Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy 2

Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy – The Lombard Conquest Part 2


Having ascended the throne, Autari assumed the Roman name of Flavius, and sought to increase his authority over both the Romans and the Lombards. Thus he was able to make some agreement with the exarch, repel the incursions of the Franks often combined with the attacks of the Greeks, also find friendships beyond the Alps, among those who felt threatened by the Franks: and precisely in the Duke of Bavaria Garibaldo, of whom he married his daughter Theodolinda, a Catholic, a significant fact for an Arian prince. He then began negotiations for a lasting agreement with the Franks, concluded by his successor Agilulf. Which, less pressed by enemy gripes, resumed the conquest. He conquered Padua, took Monselice decimating the populations. The exodus towards the islets of the lagoon had, then, to be accentuated; while, in the interior, Altino, Concordia, Aquileia, Monselice, Padua, they declined or disappeared. Later allied with the Avars, Agilulfo received help to occupy other cities of the Po Valley, such as Cremona, which was destroyed; with the cooperation of the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento, he progressed in the south against the Byzantines and enlarged the possessions of central Italy, making communications between Ravenna and Rome difficult or impossible with the occupation of the castles along the Via Flaminia. Isolated Rome, he tried to have it too in his hands. The enterprise did not succeed, and Agilulf concluded a truce with the pope and the exarch that lasted several years and favored the first opening of the Lombards to the civilizing influences of the Romans: a source for them of strength and, at the same time, of weakness.

How could they escape those influences, once they had stopped on stable sites, given themselves a territorial order more or less modeled on the previous one, approached the possession of the land, started to coexist with the Romans? There was a firm agrarian constitution: and within it the new owners remained as if enveloped. According to, there was a state tradition: and it immediately had to act in the sense of soliciting the restored monarchy to assert itself over the dukes and start the very hard battle with them. There was by now a solid church organization: and soon the Lombards began to feel attracted, despite the favor shown at first to the schismatics. Among the Lombards, just as a current willing to come to an understanding with the empire and serve it soon established itself, so too a current well-disposed towards Catholics and Catholicism. It was promoted by Gregory I, who, a spectator of the impotence of the Greeks to face the barbarians, not persuaded that an excessive strengthening of the empire in Italy was an advantage for the Church and the populations, turned to promote agreements and truces between the Lombards and the Greeks and an understanding between the Lombards and the Church. Queen Theodolinda is effective intermediary. With it certainly began the conversion of the new barbarians: whence new and closer contacts of every kind that will promote the mixture and, then, I do not know whether the merger of the two peoples or the absorption of the invaders among the vanquished. Agilulf did not convert, but let his son Adaloaldo baptize catholicly (April 7, 603). He then kindly welcomed the monk Colombano, who came between 610 and 612 to settle between Milan and Pavia. His first intention was to fight the Aryans. But he also found himself in the midst of the turmoil produced by the schism. Then he saw in the conversion of the first a means to put an end to the second as well. And it seems that Agilulf himself encouraged him. Between 613 and 614, he gave Colombano a large territory along the Pavia-Genoa road and near the other one that led from Luni towards the lower Po valley. And there, near Bobbio, a monastery was built, later large and famous. It was as much a question of opening the way to Genoa as of consolidating in the possession of the Lombards that territory, recently, as it seems, wrested from the Greeks by Duke Sundrarit. Therefore, political ends: but also religious ones, if, to reach his goal, Agilulf used a very fervent champion of Catholicism and orthodoxy against Aryans and schismatics.

It is probable that Agilulf’s pro-Catholic policy, also determined by the need to overcome internal difficulties and facilitate conquest, had the opposite effect. This explains how, in the last years of Agilulfo, there was a new arrest in the Lombard expansion; and how it later reappeared with Rotari, together with the Lombard and Arian spirit and the will to conquer. And here is the invasion of Tuscia Lunense and of maritime Liguria, up to the Frankish borders: which meant points of support taken from the Byzantines to attempt enterprises against the Lombards and points of support given to the Lombards to attempt landings and purchases in the islands of Tyrrhenian. Here is also some progress to the north-east, where Oderzo, meeting point of the three Lombard duchies of Friuli, Ceneda and Treviso, and the final seat of the ducal government on the mainland, was captured and destroyed: what forced that government to move to the island of Cittanuova, always in the dependencies of the exarch, having under it the tribunes of the islands. At the same time, Grimoaldo di Benevento was advancing south, destroying Crotone, raiding large numbers of men, who were then put into servile work or sold slaves. This was the greatest and most lasting territorial progress made by the kingdom after the first invasion. Thereafter, there were no others of any magnitude. With the war enterprises, the legislative activity, which had its great monument in the edict of Rotari (v.); which, while it is a sign of the energetic personality of the nascent Lombard kingdom, at a time when the nation seems to want to reassert itself and plunge back into its traditions, also betrays a growing interpenetration and merging of two societies and civilizations and lineages,

Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy 2