Liutprand of Cremona

Liutprand, also Liudprand, Liuprand, Lioutio, Liucius, Liuzo, and Lioutsios (c. 920 – 972),[1] was a historian, diplomat, and Bishop of Cremona born in what is now northern Italy, whose works are an important source for the politics of the 10th century Byzantine court.

Early life and career

Liutprand was born into a prominent family from Pavia, of Lombard origins, around 920. In 931 he entered service as page to Hugh of Arles, who kept court at Pavia as King of Italy and who married the notorious and powerful Marozia of Rome. Liutprand was educated at the court and became a Deacon at the Cathedral of Pavia. After Hugh died in 947, leaving his son and co-ruler Lothair on the throne as King of Italy, Liutprand became confidential secretary to the actual ruler of Italy, Berengar II, marchese d'Ivrea, for whom he became chancellor.

Mission to Constantinople

In 949, Berengar II sent him on a goodwill mission as an apprentice diplomat[2] to the Byzantine court of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus with whom he became friendly. Liutprand went partly to learn Greek[3] and may have provided material for chapter 26 of Constantine VII's De Administrando Imperio.[1] Both Liutprand's father and his stepfather had been sent as ambassadors to Constantinople (927 and 942).[1] Liutprand included in his later Antapodosis (950s), a glowing account of the hospitality he enjoyed there, including being carried into the audience hall on the shoulders of eunuchs, and Constantine's delight in receiving a gift of four de luxe eunuchs.[2]

Bishop of Cremona

On his return, however, he fell out with Berengar, for which Liutprand avenged himself in his Antapodosis ("retribution"), and attached himself to Berengar's rival, the emperor Otto I who became King of Italy upon the death of Lothair in 950. With Otto I he returned to Italy in 961 and was invested as Bishop of Cremona the following year. At Otto's court, he met Recemund, a Córdoban ambassador, who convinced him to write a history of his days (the later Antapodosis, which was dedicated to Recemund). Liutprand was often entrusted with important diplomacy and in 963 he was sent to Pope John XII at the beginning of the quarrel between the Pope and the Emperor over papal allegiance to Berenger's son Adelbert. Liutprand attended the Roman conclave of bishops that deposed John XII, November 6, 963 and wrote the only connected narrative of the events.

Second mission to Constantinople

He was frequently employed in missions to the Pope, and in 968[4] he was sent again to Constantinople, this time to the court of Nicephorus Phocas, to demand for the younger Otto (afterwards Otto II) the hand of Anna Porphyrogenita, daughter of the former emperor Romanus II. The possible marriage was part of a wider negotiation between Otto and Nicephorus, the Eastern Emperor, who still claimed Benevento and Capua, which were actually in Lombard hands and whose forces had come to strife with Otto in Bari recently. His reception at Constantinople was humiliating and ultimately futile after the subject of Otto's claim to the title Emperor caused friction, triggered by a letter from Pope John XIII which offensively addressed Nicephorus as "the emperor of the Greeks".[2]

Liutprand's account of this embassy in the Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana is perhaps the most graphic and lively piece of writing which has come down to us from the 10th century. The detailed description of Constantinople and the Byzantine court is a document of rare value, though highly coloured by his hostility towards the Byzantine Empire. The Catholic Encyclopedia asserted "Liutprand's writings are a very important historical source for the tenth century; he is ever a strong partisan and is frequently unfair towards his adversaries."

Liutprand's candid account makes clear that often he was not as diplomatic as he might have been and Constanze Schummer has questioned how good a diplomat he really was in Constantinople, despite successes in the West.[2] On his second mission to Constantinople, for instance, after his purple purchases are confiscated, he tells the imperial party that at home whores and conjurers wear purple.[5] Schummer and others have speculated that Otto I did not actually see the Relatio or receive an accurate account of Liutprand's performance at Constantinople.

Whether he returned in 971 with the embassy to fetch Theophanu, the eventually negotiated bride, or not is uncertain,[1] but he may well have done.[2] Liutprand probably died before 20 July 972, certainly before 5 March 973.[1] His successor as bishop of Cremona was installed in 973.


Works in English translation


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "LIUTPRAND OF CREMONA" in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, New York & Oxford, 1991, p. 1241. ISBN 0195046528
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Liudprand of Cremona - a diplomat?" by Constanze M.F. Schummer in Shepard J. & Franklin, Simon. (Eds.) (1992) Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers from the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990. Aldershot: Variorum, pp. 197-201. ISBN 0860783383
  3. Liutprand, Antapodosis, VI.2-3.
  4. Mellersh, H.E.L. (1999) The Hutchinson chronology of world history. Volume 1. The ancient and medieval world: Prehistory – AD 1491. Oxford: Helicon, p. 277. ISBN 1859862810
  5. Liudprand, Leg., chapter 54.
  6. Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911.

External links

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