July 13, 2003

Otto of Freising: An Imperialist View of the Lombard Communes

Otto of Freising, Gesta Frederici (Twelfth Century). James Ross and Mary McLaughlin, eds. (1949, 1977), The Portable Medieval Reader (London: Penguin: ), pp. 281-3.

[T]he Lombards... retain the elegance of the Latin language and a certain courtesy of manners. They also imitate the activity of the ancient Romans in the management of the cities and in the preservation of the state. Finally, they are so attached to their liberty that, to avoid the insolence of rulers, they prefer to be reigned over by consuls than by princes... [T]here are three orders among them, of captains, vassals, and the commons... consuls are chosen, not from one order, but from each, and, lest they be seized with a greed for power, they are changed nearly every year. From which it happens that their territory is all divided into cities... so that there is hardly to be found any noble... with so great an influence as not to owe obedience to the rule of his own city.... [T]hey do not disdain to raise to the badge of knighthood and to all grades of authority young men of low condition... workmen of contemptible mechanical arts.... From which it happens that they are pre-eminent among the other countries of the world for riches and power.... [T]hey retain a trace of their barbarous dregs, forgetful of ancient nobility, that while they boast of living by the law they do not obey the laws. for they seldom of never receive the prince reverently to whom it should be their duty to show a willing reverence of submission, nor do they obediently accept those things which he, according to the justice of the laws, ordains, unless they are made to feel his authority... by the gathering of many soldiers... having recourse to hostilities for his own rights. For which results a double evil... the prince has his thoughts distracted by the collecting of an army... the citizen has to be compelled to obedience... a great expenditure of his own substance. Whence, for the same reason that the people are in such an instance guilty of rashness, the prince is to be excused, by the necessity of the case, before God and man.... Milan... swelled out into such daring of pride, being elated with success... attacking all its neighbours... ventured even without alarm to incur the recently offended majesty of the prince...

Posted by DeLong at July 13, 2003 08:31 PM | TrackBack


But if the outcome is unknown you do not know if daring of pride and elation leads to anything that is of value, other than the fleeting burst of joy at offending the majesty of the prince. They may choose to retire to their contemptible mechanical arts.

Posted by: northernLights on July 14, 2003 06:01 PM

Sure was fun for awhile, though. But not half so fun as coffee break on a good day, 2 of them gone forever I miss those guys so much.

Posted by: northernLights on July 15, 2003 03:28 PM
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