Thursday, February 16, 2006
This is from an Ancient Rome discussion list I hardly ever read, mainly because it often consists of interesting but very detailed discussion of different types of armour and such. However the below should be self-explanatory, apologises for cut'n'pasting wholesale and not adding anything much. I however find it fascinating and weirdly moving. I've been studying too hard of late, methinks.
Am Montag, 6. Februar 2006 07:54 schrieb stumpe22:
> A while ago there was a discussion on this group about the fact that
> the Frankish king Clovis never officially broke away legally from the
> Roman Empire and was in fact Clovis was regarded as a Roman governor.
> In fact, I believe the Frankish Empire never officially legally broke
> away from the Roman Empire. And when Charlemagne was crowned Roman
> Emperor by the Pope in 800, the Western Roman Emperor was basically re-
> instated, the last Roman Emperor in the West having been Nepos who
> died around 480. Eventually the Carolingian Frankish Western Roman
> Empire (later named the Holy Roman Empire) was divided into what would
> later become France and the territories of the Holy Roman Empire that
> would in modern times become the countries of Germany, Switzerland and
> My question is, are the countries of France, Germany, Switzerland and
> Austria the remains of Roman Empire and the direct descendant of the
> Roman Empire? Are these countries what are left of the Roman Empire,
> as these areas never officially broke with the Roman Empire?
There are some legal problems with that, but I have always maiontained that I
am entitled to the toga :-).
The Roman empire did not officially 'end' at any point. The Visigoths,
Ostrogoths, Franks and Vandals all asked for, and received, recognition by
the Emperor as subordinate rulers of part of the Empire, so they were legally
part of it (the only real source of legitimacy as far as their worldview
went). When Charles was crowned Emperor, that was really little more than the
usual usurpation/revolt of a fringe province against a central power
considered illegitimate. That makes the Holy Roman Empire a direct successor
statew as much as it does the Byzantine (Roman) Empire. More interestingly,
Alfred of Wessex was also invested with consular and/or triumphal insignia by
the pope, and this, too, could be understood as bringing England into the
Things get somewhat more murky with the coming of modernity, though.
Switzerland is quite definitely out - they opted out of the Holy Roman Empire
with the Westphalian Treaty. Turkey, on the other hand, may still be in the
running, as the Turkish sultans adopted the title 'padishah' - emperor -
after taking Constantinople, in direct succession. It has also been argued
that the papacy and the Kingdom of Naples both retained their allegiance to
the Empire, though I would consider both arguments questionable.
In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was officially dissolved and two new Empires
created - the Austrian and the French. The Austrian Empire deliberately
continued the traditions of the HRE while the French cast itself as a
successor state to Republican and Augustan Rome. Both could under the right
circumstances, be read to be continuators. The same could be said odf the
German Empire created in 1871, which deliberately cultivated the Holy Roman
Empire as its source of tradition and legitimacy. From the Empire of 1871,
modern Germany derives in an unbroken succession of state forms, but the
legal ties between the HRE and either Germany or Austria are questionable.
Austria, of course, was required to abjure all legal ties or claims to Empire
in the peace of 1919, so legally it is out of consideration. Turkey, too,
drew a clear line between its past as a Muslim Empire and its present as a
secular ethnic Republic in the 1920s, so legal successorship can be
questioned (although in all these cases, the states in question were required
to honour the obligations of their predecessors, so you could make the claim
that the cutoff was not complete).
Of course, there is also Moscow which, after the fall of Constantinople,
adopted the 'vacant' title of the Roman Empire by virtue of marriage ties of
Ivan III to the imperial family. The Padishah may have had a problem with
that. However, the end of that tradition was made very clear in 1917-1919,
and though modern Russia refers back to that tradition, the claim is more
than dodgy. They certainly made a clean break with the debts and obligations
of the Czars.
So in the end we have a wide range of contenders:
Germany - good claim to legal successorship, but problems with the 1806-1871
Austria - unbroken succession, except for two occasions in 1806 and 1919, but
in both cases under duress.
Turkey - good claim, but clearly ended in the 1920s
Russia - questionable claim, and in any case ended in 1919
France - very dubious claim, but unbroken legal succession since 1806
Rome/Central Italy - good claim until 1872, after that unclear legal
Vatican City - unbroken legal succession of imperial episcopacy, but the
legitimacy of being 'part of the Empire' could be called into question after
they repeatedly made war against various emperors.
England - claim based on unclear antecedents, but unbroken legal succession
since the 800s
Take your pick. I think Greece and Hungary also have some kind of claim.