its old provinces:
Nostrum Nostrum est Romanum Imperium. Dant vires ferax frugum Italia, ferax militum Gallia et Germania, nec Scithae desunt nobis fortissima regna.

After Konrad II came to power, Imperium Romanum was a usual description of the Empire ruled. Later on western Frankish/French authors would even assert the eastern part was no longer Frankish, but Roman or, unsurprisingly, Saxon or German.

Part 2: Franks, Saxons, and Germans
"Exhinc quidam post Francorum Regnum supputant Teutonicorum", Otto of Freising
Even without the Nomen Imperatoris separating the kings of Eastern and Western Francia, both parts drifted apart politically as well as culturally. Long since had both halves spoken different languages, for example. With the end of the Carolingian dynasty at the beginning of the 10th century another tie seems to have been lost.

The term Teutonicus was used in the 9th century already, Teutones appear in the 10th century. Originally it had been Theodiscus, but that was considered barbarian and discarded. This was the result of a fatal habit of medieval scholars: they took names from antiquity and gave them to people with similar sounding names. The Danes became Daci and the Swedes became Suevi, to name two examples.

However the term Teutones was probably mostly used by scholars (and, for other reasons, Italians), while many would have preferred their regional identities as Saxons, Bavarians or Frisians. To confuse matters furthermore, Saxon could also mean all of Eastern Francia, because it had Saxon rulers since 919.

It is hard to tell when people stopped regarding themselves as Franks. Otto of Freising famously dates the change from the Regnum Francorum to the Regnum Teutonicorum to Henry I, but this author was no contemporary. Also, the Rex Teutonicorum was never the official term used by the King. It was mostly used by his enemies to lower his status to that of a regional ruler.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the Frankish name was abandoned as constitutive Nomen of the Regnum sometime in the second half of the 10th century. In the timeframe of TGC the Kingdom is best described as not Frankish anymore, and not German yet.
History from 919 to 1076
With a Special Emphasis on Italy and the South-Eastern Border
n 918 the reign of Konrad I had failed. The great dukes of the Eastern Frankish Kingdom openly defied him and foreign invaders, foremost the Magyars, raided the land almost at will. When he died, the Dukes elected a new king – Henry I, Duke of Saxony, called The Fowler. Unlike Conrad, he never tried to rule the Dukes directly, instead he was content with a soft overlordship. For the most part, Henry’s power over other Dukes was restricted to military high command. However this created a remarkably stable kingdom. The Dukes were friends, amici, of the King and treated as if they were equals.

The greatest danger of his time was posed by the Magyars. The futile attempts of previous kings to stop their incursions had seriously undermined the power and credibility of the kingship. Henry knew he was not prepared to meet that enemy yet, as his forces were not in any shape for a fight against the formidable foe. He also could not risk a defeat, because that would have meant the total loss of credibility for the crown. Thus he made peace with the Magyars by paying them off. In the years of peace Henry reformed his military and fortified the countryside. Castles were created at strategic points, cities, and even some villages were protected by walls. The numbers of heavy cavalry were increased, but the infantry was also trained to be much more effective than their predecessors.

With the Magyars paid off, Henry turned east, invading Slavic territory. He subdued several tribes, but again, Henry was content with accepting their submission and not directly interfering with their affairs. Henry may have wanted to secure his flank to the north-east before going to war with the Magyars, maybe he wanted to prove his martial prowess, and maybe he wanted to train his troops. Whatever the true reasons were, the result of the campaigns was very favorable. Henry was ready.

When the time came and Magyar envoys demanded more money, Henry tossed a (presumably dead) dog at their feet and chased them away. War was about to begin. In 933 Henry scored the first major victory over a Magyar army in the Battle of Riade. Although the losses of the Magyars were rather low in that battle, another Magyar army group was isolated in Saxon and Thuringian country. Due to the massive fortification and the bad weather, supplying was virtually impossible for the invaders. Since they had penetrated too deep into German territory, and Henry’s victorious army was on the move, retreat was difficult as well. Consequently the Magyars starved to death, or were taken prisoner and executed.
One can see that Henry’s primary interests were no longer in the west, like those of his predecessors. He tried to come to terms with the west, but gave up the try to unite the Frankish kingdoms again. He focused on what would become modern Germany. For that, Henry was often celebrated as the first German, especially the Nazis had a soft spot for him, but that is hardly Henry’s fault.

Before his death Henry allegedly planed a Romfahrt, going to Rome in order to be crowned Emperor by the Pope and enforce imperial presence in Italy. However he fell ill. His health rapidly deteriorated, and in 935 he suffered a heart attack. Before his death next year, he convinced the Dukes to make his son Otto King.

Otto I became King at the age of 24 in 936. His reign was plagued by family feuds initially, and the other Dukes soon stood against him. The kingdom was hurled into a civil war, which lasted for five years. Otto emerged victorious, but he also ensured his relatives to marry mighty men, thus securing support through marriages. He safeguarded the western Flank against the Carolingians in western Francia, kept the Danes and Slavs at bay, even the Magyars were rather peaceful.

Otto turned southeast, the Emperor in Constantinople. The diplomacy between Otto and Constantine VII was marked by friendship and Otto again tried to arrange a marriage. He also had an eye for Italy, which is why friendly relations to Constantinople were useful. In 951 he defeated the pretender Berengar in Italy and became King of the Lombards. He may have pushed further, but there was a rebellion at home – by his own son.

