Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor

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Otto II (955 – December 7, 983), called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.


Education, first years of reign

He received a good education under the care of his uncle, Bruno, archbishop of Cologne, and his illegitimate half-brother, William, archbishop of Mainz. At first only co-reigning with his father, he was chosen German king at Worms in 961, crowned at Aachen Cathedral on May 26, 961, and on December 25, 967 was crowned joint emperor at Rome by Pope John XIII.

He married Theophanu, niece of the Byzantine Roman Emperor John I Tzimisces, on April 14, 972. After participating in his father's campaigns in Italy, he returned to Germany and became sole emperor on the death of his father in May 973, without meeting any opposition.

Otto spent his reign continuing his father's policy of strengthening imperial rule in Germany and extending it deeper into Italy.


After suppressing a rising in Lorraine, difficulties arose in southern Germany, probably owing to Otto's refusal to grant the duchy of Swabia to Henry II of Bavaria. In 974 Henry's mother, Judith, set up a conspiracy against the emperor, which included Henry, Bishop Abraham of Freising, the dukes of Bohemia and Poland, and several members of the clergy and the nobility who were discontented by the previous emperor's policies. The plan was discovered and easily suppressed, however. In the same year, Otto's forces successfully opposed an attempt by Harald I of Denmark to throw off the German yoke; however, his expedition against the Bohemians in 975 was a partial failure owing to the outbreak of further trouble in Bavaria. The following year he restored order for the second time in Lorraine and forced Henry II to flee from Regensburg to Bohemia, Bavaria being assigned to his relative Otto of Bavaria. In 977 the king made another expedition into Bohemia, where King Boleslaus II promised to return to his earlier allegiance. Also Mieszko I of Poland submitted. (See also War of the Three Henries).

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