Sunday, May 06, 2007

Barbarians: The Lombards

In this dramatic instalment of ‘Barbarians’, we examine the convictions, combat and conquests of the legendary Lombards. This Germanic tribe - sometimes known as the Langobards - originated in and above Northern Silesia, which is now in the western part of Poland, as part of the Suebi. They migrated south in the sixth century, taking advantage of the gap left on the north bank of the Danube in Hungary by the collapse of the Huns. Tired of being used as the Byzantine Empire’s mercenary army, they planned an attack on northern Italy.

The northern Italian kingdom of the Lombards lasted between 568 and 773. We examine the role played by Albion in forging the kingdom. The brutal, energetic leader ruled between 568 and 573. We explain how he led the Lombards, together with Bavarians, Gepidae, Saxons and Bulgars, across the Julian Alps to invade northern Italy.

His army pushed quickly through the Italian landscape, capturing Milan in the summer of 569. In 572, Pania fell after a lengthy and desperate siege; it became the first capital city of the new Lombard kingdom. In the following years, the Lombards penetrated ever deeper into southern Italy; they conquered Tuscany and established two duchies, Spoleto and Benevento, which would become semi-independent, outlasting the northern kingdom.

Wel also examine the shifting religious convictions of the Lombards. Traditionally Pagan, their primal rites were an intrinsic part of Lombard culture. However, when they entered Italy, some Lombards became Arian Christians. Inevitably, this complicated relations with the Catholic Church. Following a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts, the Lombards gradually adopted Roman titles, names, and traditions, converting partially converted to orthodoxy.

Next, we examine the life of the skilled Lombard king Liutprand, who ruled between 712 and 744. We reveal his attempts to protect the kingdom from both Roman and Frankish attacks, who all vied for supremacy on the crowded peninsula. We examine the new laws he created, outlining the strategy by which he linked bloody barbarian rites with ancient Roman justice, establishing a new culture in the former centre of the fallen Roman Empire that would last for centuries.


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