With the second marriage of Otto, his son Liudolf, was afraid to be left out of the succession, should Otto have another son. Liudolf found mighty allies, such as Duke Konrad the Red. He struck when Otto’s second wife indeed gave birth to a son. The rebellion was widespread, and Liudolf even made a deal with Magyars, who invaded Bavaria in 954. Just when it seemed that the kingdom would break apart, father and son were pressured by the Bishops to make peace. It took a while, but in autumn the war was finally over.

Now the Magyars needed to be defeated. Otto assembled an army from all the duchies, including Bohemia and rode out for the rescue of Bavaria. As he left his own duchy Saxony vulnerable he proved that he was genuinely concerned about the well-being of his Dukes, earning their trust. In the Battle of Lechfeld (see below for a detailed account) Otto massacred the Magyars. Konrad the Red, his most bitter enemy, fought valiantly and saved the day for Otto, but he also died just after redeeming himself. Standing in the Magyars’ blood, Otto’s troops hailed him Imperator in the best classical tradition of ancient Rome.

A Slavic uprising was put down right after that battle, but it would be the last for quite some time. Otto used the following time of peace to reorganize the church, giving them more land and privileges in return for a deeper commitment to court affairs and, of course, stronger support of the King.

However, Otto was not Emperor yet, even though his troops considered him one. A perfect chance came when another pretender in Italy, Berengar II, conquered most of northern Italy and threatened Rome. With many Italian Bishops in German exile and the Pope calling for help, Otto’s time had come. He was going to Italy in 961.

Berengar retreated and Otto was crowned Emperor in 962. Due to his position of strength he reorganized the election of future Popes. This, combined with other actions of Otto, made the Pope John XII hostile towards him. But John himself had alienated the Romans and thus he was soon deposed. After some back and forth struggles, Otto and the new Pope Leo VIII were firmly in control of Rome, northern and central Italy.

When he pushed south, he got in conflict with Nikephoros Phokas, but soon after the initial and indecisive clashes, both parties realized an alliance to be far more useful. Still peace could not be achieved due to diplomatic nuisances, and only when Phokas died, the alliance was manifested. Otto’s son Otto II was to marry the niece of John Tzimiskes, Theophanu. Both Emperors accepted each other and refrained from provocations (John did not call Otto a mere King, Otto did not use his “Romanorum” when addressing John etc.).

As troubled as his reign had begun, Otto the Great became one of the most successful rulers of his time and did a lot to strengthen his Roman Empire’s position. When he died in 973, it was a super power on equal footing with the Eastern Roman Empire.

Otto II was already co-Emperor in 967, but his position in 973 was far from secure. On the contrary, there were severe frictions among his Dukes, the Danish King Harold Bluetooth invaded the northern marches, and the Carolingians were on the move again. Their threat was so great that Otto II had to besiege Paris to make an end to the war, but his real interests were in Italy.

He considered himself a Roman Emperor, and as such, he had to rule over all of Italy. This necessarily included southern Italy, where the Muslims, the Lombards, and the Eastern Roman Empire had their possessions. But when he came in 982, he was not perceived as an invader by the Christian population. The Eastern Roman Empire had fallen in agony and left Italy more or less alone, the Lombards were warring each other since Otto’s ally Pandulf Ironhead had died, and the Muslims’ raids were getting more terrifying. Otto’s campaign ended with a disastrous battle at the Cape Colonna (see below for a detailed account), but the Muslim raids stopped.

A Slavic uprising in the wake of the defeat was the greatest danger and Otto lost a lot of territory in the north east.

Otto died in 989 at the young age of 28. He showed great promise but could never life up to it. He is the only German ruler ever to be buried in Rome.
His son Otto III is one of the most illustrious and most controversial figures in German history. He was also probably one of youngest rulers ever, for he was just three years old, when his father died. Therefore his mother Theophanu and the court took care of the government first. Aged 14 and thus grown up Otto immediately grabbed the power and ruled alone.

Son of two imperial families, with eastern and western heritage, he was soon consumed by the thought of being a Roman making Italy his priority. Moreover he wanted to marry an Eastern Roman princess as well and sent out his envoys to Constantinople in 995. His next move was his first Romfahrt.

In Rome Pope John XV was struggling against the local nobility led by the Urban Prefect Crecentius and requested Otto’s help, who then marched south. He first made himself godfather of Otto Orseolo, son of the Doge of Venice to ensure good relations with that city. He defeated Crecentius, but John had died already, so Otto abused his power to install a new Pope, Gregor V, the first German to hold that office. Crecentius was pardoned by Gregory as an act of good will, and Otto was crowned Emperor by ‘his’ Pope.
However Crecentius himself installed an Anti-Pope and drove Gregory away, just after Otto had left Italy to fight the rebellious Slavs. In 998 Otto was about to besiege Rome, but the Romans had little interest in such a battle and forsake Crecentius and his Anti-Pope. Both were captured, tortured and executed. This time, Otto intended to stay.

It is 999 when he first issued a Bulla with his famous credo of the Renovatio Imperii, the restoration of the Roman Empire. He settled for an Imperial Palace on the Palatine, created Roman offices for his Empire such as the Praefectoria Navalis, the Imperial Navy Command, despite the fact that there was no such navy.

