Otto I the Great, 912 - 973


Otto I the Great 912-973


Otto I was Otto The Great of the
Holy Roman Empire and member of the  Saxon Dynasty.


What Was So Special About the Man?

Otto brought stability to the German Reich by eliminating rebels, defeating Hungarians, keeping his vassal dukes in check, and re-defining the role of the church.

Otto gave the Germans peace and they, in turn, enjoyed the tranquility and developed their culture. Historians call this the Ottonian Renaissance.


The Family of Otto I the Great

Otto's father was Henry I.

Otto's mother was Matilda.

Otto's brothers were Henry and Thankmar.

In 930, Otto married Edith. Edith was daughter of English King Edward the Elder. Edith died in 946.

In 951, Otto married again. This time Adelaide was the happy girl. Adelaide was princess of Burgundy and the widowed queen of Italy, which was very practical because Otto thus became king of the Lombards as well.

Otto's sons were Liudolf (by Edith) and Otto II (by Adelaide.)


The Life of Otto I the Great

When Otto's father died in 936, Otto became Otto II, duke of Saxony and king of the Germans and not to be mixed up with his son mentioned above.

In 962, Otto became Otto I, Holy Roman emperor. He was in office as such until his death in 973.


The Battles of Otto I the Great

Otto fought the dukes Eberhard of Franconia, Eberhard of Bavaria, and his half-brother Thankmar. Otto won.

Later on, Otto's younger brother Henry rebelled and Eberhard of Franconia joined in. Otto straightened them out at the Battle of Andernach in 939.

But Giselbert of Lotharingia and French king Louis IV, who was after Lotharingia, which is Lorraine, thought this was terrific and joined the rebellion against Otto. Otto called Hugh the Great and asked him if he wanted to help him fight Louis IV. Hugh said he did and together they went after Louis in 940.

In 941, little Henry plotted an assassination against his brother. Otto learned about the plot in time but forgave Henry and later, in 947, Otto even made Henry duke of Bavaria.

In 942, Louis IV and Otto became buddies. Now it was Hugh the Great they were after. They got him good in 950.

After a bad start, Otto's Bohemia campaign finally became a success and he defeated the Bohemian prince Boleslav I.

In 951, Otto marched into Italy, introduced himself down there and married Adelaide while he was at it. Adelaide had been kidnapped by the margrave Berengar of Ivrea. By the time Otto was done with his Italy campaign, Berengar was just another ordinary vassal.

Otto's son, little weasel Liudolf, started a rebellion while Otto was in Italy. Otto had to make haste and travel back home again. By the year 955, Otto had again everything under control and Liudolf said he was sorry.


Meanwhile the Magyars had invaded Germany. Otto again packed his thermos and kicked butt in the Battle of the Lechfeld, which is a plain along the Lech River near Augsburg, Germany.

The date? August 955. After this encounter, the Magyars decided to stay away from Germany for good.

The Battle of the Lechfeld
The Battle of the Lechfeld



The fighting season of 955 wasn't quite over yet and Otto and the margrave Gero fought and defeated the Slavs later that year. The Slavs were a bit tough and it took until 960 to beat them completely.


Holy Roman Emperor Otto I the Great

All the fighting paid off. When Berengar started to act up again, Otto went back down to Italy. On this occasion, on February 2, 962, to be exact, Pope John XII crowned Otto emperor. The two also signed a treaty, the Privilegium Ottonianum.

But Pope John XII felt that Otto had too much power. So he went to Berengar to talk business. Otto noticed that loyalty was shifting and in December 963, Otto deposed Pope John XII. The new pope was Leo VIII and this time Otto took Berengar back home to Germany with him so he could have a close eye on him.

In 965, Pope Leo VIII died. Otto's new choice for pope was John XIII. But the Romans didn't like this John and kicked him out of town. So Otto packed his suitcase and tracked down to Italy yet again. This time he stayed for six years and cleaned up good. He also arranged the marriage between his son Otto II and the Byzantine princess Theophano.

Otto came back to Germany, organized a massive party on March 23, 973, and died shortly after. Great emperor, great exit.


Otto's Successor

Otto's and Adelaide's son Otto II became the next Holy Roman emperor.

And here is a map of central Europe around the year 980:

Holy Roman Empire 980 - Map