Lombards or Longobards (Latin: Langobardi, Italian: Longobardi
[loŋɡoˈbardi], Lombard: Longobard (Western)) were a Germanic people
who ruled most of the
Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774.
The Lombard historian
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon wrote in the Historia
Langobardorum that the
Lombards descended from a small tribe called
the Winnili, who dwelt in southern Scandinavia (Scadanan) before
migrating to seek new lands. In the 1st century AD, they formed part
of the Suebi, in northwestern Germany. By the end of the 5th century,
they had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria
Slovakia north of the
Danube river, where they subdued the Heruls
and later fought frequent wars with the Gepids. The Lombard king
Audoin defeated the
Thurisind in 551 or 552; his
Alboin eventually destroyed the
Gepids in 567.
Following this victory,
Alboin decided to lead his people to Italy,
which had become severely depopulated and devastated after the long
Gothic War (535–554)
Gothic War (535–554) between the
Byzantine Empire and the
Ostrogothic Kingdom there. The
Lombards were joined by numerous
Saxons, Heruls, Gepids, Bulgars, Thuringians, and Ostrogoths, and
their invasion of Italy was almost unopposed. By late 569 they had
conquered all north of Italy and the principal cities north of the Po
River except Pavia, which fell in 572. At the same time, they occupied
areas in central Italy and southern Italy. They established a Lombard
Kingdom in north and central Italy, later named Regnum Italicum
("Kingdom of Italy"), which reached its zenith under the 8th-century
ruler Liutprand. In 774, the Kingdom was conquered by the Frankish
Charlemagne and integrated into his Empire. However, Lombard
nobles continued to rule southern parts of the Italian peninsula, well
into the 11th century when they were conquered by the
added to their County of Sicily. In this period, the southern part of
Italy still under Longobardic domination was known by the name
Langbarðaland (Land of the Lombards) in the Norse runestones.
Their legacy is also apparent in the regional name
Lombardy (in the
north of Italy).
1.1 Early history
1.1.1 Legendary origins and name
1.1.2 Archaeology and migrations
1.2 Kingdom in Italy, 568–774
1.2.1 Invasion and conquest of the Italian peninsula
188.8.131.52 Langobardia major
184.108.40.206 Langobardia minor
1.2.2 Arian monarchy
1.2.3 Catholic monarchy
1.3 Later history
1.3.1 United Principality of Benevento, 774–849
1.3.2 Southern Italy and the Arabs, 836–915
1.3.3 Lombard principalities in the 10th century
1.3.4 Norman conquest, 1017–1078
2.2 Social structure
Migration Period society
2.2.2 Society of the Catholic kingdom
2.2.3 Lombard states
2.3 Religious history
2.3.3 Beneventan Christianity
3 List of rulers
5 External links
Legendary origins and name
Further information: Hundings
Wodan (Godan) and
Frigg (Frea) looking out of a window in the
...and spotting the Lombard women with their long hair tied as to
appear as beards
Paul the Deacon, historian of the Lombards, circa 720-799
The fullest account of Lombard origins, history, and practices is the
Historia Langobardorum (History of the Lombards) of Paul the Deacon,
written in the 8th century. Paul's chief source for Lombard origins,
however, is the 7th-century
Origo Gentis Langobardorum
Origo Gentis Langobardorum (Origin of the
Origo Gentis Langobardorum
Origo Gentis Langobardorum tells the story of a small tribe called
the Winnili dwelling in southern Scandinavia (Scadanan) (the
Codex Gothanus writes that the Winnili first dwelt near a river called
Vindilicus on the extreme boundary of Gaul). The Winnili were split
into three groups and one part left their native land to seek foreign
fields. The reason for the exodus was probably overpopulation. The
departing people were led by the brothers Ybor and Aio and their
mother Gambara and arrived in the lands of Scoringa, perhaps the
Baltic coast or the
Bardengau on the banks of the Elbe. Scoringa
was ruled by the
Vandals and their chieftains, the brothers Ambri and
Assi, who granted the Winnili a choice between tribute or war.
The Winnili were young and brave and refused to pay tribute, saying
"It is better to maintain liberty by arms than to stain it by the
payment of tribute." The
Vandals prepared for war and consulted
Godan (the god Odin), who answered that he would give the victory
to those whom he would see first at sunrise. The Winnili were
fewer in number and Gambara sought help from Frea (the goddess
Frigg), who advised that all Winnili women should tie their hair in
front of their faces like beards and march in line with their
husbands. At sunrise, Frea turned her husband's bed so that he was
facing east, and woke him. So Godan spotted the Winnili first and
asked, "Who are these long-beards?," and Frea replied, "My lord, thou
hast given them the name, now give them also the victory." From
that moment onwards, the Winnili were known as the Longbeards
(Latinised as Langobardi, Italianised as Longobardi, and Anglicized as
Longobards or Lombards).
