Otto II: The Status Quo Emperor

Holy Roman Emperor Otto II
c. 955 – December 7, 983

Early Life

Holy Roman Emperor Otto II was born around 955. The only surviving son of Emperor Otto I and his second wife, Adelaide, Prince Otto became his father’s heir at a young age. During his reign, Otto I successfully consolidated his power over the empire. To ensure the succession, Otto had his son crowned co-king of Germany and Italy in 961 and co-emperor in 967. By the time he died on May 7, 973, the emperor had left behind a secure realm to his 18-year-old son.

Holy Roman Emperor

After Otto I’s death, Otto II became emperor without opposition. However, the following year, the emperor’s cousin, Henry II of Bavaria, rebelled. Although Henry surrendered in 978, his actions opened the door for further conflict. In 979, King Lothar of France invaded Lorraine. However, the king later gave up his claim after a brief war. After securing his empire in 980, Otto turned his attention to Italy.


In Rome, Pope Benedict VI had been killed in July 974. After seizing the papacy, antipope Boniface VII quickly began abusing his power. The new pope had little interest in his papal responsibilities. Instead, Boniface plundered the treasury and indulged in luxury. As a result, the church fell into a chaotic state.

Angered at Boniface VII’s actions, Emperor Otto II decided to depose him. In response, the imperial army invaded Italy. After expelling the antipope, the emperor had Benedict VII elected. Since the papacy relied on Otto’s support, the emperor returned to Italy after Benedict’s death in 983. In turn, Otto used his influence to have John XIV succeed to the papal throne.

Final Year

Although Emperor Otto II’s stays in Italy ensured imperial control over the papacy, it caused domestic issues in the empire. During Otto’s absences, uprisings along Germany’s eastern border occurred. To add to the emperor’s problems, his health also began to decline. While in Rome, Otto caught malaria. Sensing his end, the emperor had his three-year-old son crowned king of Germany. On December 7, 983, the 28-year-old emperor died.


During his ten year reign, Emperor Otto II sought to preserve his father’s accomplishments. Although he didn’t build upon Otto I’s work, Otto II successfully maintained the status quo. The emperor overcame both foreign and domestic threats to his empire. When Boniface VII created instability in Italy, Otto re-affirmed imperial control. Like his father, Otto left behind a powerful and secure empire to his son, Otto III.


Otto II. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2020, from

The Holy Roman Empire: A Captivating Guide to the Union of Smaller Kingdoms that Started During the Early Middle Ages and Dissolved During the Napleonic Wars. (2019).


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

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