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Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Episodes (synoptic)

Note: These episode summaries refer to Recension A of the chronicle, except for the summaries of the two continuations of Recension C at the end.

  1. Prologue

    The prologue of the Kaiserchronik deploys a series of exordial and historiographical topoi: exhortation to the public to pay attention to the work; denigration of ignorant listeners, who eschew any opportunity to increase their wisdom and thereby benefit their souls; description of the book, which is called crônicâ and tells ‘of the popes and the kings, both good and bad, who lived before us and ruled the Roman Empire down to this present day’ (von den bâbesen unt von den chunigen, | baidiu guoten unt ubelen, | die vor uns wâren | unt Rômisces rîches phlâgen | unze an disen hiutegen tac); rejection of poetic figment in favour of an account which transmits knowledge of the truth.

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  2. Romulus and Remus

    The city of Rome is founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus, and ruled after them by its Senate. Roman religion is instituted through the creation of seven abgot, one for each day of the week. (The narrative here adds a proleptic digression, relating that the temple of Saturn, the Rotunda, will one day be dedicated by Pope Boniface to the Christian God, Mary and all the saints.) The Romans install a bronze map of their realms, with bells that ring in warning if any territory should rise up against their rule. One day, when the Senate is in session, a bell rings to announce that the German people are in revolt.

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  3. Julius Caesar

    The episode of Julius Caesar constitutes one of the turning-points in the narrative of the Kaiserchronik. It marks the end of the Roman Republic, governed by the Senate, and the foundation of the Empire, the institution that has been ruled unze an disen hiutegen tac (prologue) by a line of monarchical rulers of whom Caesar is the first. The building blocks of the Julius Caesar episode are both narrative and non-narrative: an account of how Caesar subjugates the German tribes, and of how he triumphs over the Senate, Cato, and Pompey in the Roman Civil War; a sketch of the course of salvation history, based on the prophet Daniel’s vision of four beasts (Dn 7:1–27); origin myths of the various German tribes; the topography of Germany.

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  4. Augustus

    The reign of Caesar Augustus, who is portrayed as a rex pacificus, chronicles the great population census of the empire for taxation purposes and the foundation of Cologne by Agrippa; the birth of Christ, which falls in his reign, is referenced in a statement that the Saviour came from heaven to redeem humanity from the tax that Augustus imposed.

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  5. Tiberius

    Tiberius (who is introduced as, among other things, the founder of Regensburg) suffers from a disfiguring illness which is cured by the image of Christ brought from Jerusalem by his follower Veronica. Incensed with the Jews for killing this arzât and heilâre, the emperor despatches Vespasian and his son Titus with an army to destroy Jerusalem. The city is besieged, famine takes hold (into this account is embedded the story of the escape of Josephus, future historian of the Jews), and Jerusalem is destroyed in fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy and as punishment of the Jews, whose diaspora begins.

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  6. Gaius Caligula

    The chronicle recounts a single episode from his reign: the outbreak of hellfire at Rome, which Jupiter is willing to extinguish in return for a human sacrifice. A citizen by the name of Jovinus volunteers himself, but on condition that he be permitted to sleep first with any woman he wants. Having satisfied his desire, he mounts a magnificent horse and rides headlong into the flaming abyss; immediately, the fire is extinguished.

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  7. Faustinianus and Claudius

    The story is one of separations and reunions, estrangements and recognitions in the ruling family.

    1. Claudius, the brother of King Faustinianus, is consumed by his illicit lust for his sister-in-law Mechthild; she succeeds in fending off his advances until after her third son, the future pope Clement, is born. A troubling dream convinces Mechthild that her children will not live unless they are taught their books. Her two older sons, the twins Faustinus and Faustus, are sent to Athens for their education; on the voyage out, their ship is wrecked; the boys are saved by a fisherman, and decide to conceal their origin and identity, adopting the names Niceta and Aquila; eventually they end up in a monastery founded by Zacchaeus. The pattern repeats itself twice over: first Mechthild, then Faustinianus, sets out in search of their lost family members, is shipwrecked, rescued from the waves, and lives incognito in utterly reduced circumstances: Mechthild works to earn money for a poor widow who takes her in, Faustinianus lives by selling firewood and pulling millstones like a mule while at the same time gaining a reputation for prodigious learning and wisdom.