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon wrote the Historia between 787 and 796 he was a
Catholic monk and devoted Christian. He thought the pagan stories of
his people "silly" and "laughable". Paul explained that the
name "Langobard" came from the length of their beards. A modern
theory suggests that the name "Langobard" comes from Langbarðr, a
name of Odin. Priester states that when the Winnili changed their
name to "Lombards", they also changed their old agricultural fertility
cult to a cult of Odin, thus creating a conscious tribal
tradition. Fröhlich inverts the order of events in Priester and
states that with the
Odin cult, the
Lombards grew their beards in
resemblance of the
Odin of tradition and their new name reflected
this. Bruckner remarks that the name of the
Lombards stands in
close relation to the worship of Odin, whose many names include "the
Long-bearded" or "the Grey-bearded", and that the Lombard given name
Ansegranus ("he with the beard of the gods") shows that the Lombards
had this idea of their chief deity. The same
Old Norse root Barth
or Barði, meaning "beard", is shared with the
Beowulf and in Widsith, where they are in conflict with the
Danes. They were possibly a branch of the Langobards.
Alternatively some etymological sources suggest an Old High German
root, barta, meaning “axe” (and related to English halberd), while
Edward Gibbon puts forth an alternative suggestion which argues that:
…Börde (or Börd) still signifies “a fertile plain by the side of
a river,” and a district near Magdeburg is still called the lange
Börde. According to this view Langobardi would signify “inhabitants
of the long bord of the river;” and traces of their name are
supposed still to occur in such names as
Bardengau and Bardewick in
the neighborhood of the Elbe.
Alternatively, according to the Gallaecian Christian priest, historian
and theologian Paulus Orosius, the
Lombards or Winnili lived
originally in the Vinuiloth (Vinovilith) mentioned by Jordanes, in his
masterpiece Getica, to the north of Uppsala, Sweden. Scoringa was near
the province of Uppland, so just north of Östergötland.
The historian then explains the etymology of the name Scoringa:
The shores of
Östergötland are covered with small rocks
and rocky islands, which are called in German Schæren and in Swedish
Skiaeren. Heal signifies a port in the northern languages;
consequently Skiæren-Heal is the port of the Skiæren, a name well
adapted to the port of Stockholm, in the Upplandske Skiæren, and the
country may be justly called Scorung or Skiærunga.
The legendary king
Scandza was an ancient Lombardic king in
Anglo-Saxon legend. The Old English poem Widsith, in a listing of
famous kings and their countries, has
Sceafa [weold] Longbeardum, so
Sceafa as ruler of the Lombards.
Similarities between Langobardic and Gothic migration traditions have
been noted among scholars. These early migration legends suggest that
a major shifting of tribes occurred sometime between the 1st and 2nd
century BC, which would coincide with the time that the
Cimbri left their homelands in
Scandinavia and migrated through
Germany, eventually invading Roman Italy.
Archaeology and migrations
The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after
the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988):
Settlements before 750 BC
New settlements by 500 BC
New settlements by 250 BC
New settlements by AD 1
Distribution of Langobardic burial fields at the Lower
(according to W. Wegewitz)
The first mention of the
Lombards occurred between AD 9 and 16, by the
Roman court historian Velleius Paterculus, who accompanied a Roman
expedition as prefect of the cavalry. Paterculus says that under
Tiberius the "power of the Langobardi was broken, a race surpassing
even the Germans in savagery".
From the combined testimony of
Strabo (AD 20) and
Tacitus (AD 117),
Lombards dwelt near the mouth of the
Elbe shortly after the
beginning of the Christian era, next to the Chauci.
Lombards dwelt on both sides of the Elbe. He treats them
as a branch of the Suebi, and states that:
Now as for the tribe of the Suebi, it is the largest, for it extends
from the Rhenus to the Albis; and a part of them even dwell on the far
side of the Albis, as, for instance, the Hermondori and the
Langobardi; and at the present time these latter, at least, have, to
the last man, been driven in flight out of their country into the land
on the far side of the river.
Suetonius wrote that Roman general Nero Drusus defeated a large force
of Germans and drove some “to the farther side of the Albis
(Elbe)” river. It is conceivable that these refugees were the
Langobardi and the
Hermunduri mentioned by
Strabo not long after.
The German archaeologist Willi Wegewitz defined several Iron Age
burial sites at the Lower
Elbe as Langobardic. The burial sites
are crematorial and are usually dated from the 6th century BC through
the 3rd century AD, so a settlement breakoff seems unlikely. The
lands of the lower
Elbe fall into the zone of the
Jastorf Culture and
became Elbe-Germanic, differing from the lands between Rhine, Weser,
and the North Sea. Archaeological finds show that the Lombards
were an agricultural people.
Tacitus also counted the
Lombards as a remote and aggressive Suebian
tribe, one of those united in worship of the deity Nerthus, who he
referred to as "Mother Earth", and also as subjects of Marobod the
King of the Marcomanni. Marobod had made peace with the Romans,
and that is why the
Lombards were not part of the Germanic confederacy
Arminius at the
Battle of Teutoburg Forest
Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9. In AD 17,
war broke out between
Arminius and Marobod.
Not only the Cheruscans and their confederates... took arms, but the
Semnones and Langobards, both Suebian nations, revolted to him from
the sovereignty of Marobod... The armies... were stimulated by reasons
of their own, the Cheruscans and the Langobards fought for their
ancient honor or their newly acquired independence. . . "
In 47, a struggle ensued amongst the
Cherusci and they expelled their
new leader, the nephew of Arminius, from their country. The Lombards
appeared on the scene with sufficient power to control the destiny of
the tribe that had been the leader in the struggle for independence
thirty-eight years earlier, for they restored the deposed leader to
Lombard migration from Scandinavia
To the south,
Cassius Dio reported that just before the Marcomannic
Lombards and Obii (sometimes thought to be Ubii), crossed
Danube and invaded Pannonia. The two tribes were defeated,
whereupon they ceased their invasion and sent Ballomar, King of the
Marcomanni, as ambassador to Aelius Bassus, who was then administering
Pannonia. Peace was made and the two tribes returned to their homes,
which in the case of the
Lombards was the lands of the lower Elbe.
