During the Roman-Barbarians Kingdoms, the capital of the Goths in Italy was Ravenna, keeping the administration of Rome under the existing laws and relying on Roman officials; only the military power was in their hands. In 493 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths came in Italy and in 489, defeated the Goths of Odoacer. Even if Theodoric was Arian, at the beginning he didn't opposed his power to the Catholic Church, also supporting Christianity against the Byzantine Church in 482. However, at the end of his kingdom he was worried about an alliance of the Pope with the Byzantine Emperor, and a new persecution took place. After the death of Theodoric the Goth kingdom fell in internal struggles and the Byzantine Emperor Justinian tried to conquer the peninsula, succeeding in 553. Narses, the Byzantine general who conquered Rome in 552, was the first of the exarchs, ruling Italy as a viceroy from Ravenna.
Under rule of the exarchs, the country had an economic decline, and the Roman consuls and senate disappeared. People left the cities to find a way to survive in the huge latifundia in the country. The only role remained for the cities was as Bishop See, with the Bishop starting to assume also administrative roles. The Catholic Church began to accumulate assets from heritages of Italian people.
Popes like Julius I (337-352), Innocent I (401-417), Leo I (440-461), Gelasius I (492-496), Gregory I (590-604), and Martin I (649-655) began to emancipate Rome from the exarchs and authoritativeness over the Lombards, who came in Italy in 568. The Lombard rule was quite strong, mainly focused to face the Byzantine presence in Ravenna, with the country organized in quite independent areas under the control of a Duke, instead of a strong monolithic reign. The Lombard Dukedoms were mainly located in the northern part of the peninsula, with only the Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Benevento in the south; the Southern dukedoms remained independent even after the constitution of a Lombard Kingdom in Italy under Authari in 584, prosecuted by his successor Agilulf, and ended in 774. The Byzantine presence in Italy at the beginning of the VII century was limited to:
Sustained by the people, the Popes soon exercised greater power in Rome than did the imperial governors, many secular buildings were converted into churches, new walls were built to defend Rome, and an army was organized to protect the Pope against the menace of the Lombards and Byzantines. In 728 the Pope Gregory II (715-731) dissuaded the Lombard King Liutprand to fight against the Byzantine in Ravenna and in Latium, and, as a guarantee of independence from the neighbors states, the Pope obtained the control of the Lombard territories in Latium and the powerful Castle of Sutri (Donation of Sutri), the initial nucleus of the Papal State.
In 751 the Lombard king Aistulf (749 - 756) attacked the Byzantine territories of the exarchate and in Latium again. The Pope Stephen II asked to the king of Franks Pepin III ("the Short") to defend the Papal State against the Lomdards, that were defeated in 754, and all the Byzantine properties in the Exarchate and Duchy of Rome were ceded to the Church. The Pope officially named Pepin king of the Franks, starting an alliance between the Papal State and the France ended only with the Kingdom of Italy in 1870.
In 772 the election as Pope of Adrian I (772-795), allied of the Franks, pushed the Lombard king Desiderius to attack the Duchy of Rome. The king of Franks Charlemagne was called by the Pope to defend the Church, and in 773 the Lombards were defeated in Pavia and their kingdom in Italy ended. In 774, Charlemagne confirmed the donation of Pepin the Short. To stronger the temporal power of the Popes, the so-called Donation of Constantine to Pope Silvester I was forged.
The coronation of Charlemagne as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Leo III at Rome in 800 ended the question of the Byzantine suzerainty over Rome and it inaugurated the era of relationships between the popes and the emperors, with the German kings to be crowned emperor by the Pope and the attempt of the emperors to control the election of the pope.
Following the sack of Rome by the Arabs in 846, Leo IV built the Leonine walls to protect the Vatican, but the city knew frequent occupations and plundering. With the end of the Carolingian Empire in 887 the Pope remained as the main political power in the West again.
In 962, with the coronation of Otto I as emperor by Pope John XII (955-964) the link of the Papal State with the Holy Roman Empire turned in the link with the German One. To enforce the temporal power of the Church, at this time occurred the common practice of the emperor to grant the administrations of feuds to bishops, sure that at the death of the bishop no hair could claim rights over Empire properties. In 962 Otto I proclaimed Privilegium Othonis, claiming the approval of the the emperor for Papal elections, and in 965 he deposed John XII, electing Leo VIII as Pope, reversing the subjection between imperial and papal powers.
In 973, Otto II succeeded to his father and tried to enforce the power of the Empire in Europe, but in 982 he was defeated by the Saracens in the Southern Italy. His successor Otto III tried to build a Western Christian Empire, moving himself in Rome with the support of the Pope Silvester II (999-1003), but a revolt forced the emperor to leave Rome in 1001: he died in 1002 without heirs.
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