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    2. At the apostle Peter’s instigation, Barnabas comes to Rome to propagate the Christian faith and wins over Clement. Determined to meet the saint’s teacher, Clement travels to the Holy Land. He and Peter experience a rapture in which an angel shows them the destinations of the souls of the dead and prophesies that Clement will suffer martyrdom and dwell eternally in heaven. Peter returns to encounter Niceta and Aquila, who have fallen under the sway of Simon Magus and beg to be freed from their allegiance.

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    3. Having commanded the boys to obey their false master no longer, Peter sets off, accompanied by Zacchaeus, Clement, Niceta, Aquila and others to confront the heretic. There follows a long disputation between Peter and Simon Magus, which culminates in the exposure of the latter as a fraud.

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    4. Peter takes the three boys on an excursion to see the wondrous glass pillars of Arantum, which happens to be where their mother has been living. She approaches Peter, begging for alms; he recognizes who the poor woman must be and also that the boys in his care are her children; through his offices, mother and sons are reunited.

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    5. On the following morning, Peter and his disciples go down to the sea to pray. They are accosted by a poor man who desires to debate the proposition that all human affairs are governed by fate (wîlsælde). The disputation with Peter and the three boys (who do not recognize the disputant as their father, nor he them as his sons) continues until the poor man tells the story of how he lost his wife and his sons. Peter, recognizing who he is, offers to reunite him with his family there and then if only he will renounce his belief in fate and acknowledge the Christian God instead.

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    6. Reunited by Peter, the entire family are baptized into the Christian faith. Simon Magus, dismayed by their rejoicing, deceives Faustinianus, but is exposed once more as a fraud by Peter. Faustinianus, Mechthild, and their sons return to Rome, taking Peter with them to spread the faith. They retire from the world to a monastery, leaving Claudius to rule in their place. After Faustinian’s death, Simon Magus, who has been vexing Peter incessantly, persuades Claudius to proscribe the apostle; the Romans, disgusted with their ruler for consorting with a magician and also for fornicating with their wives, assassinate him with poison.

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  8. Nero

    Nero, ‘the most wicked man ever to be born into this world by a mother’, subjects the Romans to a regiment of sadistic cruelty and perversion, which culminates in his persecution, at the instigation of Simon Magus, of the apostles Peter and Paul. The latter are willing to be martyred, but on condition that Simon Magus first give a proof his claim to be a god who can fly up to heaven. The impostor crashes to his death from a high pillar, whereupon the enraged Nero has the apostles executed; they are received into heaven, the emperor is punished by illness and commits suicide, whereupon his soul is carried off by devils into hell.

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  9. Tarquin

    The account of Tarquin’s reign is an idiosyncratic version of the story of the rape of Lucretia.

    King Tarquin, the paradigm of superbia, proposes a wager to Collatinus, a prince of Trier who has become a Roman citizen and the king’s right-hand man, after the latter has boasted that his wife Lucretia is the best wife any Roman man could ever have: if Collatinus can demonstrate the truth of his assertion, Tarquin will not consider it an insult to his own wife, the queen. In a contest designed to test the women’s virtue, Lucretia easily emerges as the victor; Tarquin concedes to Collatinus that he was right.

    The queen finds out about the wager and is displeased. She incites her husband to destroy Lucretia’s reputation by blackmailing her into sleeping with him. Rather than yield to his demands, Lucretia summons all of her kin, and in the presence of them and her husband Collatinus, reveals how the king has compromised her virtue before plunging a dagger into her heart. Distraught, Collatinus goes into exile; soon afterwards, Tarquin is also forced to flee Rome for the countryside, where Collatinus hunts him down and kills him in revenge.

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  10. Galba and Piso

    The extremely brief account of the dual reign of Galba and Piso records that they founded the cities of Capua and Pisa respectively before being assassinated by Otto.

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  11. Otto

    The chronicle records that Otto, who becomes ruler after murdering his predecessors Galba and Piso, is in his turn murdered by Vitellus.

