Lothar

(795-855)
   Carolingian king and emperor, Lothar was the son and successor of Louis the Pious and brother of Charles the Bald and Louis the German. As the oldest son of Louis the Pious, Lothar was recognized early in his father's reign as the heir designate and was associated with his father as emperor in 817. In the 820s he played an important role in Italy as his father's representative and formalized a long-standing relationship between the Carolingian dynasty and the papacy. The remarriage of Louis to Judith and the birth of Charles the Bald complicated the relationship between Lothar and his father. In the 830s Lothar led two revolts against his father, both of which failed, leaving Lothar in disgrace. He ultimately was restored to his father's good graces, but after the death of Louis the Pious the empire was torn apart by civil war. Lothar, although bested by his brothers, came to terms with them and ruled as emperor until his death in 855.
   The firstborn son of Louis the Pious and his wife Irmengard (d. 818), Lothar had reached adulthood in 814 when his grandfather Charlemagne died, and Louis assumed the throne. His maturity benefited Louis by making Lothar an important associate in government, but it also plagued Louis, because Lothar became the focus of opposition to the new emperor. In the opening years of his reign, however, Louis was well served by Lothar, who ruled in Bavaria from 814 to 817. In 817, when Louis implemented the Ordinatio imperii, his plan of succession for the empire, Lothar was made co-emperor and recognized as Louis's successor, while Lothar's brothers, Louis the German and Pippin, were made sub-kings, subject to the authority of Louis and Lothar. Lothar was given the responsibility of ruling Italy, which led to the revolt of his cousin, Bernard, king of Italy. The revolt was brutally suppressed by Louis, and Lothar assumed his responsibilities in Italy.
   In the 820s, Lothar played an important role in Italy and in the relations of the Carolingian Empire and the papacy in Rome. He exercised a number of royal, or imperial, functions in Italy by calling councils and issuing capitularies. Aware that Judith, his father's second wife, was about to give birth, Lothar called on the pope, Paschal I, to crown him emperor in 823. In this way he was able to assert his place in the empire and confirm his title of emperor, because papal coronation was becoming the official means to assume the imperial title. Although this action may have been an effort to counter any efforts by Louis the Pious to limit his authority, Lothar remained an important figure in the family and the state. He had previously stood as godfather to Judith and Louis's first child, Gisele, and now stood as godfather for his new half-brother, later known as Charles the Bald. Indeed, godparentage had become a very significant responsibility in Carolingian society.
   Lothar also played an important role in regularizing relations between the papacy and the Carolingian dynasty. In 824, Lothar issued the Constitutio Romana (Roman Constitution) on his father's behalf. This constitution was issued after a period of turmoil in the city of Rome and confirmed Carolingian rights in Rome and papal territories. The constitution legislated that the Frankish rulers were to be notified upon the election of a new pope and that the people of Rome were to swear an oath of loyalty to the Carolingian emperor. The Carolingians also enforced loyalty to the pope and promised to protect papal territories in central Italy.
   
   Frankish Emperor from his psalter, ninth century (The Art Archive/British Library)
   Although he remained an important figure in government, Lothar, along with his brothers Pippin and Louis the German, became increasingly concerned about the place of their newest brother Charles, a concern that eventually led them into rebellion against their father. Their concerns were found to be justified in 827, when their father reorganized the succession plan to include Charles. For many ecclesiastics, the Ordinatio of 817 was sacred, and consequently any violation of it was regarded as an act against God. For others in the empire, especially members of the nobility, its sacred character was less of an issue, but nevertheless the restructuring of the succession plan provided an excuse to revolt. And in the late 820s and early 830s, Lothar and his brothers did revolt against their father and Charles. Lothar was motivated by his desire to rule as well as by the encouragement of ambitious members of the nobility. He was also supported by leaders in the church who believed in the sacred nature of government and the Ordinatio, ideas that they often reminded Lothar about.