At about this time, in his
Tacitus says that "their scanty
numbers are a distinction" because "surrounded by a host of most
powerful tribes, they are safe, not by submitting, but by daring the
perils of war".
In the mid-2nd century, the
Lombards apparently appeared in the
Rhineland, because according to Claudius Ptolemy, the Suebic Lombards
lived "below" the
Bructeri and Sugambri, and between these and the
Tencteri. To their east stretching northwards to the central
Suebi Angili. But Ptolemy also mentions the "Laccobardi" to
the north of the above-mentioned Suebic territories, east of the
Angrivarii on the Weser, and south of the
Chauci on the coast,
probably indicating a Lombard expansion from the
Elbe to the
Rhine. This double mention has been interpreted as an editorial
error by Gudmund Schütte, in his analysis of Ptolemy. However,
Codex Gothanus also mentions Patespruna (Paderborn) in connection
with the Lombards.
From the 2nd century onwards, many of the Germanic tribes recorded as
active during the
Principate started to unite into bigger tribal
unions, such as the Franks, Alamanni, Bavarii, and Saxons. The
Lombards are not mentioned at first, perhaps because they were not
initially on the border of Rome, or perhaps because they were
subjected to a larger tribal union, like the Saxons. It is,
however, highly probable that, when the bulk of the
a considerable part remained behind and afterwards became absorbed by
the Saxon tribes in the
Elbe region, while the emigrants alone
retained the name of Lombards. However, the
Codex Gothanus states
Lombards were subjected by the
Saxons around 300 but rose up
against them under their first king, Agelmund, who ruled for 30
years. In the second half of the 4th century, the
their homes, probably due to bad harvests, and embarked on their
The migration route of the
Lombards in 489, from their homeland to
"Rugiland", encompassed several places: Scoringa (believed to be their
land on the
Elbe shores), Mauringa, Golanda, Anthaib, Banthaib, and
Vurgundaib (Burgundaib). According to the
Mauringa was the land east of the Elbe.
The crossing into Mauringa was very difficult. The Assipitti (possibly
the Usipetes) denied them passage through their lands and a fight was
arranged for the strongest man of each tribe. The Lombard was
victorious, passage was granted, and the
Lombards departed from Mauringa and reached Golanda. Scholar
Ludwig Schmidt thinks this was further east, perhaps on the right bank
of the Oder. Schmidt considers the name the equivalent of Gotland,
meaning simply "good land." This theory is highly plausible; Paul
the Deacon mentions the
Lombards crossing a river, and they could have
reached Rugiland from the Upper
Oder area via the Moravian Gate.
Moving out of Golanda, the
Lombards passed through Anthaib and
Banthaib until they reached Vurgundaib, believed to be the old lands
of the Burgundes. In Vurgundaib, the
Lombards were stormed in
camp by "Bulgars" (probably Huns) and were defeated; King Agelmund
was killed and Laimicho was made king. He was in his youth and desired
to avenge the slaughter of Agelmund. The
Lombards themselves were
probably made subjects of the
Huns after the defeat but rose up and
defeated them with great slaughter, gaining great booty and
confidence as they "became bolder in undertaking the toils of
In the 540s,
Audoin (ruled 546–560) led the
Lombards across the
Danube once more into Pannonia, where they received Imperial subsidies
Justinian encouraged them to battle the Gepids. In 552, the
Byzantines aided by a large contingent of Foederati, notably Lombards,
Heruls and Bulgars, defeated the last
Ostrogoths led by
Teia in the
Battle of Taginae.
Kingdom in Italy, 568–774
Main article: Kingdom of the Lombards
Invasion and conquest of the Italian peninsula
Lombard grave goods (6th-7th century) - Milan, Lombardy
In 560 circa,
Audoin was succeeded by his son Alboin, a young and
energetic leader who defeated the neighboring
Gepidae and made them
his subjects; in 566, he married Rosamund, daughter of the
Cunimund. In the spring of 568,
Alboin led the Lombard migration into
"Then the Langobards, having left Pannonia, hastened to take
possession of Italy with their wives and children and all their
Various other people who either voluntarily joined or were subjects of
Alboin were also part of the migration:
"Whence, even until today, we call the villages in which they dwell
Gepidan, Bulgarian, Sarmatian, Pannonian, Suabian, Norican, or by
other names of this kind." B.2-Ch.26
At least 20,000 Saxon warriors, old allies of the Lombards, joined
them with their families in their new migration.
The first important city to fall was Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli)
in northeastern Italy, in 569. There,
Alboin created the first Lombard
duchy, which he entrusted to his nephew Gisulf. Soon Vicenza, Verona
Brescia fell into Germanic hands. In the summer of 569, the
Lombards conquered the main Roman centre of northern Italy, Milan. The
area was then recovering from the terrible Gothic Wars, and the small
Byzantine army left for its defence could do almost nothing. Longinus,
Exarch sent to Italy by Emperor Justin II, could only defend
coastal cities that could be supplied by the powerful Byzantine fleet.
