Monday, October 5, 2009

Interesting excerpt from 'The Lombard Laws'

This excerpt is from the book 'The Lombard Laws' (1973; Katherine Fischer Drew). From the back cover of the book: "The Lombard Laws -- the laws of Rothair and Grimwald, Liutprand, Ratchis, and Aistulf -- are an extraordinarily important source of information about a people whose contribution to medieval civiliztion is just beginning to be understood.

The foreward of the book was written by Edward Peters, who was the man who edited 'The History of the Lombards'. This excerpt is of the paragraph from the bottom of page X to the top of page XI in the foreward.

"In a year of campaigning in Italy, taking cities by force or, more usually, by surrender, the Lombard armies under their king Alboin reached and captured Milan, the former imperial capital. From 568 until Alboin's death in 572 the Lombard conquest of Italy progressed erratically, the king remaining in the north and isolated bands of Lombards under war-leaders penetrating south and even westward into Frankish Gaul. After Alboin's death, the reluctance or inability of the Lombards to establish a successor led to ten years of fragmented rule by Lombard war-leaders called dukes. By the end of the sixth century Italy was divided irregularly between Lombards and imperial occupation forces, with the Duchy of Rome, ruled by a military duke and its bishop, caught uneasily between the two hostile forces. From the pontificate of Gregory I (590-604) to that of Stephen II (752-754), Italy witnessed a century and a half of this balance between Lombard and imperial forces. In 751, however, Lombard pressure finally penetrated the imperial city of Ravenna, and the Lombards won the whole of northern Italy. It was the Lombard triumph against the imperial Byzantine forces that turned their attention once again to the center of Italy and to Rome; faced by such a threat and with no assistance from Constantinople forthcoming, the pope appealed once again to the Franks in Gaul for aid. The successful expeditions of Pepin and Charlemagne precipitated the fall of the Lombard kingdom in 774 and the transformation of the imperial enclave that was papal Rome into the kennel of the later papal state. Lombard law survived in the Frankish north of Italy, however, and after the decline of Carolingian imperial power in the ninth century, Lombard principalities in the south of Italy remained, face to face with their old enemies, the Byzantine forces. Not until the eleventh-century Norman conquest of southern Italy and Sicily did these last Lombard territories fall."

There are a number of interesting items, which we have not covered before, in this illuminating paragraph. First, some Langobard factions actually invaded "Frankish Gaul," which shows a tremendous amount of restlessness because they had just conquered the northern Italian peninsula. Actually the Langobards had long maintained a good relationship with the Franks, including intermarriage of the ruling class, but that was when they were in Germany. It's still a little bit unclear, as "Frankish Gaul" is not an especially accurate term to use for the region at that time. It was more "Romanized Gaul" culturally, than it was "Frankish Gaul."

Second, the following quote: "In 751, however, Lombard pressure finally penetrated the imperial city of Ravenna, and the Lombards won the whole of northern Italy." Ravenna continued to be a Byzantine-Roman stronghold, but was indeed captured by the Langobards. Therefore, the Langbard Kingdom encompassed ALL of the north! The two satellite dukedoms of Benevento and Spoleto were independent. Some even smaller factions of Langobards continued to migrate south as far as Sicily, but research on that subject seems to be small and sporadic. That is likely the source for some Sicilians with surnames like Lombardo, Lombardozzi, etc.

Third, it was only when the Langobards moved against Papal Rome itself that forced the hand of the forces that be. Charlemagne saved the Papacy with a massive Frankish army. The Langobards were in disarray, with a lot of infighting, and coupled with the fact that they were moving against Rome, all led to probably their only real loss in war. They were trounced by the Frankish army. Had they kept their eyes on Langbard, and solidified themselves, Langbard may have survived long after 774.

Lastly, even after Langbard was destroyed, the southern duchies of Benevento and Spoleto continued on. Amazingly, they lasted until late in the eleventh century. In my fantasy mind, I imagine that they would not have even entered the south, or anywhere else at all, and focused their effort on maintaining the north. They could have continued on for centuries, and into modern history. They would have had to play ball with the powers of finance (Vatican, Switzerland, London, etc.), and maybe could have formed a USA-like colony in Argentina (minus the slave-trade). They could have stayed away from tribal territories as well, and exchanged certain technologies for peace. But that's just a fantasy.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Brixia Fidelis said...

Thank you.