06 December 2007

Against riding tigers

It was one thousand and forty-four years ago this week that a council called by an Emperor deposed a Pope.

More specifically, it was on December 4 of 963 that a council called and controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto, deposed Pope John XII.

John's offense? were they arguing about Arianism or the payment of taxes on Church land or ... what?

Actually, the dispute between John XII and Otto was quite nakedly one about power. John had asked for Otto's help in protecting him from a more small-time despot, Berenger II of Italy, (a Lombard). But John soon realized that he was riding a tiger, that the Emperor's power both above and below the Alps threatened to eclipse his own.

John began a search for allies who might overthrow Otto. Otto heard about this and, unsurprisingly, took offense. Hence his call for a council.

Emperors and Popes would continue to battle for supremacy in western Europe for a long time to come, until the rise of national monarchies and Protestantism created multiple supremacies and rendered their old rivalry moot.

So this week, marking the anniversary of that deposition, let us give a smidgen, but only a smidgen, of sympathy to John XII and to tiger-riders everywhere. As a general rule, there are better ways to deal with the local trouble-maker than calling in the bigger bully from across the mountains.


SJW said...

Does anyone know anything about the new book Jacques Barzun is supposedly writing according to New Yorker article appearing in October? Specifically, a lot of us out here would like to know: what is it about? and when will it be available?

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Christopher said...


Sorry, I have no idea.

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.