Pavia fell after a siege of three years, in 572, becoming the first
capital city of the new Lombard kingdom of Italy.
In the following years, the
Lombards penetrated further south,
Tuscany and establishing two duchies,
Spoleto and Benevento
under Zotto, which soon became semi-independent and even outlasted the
northern kingdom, surviving well into the 12th century. Wherever they
went, they were joined by the Ostrogothic population, who was allowed
to live peacefully in Italy with their Rugian allies under Roman
sovereignty. The Byzantines managed to retain control of the area
Ravenna and Rome, linked by a thin corridor running through
When they entered Italy, some
Lombards retained their native form of
paganism, while some were Arian Christians. Hence they did not enjoy
good relations with the Early Christian Church. Gradually, they
adopted Roman or Romanized titles, names, and traditions, and
partially converted to orthodoxy (in the 7th century), though not
without a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts. By the time
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon was writing, the Lombard language, dress and even
hairstyles had nearly all disappeared in toto.
The whole Lombard territory was divided into 36 duchies, whose leaders
settled in the main cities. The king ruled over them and administered
the land through emissaries called gastaldi. This subdivision,
however, together with the independent indocility of the duchies,
deprived the kingdom of unity, making it weak even when compared to
the Byzantines, especially since these had begun to recover from the
initial invasion. This weakness became even more evident when the
Lombards had to face the increasing power of the Franks. In response,
the kings tried to centralize power over time, but they definitively
lost control over
Benevento in the attempt.
Duchy of Friuli
Duchy of Trent
Duchy of Persiceta
Duchy of Pavia
Duchy of Tuscia
Duchy of Spoleto
Duchy of Spoleto and List of Dukes of Spoleto
Duchy of Benevento
Duchy of Benevento and List of Dukes and Princes of Benevento
Chlothar II in combat with the Lombards
Alboin was murdered in
Verona in a plot led by his wife,
Rosamund, who later fled to Ravenna. His successor, Cleph, was also
assassinated, after a ruthless reign of 18 months. His death began an
interregnum of years (the "Rule of the Dukes") during which the dukes
did not elect any king, a period regarded as a time of violence and
disorder. In 584, threatened by a Frankish invasion, the dukes elected
as king Cleph's son, Authari. In 589, he married Theodelinda, daughter
of Garibald I of Bavaria, the Duke of Bavaria. The Catholic
Theodelinda was a friend of
Pope Gregory I
Pope Gregory I and pushed for
Christianization. In the meantime,
Authari embarked on a policy of
internal reconciliation and tried to reorganize royal administration.
The dukes yielded half their estates for the maintenance of the king
and his court in Pavia. On the foreign affairs side,
to thwart the dangerous alliance between the Byzantines and the
Authari died in 591 and was succeeded by Agilulf, the duke of Turin,
who also married
Theodelinda in the same year.
fought the rebel dukes of northern Italy, conquering
Padua in 601,
Mantua in 603, and forcing the
Ravenna to pay
Agilulf died in 616;
Theodelinda reigned alone until 628 when
she was succeeded by Adaloald. Arioald, the head of the Arian
opposition who had married Theodelinda's daughter Gundeperga, later
Arioald was succeeded by Rothari, regarded by many authorities as the
most energetic of all Lombard kings. He extended his dominions,
Liguria in 643 and the remaining part of the Byzantine
territories of inner Veneto, including the Roman city of Opitergium
Rothari also made the famous edict bearing his name, the
Edictum Rothari, which established the laws and the customs of his
people in Latin: the edict did not apply to the tributaries of the
Lombards, who could retain their own laws. Rothari's son Rodoald
succeeded him in 652, still very young, and was killed by his
At the death of King
Aripert I in 661, the kingdom was split between
his children Perctarit, who set his capital in Milan, and Godepert,
who reigned from
Perctarit was overthrown by
Grimoald, son of Gisulf, duke of
Benevento since 647.
Perctarit fled to the Avars and then to the Franks. Grimoald managed
to regain control over the duchies and deflected the late attempt of
Byzantine emperor Constans II to conquer southern Italy. He also
defeated the Franks. At Grimoald's death in 671
Perctarit returned and
promoted tolerance between Arians and Catholics, but he could not
defeat the Arian party, led by Arachi, duke of Trento, who submitted
only to his son, the philo-Catholic Cunincpert.
Lombards engaged in fierce battles with
Slavic peoples during
these years: In 623–26 the
Lombards unsuccessfully attacked
Carantanians; in 663–64, the Slavs raided the
Vipava Valley and the
King Liutprand - (712-744)
"was a zealous Catholic, generous and a great founder of
Religious strife and the Slavic raids remained a source of struggle in
the following years. In 705, the
Lombards were defeated and
lost the land to the west of the
Soča River, namely the Gorizia Hills
and the Venetian Slovenia. A new ethnic border was established
that has lasted for over 1200 years up until the present time.
The Lombard reign began to recover only with Liutprand the Lombard
(king from 712), son of
Ansprand and successor of the brutal Aripert
II. He managed to regain a certain control over
Spoleto and Benevento,
and, taking advantage of the disagreements between the Pope and
Byzantium concerning the reverence of icons, he annexed the Exarchate
Ravenna and the duchy of Rome. He also helped the Frankish marshal
Charles Martel drive back the Arabs. The Slavs were defeated in the
Battle of Lavariano, when they tried to conquer the
Friulian Plain in
720. Liutprand's successor
Ravenna for the
Lombards for the first time but had to relinquish it when he was
subsequently defeated by the king of the Franks, Pippin III, who was
called by the Pope.