To pacify his north-eastern border, he created a new diocese in the Slavic borderland and elevated the local Duke Boleslaw in his status, although it is unclear what exactly is meant by that. Otto treated Boleslaw as Frater et Cooperator Imperii (brother and helper of the Empire) and as Populi Romani Amicus et Socius (friend and ally of the Roman people). Otto’s successors would pay a terrible price for this misjudgment…

Otto however was content with that and hurried to Italy again. From 1000 to 1001 he seems to have enjoyed being Emperor, since he did not govern much. Only when Tivoli revolted, he laid siege to the city, leading to unrest in Rome itself. However the unrest could be ended peacefully because Otto told the Romans about his love for the city. The speech was obviously very moving as the Romans were moved to tears. In this year Otto was additionally confronted with claims by the church based on the so-called Donation of Constantine. The Emperor dismissed this forgery for what it was.

In January 1002, Otto died from illness, merely 22 years old. His reign has often been criticized as driven by romantic fantasies, a misguided love for Italy, and a sever neglect of German affairs north of the Alps. Other fancy his optimistic and far fetching goals for the Renovatio Imperii, his education (as he was one of the few individuals of that age capable of writing and reading in Greek and Latin; furthermore he was well versed in ancient classics), and his assertiveness in spite his youth.
His successor became Henry II, descendent from the Bavarian line of the Ottonians, elected by the German Dukes. Being Duke of Bavaria himself probably gave him a better understanding of the northern affairs, in any case he concentrated his efforts on them. For much of his reign, he had to fight Boleslaw, for he felt betrayed by Henry after an ambush and openly defied him now. In four campaigns Henry failed to submit Boleslaw and his Poles. Poland became a power on equal footing with the Eastern Frankish Kingdom in the north-east.

Henry’s campaigns to the south were more successful. In 1004 he defeated a pretender to the Italian crown and defended his title as Rex Italiae and was additionally crowned Rex Langobardorum.
During his absence to fight Boleslaw, the Popes and the nobles in Rome quarreled time and again. In 1013 Henry had to go to Rome and bring order. Of course, he did not deny being crowned Emperor in 1014 as well. As quickly as possible he departed to carry on his campaigns in the north.

Due to Henry’s neglect of the Italian affairs he also had neglected Constantinople. Basil II had no intention of continuing the good relations and fortified southern Italy, pushing Henry’s sphere of influence north. This also diminished the Pope’s influence, thus he called for help. He personally met Henry in Bamberg, Germany, bringing a precious gift with him: the starry cloak. Henry was not overly enthusiastic, since he did not care about southern Italy much, but in the end he could not leave the Pope alone and a resurgent, hostile Eastern Empire was a threat to his Imperial rule. In 1021 he marched against the troops of Basil. Since they avoided set piece battles, the campaign was marked by sieges against Eastern Roman cities and Lombard cities allied with them, all of which were successful. Henry’s army suffered nevertheless from supply shortages and diseases; moreover Henry himself met his fate in 1024. Basil could not exploit his death, as he also died soon after.

Henry II is the only German Emperor who was canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. He had no children and thus the Ottonian line came to an end.

Konrad II was elected King, probably he was designated by Henry already. With Konrad the rule of the Salian dynasty began, but he did not change the policy of his predecessor. Yet, he still had to go to Italy first because Pavia revolted against the Empire and Lombard nobles offered their kingdom to the French King’s son, Hugh Magnus. He declined, as did William of Aquitania, since both perfectly understood this would have meant war. Pavia had revolted after the death of Henry and the citizens destroyed the royal palace. As Konrad came to punish them they tried to justify their actions with the death of Henry and the short time of vacancy in the Kingship. Henry however explained that the Kingdom exists even if there is no King, just like the ship floats even if there is no helmsman, thus the citizens sinned against the Kingdom. Pavia remained in opposition to Konrad and he rode out against the city in 1026. He also campaigned against the Lombard nobles. Militarily the campaign was indecisive, but politically Konrad managed to force a favourable peace. In 1027, he was crowned Emperor and left Italy.

In Germany, Konrad faced some unrest but stabilized his reign. He turned east to Poland because Boleslaw had made himself King, in open defiance to the Emperor. His son Miezko also claimed this title and invaded Saxony. In the following war, Miezko lost the territories his father had won, and submitted to Konrad in 1034. Konrad also marched against Hungary for there were some border disputes, but his campaigns were utter failures, although they were of little consequences.

Konrad concentrated himself on the west, inherited and defended the Burgundian Kingdom. He furthermore made the estates of his heavy cavalry heritable, effectively creating the knight.

In Italy, the Bishops loyal to the Emperor were in serious trouble as it seems they came in conflict with the local nobility, requiring Konrad’s presence. In 1038 the Imperial army laid siege on Milano after the Milanese army could not win a field battle that was intended to disperse Konrad’s troops. Konrad could not win either, the siege was aborted. He went south to fight Pandulf IV of Capua who had expanded his Duchy at the expense of others, probably with Eastern Roman support. Pandulf indeed fled to Constantinople in exile, and the Duchies of Capua, Benevent and Salerno were reorganized by Konrad, accepting his suzerainty. Further campaigning was denied by diseases and great heat, even Konrad’s wife died, Queen Gunhild. The army returned to Germany.

There, Konrad fell ill in 1039 and arranged for his son to become king, before he succumbed to the illness.
Henry III the Black was confronted with various problems, trouble in Bohemia, the resolved tension with Hungary, and a revolt of Lorraine. Eventually, Hungary and Germany made a lasting peace, Lorraine and Bohemia could be pacified. But Henry was also needed in the south, for yet again the nobles in Rome were fighting each other over the Papal throne, with one faction claiming it for Silvester, and another for Benedict. Benedict however sold his claim to a priest, who then claimed papacy as Gregory VI. In 1046 Henry was left with no choice and had to come to Rome personally. And he was fed up with all the quarrels. In two synods he had everyone of the pretenders deprived of their claims. After all, he did not want to be crowned Emperor by a Pope, who had bought the office. He worked tirelessly for the abolition of simony. Meanwhile he installed a Pope of his own and was crowned in December 1046.