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  12. Vitellus

    Vitellus lays siege to Rome, which is in the hands of the supporters of Otto, the previous ruler whom Vitellus had murdered. The episode focuses on the story of Odnatus, who voluntarily and ostentatiously burns away the hand with which he failed to assassinate Vitellus, thereby moving the latter to make peace with his opponents; when the truce expires, however, Vitellus is buried alive.

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  13. Vespasian

    Vespasian, the conqueror of Jerusalem, is proscribed by the Romans for initially refusing to accept the title of ruler; together with his son Titus, he defeats King Milian of Babylon and captures his brother Hylas, before returning in final triumph to Rome.

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  14. Titus

    Vespasian is succeeded by his son Titus, the very model of a just ruler. His strict application of the law makes him unpopular with the Romans, however, and they conspire against him. Warned in his dream of a plot to assassinate him, Titus outwits the conspirators, puts them on trial, and has them beheaded. A bronze column is erected to commemorate the event.

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  15. Domitian

    King Domitian, a notorious ‘adversary of God’, succeeds his brother Titus and begins to oppress the Christians relentlessly. He sacks the city of Benevento, martyring and beheading believers, before turning his attention to John the Evangelist, who has arrived in Rome, inciting the people to convert. When summoned before the king, the Evangelist not only refuses to desist, but proclaims the power of the Trinity. Domitian orders John to be boiled in oil, an ordeal from which he emerges unscathed thanks to divine protection, and then to be exiled to the island of Patmos, where he writes the book of Revelation. God punishes Domitian with leprosy, which leads to his banishment from Rome by order of the Senate. The horse on which he flees the city throws him and he vanishes in the Tiber, never to be seen again; the devils torment his soul.

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  16. Nerva

    King Nerva is approached by a master craftsman who promises to create an artefact that will bring him eternal glory; the king readily assents and commands his chamberlains to furnish whatever is required for the artefact’s manufacture. The craftsman labours day and night until the masterpiece is complete, whereupon he promises to let the king into its secret, on condition he swears to divulge it no further. Nerva agrees, and soon everyone gathers to see the magnificent bronze horse that has been created for the king’s courtyard. The craftsman asks for a strong man to be placed inside the horse and burned: it is an automaton that requires fuel for it to function. Appalled, Nerva refuses, telling the craftsman that his skill should be sufficient to work it from the inside himself. No amount of pleading from the craftsman will get him off, as the king cannot disappoint the crowd that has turned out for the spectacle. The trickster duly inserted and the machine lit from below, the horse leaps and vaults across the courtyard, terrifying the spectators who scarper for safety. When the carftsman dies, Nerva has the mechanism inside the horse destroyed, and is praised by the people for his wisdom.

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  17. Trajan

    The episode recounts how a widow will not permit Trajan, who is a model of probity and integrity, to depart on campaign before he has given her justice for her murdered husband. God subsequently rewards Trajan for his just conduct, when St Gregory willingly endures seven sicknesses in order to ransom the emperor’s soul from hell.

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  18. Philippus

    Philippus rules as an exemplary Christian, but is murdered along with his son (also called Philippus) by the pagan Decius. The latter ascends the throne, and immediately moves to persecute Christians, making martyrs of Pope Sixtus and St Lawrence and St Hippolytus; his reign of terror extends to Ephesus, where the Seven Sleepers take refuge in a cave, in which they will remain until the time of Theodosius.

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  19. Diocletian and Maximian

    The reign of the co-monarchs Diocletian and Maximian relates the martyrdoms of three saints: Vitus, Pancras, and Maurice. The focus is principally on the latter, and the chronicle presents an idiosyncratic account of the legend of the martyrdom of the Theban Legion, which refused orders to fight against Christians. Maurice, the duke of the Moors, is dismayed to learn of the persecution of Christians in Rome, and assembles an army of 6666 men, to whom he declares his intention of going on pilgrimage for God. On their arrival in Rome, Maurice and his army are received by Maximian, who seeks to enlist them in a campaign he is planning against the Christians in France; they decline to enter the city, and set up camp outside instead. There they practise their religion so ostentatiously and so noisily that the Romans implore Maximian to intervene; he responds by first executing every tenth legionary and then, when the decimation only strengthens their religious fervour, putting all of them to the sword. The reign of terror against Christians continues until Diocletian is assassinated and Maximian, having fled to England, commits suicide.