After the death of Aistulf,
Ratchis attempted to become king of
Lombardy, but he was deposed by Desiderius, duke of Tuscany, the last
Lombard to rule as king.
Desiderius managed to take Ravenna
definitively, ending the Byzantine presence in northern Italy. He
decided to reopen struggles against the Pope, who was supporting the
Benevento against him, and entered
Rome in 772,
the first Lombard king to do so. But when
Pope Hadrian I
Pope Hadrian I called for
help from the powerful Frankish king Charlemagne,
defeated at Susa and besieged in Pavia, while his son Adelchis was
forced to open the gates of
Verona to Frankish troops. Desiderius
surrendered in 774, and Charlemagne, in an utterly novel decision,
took the title "King of the Lombards". Before then the Germanic
kingdoms had frequently conquered each other, but none had adopted the
title of King of another people.
Charlemagne took part of the Lombard
territory to create the Papal States.
Lombardy region in Italy, which includes the cities of Brescia,
Bergamo, Milan, and the old capital Pavia, is a reminder of the
presence of the Lombards.
United Principality of Benevento, 774–849
Duchy of Benevento
Duchy of Benevento in the 8th century
Though the kingdom centred on
Pavia in the north fell to Charlemagne,
the Lombard-controlled territory to the south of the
Papal States was
never subjugated by
Charlemagne or his descendants. In 774, Duke
Arechis II of Benevento, whose duchy had only nominally been under
royal authority, though certain kings had been effective at making
their power known in the south, claimed that
Benevento was the
successor state of the kingdom. He tried to turn
Benevento into a
secundum Ticinum: a second Pavia. He tried to claim the kingship, but
with no support and no chance of a coronation in Pavia.
Charlemagne came down with an army, and his son
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious sent
men, to force the Beneventan duke to submit, but his submission and
promises were never kept and Arechis and his successors were de facto
independent. The Beneventan dukes took the title prínceps (prince)
instead of that of king.
Lombards of southern Italy were thereafter in the anomalous
position of holding land claimed by two empires: the Carolingian
Empire to the north and west and the
Byzantine Empire to the east.
They typically made pledges and promises of tribute to the
Carolingians, but effectively remained outside Frankish control.
Benevento meanwhile grew to its greatest extent yet when it imposed a
tribute on the Duchy of Naples, which was tenuously loyal to Byzantium
and even conquered the Neapolitan city of
Amalfi in 838. At one point
in the reign of Sicard, Lombard control covered most of southern Italy
save the very south of
Calabria and Naples, with its
nominally attached cities. It was during the 9th century that a strong
Lombard presence became entrenched in formerly Greek Apulia. However,
Sicard had opened up the south to the invasive actions of the Saracens
in his war with
Andrew II of Naples and when he was assassinated in
Amalfi declared independence and two factions fought for power in
Benevento, crippling the principality and making it susceptible to
The civil war lasted ten years and ended with a peace treaty imposed
in 849 by Emperor Louis II, the only Frankish king to exercise actual
sovereignty over the Lombard states. The treaty divided the kingdom
into two states: the Principality of
Benevento and the Principality of
Salerno, with its capital at
Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Southern Italy and the Arabs, 836–915
Main article: History of Islam in southern Italy
Andrew II of Naples hired Saracen mercenaries for his war with Sicard
Benevento in 836; Sicard responded with other Muslim mercenaries.
Saracens initially concentrated their attacks on
Byzantine Italy, but soon Radelchis I of
Benevento called in more
mercenaries, who destroyed
Capua in 841. Landulf the Old founded the
present-day Capua, "New Capua", on a nearby hill. In general, the
Lombard princes were less inclined to ally with the
Saracens than with
their Greek neighbours of Amalfi, Gaeta, Naples, and Sorrento. Guaifer
of Salerno, however, briefly put himself under Muslim suzerainty.
In 847 a large Muslim force seized Bari, until then a Lombard
gastaldate under the control of Pandenulf. Saracen incursions
proceeded northwards until Adelchis of
Benevento sought the help of
his suzerain, Louis II, who allied with the
Byzantine emperor Basil I
to expel the
Bari in 869. An Arab landing force was
defeated by the emperor in 871. Adelchis and Louis remained at war
until the death of Louis in 875. Adelchis regarded himself as the true
successor of the Lombard kings, and in that capacity he amended the
Edictum Rothari, the last Lombard ruler to do so.
After the death of Louis, Landulf II of
Capua briefly flirted with a
Saracen alliance, but
Pope John VIII
Pope John VIII convinced him to break it off.
Guaimar I of
Salerno fought the
Saracens with Byzantine troops.
Throughout this period the Lombard princes swung in allegiance from
one party to another. Finally, towards 915,
Pope John X
Pope John X managed to
unite the Christian princes of southern Italy against the Saracen
establishments on the
Garigliano river. The
Saracens were ousted from
Italy in the Battle of the
Garigliano in 915.
Lombard principalities in the 10th century
Italy around the turn of the millennium, showing the Lombard states in
the south on the eve of the arrival of the Normans.