He then travelled south and restored Pandulf IV as Duke of Capua. This was an immensely acclaimed move which stabilized southern Italy. But more important, it created pressure on the Pope, should he get too ambitious. Another clever move was to make two Norman lords his vassals, Ranulf and Drogo, recognizing their conquests. As their conquests were mostly at the expense of the Eastern Roman Empire, Henry therefore increased his influence in southern Italy.

However, pressing affairs in the north forced him to return to Germany. The tensions among his own nobles were increasing. What was worse was Henry’s will to overrule the Dukes time and again. Some nobles openly defied Henry. The Kingdom did not fall apart, but that was hard work.
Unfortunately Henry also died young in 1056, leaving a troubled Kingdom for his son behind.

Henry IV was just six years old when his father died. Effectively his mother ruled the Kingdom, which did not meet any objection by the nobles. On the contrary they supported her realizing that the Kingdom was more important than petty conflicts. But the good relations only lasted for a short time and reserved quickly. Indeed, there was a group of nobles abducted the Queen and Henry, wanting one of their own, Bishop Anno II, to lead the government, and they successes. But Henry slowly regained power, even before he was coming of age, showing great tenacity.
In 1066, Henry was crowned and soon began a series of wars against the Slavs, but then had to quell the rebellions of three Dukes. Worse, from 1073 to 1075, the Saxons rebelled. Although all of these challenges were mastered by Henry, it is apparent that the Kingdom was under serious stress.
The greatest enemy of Henry however was not from within, it was Pope Gregory VII. He and Henry would fight over the investiture of Bishops, leading to a much greater controversy about the relation of secular and ecclesial powers...

Geostrategic Position

Having overcome the unhealthy preoccupation with the west, the German kings focused on other fronts. First the Magyars were fought off, and then Slavic tribes in the north-east were subdued. Although these were the most pressing concerns for the German territories, the Kings never forgot about their Imperial obligations. In fact, some concentrated on them. Between 951 and 1051 they conducted more than a dozen campaigns in Italy, usually successful. However, southern Italy always remained hotly contested. In fighting the local powers of the Eastern Roman Empire, Lombard Duchies, the Muslims, and later the Normans the German armies may have been victorious but never capably of establishing a long term presence. Yet when they came, few had to power to stand up against that giant.

Relations to the Eastern Roman Empire

The relation between the Eastern and the Western Empire has always been a special one because the Eastern Emperor considered himself the highest authority on earth. The fact that Charlemagne and his successors claimed the title of Emperor as well naturally collided with that idea. Yet by the 10th century, the Imperator Augustus title of the west was more or less accepted, albeit far from voluntarily. But being Emperor of the Romans was still jealously denied the western Emperors. Yet they took that title nonetheless, as they were ruling over Rome and the Romans, and as they were speaking Latin, as they defended the western Christendom against the infidels.

While this remained a point of contention, Eastern Roman diplomacy was governed largely by considerations of utility to the state. The western Emperors were, for the most part, no threat to eastern interests, rather they could benefit from mutual agreements. Constantine Porphyrogenitos emphasized the possibilities for the ERE offered by an alliance. Before Otto the Great became Emperor he was greeted by Romanos II as “cherished and dearly beloved spiritual brother, the most noble, illustrious king of Francia.”. Later on the western Empire even became accepted as something of a junior partner. A prophecy of a lion and a lion-cub slaying the jack-ass were interpreted in the east in a way that Nikephoros Phokas was the lion, Otto was the cub, and the jack-ass was Fatimid ruler. Nikephoros and Otto were seen as having a single nature, although different in size. At one point, the Franks/Germans were not even considered Barbarians any longer. When Theophanes (Continuatus) spoke of Barbarians in Gaul, he explicitly meant the Saracens, not the Franks.
Understandably though, Otto was not content being a junior partner, fighting against the Muslims in Italy for the Eastern Empire. He wanted to be recognized as Emperor and his son married to an Eastern Roman princess. When at first these wishes were denied by Nikephoros, Otto turned his forces against the Eastern Roman possessions in southern Italy in a show of force. Nikephoros soon gave in, but was assassinated before any plans could be realized. Otto was prepared to start again, but John Tzimiskes did not risk any confrontation. He refused to call Otto Emperor of the Romans, although he did not object Otto’s occasional use of the term in the west, and he send a niece instead of a daughter. Nevertheless, an alliance to last was born.

The relationship continued to be on friendly terms until Basil II wanted to strengthen Eastern Roman positions in Italy. Although this was mostly directed against the Muslims, Lombard and Papal territory was threatened as well, who called for Emperor Henry II to act. However illness befell Henry before any serious clashes happened, likewise Basil died before going to Italy.
This confrontation had little impact for the Normans slowly emerged as threat for both. Furthermore, the German kings concentrated on German or northern Italian affairs and therefore the western and the eastern Empires relation more or less came to an end.
By the middle of the 11th century, pressure from the Normans became a real danger for the Eastern Roman Empire and a decidedly anti-western stance was taken by politicians and scholars alike. The “Franks” and “Celts” were deemed horrid barbarians again, no difference was made between Normans, Germans, or French. East and West became ever more alienated, and the religious schism only deepened the trenches.