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  20. Severus

    The account of the reign of Severus focuses on his dealings with the Bavarian duke Adelger, who has a reputation for disloyalty and insubordination.

    The Romans’ attempts to have Adelger humiliated—the Senate decree that his tunic should be cut off above the knee and his hair cut off at the front—backfire when all of Adelger’s men follow suit in adopting the new ‘fashion’. The upshot is the restoration of good relations between Romans and Bavarians for the time being.

    The amity between Severus and Adelger is however short-lived: Adelger is accused once again of disloyalty; he is obliged to give an account of himself before the Romans, and defends himself by narrating the parable of a stag that destroys a garden; Severus invades Bavaria, is defeated and, as he acknowledges Rome’s humiliation by Bavaria, killed by the warrior Volcwin.

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  21. Helius Pertinax

    The chronicle recounts how the king kills a prince named Julian in a wrestling match, and is in his turn killed by the prince’s avenging kinsmen.

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  22. Helius Adrianus

    Helius restores Jerusalem after the city’s destruction by the pagan king Cosdras, renaming it ‘Helia’; after himself. For this act of hubris God punishes him at Damascus, where he is slain.

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  23. Lucius Accommodus

    The account of this reign centres on the rivalry between Lucius Accommodus, whom the Romans choose as ruler in order to fill the power vacuum created by the death of Helius Adrianus, and a claimant to the throne named Alaricus. The latter, the victor of Damascus, learns of Lucius’s election on his way home from the near East, and goes to Apulia to await developments. The victorious army arrives in Rome to be feted in a triumph, but when the Senate demands an oath of allegiance to Lucius, the supporters of Alaricus leave the city to join their leader. He appeals to his allies, who supply troops for a mighty force to march on Rome; Lucius’s party responds by likewise massing a vast army of their own allies. Alaricus’s forces enter the city and put their opponents to flight; in the ensuing slaughter and mayhem, Lucius is killed.

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  24. Achilleus

    Achilleus, who rebuilds the city of Rome on a magnificent scale, is murdered by Postumus in revenge for having killed the latter’s father.

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  25. Galienus

    King Galienus is the wisest physician in Rome, and a harsh persecutor of Christians. He escapes a plot to poison him because, being a wîser philosophus, he is able to foresee the danger in the stars; he takes vengeance on the Romans by poisoning the waters of the Tiber. Thirteen thousand citizens perish before a physician discovers the cause; Galienus is forced to seek refuge in Syria, where he is slain.

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  26. Constantius

    King Constantius has a son, the future emperor Constantine, by his German concubine Helena. When Helena arrives in Rome to legitimate her relationship and her offspring, word reaches the king of a rebellion against him; together with his son he succeeds in pacifying his realm.

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  27. Constantine

    Along with the reigns of Julius Caesar and Charlemagne, that of Constantine constitutes one of the turning-points in the Kaiserchronik’s account of Roman history. In collaboration with St Silvester, the pope, Constantine institutes Christianity as the official religion of the empire; his subsequent foundation of Constantinople and decision to reside there introduce the bipolarity between the Latin Western and Greek Eastern Empire that will be a feature of the historical account up to the accession of Charlemagne.

    1. King Constantine is converted to Christianity when Silvester (whose healing skills are revealed by St Peter and St Paul to the monarch in a dream) cures him of an illness. Not stopping at personal conversion, Constantine proceeds to institute Christianity as the state religion. Through a series of decrees enacted over seven days (and thereby simultaneously referencing and superseding the institution of Roman pagan religion under Romulus and Remus), Constantine and Silvester prohibit the worship of pagan idols, lay down the structures of civil and ecclesiastical governance, and declare Rome as the head of the entire Christian church. The legislative programme climaxes in Constantine’s consecration as Roman emperor by the pope.