The independent state of
Salerno inspired the gastalds of
move towards independence, and by the end of the century they were
styling themselves "princes" and as a third Lombard state. The Capuan
and Beneventan states were united by Atenulf I of
Capua in 900. He
subsequently declared them to be in perpetual union, and they were
separated only in 982, on the death of Pandulf Ironhead. With all of
the Lombard south under his control, except Salerno, Atenulf felt safe
to use the title Princeps Gentis Langobardorum ("prince of the Lombard
people"), which Arechis II had begun using in 774. Among Atenulf's
successors the principality was ruled jointly by fathers, sons,
brothers, cousins, and uncles for the greater part of the century.
Meanwhile, the prince Gisulf I of
Salerno began using the title
Langobardorum Gentis Princeps around mid-century, but the ideal of a
united Lombard principality was realised only in December 977, when
Gisulf died and his domains were inherited by Pandulf Ironhead, who
temporarily held almost all Italy south of
Rome and brought the
Lombards into alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. His territories
were divided upon his death.
Landulf the Red of
Capua tried to conquer the
Salerno with the help of John III of Naples, but with
the aid of Mastalus I of Amalfi, Gisulf repulsed him. The rulers of
Capua made several attempts on Byzantine
Apulia at this
time, but late in the century, the Byzantines, under the stiff rule of
Basil II, gained ground on the Lombards.
The principal source for the history of the Lombard principalities in
this period is the Chronicon Salernitanum, composed late in the 10th
century at Salerno.
Norman conquest, 1017–1078
Main article: Norman conquest of southern Italy
The diminished Beneventan principality soon lost its independence to
the papacy and declined in importance until it fell in the Norman
conquest of southern Italy. The Normans, first called in by the
Lombards to fight the Byzantines for control of
Apulia and Calabria
(under the likes of Melus of
Bari and Arduin, among others), had
become rivals for hegemony in the south. The Salernitan principality
experienced a golden age under Guaimar III and Guaimar IV, but under
Gisulf II, the principality shrank to insignificance and fell in 1078
to Robert Guiscard, who had married Gisulf's sister Sichelgaita. The
Capua principality was hotly contested during the reign of the hated
Pandulf IV, the Wolf of the Abruzzi, and, under his son, it fell,
almost without contest, to the Norman Richard Drengot (1058). The
Capuans revolted against Norman rule in 1091, expelling Richard's
grandson Richard II and setting up one Lando IV.
Capua was again put under Norman rule after the Siege of
Capua of 1098
and the city quickly declined in importance under a series of
ineffectual Norman rulers. The independent status of these Lombard
states is in general attested by the ability of their rulers to switch
suzerains at will. Often the legal vassal of pope or emperor (either
Byzantine or Holy Roman), they were the real power-brokers in the
south until their erstwhile allies, the Normans, rose to preeminence:
Lombards regarded the
Normans as barbarians and the Byzantines as
oppressors. Regarding their own civilisation as superior, the Lombards
did indeed provide the environment for the illustrious Schola Medica
Main article: Lombardic language
The runic inscription from the
Pforzen buckle may be the earliest
written example of Lombardic language
Lombardic language is extinct (unless Cimbrian and Mocheno
represent surviving dialects). The Germanic language declined,
beginning in the 7th century, but may have been in scattered use until
as late as about the year 1000. Only fragments of the language have
survived, the main evidence being individual words quoted in Latin
texts. In the absence of Lombardic texts, it is not possible to draw
any conclusions about the language's morphology and syntax. The
genetic classification of the language depends entirely on phonology.
Since there is evidence that Lombardic participated in, and indeed
shows some of the earliest evidence for, the High German consonant
shift, it is usually classified as an
Elbe Germanic or Upper German
Lombardic fragments are preserved in runic inscriptions. Primary
source texts include short inscriptions in the Elder Futhark, among
them the "bronze capsule of Schretzheim" (c. 600) and the silver belt
buckle found in Pforzen,
Ostallgäu (Schwaben). A number of Latin
texts include Lombardic names, and Lombardic legal texts contain terms
taken from the legal vocabulary of the vernacular. In 2005, Emilia
Denčeva argued that the inscription of the
Pernik sword may be
Italian language preserves a large number of Lombardic words,
although it is not always easy to distinguish them from other Germanic
borrowings such as those from Gothic or from Frankish. They often bear
some resemblance to English words, as Lombardic was akin to Saxon. For
instance, landa from land, guardia from wardan (warden), guerra from
werra (war), ricco from rikki (rich), and guadare from wadjan (to
From the Codice diplomatico longobardo, a collection of legal
documents that makes reference to many Lombardic terms, we obtain
several terms still in use in the Italian language:
Barba (beard), marchio (mark), maniscalco (blacksmith), aia
(courtyard), braida, borgo (village), fara (toponym), pizzo (toponym),
sala (toponym), staffa (stirrup), stalla (stable), sculdascio, faida
(feud), manigoldo (scoundrel), sgherro; fanone (baleen), stamberga
(hovel); anca (hip), guancia (cheek), nocca (knuckle), schiena (back);
gazza (magpie), martora (marten); gualdo, pozza (pool); verbs like
bussare (to knock), piluccare (to peck), russare (to snore).