Of course, when it was of mutual political use, every trench could be bridged - it was just as it always has been.
The Society
For the lower strata of the society not much changed. The vast majority of the Kingdom’s population was hard working peasants. Bound to a noble lord, they barely had enough for themselves. It was not a terribly bad life though, on the contrary: life-expectancy was rather good if one survived childhood, and the nutrition was simple and one-sided, but sufficient. However the peasants absolutely depended on the success of their harvests and owned little property or money. Fortunately, with the expansion of German power, enemy raids did not hit them as often as before contributing to a slightly better life. Also the expansion created new chances in new lands, attracting bold endeavourers.

The nobility has undergone some more significant changes. Ecclesial nobles are deeply involved in administering on local and even regional level, they also muster the bulk of the King’s army and are his most reliable assets in war. Of course, this support came with a price: increased power and independence of the church.
The secular nobles are more concerned about their local interests than the Kingdom or even the Empire. The relation to the king is usually somewhat tense, but open rebellion is only the last resort.
Overall the nobility was pacified; they did not engage in feuds as often as before and refrained from plundering their own people. The effects of a deeper spirituality and especially the Cluniac Reforms can be seen. As good Christians, the nobles had to behave accordingly, or go to hell. The ideal of a Christian knight, the righteous fighter for the weak and innocent was born.

The growing administration created a new group of people, the Ministeriales, servants who were legally not free, but enjoyed considerable social prestige due to their work. A notable fraction of the military might was made from these Ministeriales.

The cities were also growing, as was the superregional trade, although the overall level of urbanization was still low.
The Military Organization
The Heavy Cavalry
The iron fist of the Emperor is his cavalry of Loricati (armoured men) or Armati (armed men). Indeed these men are about to become the knights in shining armour, virtuous defenders of Christendom. Unlike their predecessors, they do not plunder and lived a more religious life, although they are no saints, of course.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Loricati were highly disciplined warriors on the battlefield, capable of studying and executing complex tactical maneuvers. There is good reason why these warriors were to become the dominating force on any battlefield in Europe, Africa and the Near East. Beside their discipline, their equipment was specialized to allow great flexibility. Yet, being heavier armoured than most of their opposition, they could break many battle lines with their strong charge. And still they were mobile enough to outmaneuver heavier enemies, if necessary. They have met and overcome any imaginable challenge, fighting the armies of the Muslims, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Normans, the Vikings, the Hungarians, the Poles and many more.

The Norman style of fighting and their equipment was quickly adopted, although some unique German features were still present such as the use of flat domed helmets without nasal.

The Levy

A general levy was no longer state of the art in German warfare. The city-dwellers (Urbani) defended their homes themselves if needed, but the mass contingents of the rural population (Comprovinciales) were seldom called to arms.
Instead the Dukes sent a select levy of better trained and better armed troops to campaigns. (For the sake of gameplay, we decided to give every Duke a certain type of warriors, e.g. Crossbowmen for Saxony. The Duke of Saxony of course did not just have crossbow-men at his disposal). The select levy proved to be vital in many battles and provided a reliable infantry force.

Strategy and Tactics

The command and control of the Ottonian and Salian armies continued the well working traditions of their predecessors. Although military command and control was not as sophisticated as it was in the Eastern Roman Empire, it should not be underestimated either. The Consilium Regis, the advisory staff of the king, carefully planned campaigns on the basis of known topographic and ethnographic data. Intelligence gathering and scouting beginning in winter thus usually preceded Carolingian campaigns, which were executed in summer. Planning was always sub silentio, in secrecy and subordinated commanders were only given as much information as was necessary for them to fulfill their given task.
In battle, the Frankish army could perform complicated maneuvers, although usually simplicity in tactics was preferred. The heavy cavalry charged multiple times, while others would flank the enemy and then charge. Timing was crucial in such operations. Meanwhile, the levied infantry covered possible routs of retreat (not only of the own troops, but if possible they blocked the enemy’s retreat as well). Additionally the select levy could be employed in critical points.
The improved quality of the select levy was often used in sieges, to storm breaches or defend the walls.
On the battlefield, separated contingents communicated via flags or standards and possibly trumpets of some kind.

The operational record of the Ottonian and Salian armies is quite good, winning the majority of their campaigns, which is partly best attributed to sound leadership and partly to the improvements in the army itself, such as the select levy and the Norman cavalry charge.
Famous Battles of the Tenth Century:
Victory: The Battle of Lechfeld
The victory near Augsburg seemed unlikely enough to be considered a miracle. The Magyars raided Frankish and Italian lands at will, almost every army that had dared opposing them was destroyed, and had proven the Frankish kings to be weak. But in 955 Otto I led an army of eight legions, each numbering 1.000 Loricati, on the field of the Lech river against the Magyar army, which was larger (10.000-100.000 depending on the source).

The Magyars feinted a frontal attack while the main force tried to flank Otto’s army and pressed on, even routing some Bohemians. The Swabians placed beside them were now not only attacked by the flanking main body, but also by the frontal attack force of the Magyars and disordered. With the whole left flank collapsing and a still threatened frontal line, Otto stood on the verge of defeat. He ordered Konrad the Red on the right with his Franconians to pull out fast and envelope the Magyar flanking force. Timing was crucial: this maneuver created a hole in the battle line, which could have been easily exploited, and if Konrad were too slow the left flank would not be saved anyway. But it did work, totally surprising both Swabians and Magyars, Konrads heavy armoured force smashed through the Magyars who were flanked themselves now and cut down. What followed was a simple pursuit massacre with no mercy. But it did not stop simply when the Magyars were out of range for the Loricati. Bavarian levy had set up ambushes for the retreating Magyars, and again there was no mercy. Only their nobles were taken prisoner – to be executed later on in Regensburg publicly.