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    2. Constantine’s pagan mother Helena is distressed by the news of her son’s conversion and his religious policy. In an exchange of letters between them, she declares her intention of destroying Rome. On Silvester’s advice, Constantine proposes a synod at which both Christian and pagan experts will debate religious doctrine and determine which faith is the true one.

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    3. During the first two days of the Synod of Turaz [Tours], Silvester consistently wins the argument in a sequence of disputations with eminent Jewish divines.

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    4. The second day of disputation ends with Silvester’s assertion that the Christian god is capable both of killing and of restoring the dead to life. On the following day, the Jews bring a wild bull to the synod; when one of their leaders whispers in the bull’s ear, it falls down dead. The Jews declare this a miracle, and proof of the superiority of their god. On the fifth day, after the creature has lain dead for three days, Silvester challenges the Jews to give a further proof of the superiority of their god by invoking him to restore the bull to life. The Jews issue their counter-challenge: let Silvester invoke the Christian god to the same purpose; if he is successful, they will convert. The pope obliges, and the bull returns to life. The miracle settles the dispute definitively, and is followed by mass conversions of unbelievers, foremost among them the emperor’s own mother Helena.

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    5. Constantine leaves Silvester in charge of the famine-stricken city of Rome, while he travels eastwards with a company of Romans. The plan is to reoccupy Troy, but an angel instructs him to establish his permanent residence in Constantinople. From here, he rules the empire until his death.

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    6. Meanwhile, a dragon threatens the citizens of Rome, causing many of them to doubt their faith. Silvester overcomes the dragon, imprisoning him in a cave and sealing him in so that he can never inflict harm again. The pope continues to spread Christianity and administer the city of Rome until his death.

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  28. Julianus

    Julianus is brought up by a pious and upright widow who entrusts all her money to him. When he withholds it, the devil, in the guise of the idol Mercury, comes to her assistance: the idol, feigning to be a saint, persuades Julianus to place his hand in its mouth and swear an oath to his innnocence, clamps him there, and only releases him on condition that he restore the widow’s money and also enter into a pact with the devil.

    Julianus becomes ruler, reinstates pagan worship at Rome, and makes martyrs of Paul and John. He next wages a savage war of persecution against Christians in Greece, martyring a prince named Mercurius. The latter becomes the instrument of divine vengeance: in answer to the prayers of St Basil, he is resurrected and assassinates Julianus; after doing the deed, he returns to his grave, and the spear with which he killed the ruler miraculously drips with blood.

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  29. Heraclius

    Heraclius is instructed by a voice from heaven to wage war against the pagan King Cosdras and recover the Holy Cross, which he has removed from Jerusalem. Heraclius is successful in this enterprise but, in an exemplum of humility, is unable to enter the city of Jerusalem until he goes through the gate barefoot and dressed in plain woollen clothes.

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  30. Narcissus (Crescentia)

    The reign of the fictitious emperor Narcissus is in fact the legendary story of Crescentia, the virtuous and much-abused wife of Narcissus’s son and successor Dietrich.

    1. Heraclius is succeeded by his brother, the elderly and childless Narcissus. In answer to his prayer for an heir, his wife Elisabeth gives birth to twin boys. Both are named Dietrich, and distinguished by their bynames der scône and der ungetâne in accordance with their respective fair and dark appearance. When Narcissus dies, it is decided that whichever of the sons marries first should succeed him. The choice is left to Crescentia, daughter of the king of Africa, for whose hand in marriage both Dietrichs are vying. She chooses ‘ugly’ Dietrich over his more handsome brother, and he accordingly becomes ruler.

      Crescentia’s decision shows her to be a shrewd judge of character, since when her husband leaves her in his brother’s care to campaign abroad, the latter, motivated by a diabolical desire to avenge the slight of having been rejected, attempts to fornicate with her. Cresentia tricks ‘fair’ Dietrich into building an elaborate tower where she says they will be able to consummate their passion in private, but locks him in it instead until her husband’s return. On his release, ‘fair’ Dietrich spreads wicked rumours and persuades his vassals and his brother to condemn her, which they do, casting her into the Tiber to drown.

