Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 August 2018
One of medieval Germany's most celebrated histories, Otto of Freising's Historia de Duabus Ciuitatibus, or as he himself called it De Mutatione Rerum, penned between 1132 and 1146, is often cited as evidence that the so-called Twelfth-Century Renaissance reached Germany. Otto studied in Paris and wrote excellent Latin, which seems to prove this point. Nevertheless, while most twelfth-century historians looked for their inspiration to works of classical learning, Otto's work is deeply influenced by Augustine's De Ciuitate Dei and his model is not classical Roman thought. Although his treatment of Augustine is rather innovative, he still adheres to the Church Father's late antique pessimism. Otto cast his work in the mould of providential history, which – at least in theory – treats the whole world as its subject. As his narrative progresses, Otto tries to bring to light God's actions in the world, while also emphasising that no human can really perceive God's will. In doing so, however, Otto is somewhat ambivalent. Sometimes the rise of the Church in and after the Investiture Controversy leads him to suggest that the final disunion of the ciuitas permixta (the mixed state), is drawing near and therefore Judgement Day is not far distant. At other times, he seems to think that the rise of the Church will be followed by decadence and decline, as had been the case with every other empire down to his own times. Otto of Freising's other great work, the Gesta Friderici is, at first sight, astonishingly different. Begun in 1156, this work, commissioned by his nephew Barbarossa himself, is characterised by a far more positive view of history and the world. In it Otto describes the beginnings of Frederick Barbarossa's reign as a new dawn for the empire and in this way turns the Historia's view of the imminent end of the world upside down. However, despite these two seemingly incompatible texts, Otto of Freising's view of world history is internally consistent, as Hans-Werner Goetz has pointed out. Otto simply chose to analyse the turn of events differently after his nephew gained the throne. As he saw it, a new power cycle was about to begin and it is Frederick who gets the benefit of it.