Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor

Holy Roman Emperor from 996 to 1002 / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Otto III (June/July 980 – 23 January 1002) was Holy Roman Emperor from 996 until his death in 1002. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto III was the only son of the Emperor Otto II and his wife Theophanu.

Quick facts: Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor, Reign, Predeces...
Otto III
Otto III from the Gospels of Otto III
Holy Roman Emperor
Reign21 May 996 – 23 January 1002
PredecessorOtto II
SuccessorHenry II
King of Italy
Reign12 April 996 – 23 January 1002
PredecessorOtto II
SuccessorArduin of Ivrea
King of Germany
Reign25 December 983 – 23 January 1002
PredecessorOtto II
SuccessorHenry II
BornJune/July 980
Klever Reichswald near Kessel, Kingdom of Germany
Died23 January 1002(1002-01-23) (aged 21)
Faleria, Papal States
FatherOtto II, Holy Roman Emperor

Otto III was crowned as King of Germany in 983 at the age of three, shortly after his father's death in Southern Italy while campaigning against the Byzantine Empire and the Emirate of Sicily. Though the nominal ruler of Germany, Otto III's minor status ensured his various regents held power over the Empire. His cousin Henry II, Duke of Bavaria, initially claimed regency over the young king and attempted to seize the throne for himself in 984. When his rebellion failed to gain the support of Germany's aristocracy, Henry II was forced to abandon his claims to the throne and to allow Otto III's mother Theophanu to serve as regent until her death in 991. Otto III was then still a child, so his grandmother, Adelaide of Italy, served as regent until 994.

In 996, Otto III marched to Italy to claim the titles of King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor, which had been left unclaimed since the death of Otto II in 983. Otto III also sought to reestablish Imperial control over the city of Rome, which had revolted under the leadership of Crescentius II, and through it the papacy. Crowned as emperor, Otto III put down the Roman rebellion and installed his cousin as Pope Gregory V, the first Pope of German descent. After the Emperor had pardoned him and left the city, Crescentius II again rebelled, deposing Gregory V and installing John XVI as Pope. Otto III returned to the city in 998, reinstalled Gregory V, and executed both Crescentius II and John XVI. When Gregory V died in 999, Otto III installed Sylvester II as the new pope. Otto III's actions throughout his life further strengthened imperial control over the Catholic Church.

From the beginning of his reign, Otto III faced opposition from the Slavs along the eastern frontier. Following the death of his father in 983, the Slavs rebelled against imperial control, forcing the Empire to abandon its territories east of the Elbe river. Otto III fought to regain the Empire's lost territories throughout his reign with only limited success. While in the east, Otto III strengthened the Empire's relations with Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary. Through his affairs in Eastern Europe in 1000, he was able to extend the influence of Christianity by supporting mission work in Poland and through the crowning of Stephen I as the first Christian king of Hungary.

Returning to Rome in 1001, Otto faced a rebellion by the Roman aristocracy, which forced him to flee the city. While marching to reclaim the city in 1002, Otto suffered a sudden fever and died in Castle Paterno in Faleria at the age of 21. With no clear heir to succeed him, his early death threw the Empire into political crisis.

Otto was a charismatic figure associated with several legends and notable figures of his time. Opinions on Otto III and his reign vary considerably. Recognized in his days as a brilliant, energetic, pious leader, Otto was portrayed as a whimsical, overidealistic dreamer who failed in his duty towards Germany by nineteenth century historians. Modern historians generally see him in a positive light, but several facets of the emperor remain enigmatic and debates on the true intentions behind his Imperial Renovation (renovatio imperii Romanoru) program continue.