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    2. Crescentia is rescued by a fisherman and soon ends up at a ducal court where, despite her wretched appearance, her pedigree is recognized and she is made tutor to the household’s children and advisor and book-keeper to the duke. Her status attracts the ire of the vicedominus, who seeks to avenge his waning influence by wooing her for sexual gratification. On being rejected, he violently attacks her, falsely incriminates her with the murder of the duke’s child, whose bleeding corpse he places in her lap, and has her thrown, once again, to the waters.

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    3. Crescentia is rescued by St Peter who bestows on her the power to heal those who publicly confess their sins. The remainder of the narrative retraces her progress back to Rome as she forgives and restores those who have previously wronged her. Each pair of wrongdoers—the duke and his vicedominus, and the twin Dietrichs—has been afflicted with leprosy at the moment of Crescentia’s casting into the watery abyss. The duke, though desperate for healing, is reluctant to confess his sins fully, at first concealing his complicity in Crescentia’s ill treatment; on further prompting, he divulges his transgression, is cured, and begs on behalf of the vicedominus; the procedure repeats itself, but when the duke learns of his vicedominus’s treachery, he rejects Crescentia’s plea for clemency and condemns the man to death. Crescentia is sent on to Rome to treat the king, where the same sequence unfolds again, ending with the confession and cure of the original wrongdoer, the ‘fair’ Dietrich, whose safety has already been secured by his brother’s solemn pledge to forgive him. Throughout this sequence of miraculous healings, Crescentia has travelled and acted incognito. After the final healing, the king cuts open the back of her tunic, and seeing the birthmark between her shoulderblades recognizes her for who she is. The episode concludes with a new settlement in Rome: Crescentia decrees that she and her husband will each enter a cloister in order to dedicate their lives in separation to God; care of the earthly realm is handed to the brother, the ‘fair’ Dietrich, who succeeds to the throne he was originally denied.

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  31. Justinian

    The brief account of the reign of Justinian centres on his relationship with his wife Tharsilla, who delivers him a lesson in the superiority of minne over vorhte as the principle upon which a successful ruler should base his relations with his princes. Convinced of the rightness of his wife’s teaching, the king convokes the princes, whom he had previously browbeaten into compliance through his stern and haughty regiment, and secures their enduring affection and loyalty by lavishing hospitality and gifts upon them. In an ironic coda—ironic because it appears to undermine the king’s new-found status as the epitome of a virtuous ruler—the chronicle narrates how Justinian sleeps with another man’s wife and is assassinated by the aggrieved husband.

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  32. Theodosius

    Greek-born Theodosius is presented as a God-fearing emperor of good works and holy fervour. The account of his reign is taken up with two stories in two locations which show the struggle and ultimate triumph of the Christian faith over adversity: the tale of Astrolabius and Eusebius in Rome, and that of Arius and the Seven Sleepers in Ephesus.

    Astrolabius, one of two noble brothers who have shunned the emperor’s pleas to renounce idolatry, is transfixed by a statue of Venus, pledges himself to it with his ring and falls under Satan’s spell. In the torment that follows, he turns in desperation to Eusebius, a devout Christian who has dabbled in the black arts in his youth and is still capable of conjuring the devil. Moved by Astrolabius’s plight, Eusebius demonstrates divine power in a series of victories over the forces of evil: he conjures the devil, who promptly appears, commands him to take him down to the depths, where he undoes the trick set to ensnare him by identifying in verbo domini which of two rings is the correct one; finally, he compels the devil to accompany him back to earth to reveal the secret of the statue: a herb placed beneath it which lends it alluring power. The herb is promptly dislodged, the heathens who witness it are converted, and the pillar on which the statue stands is rededicated to St Michael.

    In these same times, the false doctrine of Arianism, which denies the resurrection of the body, spreads far and wide. When the Christian leaders come to Theodosius in despair, calling on him to banish the heretics to preserve the honour and integrity of the faith, the emperor convokes a synod at which he hopes to win their souls and increase God’s number. The Arians seize the opportunity to show their strength, fifty thousand of them descending upon Ephesus, with a large crowd gathering to see the outcome of the dispute. But Arius takes fright, fails to appear, and is found dead on his privy, smitten by God. Seeing the error of their ways, his followers repent. The same day, Serapion, one of seven Christians who fled the wrath of Decius and slept for many generations in Mount Celeon, awakes and finds his way to the emperor’s camp. After some confusion, everyone realises what has happened, and Theodosius calls on God to give a further sign of his resurrection. Serapion leads the throng to the mountain where the walls fall asunder and six men emerge, their hair and clothes unchanged and their countenances shining like the morning star. One of their number, Malchus, proclaims the true resurrection and admonishes Theodosius to lead a good Christian life. There is great rejoicing among the people.

