John VI


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(30 Oct. 701–11 Jan. 705)

Nothing is known of his background except that he was Greek by birth. The few glimpses that survive of his reign show him, at a time when Byzantium's hold on Italy was loosened in the confusion following the deposition of Emperor Justinian II in 695, accepted as a popular leader in Italy but careful himself to avoid any rupture with the empire. Thus when the Italian militias took up arms against the imperial exarch Theophylact, who had come to Rome from Sicily, John closed the city gates and saved his life, at the same time succeeding in pacifying the mutineers camped before the walls. It seems that Theophylact, acting on information received, was planning to exact retribution from citizens who had taken part in the humiliating rebuff administered to Zacharias, commander of the imperial bodyguard, when he came to Rome to arrest Sergius I on Justinian II's orders; in the event, having been rescued by the pope, it was the informers whom Theophylact was obliged to punish. John's difficulties, however, were illustrated when the Lombard Duke Gisulf I of Benevento invaded Campania with his armies c.702, sacking towns and spreading devastation, and halted only at the fifth milestone on the Via Latina; John had to spend enormous sums on ransoming his prisoners and persuading him to withdraw, and even then behind greatly extended frontiers.

Three times driven from his see, Wilfrid of York (664–709) came to Rome in 703 (his third visit) to appeal to the pope. At a four-month-long synod held in Rome in 704 he was finally vindicated, and John wrote (his only extant letter) to the kings of Northumbria and Mercia directing that Beorhtweald, whom he had confirmed as archbishop of Canterbury (693–731), should endeavour to reach a satisfactory settlement of the affair at a synod; if he failed to do so, both parties should present themselves at Rome to thrash the matter out at a fuller council.

Further Reading

JW i. 245 f., ii. 700 f.LP i. 383 f. (Davis 1: 89–90)Caspar ii. 624, 636, 688, 726DCB iii. 392 f. (J. Barmby)DBI lv. 554–6 (L. Becto)DTC viii. 599 f. (É. Amann)EThC 71 (G. Schwaiger)Levillain ii. 835 (J. Durliat)NCE vii. 921–2 (H. G. J. Beck)Bertolini 408–10Seppelt ii. 85JR 211

Subjects: Christianity.

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