Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy 3

Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy – The Lombard Conquest Part 3


According to, the approach was accentuated in the following years, when Aripert, a Catholic, ascended the throne; and the kingdom was again upset by factions and ambitions of dukes, vying to win followers even among the Romans. And meanwhile the popes continued in the policy initiated by Gregory the Great. The Catholic hierarchy was fulfilled then, in so far as it had been disturbed. There is reason to believe that 680, just as it marked the beginning of a very quiet phase in relations between the Greeks and the Roman pontificate and, even more, between the pontificate and the Lombard kingdom, so also a wider and deeper infiltration of Christianity and Catholicism between the Lombards.

Division of Italy, growing detachment from Byzantium, strengthening of local forces. – With the arrest of the territorial conquest, the peninsula was divided into two parts, almost into two Italies: that of the Lombards, that is, Longobardia, which occupied the entire subalpine and Po Valley region (except the exarchate and the duchy of Venice ), Tuscia, the Duchy of Spoleto and the Duchy of Benevento, variously extended but mirroring the three seas, Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, Ionian; that of the empire, that is, “Romania”. It also distinguished and divided them a greater persistence of ancient municipal institutions and ancient law, of exchange economy and artisan activities, a greater autonomy of local life in front of the state. Because if in Longobardia people came from everywhere, with a slow and irregular motion, affirming the authority of the king, and almost all the dukes were reduced to officials, the number of royal stewards increased, the bishops were contained within the limits of their religious and church activity; in Romania, on the other hand, there was a growing importance of local, civil or religious powers.

The upheavals of the invasions and the Greek-Gothic war had raised the position of the bishops everywhere and made them almost the fulcrum of city life. Justinian then regulated the new situation with a series of laws of which the  Pragmatic Sanction, issued in 554 at the request of Pope Vigilius, is perhaps a summary. These laws made bishops almost as many organs of government, for the control of all the administrative activities of the municipalities, for the protection of minors and the absent, for the supervision of the provincial administration, etc. In short, almost a substitution, in many tasks, of the ecclesiastical hierarchy for the civil hierarchy, discredited and lowered. What was the purpose of this replacement, which was in part recognition of a state of affairs? Strengthen imperial authority. The bishops, already subject to the prince as such, now had to be even more so as depositories of civil and political authority. In reality, the logic of things led to different results. Also because the empire proceeded through frequent crises of authority. Therefore the bishops were inclined to cling to those civil attributions as a thing of their own. The autonomy to which they aspired as bishops was desired and they tried to implement it also in the exercise of the activities entrusted to them by the state.

This situation matured only in Byzantine Italy: although the Lombard kings took a few steps in the same direction. Indeed, in Byzantine Italy, like the bishops, so did the local aristocracies and military leaders. Away from the empire and often busy in all other matters, they tend to win their own independence. Some offices, such as that of the tribunes, heads of castles, become hereditary. The Greek militias were insufficient, local militias were recruited, the large property was militarized and, of course, benefited from it in terms of prestige and autonomy. A higher activity, such as the defense of the territory, cannot fail to follow higher political authority. From the ranks of this aristocracy the bishop often comes out and, even as such, is led to expand more and more in the civil field and to accentuate his autonomy. Bishops and aristocracy are now in solidarity, now they compete. And usually, the second prevails: but not for everything; not in Rome, for example. Here, the bishop is a great metropolitan, he is now the head of the entire episcopate of the West, he has great financial resources, due to his many possessions in southern Italy and in the islands. Faced with him, it is more difficult for both the representative of the empire and the families of the military and landed aristocracy to assert themselves. His civil authority is expressed in the city and in the surrounding area, but is felt even further away, in the countries where the bishop of Rome has metropolitan powers and large landed possessions. Even in the exarchate, where the center of Greek Italy is and the archbishop fights for ecclesiastical independence from Rome, as bishop of a city that was already the capital of the empire.

Were it the action of industrious local forces, were it the remoteness of Byzantium, the ties of dependence that held Italy close to the empire are becoming more and more relaxed. And if Sicily, to which Calabria is administratively united, is strongly held by the central government, Sardinia and Corsica see the sign of Byzantium slowly move away; and Venice, Naples and Rome set out to constitute as many separate duchies, with the military leader, that is, the duke, or the bishop at the head. And the populations of the exarchate and the pentapolis, subjected to the greatest Greek official in Italy, the exarch, manifest a spirit of independence that erupts in frequent revolts. The feeling of self-interest in the face of the empire is felt: interests that everyone saw represented and protected by the bishop of Rome. imperium  on the Church. At the crossroads between Rome, the new papal Rome, and Byzantium, the populations sided with the former. And it could happen that even some exarch would turn his back on the emperor and make an agreement with the pope.

The conduct of Justinian II, who sent one of his officials to Rome to impose the decisions of the Quinisesto synod on the pope, provoked then (end of the seventh century) an insurrectionary movement in Ravenna and in the neighboring region, the humiliation of the envoy in Rome. imperial which owed its salvation only to the protection of Pope Sergio I. Since in these popes, the evident intolerance of the burdensome Greek tutelage was accompanied by a no less evident change in relations with that court. The presence of the Lombards, often restless, advised not to burn all the bridges with Byzantium. At the very beginning of the 1700s, when the exarch Theophilacus appeared in Rome, all Byzantine Italy was again moved and armed people rushed to Rome from all over: but this time too Pope John VI (701-05) did his best to calm the agitation. Which always has its main hearth in Ravenna and among the peoples of the exarchate. Between 711 and 712, the new exarch Giovanni Rizocopo, sent to govern Italy, who arrived there after committing serious violence in Rome, was confronted by the Ravenna militia, defeated and killed. The city now has its own energetic leader, Giorgio, son of a Gioannicius who in 695, perhaps taking part in that conspiracy that cost Justinian II the dethronement, was ten years later, Justinian returned to the throne, a victim of his revenge. Giorgio organizes the defense of the city, calls all the citizens to arms, including those of the territory, groups them into departments or numbers, commanded by a tribune. The same organization takes place, or is perfected, in the other cities of Romagna, from Bologna to Cesena, to Sarsina. Also in Rome, violent riots against the new Philippian emperor, who wants to restore Monothelism to honor. The people take up arms against the duke sent by him and only settles down due to the intervention of the pope and the deposition of Philippicus in 713. All these serious and significant facts, which must have strongly moved the Italian populations, especially in the region that made head to Ravenna, and give substance to legends and poetic compositions.

Barbarian Kingdoms in Italy 3