Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How did the Cisalpine Romanized Gauls receive the Langobards?

In 568, when the Langobards crushed the Byzantine army and became the rulers of the cisalpine region, how did the populace accept the Langobards? According to false perception, they were barbarians who oppressed the "Roman" citizenry of the region. First of all, the populace was not any more ethnically "Roman" than any of the other former Roman provinces in Europe. Like in France, they were basically Romanized Gauls, at least in most of this new conquered territory.

In the forward to the book 'The Lombard Laws' (Katherine Fisher; 1973), on pages XV to XVI, Edward Peters states the following:

"In military and political terms, at least, the Lombards encountered little of that resistance that the Romans had used so successfully against the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Nor did the Lombards encounter that deeper-rooted social resistance that and organized provincial population, no matter how remote from imperial support, might have offered.

"The devastations of the Gothic wars and the heavy hand of the imperial restoration debilitated even the social fabric of Italy, leaving little in the way of a senatorial or curial class that might have led a resistance movement. With the reduction in imperial taxes that accompanied the Lombard occupation, moreover, even such resistance as might have been generated lost at least the cause of fiscal oppression, and many wealthy Romans fled toward, not away from, the new rulers of northern Italy. Life under the Lombards may well have been preferable to life under the imperial bureaucracy; it was certainly less expensive. Not only were the Lombards fortunate in having little serious military and social resistance, but they encountered little institutional or cultural resistance as well."

It continues on, but that gave the gist of it. Again, by "Romans," Peters is referring to the general population of Romanized Gauls. While other conquered Roman territories were given the respect of having the usage of their ethnic or national label after the Roman era was over, the mere existence of the modern state of Italy was enough to compel historians us use "Roman" here. The main point, however, is that they were not "oppressed" under the Langobards. In fact, it appears that they were actually happy with the change! Germanic and Celtic people were not strangers, historically speaking.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the term ROMAN is not specific enough. There was a Gallo-Roman society in Northern Italy, which is still evident and attested by its language Today. Lombard and Piemontese belong to the Gallo-Roman Languages, like the ones in France and Belgium.
The Scandinavian Ethnologist Dr. Kombst put Lombards on the same par ethnically with Burgundians and Lotharingians, Gallo-Romans with Germanic (Great Migration) input.
Map Kombst

Brixia Fidelis said...

The Lombards seem to have been neither oppressive, nor entirely willing to give any major reins of power to non-Lombards. Under Lombard Law, to be a "Lombard," one had to have both a Lombard father and a Lombard mother. After their society was shattered by the Frankish army, this socio-political structure disappeared.

Anonymous said...

The assimilation was a gradual process.
1. The start was when Agilulf married a Catholic, Queen Theodelinda from Bavaria.
2. It continued with King Rothari writing his LEX in Latin (before he defeated the byzantines at the scultenna).
3. In the Battle of Coronate between (King Cunibert and Duke Alagis) romans were allowed to carry weapons and fight alongside (King Cunibert)
4. King Liutprand (rule:712-744) allowed mixed marriages amongst German and Romans. King Ratchis (rule: 744-749) was already wedded with a Roman wife.
So I disagree with you, the assimilation of the Langobarden happened long before the Frankish invasion.
Apart from, that the Langobarden Horde that crossed the alps was already very mixed as Paul the Deacon wrote in (ch.XVIII and especially XXVI)
Paul the Decaon (799) still calls North Italy - CisalpineGaul (ch. XXIII)
PS: Do you Know any English books that contain info. about Eric of Friuli ?

Brixia Fidelis said...

No, I don't think so. The 'History of the Lombards' had some information regarding Forum Julii, but I don't recall the names.