This systematic bloodshed marked the ending of German territory to be raided by Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars, but more importantly it marked the beginning of a strong kingship. Otto was hailed Emperor on the field already, and became a ruler to be counted on.
Lastly it was signal to Constantinople, since the Magyar leaders were Roman allies, even Patricii.
Defeat: The Battle of Crotone
alled the ‘German Cannae’, the defeat near Cape Colonna had epic scale. In 981 the Lombard Duchies were breaking apart after Pandulf Ironhead had died. His successors were fighting each other. The ERE under Basil II was plagued by rebellions and Bulgars and could do nothing in Italy, but just at that time the Muslims under Al-Qasim attacked Italy. The Pope requested Otto II to react.

Engaging Lombard, Byzantine and Muslim forces, Otto made slow progress. He arranged himself with the Lombards, and the Byzantines avoided combat even though they lost some territory. But the Muslims opposed Otto. Near Cape Colonna the two armies met. Although the German charge was very successful, even killing Al-Qasum amidst his guard in close combat, the reserve force of the Muslims caught Otto by total surprise and destroyed the German army. The Muslims claimed 4000 dead and this might be very accurate: among the fallen were the Prince of Capua, the Bishop of Augsburg, the Margrave of Merseburg, and the Abbot of Fulda, just to name the most important.

Otto himself was saved by Slav and a Jew; the latter gave him his horse. Otto jumped into the sea and was picked up by… a Byzantine warship! Remember, they were at war. Chroniclers tell adventurous stories of Otto’s return and indeed it seems the crew did not realize how high ranking their ‘passenger’ was, although some bribing is still more likely than the other stories.

The defeat undermined the trust into the German kings, it spurred a Slavic revolt at the newly expanded eastern border, and it left southern Italy fragmented between Lombards, Muslims and ERE.

Numbers and Tactics

We have no idea of telling how large the levy forces were, but thanks to the Indiculus Loricatorum and other numbers we can make good estimations about the total of professional soldiers in the German territories: 16.000. It should be stressed that all of them were Loricati, armoured from tip to toe. By comparison, the ERE had 29.200 professional soldiers, and 150.200 thematic troopers in 959.
The army seems a bit one-dimensional having only heavy armoured cavalry and semi-professional auxiliary, especially when the Loricati were usually those who did the battle. Truly the charge was highly effective, Byzantine military manuals invariably advice not facing the “Franks” frontally, but also a very limited tactic: it either won or lost the battle. Still, it was not one mass of horsemen stupidly charging; on the contrary several independent units with excellent timing in their maneuvers are reported. Even more noteworthy is the use of select levy as strategic reserve. It saved the day breaking the walls of Pavia where the king was stuck, and it cut off the Magyar retreat from Bavaria, to name two examples. In both cases it acted independently and very prudent, but cases of recklessness and savagery are reported.
The Indiculus Loricatorum
Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

Indiculus loricatorum Ottonis II. in Italiam mittendorum

Herkenbaldus episcopus [Argentinensis] C loricatos mittat.
Abbas de Morebach secum ducat XX.
Episcopus [Spirensis] Balzzo mittat XX.
Ildebaldus episcopus [Wormatiensis] ducat XL.
Abbas de Uuizenburg mittat L.
Abbas de Lauresam ducat L.
Archiepiscopus Maguntinus mittat C.
Coloniensis archiepiscopus mittat C.
Vuirzeburgensis episcopus mittat LX.
Abbas Erobsfeldensis XL mittat.
Heribertus comes ducat XXX,
et fratris filius aut veniat cum XXX aut mittat XL.
Megingaus iuvante Burchard ducat XXX.
Cono filius Cononis ducat XL.
De ducatu Alsaciense mittantur LXX.
Bezolinus filius Arnusti duodecim ducat.
Azolinus Rodulfi filius mittat XXX.
Oddo frater Gebizonis XX mittat.
Hezel comes ducat XXXX.
Abbas Uultensis mittat LX.
Guntramus comes ducat XII.
Vngerus ducat XX.
Domnus Sicco imperatoris frater ducat XX.
Otto XL ducat.
Adelbertus XXX ducat.
Carolus dux [Lotharingiae inferioris], custos patriae domi dimissus, Bos-onem cum XX mittat.
Leodicensis episcopus LX mittat cum Hermanno aut Immone.
Episcopus Camaracensis XII mittat.
Geldulfus cum adiutorio abbatum I[ndensem et] S[tabulensem] XII ducat.
Deodericus comes filium suum cum XII mittat.
Ansfredus comes X mittat.
Gottefredus et Arnulfus marchiones XL mittant.
Filius Sicconis comitis XXX secum ducat.
Abbas Brumiensis XL ducat.
Archiepiscopus Treuerensis LXX ducat.
Verdunensis episcopus LX ducat.
Tullensis XX mittat.
Archiepiscopus Salceburgensis LXX mittat.
Ratebonensis episcopus totidem mittat.
Abraham [episcopus Frisingensis] XL mittat.
Reginaldus episcopus [Eistetensis] L ducat.
Alboinus episcopus [Sabionensis] XX ducat.
Episcopus Augustae civitatis C ducat.
Constanciensis episcopus XL mittat.
Curiensis episcopus XL ducat.
Augensis abbas LX ducat.
Abbas Sancti Galli XL ducat.
Abbas de Eloganga XL ducat.
Abbas de Kemboduno XXX ducat.

