Battle of Rome
Old St Peter's Basilica





Carolingian Victory; Death of Pope Formosus; Dismantling of the Papal States


Oriflamme Carolingian Empire

No flag Papal States


Oriflamme Christophorus I

No flag Pope Formosus †

Casualties and Losses

The Battle of Rome was a conflict occurring in 894 during the beginning Italian Wars. Taking place in and around the city, the Battle of Rome was fought between the newly formed Carolingian Empire and the Papal States. The goal of the Carolingian invasion was to assert dominance over the Roman Catholic Church and remove Pope Formosus, an opponent of the creation of the Carolingian Empire, from the Papacy. While the Carolingians walked away from the battle victorious, the month-long siege resulted in many deaths on both sides of the conflict.


During the initial days of the Italian Wars, the Papal States were surrounded on all sides by enemy territory. The Carolingians invaded from the north, south, and east while a naval invasion from the west trapped the Papal States. The fall of the Papal States lasted for less than a year due to minimal resistance, low Papal morale, and the overwhelming numbers possessed by the Carolingians. Before the end of 894, Carolingian forces were in a position in which they were able to strike Rome.

The Battle

Siege of Rome

Prior to entering the city itself, the Carolingians chose to wait their opponents out rather than attack and risk losing valuable troops. A month-long siege ensued. During this time, attrition damaged both sides. The losses suffered by the Carolingians during this siege were higher than those who had died in battle throughout the entire war during that time. Severe damage to several key parts of the wall in early December led to Carolingians entering the city of Rome.

Battle Inside of Rome

The Walls, which had fractured on the east side, allowed for the Carolingians to pour into Rome. Following the Carolingian entrance, the resistance inside presented to be formidable and capable of inflicting heavy damage on the Carolingian numbers. The Colosseum of Rome had been converted into a castle by the Papal armies. During this battle, catastrophic damage to the Colosseum was dealt. Fire threatened to gut the massive building, forcing a Papal retreat from the Colosseum before heavier losses were sustained.


As the Carolingians pushed southwards to St. Peter's Basilica, multiple Cardinals crowded the streets. They offered to give Pope Formosus to the Carolingians if the bloodshed ceased. The Carolingians agreed and Formosus was then handed to his enemies where he was executed.


The Battle of Rome had many long-term consequences. The religious climate of Europe was changed with the installation of John IX as Pope. With the Pope on the side of the Carolingians, the Christian Church endorsed any and all moves by the Carolingian Empire. The damage to Rome, while not as severe as it could have been, was relatively long-lasting; the Colosseum in particular was damaged by the battle and subsequent inferno. Rebuilding efforts weren't under way until the 11th century. Unfortunately, much of the Colosseum of Rome did not survive the 1349 earthquake.

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