Migration Period society
During their stay at the mouth of the Elbe, the
Lombards came into
contact with other western Germanic populations, such as the Saxons
and the Frisians. From these populations, which for long had been in
contact with the
Celts (especially the Saxons), they learned a rigid
social organization into castes, rarely present in other Germanic
The Lombard kings can be traced back as early as c. 380 and thus to
the beginning of the Great Migration. Kingship developed amongst the
Germanic peoples when the unity of a single military command was found
necessary. Schmidt believed that the Germanic tribes were divided
according to cantons and that the earliest government was a general
assembly that selected canton chiefs and war leaders in times of
conflict. All such figures were probably selected from a caste of
nobility. As a result of the wars of their wanderings, royal power
developed such that the king became the representative of the people,
but the influence of the people on the government did not fully
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon gives an account of the Lombard tribal
structure during the migration:
. . . in order that they might increase the number of their warriors,
[the Lombards] confer liberty upon many whom they deliver from the
yoke of bondage, and that the freedom of these may be regarded as
established, they confirm it in their accustomed way by an arrow,
uttering certain words of their country in confirmation of the fact.
Complete emancipation appears to have been granted only among the
Franks and the Lombards.
Society of the Catholic kingdom
See also: Duke (Lombard)
Lombard society was divided into classes comparable to those found in
the other Germanic successor states of Rome, Frankish
Visigothic Spain. There was a noble class, a class of free persons
beneath them, a class of unfree non-slaves (serfs), and finally
slaves. The aristocracy itself was poorer, more urbanised, and less
landed than elsewhere. Aside from the richest and most powerful of the
dukes and the king himself, Lombard noblemen tended to live in cities
(unlike their Frankish counterparts) and hold little more than twice
as much in land as the merchant class (a far cry from provincial
Frankish aristocrats who held vast swathes of land, hundreds of times
larger than those beneath his status). The aristocracy by the 8th
century was highly dependent on the king for means of income related
especially to judicial duties: many Lombard nobles are referred to in
contemporary documents as iudices (judges) even when their offices had
important military and legislative functions as well.
The freemen of the Lombard kingdom were far more numerous than in
Frank lands, especially in the 8th century, when they are almost
invisible in surviving documentary evidence. Smallholders,
owner-cultivators, and rentiers are the most numerous types of person
in surviving diplomata for the Lombard kingdom. They may have owned
more than half of the land in Lombard Italy. The freemen were
exercitales and viri devoti, that is, soldiers and "devoted men" (a
military term like "retainers"); they formed the levy of the Lombard
army, and they were sometimes, if infrequently, called to serve,
though this seems not to have been their preference. The small landed
class, however, lacked the political influence necessary with the king
(and the dukes) to control the politics and legislation of the
kingdom. The aristocracy was more thoroughly powerful politically if
not economically in Italy than in contemporary
Gaul and Spain.
The urbanisation of Lombard Italy was characterised by the città ad
isole (or "city as islands"). It appears from archaeology that the
great cities of Lombard Italy — Pavia, Lucca, Siena, Arezzo, Milan
— were themselves formed of minute islands of urbanisation within
the old Roman city walls. The cities of the
Roman Empire had been
partially destroyed in the series of wars of the 5th and 6th
centuries. Many sectors were left in ruins and ancient monuments
became fields of grass used as pastures for animals, thus the Roman
Forum became the Campo Vaccino, the field of cows. The portions of the
cities that remained intact were small, modest, contained a cathedral
or major church (often sumptuously decorated), and a few public
buildings and townhomes of the aristocracy. Few buildings of
importance were stone, most were wood. In the end, the inhabited parts
of the cities were separated from one another by stretches of pasture
even within the city walls.
Lombard state on the Carpathians (6th century)
Lombard state in
Pannonia (6th century)
Kingdom of Italy and List of Kings of the Lombards
Benevento and List of Dukes and Princes of Benevento
Principality of Salerno
Principality of Salerno and List of Princes of Salerno
Capua and List of Princes of Capua
The evidence contained in the myth hints that initially, before
the passage from
Scandinavia to the southern coast of the Baltic Sea,
Lombards worshiped the Vanir. Later, in contact with other
Germanic populations, they adopted the worship of the Æsir: an
evolution that marked the passage from the adoration of deities
related to fertility and the earth to the cult of warlike
In chapter 40 of his Germania, Roman historian Tacitus, discussing the
Suebian tribes of Germania, writes that the
Lombards were one of the
Suebian tribes united in worship of the deity Nerthus, who is often
identified with the Norse goddess Freyja. The other tribes were the
Reudigni, Aviones, Anglii, Varini, Eudoses, Suarines, and
St. Barbatus of
Benevento observed many pagan rituals and traditions
Lombards authorised by the Duke Romuald, son of King
"They expressed a religious veneration to a golden viper, and
prostrated themselves before it: they paid also a superstitious honour
to a tree, on which they hung the skin of a wild beast, and these
ceremonies were closed by public games, in which the skin served for a
mark at which bowmen shot arrows over their shoulder."
Lombards were first touched by
Christianity while still in
Pannonia, but only touched: Their conversion and Christianisation was
largely nominal and far from complete. During the reign of Wacho, they
were Orthodox Catholics allied with the Byzantine Empire, but Alboin
Arianism as an ally of the
Ostrogoths and invaded Italy.
