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The Lombard Kingdom before Charlemagne's Conquest of 774 A.D.

Map and chronology ...

Map of Lombard Kindom before 774 A.D., 14 KB

Map Source: the above map is based by RWA on map 34 titled "Lombard Kingdom Before its Conquest by Charlemagne in 774" drawn by Berit Lie in Historical Atlas of the World (Edinburgh, 1970; original edition: Oslo, 1962).

Chronology of the Lombard Conquest

Source: This chronology is based mostly on volumes of Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, ca. 1950 and earlier, and old encyclopedias (Partial bibliography). It is only general background for my family history, not scholarship; for other uses, readers should verify independently its statements of fact.

[Before the Lombards | The Lombards | After the Lombards]

I. Before the Lombards

With the decline of the Western Roman Empire (i.e. of Roman military power in western Europe), the Italian peninsula is overrun and sacked by various northern European peoples.

Who were the Goths?

The earliest known home of these Germanic peoples was the Baltic shores of Poland (between the rivers Oder and Vistula); that was in the 1st Century A.D. In the 3rd Century they extended themselves toward the southeast, conquering and absorbing the peoples in their path. So that by the year 350 the Kingdom of the Goths extended from eastern Scandinavia to the Black Sea, and in this way had come into contact with both the Eastern and Western parts of the Roman Empire.

In 369 the Goths divided themselves along geographic lines into two kingdoms: that of the Ostrogoths (the eastern Goths) and that of the Visigoths (the western Goths).

In about the year 375 the Huns migrated out of Asia, pushing the Goths southwards. Allowed to settle in Thrace by the Eastern Emperor Valens, but finding themselves oppressed by their Roman protectors, the Goths revolted and defeated Valens in 378. The Emperor Theodosius brought the Goth's army into his legions, and in this way the Goths became a power within the Empire.

Toward the beginning of the 5th Century, after the death of Theodosius, the Visigoths under their King Alaric invaded the Italian peninsula and as a consequence brought about the end of the Western Roman Empire ... because in order to stop the Visigoths, which they did in 403 at Verona, the Romans had to withdraw all their soldiers from the borders of the Rhine (a frontier they had maintained since 9 A.D.). When Alaric soon returned to Italy, his Visigoths sacked the city of Rome in 410.

In 479 the Ostrogoths under their King Theodoric crossed the Alps and conquered all of Italy except Sardinia. But in 552 the army of the Eastern Emperor Justinian conquered Italy for Byzantium.

The Visigoths were to found a kingdom in Spain. The Ostrogoths were to be absorbed by the peoples of Italy.

Notes: Ulfilas, an Ostrogoth bishop (d. 383), gave the Goth's language a written form based on the Greek alphabet in order to translate the Old and New Testaments into the Goth's language.

The expression "Gothic Style" was applied to the arts of the late 12th to 15th Centuries by the 16th Century Italians. They intended "Gothic" to be synonymous with "barbaric". The artistic style itself has nothing to do with the ancient Goths.

The expression "Germanic" means nothing more than "northern European" really, i.e. it is a geographic or linguistic descriptor, not a racial one. It is not known where these ancient peoples originated -- if indeed it makes sense to speak of an origin in times when peoples so often migrated, made allies or established frontiers, conquered or were conquered and absorbed or were absorbed by others.

The Vandals migrate northward through southern Italy, sacking Rome in 455. These Germanic peoples, in origin from the same region as the Goths, crossed the Rhine into France in 406, from there entered Spain where they established a kingdom (Andalusia is named for them), crossed the sea to conquer North Africa, and then crossed into Italy, sacking everything in their path.
Italy is by now almost all that remains of the Western Roman Empire, and, although it is still mostly under Roman administration, it is ruled by barbarians tied to Byzantium.

These northern European peoples, however, are no longer savage barbarians: their centuries of living beside the Romans have been an education to them. They have developed a civilized life, with their own forms of government, and they are Christians (although not Roman Catholic). But neither are they cultured Romans; they remain war-like peoples.

St. Benedict is born about this year in Nursia (Norcia, some 20 miles east of Spoleto). The traditional date for his founding of the Roman Catholic abbey at Montecassino is 529 A.D. St. Benedict's Rule of Monastic Life will be based on silence, work, prayer and a contrite heart, and will eventually be followed in forty thousand monasteries of the Western Church.
The Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565) has Italy reconquered for the Eastern Roman Empire (i.e. Byzantium) by defeating the Ostrogoths, who have ruled Italy since 493 AD.

II. The Lombards

The name "Lombard" (Longobardo) is fancifully said to have come from the length of these northern Europeans' beards, the Latin for "long beard" being barba longa. The Lombards themselves believe that they originated in Scandinavia and have migrated south. By the 2nd Century A.D. they are living near the lower Elbe River, and by the 6th Century they have settled near the Danube.

At this time the region of Rome is an exarchate governed by the pope. "Exarchate" means an outlying province of the Byzantine Empire -- i.e. a province lying far away from Constantinople, governed by an exarch (from ex- meaning "outlying" and -arch meaning "ruler") under the authority of the Byzantine emperor.

Three years after the death of the Emperor Justinian, the Lombard conquest of the Italian peninsula begins. This conquest will eventually lead to the end of Byzantine rule in northern Italy.

Byzantium has favored rule by large landowners and by now municipal government has disappeared in Italy.

In April of this year the Lombards, following their King Alboin, cross the Alps into the region of Italy now named for them, Lombardy (Lombardia), and begin their conquest of the Italian peninsula.
The papal duchy of Benevento is established.

When the Lombards divide the lands they conquer into duchies, the Lombard duke of Benevento (which will be greatly enlarged and include the area of Molise) will be almost an independent ruler.

By this year the Lombards have captured the Roman cities of Verona, Milan, Florence, and the city they make their own capital, Pavia. In 601 Padua (Padova) is conquered, followed by Cremona and Mantua (Mantova) in 603, and Genoa in 640.
Reign of the Lombard King Liutprand, who conquers Spoleto and Benevento, and takes Ravenna from the Byzantines.
Ravenna has by this year been recaptured by the Venetians for Byzantium. When King Aistulf of the Lombards recaptures Ravenna and ends Byzantine rule, he also claims papal Rome (the former exarchate) for the Lombard Kingdom.

In order to save the Roman Catholic Church and the secular power of the papacy from Lombard conquest, Pope Stephen II calls upon the Frankish king, Pepin "the Short", to defend Rome against King Aistulf. Pepin marches south with his army, conquers Lombardy, which he makes a Frankish fief, and grants the pope sovereignty over central Italy ("States of the Church" or "Papal States").

When the Lombard King Desiderius tries to re-establish Lombard independence, Charlemagne crushes his revolt. When after a six month seige the Franks conquer Pavia, the former Lombard Kingdom becomes the Frankish Kingdom of Italy.

III. After the Lombards

In the Frankish Kingdom of Italy, the dukes of Benevento call themselves princes of the Lombards. Sometimes they are loyal to the Franks, sometimes to Byzantium.

The Carolingian period (named for Pepin's father Charles Martel). Imperial authority disintegrates; feudalism reaches its fullest development in Italy: local lords are masters of their own territories.

Normans from France gradually gain power in southern Italy; they take part in local quarrels between Lombard princes and the people of Puglia and the Byzantine governors. Expeditions sent against the Normans by the Holy Roman emperors (the first of whom was Charlemagne) are defeated.

[Continue with The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy]

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/longobar.html
Last revised: 13 September 2004 : 2004-09-13 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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