ERE Evaluations of the Ottonian Army

The Eastern Roman military was impressed by the charge and shock power of the Loricati, but also noted the wildness and carelessness of this charge. One must question the reliability of the tactical ‘manuals’, for the Taktika of Leo VI notes they do never scout and always fall for feinted retreats. In reality we know of regular scouting leading to correct anticipations of incursion and retreat routs of the enemy (Lechfeld) on the strategic level, and recon in force on tactical level (Lenzen, Riade). And about the feinted retreat… seriously, an army that regularly had to fight Magyars and Slavs cannot be surprised by such a tactic.

Nikephoros Phokas when obviously trying to provoke Luidprand of Cremona, emissary and bishop of Otto I, he said:
“The soldiers of your lord (Otto) do not know how to ride nor do they know how to fight on foot. The size of their shields, the weight of their armour, the length of their swords, and the burden of their helmets permits them to fight in neither one way nor the other”
Clearly an exaggeration, but in order to work as a provocation there must be some kernel of truth. The heavy armament of the Loricati would fit, and it is quite telling, since Nikephoros himself was relying on heavy cavalry as strike core of his troops.
Also, on the whole, the Ottonian army of course was much less sophisticated than that of the ERE and had limited tactical options when compared to the ERE army.
The Army

Part I: The General Levy.


Drawn from the peasantry, these troopers have only the most basic equipment to fight in war. With their minimal training they could not handle much more anyway.
Only used to bolster the lines in times of dire need, one should not rely on them. Nevertheless, the hardships of a peasant’s life have prepared the men for the harsh life on campaign; moreover the possibility to loot and enrich themselves may have provided some incentive to fight.

The population of cities has learned the hard way that great wealth attracts enemies. More than once the citizens needed to fight them off on their own. Although the equipment is rather meager, the moral of the citizens is high, as they could lose everything if they lose the fight. Manning the walls, they are ready for anything hurled against them. They have repelled Viking raiders, Magyar marauders, and Slavic warbands, so they should not be underestimated.
Milities Agrarii

These troops are tasked with the supervision of defensive structures, which is why we made them infantry, although the name implies horsemen. But since the term miles agrarius is (almost 100%) a contradiction in itself, this should not be taken too literary anyway. Also, they did not participate in offensive operations. Providing some semi-professional defense-capability in border areas, they appear under the Ottonian dynasty when the German lands are permanently raided by Vikings, Slavs, and Magyars. It seems with the military successes of the Ottonians and Salians, and their subsequent expansion (rather than being the object of expansion themselves), the Milites Agrarii may no longer needed in the long run.
Part II: The Select Levy


Scouting is a vital part of the German military planning on strategic as well as on tactical level. Although naturally rather gathering information than actually fighting, the Exploratores are capable of defending themselves and keep the enemy at a distance. Of course they are seriously outgunned when confronted with massive archery for the short range of their javelins and they are easily dispersed by light horsemen. Still there is no reason to underestimate the scouts.

The Swabians, called Alamanni in classicizing Latin, had a formidable reputation as swordsmen early on. Although not as well known as their later descendents with their two-handed swords, the Swabian swords and the men wielding them were famed in the 11th century already. The swords had excellent quality and the men were exceedingly brave, in addition to being well trained. The round shields may seem old-fashioned, but they are suited for their swordsmanship better than kite-shields. However they sometimes display a somewhat overconfident demeanor, if not arrogance. They are not a particular heavily armoured infantry, but sport balanced equipment allowing them to fight prolonged battles.
The Swabians finest hour was the last stand in the Battle of Civitate. The Pope and his army were given 700 Swabian swordsmen. The Papal troops from Italy could not withstand their Norman adversaries and fled the field. The Swabians attacked nonetheless, alone. As they had previously taunted the Normans they were given no mercy and all of them fell.

The Bavarian levies have somewhat deficient equipment, lacking heavy armour. Moreover they are rather undisciplined. But they are also ferocious fighters who do not fear any enemy and as such they are a welcome addition to any army. Living the in the borderland of Bavaria, they frequently are called to defend their homes and have a lot of experience in doing so. But they are also spearheading Ducal invasions of the eastern lands. Their greatest contribution to military history was the Battle of Lechfeld, when they cut off the Magyar routes of retreat. Setting up ambushes with makeshift ramparts, blocking roads and forts, few of the invaders survived.


Bohemia is one of the borderlands of the Empire, but it is also a most important part of it. Its defense is therefore a vital affair and the local nobles live up to the task. The Bohemian infantry they sent enjoys a good reputation as a professional, well trained and well armed corps, even sporting the most up to date Norman-style equipment. Thus they have the modern kite-shields; yet they also trust in eastern developments like their helmets and scale armour. These heavy spearmen can serve as anchor for every army and become the bane of enemy cavalry. Their excellent defensive capabilities are often needed in Bohemia itself, which is why one does not often see them on campaign with the Emperor.