All these Christian conversions primarily affected the aristocracy,
while the common people remained pagan.
In Italy, the
Lombards were intensively Christianised, and the
pressure to convert to
Catholicism was great. With the Bavarian queen
Theodelinda, a Catholic, the monarchy was brought under heavy Catholic
influence. After initial support for the anti-
Rome party in the Schism
of the Three Chapters,
Theodelinda remained a close contact and
supporter of Pope Gregory I. In 603, Adaloald, the heir to the throne,
received a Catholic baptism. During the next century,
paganism continued to hold out in
Austria (the northeast of Italy) and
in the Duchy of Benevento. A succession of Arian kings were militarily
aggressive and presented a threat to the
Papacy in Rome. In the 7th
century, the nominally Christian aristocracy of
Benevento was still
practising pagan rituals, such as sacrifices in "sacred" woods. By the
end of the reign of Cunincpert, however, the
Lombards were more or
less completely Catholicised. Under Liutprand, the
tangible, as the king sought to justify his title rex totius Italiae
by uniting the south of the peninsula with the north and bringing
together his Italo-Roman and Germanic subjects into one Catholic
Rule of Saint Benedict
Rule of Saint Benedict in Beneventan (i.e. Lombard) script
The Duchy and eventually Principality of
Benevento in southern Italy
developed a unique Christian rite in the 7th and 8th centuries. The
Beneventan rite is more closely related to the liturgy of the
Ambrosian rite than to the Roman rite. The Beneventan
rite has not survived in its complete form, although most of the
principal feasts and several feasts of local significance are extant.
The Beneventan rite appears to have been less complete, less
systematic, and more liturgically flexible than the Roman rite.
Characteristic of this rite was the Beneventan chant, a
Lombard-influenced chant that bore similarities to
Ambrosian chant of Milan. The
Beneventan chant is largely defined
by its role in the liturgy of the Beneventan rite; many Beneventan
chants were assigned multiple roles when inserted into Gregorian
chantbooks, appearing variously as antiphons, offertories, and
communions, for example. It was eventually supplanted by the Gregorian
chant in the 11th century.
The chief centre of the
Beneventan chant was Montecassino, one of the
first and greatest abbeys of Western monasticism. Gisulf II of
Benevento had donated a large swathe of land to
Montecassino in 744,
and that became the basis for an important state, the Terra Sancti
Benedicti, which was a subject only to Rome. The Cassinese influence
Christianity in southern Italy was immense.
Montecassino was also the starting point for another characteristic of
Beneventan monasticism, the use of the distinct Beneventan script, a
clear, angular script derived from the
Roman cursive as used by the
During their nomadic phase, the
Lombards primarily created art that
was easily carried with them, like arms and jewellery. Though
relatively little of this has survived, it bears resemblance to the
similar endeavours of other Germanic tribes of northern and central
Europe from the same era.
The first major modifications to the Germanic style of the Lombards
Pannonia and especially in Italy, under the influence of
local, Byzantine, and Christian styles. The conversions from nomadism
and paganism to settlement and
Christianity also opened up new arenas
of artistic expression, such as architecture (especially churches) and
its accompanying decorative arts (such as frescoes).
Lombard shield boss
northern Italy, 7th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Lombard S-shaped fibula
A glass drinking horn from Castel Trosino
Altar of Ratchis
8th-century Lombard sculpture depicting female martyrs, based on a
Byzantine model. Tempietto Longobardo, Cividale del Friuli
Lombard architecture and Longobards in Italy, Places of
Power (568-774 A.D.)
Church of Santa Sofia, Benevento
Few Lombard buildings have survived. Most have been lost, rebuilt, or
renovated at some point, so they preserve little of their original
Lombard architecture was well-studied in the 20th
century, and the four-volume Lombard Architecture (1919) by Arthur
Kingsley Porter is a "monument of illustrated history".
The small Oratorio di Santa Maria in Valle in
Cividale del Friuli
Cividale del Friuli is
probably one of the oldest preserved examples of Lombard architecture,
as Cividale was the first Lombard city in Italy. Parts of Lombard
constructions have been preserved in
Pavia (San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro,
Sant'Eusebio and San Giovanni Domnarum) and Monza
(cathedral). The Basilic autariana in
Fara Gera d'Adda
Fara Gera d'Adda near Bergamo
and the church of San Salvatore in
Brescia also have Lombard elements.
All these buildings are in northern Italy (Langobardia major), but by
far the best-preserved Lombard structure is in southern Italy
(Langobardia minor). The Church of Santa Sofia in
erected in 760 by Duke Arechis II, and it preserves Lombard frescoes
on the walls and even Lombard capitals on the columns.
Lombard architecture flourished under the impulse provided by the
Catholic monarchs like Theodelinda, Liutprand, and
Desiderius to the
foundation of monasteries to further their political control. Bobbio
Abbey was founded during this time.
Some of the late Lombard structures of the 9th and 10th centuries have
been found to contain elements of style associated with Romanesque
architecture and have been so dubbed "first Romanesque". These
edifices are considered, along with some similar buildings in southern
France and Catalonia, to mark a transitory phase between the
Pre-Romanesque and full-fledged Romanesque.
List of rulers
See List of kings of the Lombards.
Ancient Germanic culture portal
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List of ancient Germanic peoples
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Tribal hegemony in the former Western
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Rome to 843