   Lothar was involved in two rebellions against his father Louis. The first revolt occurred in 830; it was initiated by his brother Pippin who had the most to lose in the new succession plan. Lothar quickly joined the rebellion from Italy, entering it because of his dissatisfaction over his father's promotion of Bernard of Septimania to high rank at the court, a move that threatened Lothar's own position. Lothar quickly took charge of the situation and placed Louis and Charles under house arrest. His efforts at ruling, however, met with little success, and, as the chronicler Nithard noted, "the state of the empire grew worse from day to day, since all were driven by greed and sought only their own advantage" (Scholz 1972, 131). Lothar's position was undermined by Louis, who secretly negotiated with both Pippin and Louis the German. By Easter 831, Louis had been restored to the throne. Lothar was returned to Italy in disgrace, and his supporters were jailed, but he was permitted to remain as king in Italy. Louis also restructured the plan of succession once again and created four equal kingdoms out of the empire for his four sons.
   Louis, however, failed to keep his bargain with his sons and faced a revolt again, one that was much more serious than the revolt of 830. In 833 Lothar and Louis and Pippin formed an alliance against their father. The four and their armies met on the so-called Field of Lies, where Louis the Pious's armies abandoned him for Lothar, who took his father into custody. Judith was sent to Italy, Charles was sent off to a monastery, and in October, Lothar forced his father to perform an act of penance and abdicate at a great council. Lothar's rough treatment of his father, however, alienated his brothers, especially Louis, who came to the aid of the older Louis. By February 834 the tide had turned, and Louis the Pious was restored to the throne. The emperor and his allies defeated Lothar's army, and Lothar surrendered and was once again returned to Italy.
   Turmoil in the Carolingian Empire, however, continued during Louis's last years and into the early 840s. Lothar remained quietly in Italy for several years while his father secured his position once again. On the death of Pippin, Louis restructured the succession yet again, establishing a large kingdom for his son Charles. Lothar was restored to his father's good graces, largely thanks to the efforts of Judith who desired a good relationship between Charles and Lothar, shortly before the older Louis's death. Lothar and Charles were to share the empire, and, although placed on equal footing with Charles, Lothar inherited the imperial title. His claims to this title, as well as his claims to territory drove his efforts in the following years. Indeed, almost immediately after Louis's death, his sons once again fell into civil war, as in various combinations they struggled to enforce their claims to power and territory. Although he reconciled with his godson Charles, Lothar soon turned against him and was then faced by a hostile alliance from his two brothers. Open warfare took place, which culminated in the bloody Battle of Fontenoy in 841, which was marked by massive losses for all combatants. Although weakened, Lothar struggled on, but his brothers reaffirmed their alliance against him with the famous Oath of Strasbourg in 842, and in 843 Lothar agreed to a division of the empire in the Treaty of Verdun.
   From the end of the civil war in 843 until his death in 855, Lothar ruled as emperor over the central portion of the empire, which included the imperial capital of Aix-la-Chapelle (modern Aachen, in Germany) and Italy. Although tensions remained and Lothar was constantly attempting to assert his position in the realm, the brothers did manage to rule peacefully during Lothar's lifetime. They held an important council in 844 that sought to reorganize the church, as well as councils in 847 and 851 that emphasized brotherly rule and the unity of the empire. At the same time, however, Lothar attempted to keep his two brothers apart and sought to forge alliances with one against the other. He found little success in that until his reconciliation with Charles in 849, which was commemorated by the commissioning of a new illuminated Gospel from Tours and a magnificent gem, the Lothar Crystal, which told the story of Susannah and the Elders. On September 22, 855, Lothar retired to a monastery, where he died six days later. He was succeeded in the northern section of his territory by his son Lothar II (d. 869), and in Italy by his son Louis (d. 875), who assumed the title of emperor. Although he successfully maintained his position in the empire during his life, Lothar's middle kingdom, especially the inheritance of Lothar II, remained a source of contention for many years to come.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Godman, Peter, and Roger Collins, eds. Charlemagne's Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.
 ♦ Llewellyn, Peter. Rome in the Dark Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Nelson, Janet. Charles the Bald. London: Longman, 1992.
 ♦ Reuter, Timothy. Germany in the Early Middle Ages, c. 800-1056. London: Longman, 1991.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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