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  33. Constantinus Leo

    After an interregnum marked by civil strife, Constantinus Leo, a virtuous Christian, is elected Roman ruler. When he is afflicted by grave illness, the Greeks see an opportunity to press their claim on the Roman empire. The ailing Constantinus insists on accompanying the army he despatches to Constantinople, where he negotiates with the Greeks: the army will desist from attacking in exchange for the relics of St Stephen. Miraculously restored to health by the saint, Constantinus has the relics brought to Rome, where they are interred next to those of St Lawrence.

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  34. Zeno

    The episode is centred on the exploits of Zeno’s protegé Dietrich. Zeno, being of Greek descent, decides to return permanently to Constantinople, leaving a plenipotentiary by the name of Etius to rule over Rome in his stead. When Zeno learns that Etius has installed Otacher as Roman king, he despatches Dietrich—the grandson of Dietrich of Meran, given as a child hostage to Zeno and brought up by the latter as his own son—to quell the upstarts, who are delivered a crushing defeat at Ravenna. Having taken possession of the city of Rome, Dietrich soon institutes a reign of terror, throwing Pope St John, and also Boethius and Seneca, into prison. For this wickedness he is punished by God, who decrees that Dietrich shall burn until Doomsday in Mt Etna.

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  35. Constantius

    The Greek-born emperor Constantius and his mother Herena are victims of Roman treachery: they are ejected from the city, blinded, and mutilated by the kinsmen of a murdered Roman prince for whom Constantius had been powerless to obtain justice.

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  36. Charlemagne

    Like the reigns of Julius Caesar and Constantine, the reign of Charlemagne marks a turning-point in the history of the Roman Empire. In this case, the turning-point is constituted by the fact that Charlemagne is der êrste kaiser … ze Rôme von Diutisken landen, consecrated by the pope at the end of a long intermission during which the Romans had resolved to accept no further rulers from Greece after their unhappy experience with Constantius.

    1. Charlemagne and his brother Leo are sons of the Frankish king Pippin. Leo is sent to Rome for his education, and becomes pope. A heavenly voice instructs Charlemagne to join his brother there. Pope Leo and the Roman multitude implore the young man to be their ruler and, though at first reluctant, he receives the crown and regalia. After an intervening period in which the Romans turn against Leo, blind him and banish him, Charlemagne returns to Rome with an army to punish the perpetrators and restore his brother to his position; the pope consecrates Charlemagne as emperor.

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    2. The newly consecrated emperor, acting in conjunction with the pope, enacts his legislation: the statutes of Constantine, which have long been neglected, are reconfirmed; ecclesiastical hierarchies and revenues are regulated; a ‘Kleiderordnung’ is decreed for laypeople. The account of Charlemagne’s legislation is followed by the catalogue of his military campaigns against various adversaries, including the pagans of Galatia, whom the emperor overcomes with an army of virgin girls.

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    3. Charlemagne has committed a grave sin which he refuses to confess to any man. He seeks the advice of St Aegidius, who obtains a miraculous absolution for him without the need for confession: in response to the saint’s prayer, a letter appears on the altar in which it is written that the emperor has obtained God’s grace.

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  37. The Germans

    1. Louis the Pious is praised as just and pacific ruler, in an account which emphasizes his legislative activity and concern for upright conduct at court.

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    2. Lothar I campaigns against resistance in Bavaria, led by a Duke Otto and a Margrave Hermann.

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    3. Louis quarrels with his brothers Charles and Pippin, until he is required by Pope Hadrian to restore Charlemagne’s law.

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    4. Charles the Fat’s virtuous wife is falsely accused of adultery, and clears her name by an oath of purgation; she and her husband take religious vows.