In the 11th century, an old weapon came to new fame: the crossbow. Known from antiquity, the crossbow has some undeniable advantages over the bow. It is very easy to use effectively and its bolts can penetrate any armour. As it is also a cheap weapon, untrained peasants can be converted into a deadly force with relatively little effort. No surprise, the nobility tried to outlaw this weapon and prevent its proliferation, but failed. The German armies make no exception in their slow acceptance of the crossbow. In Saxony, the King’s own Duchy and home, these weapons show up first, as Saxony is often the home of military innovation in Germany.


The men from Franconia don the proud name of the Franks and besides being good spearmen, they also use a battle axe. The axe is a simple, relatively cheap but effective weapon giving the Franks an edge when they cannot use their spears, or when they want to surprise the enemy. They too, are more often concerned with the defense of their homes against the predations of the Western Frankish forces. Due to their proximity to France their equipment is of a more western style. The oval shield was still popular in Western Europe, can be seen on the tapestry on Bayeux still, for example. Mail shirts become available later on, when the borders become more secure and Franconia prospers.
Frisii Liberi

Legend has it that Charlemagne was so impressed by the performance of a Frisian warrior that he granted freedom to the Frisian, meaning they would have no lord but the Roman Emperor. What is far more likely according to modern historians is that the Frisians were exempted from military service in order to fight off northern raiders. At the same time, feudal structures never established in Frisia while a strong class of independent farmers and merchants had considerable influence. Consequently they were free common men defending their own land and property - not exactly a frequent sight in medieval Europe.
Local nobles would often try to control them, but in the end, the Frisians never backed down. In fact, they killed (at least) two counts and the king had to be ok with it. He needed the Frisians to defend the northern shores.
They served the Emperor in many battles, but also enjoyed being mercenaries. Frisians were in the army of Alfred the Great, they defended Rome against the Muslims in 854, and from the 11th century on, they could be found on battle field from Spain to Palestine.
The Free Frisians are experts in defending. Their arrows can hit any enemy from a distance and their swords allow them to hold their ground, unlike most other archers.
Part III: The Professionals and the Nobles


There is little use for light cavalry in the Ottonian military thinking, but still it existed in small numbers. Characterized by their main protection, the large shield, they scout the terrain, harass the enemy, and support the heavy cavalry. Of course, they are also well suited for pursuit of fleeing enemies. However they should not engage any hostile formation directly and avoid combat with pretty much everyone who would fight back.

The main strike force of the German army is the Loricatus, the heavily armed horseman. Being the retainers of greater nobles, or Ministeriales (royal servants), most if not all of their life is devoted to warfare, thus they are excellently trained. Their equipment is state of the art, and follows Norman patterns for heavy cavalry. Mail hauberks, iron helmets, and the new kite shield protect them well, but leave enough mobility to attack and disengage at will. They also adopt the charge with the couched lance. This is the prototype of a knight.
Domini ac Defensores

[IMG]The lower nobles fight as Loricati, heavily armed horsemen. They are not only the lords (Domini) of their subjects, but also their defenders (Defensores) for the new Christian ethics demand it. Indeed they will defend their territory and their subjects, but they are not as eagerly willing to campaign in faraway lands as other Loricati since their interests are home. Protected well enough, but still very mobile, they provide a versatile cavalry whose prime quality is the shock attack. However, some of their equipment would be best described as old-fashioned such as the round shields.[/IMG]


These household Loricati are the Emperors own and best horsemen. They answer to him and him alone. Picked for loyalty and skill they enforce the will of the King without question and they are very good at it, ever noble, valiant and true to their oath. Few can rival their offensive powers with the lance and they are master swordsmen. They have vanquished foes on the shores of the icy northern Seas as well as in the burning sun of southern Italy, possessing considerable experience in fighting many different armies. Being in Italy more often than other German troops they learned of other military traditions and equipment. Consequently they don scale armour vests after Eastern Roman fashion, however this is more the result of the Renovatio Imperii which the German Emperors like since this type of armour looks more ancient.
Legio Slavica

It is not only in accordance to Roman traditions to have a foreign guard unit, it is very sensible. As the guardsmen are not involved in internal politics and have no political interests of their own, they are not as eager as the nobles to plot against the King. All their social relations are dependent from the King, so it is their interest to keep him alive and fulfill his orders. These ‘Barbarian’ foreigners frighten domestic enemies at home, especially as some of them are still pagans. But their fighting capabilities are another good reason to employ these men. A heavy infantry unit with great skills in wielding axes and swords is exactly what the German military itself does not have to offer. The Legio Slavica is therefore a most valuable asset. Ironically, the first Slavic soldiers in German service appears in 982, just six years before the Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II would employ the Varangians and set up a similar guard unit.
Consilium Regis

he council of the king is composed of his most trusted lieutenants, high nobles and courtiers who often grew up together with the King. They are more than a guard, they are the king's fellows, his shadows and his fiercest champions. As such, they are bound to the king for life and death. Thus this band of brothers will fight to the very last to defend him, and they can fight well. For all their life they are in danger, exposed to battles, assassins, and harsh environments when on campaign. Being alert means staying alive. The King could not wish for better protectors of his life.

Absinthia : All models and their textures.

FliegerAD : Historical research, unit descriptions and concepts.
Markhaselb :New lance and crossbow animations plus new crossbow models.

Leif Erikson : Horse textures.

Special Thanks to:
DisgruntledGoat : 1066 mod material .
Dome : Horse textures.
Marka/Rusichi modding team : Primary matterial of any kind.
Banzai, Fabiusbile for the animation pack and fixed bow animations.
Briarius : Horse charge riders position fix.