The Road to Italy
The Lombards migrated out of their homeland in Scandia (modern Scandinavia) during the great migration period between the fourth and ninth centuries AD. The Lombards capital at Pavia was recorded on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History starting in the 6th Century AD. The Romans were aware of the tribe’s presence as early as the 9th century AD, but the Lombards were part of the later tribes which streamed into Italy much later after its collapse. They were, however, some of the most resilient and successful groups that invaded Italy. They outlasted other barbarian tribes who came before them, such as the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Vandals.
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The Lombards first settled near the Danube in 487 AD after their migration from Scandia and later crossed the river to settle in overcrowded Pannonia in 526 AD. They were now at the gates of the old Roman empire. They needed to fight for available land to settle on and farm—something Pannonia did not have in abundance. As the Western Roman Empire continued to collapse, the Lombards took advantage of its weakness and closed in on Italy in the years that followed. Their domination of Italy would not have been possible if not for the sheer will and ferociousness of one man: the Lombard king Alboin.
Alboin was one of the greatest kings in Lombard history. He reigned from 560 until his death in 572 AD. He was known for his victory over the Gepids and the death of the tribe’s king Cunimund, after which he married the dead king’s daughter Rosamund. Alboin then led the Lombards from Pannonia to capture the northern part of Byzantine Italy on April 2, 568 AD. His troops entered the city of Milan (Mediolanum) in the same year. According to Paul the Deacon, they besieged and took almost all of the cities in Liguria except for the southern coastal cities.
The citizens of Pavia, however, put up a valiant fight for three years while Alboin rampaged through the Italian countryside up to Tuscany. Rome, Ravenna, and other fortified cities withstood the sieges, but Alboin and the Lombards took city after city in northern Italy in such a short time. The fact that the Italians were afflicted with the bubonic plague some years before and much of the citizens were dead by the time of the invasion did not help them. In addition, the famine which occurred before the arrival of the bubonic plague worsened the people’s situation.
Lombards Capture Pavia
After three years of relentless fighting, the citizens of Pavia (then named Ticinum) finally surrendered to the Lombards. Alboin, however, would not live to see the day that Pavia would be the capital of the Lombards. He was assassinated in Verona after three years in Italy. This was done with the help of his own Queen Rosamund, the daughter of the fallen Gepid king Cunimund, as revenge for the death of her father. Rosamund fled with the king’s assassin Helmichis (who also happened to be her lover) and Alboin’s daughter by his first wife to Ravenna where they were welcomed by Longinus, the Byzantine ruler of the city. (Rosamund and Helmichis were later found dead in Ravenna after an apparent murder-suicide. Before their death, Longinus offered to marry Rosamund if she would get rid of Helmichis and she agreed to this plot. She offered a poisoned drink to Hemlichis, but her new husband figured out her plan and forced her to drink the poison before killing himself.)
The Lombard dukes voted Cleph as the king in 572 AD to succeed Alboin, but he died two years later, and the Dukes did not replace him with another king. Instead, the lands which the Lombards wrested from the Byzantines were divided into duchies and Pavia, now the capital of the Lombards was held by a duke named Zaban. The Dukes would not elect a king until ten years later and by 620 AD, Pavia was the capital of Lombardy as well as its most powerful city.
Picture By Charles Landseer – Dreweatts Auction Catalogue (24 February 2009) Peter Nahum At The Leicester Galleries, The remaining stock, page 6, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1804150
Bury, J.B. “CHAPTER XIX THE RECONQUEST OF ITALY (II).” History of the Later Roman Empire • Vol. II Chap. XIX (§§4‑8). Accessed July 19, 2016. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/BURLAT/19B*.html.
Paul the Deacon. “History of the Langobards.” History of the Langobards. Accessed July 15, 2016. https://archive.org/stream/historyoflangoba00pauluoft#page/93/mode/1up.
Slatyer, Will. Life/death Rhythms of Ancient Empires: Climatic Cycles Influence Rule of Dynasties ; a Predictable Pattern of Religion, War, Prosperity and Debt. PartridgeIndia, 2014.
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