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    5. Arnolt (identifiable as Arnulf of Carinthia) founds the monastery of St Emmeram in Regensburg.

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    6. Louis the Child succeeds his father Arnolt as a minor, and subsequently falls to his death from a tower.

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    7. Conrad I has to contend with Hungarian incursions, and his princes attempt to depose him when he becomes incapacitated by illness.

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    8. Henry I, with God on his side, inflicts a crushing defeat on the Hungarians and subjugates Bohemia.

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    9. Otto I subjugates the Milanese and triumphs over the Hungarians near Augsburg (a reference to the Battle on the Lechfeld, which is not named).

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    10. Otto II leads a disastrous military expedition against the Greeks in Calabria, where he is betrayed by the Romans.

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    11. Otto III defeats two rebellious Rhineland counts, Dietrich and Willehalm, with the support of Hugo, Bishop of Würzburg. He exacts revenge on the Slavs for martryring Albrecht, bishop of Prague.

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    12. Henry II, an exemplary ruler and wârer gotes dienestman, converts Bohemians, Poles, Wends, and Hungarians, and founds the bishopric of Bamberg. After his death and burial in St Peter’s cathedral, Bamberg, miracles occur at his grave.

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    13. Conrad II is engaged in conflict with Stephen of Hungary until the two make peace.

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    14. Henry III campaigns against the Hungarians to restore their deposed king Peter, and intervenes in a disputed papal election to install his candidate Swidger (Siutgar) of Bamberg at a synod convoked in Rome. Hostilities against the Hungarians are renewed when the latter once again depose Peter.

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    15. Henry IV provokes turmoil in the empire because of his dissolute character; eventually the princes confine him to Speyer and elect his son ‘Young Henry’ as king. Much of this reign is however taken up with an account of the victorious crusade in the Holy Land and Babylon led by Duke Gotfrit (Godfrey of Bouillon).

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    16. Henry V’s election is opposed by the pope and most ecclesiastical princes; eventually (in an oblique reference to the conclusion of the Investiture Controversy) the conflict is resolved, Henry is consecrated emperor, and his excommunication lifted.

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    17. Lothar III (of Supplinburg) has to contend with a rebellion led by the (Staufer) brothers Conrad and Frederick, and with a contested papal election, which draws Lothar into a military expedition in Southern Italy.

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    18. Conrad III is chosen by the princes to succeed Lothar; the narrative of the chronicle breaks off in the midst of the account of Conrad’s involvement in the crusade against Sangwin (Zenki) at Edessa.

      First (‘Bavarian’) Continuation (Recension C)

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    19. Frederick I subjugates Milan and Lombardy, before taking the cross. He meets his death when he drowns on his way to the crusade.

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    20. Frederick, the eldest son of Frederick I, is chosen to succeed his father and continue the crusade to the Holy Land; he dies on the voyage home.

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    21. Henry VI, a younger son Frederick I, is elected king. He thwarts a plot against his life, executing the conspirators but generously sparing his wife, even though she was instrumental in orchestrating the assassination attempt.

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    22. Philip, a further son of Frederick I, is elected king at Aachen; his election is opposed by Otto of Brunswick. Philip is assassinated at Bamberg by Otto of Wittelsbach.

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    23. Otto IV, Philip’s (Welf) rival, succeeds to the throne. His initial good fortune is reversed when his nobles abandon him for Frederick ‘the child of Apulia’ and expel him.

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    24. Emperor Frederick II reconquers the Holy Sepulchre and returns to reside in Palermo. He instals his son Henry as king in Germany but when the latter, having discarded his previous good sense, rebels against his father and begins demanding hostages from every city, Frederick is compelled to intervene: he has the hostages released, returns to Germany, and expels his recreant son to Italy.

      Second (’Swabian‘) Continuation (Recension C, Zeil Ms.)

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    25. Interregnum - Rudolf I. The electors are divided in their attempts to find a ruler, which remain fruitless until God intervenes and obliges them to accept Rudolf of Habsburg. Under his rule, law and order are restored; the narrative breaks off in the middle of the account of Rudolf’s campaign against the king (Ottokar) of Bohemia.

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