Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Lombards were the close - neighbours and the bitter foes of the Gepidae, the Gothic tribe who had remained behind in the Hungarian plains when the other sections of the Goths moved westward to Spain and Italy. The long struggle between Lombard and Gepid only came to an end in 567, when the Lombards called in to their aid wars of the Tartar race of the Avars, and by their assist- Aiboin. ance almost entirely exterminated the Gepidae, whose scattered remnant only survived as slaves of the conquering horde. By this time Alb oin, the son of Audoin, was reigning over the Lombards. He it was who slew with his own hand Cunimund, the king of the Gepidae. The barbarous victor struck off the head of his enemy, and had the skull mounted in gold, and fashioned into a drinking-cup, as the supreme token of his triumph. Yet, but a short time before, ere the last struggle had begun between the Lombards and the Gepidae, he had taken to wife Rosamund, the daughter of the man whom he now slew and beheaded.

THE LOMBARD KINGS IN ITALY.

1. ALBOIN
568-72.

- Garibald, Duke of

2. CLEPHO Bavaria.
572-73-

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][table][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Having ended this great national feud by the extermination of the Gepidae, Alboin determined to put into effect a scheme which must have been long maturing in his brain, the conquest of Italy. The Lombard historian of a later day asserted that he had been tempted to the invasion by the treachery of Narses, who, in discontent with Justin n., had urged Alboin to invade the peninsula, and sent him as gifts samples of all the generous fruits and wines that Italy produces. But this is the mere echo of a Lombard saga. Narses, now over eighty years of age and on his death-bed, had other matters to think about than the spiting of his new master. Nor did the Lombards, who had ridden all over Italy in 552, need to be reminded of its existence or its fertility.

Before leaving Pannonia, Alboin made over his old kingdom to his allies the Avars, only stipulating that it should be restored to him if ever he returned from Italy; a rather futile compact to make with such a faithless race as this Tartar horde. Crossing the Carinthian Alps, in the summer of 568, the whole Lombard nation—men, women, and children, with their cattle and slaves—descended into the Venetian plains, and spread themselves over the deserted lands. There was hardly any opposition. In cities that had once been great, JJJf»» Aquileia and Milan, the scanty population did not even close the gates, but awaited the invader with apathy. Only the places where there was an Imperial garrison offered resistance. Verona, protected by the rushing Adige, Padua in its marshes, and Pavia, the ancient royal city of the Goths, were among the few towns that refused to admit the Lombards.

Alboin conquers North- The newcomers spread themselves over the whole em Italy. valley of the Po, as far as the Tuscan Apennines and the gates of Ravenna, and begun to settle down on the fairest spots among the ruined Roman villages. They divided themselves, like the Franks in Gaul or the East-Angles in Britain, into two folks, the Neustrian, or Western, and the Austrian, or Eastern, Lombards. The former stretched from the Cottian Alps to the Adda, the latter from the Adda to the

[graphic][ocr errors]

Julian Alps. Piedmont formed the bulk of Neustria; Venetia the bulk of Austria. Many scattered portions of tribes came to join Alboin in his new conquest. Not only did he grant lands to broken bands of Saxons and Suabians, but even foreigners, such as Bulgarians and Slavs, found shelter with him.

While Alboin was founding the new kingdom of Lombardy, the cities which at first resisted began to drop into his hands. Verona fell early, but Pavia made a long defence. So desperately did it hold out against the host left to blockade it that the king swore, in his wrath, to slay every living thing within its walls. But when, after three years, the starving citizens threw open their gates, he relented of his hard vow, 'because there was much Christian folk in that city,' and made Pavia his capital and royal stronghold.

In the next year, however, he came to his end. The Lombard chronicler, Paul the Deacon, repeating some familiar Lombard saga, tells the grim tale of his death thus :—' King Alboin sat over long at the wine in his city of Verona, so that he grew boisterous, and he sent for the cup which he had made from the skull of king Cunimund, his father-in-law, and forced his queen, Rosamund, to drink from it, bidding her drink joyfully with her father. Then the queen conceived a deep grief and anger in her heart, and questioned with herself how she might avenge her father by slaying her husband. So she strove to persuade Helmichis, the king's armour-bearer, who was also his foster-brother, to slay his lord. And Helmichis would not, but counselled her to win Peredeo, the strongest champion of the Lombards, to do the deed. Then Rosamund sold her honour to Peredeo, and became his mistress, and said to him, "Now hast thou done a thing for which either thou must kill Alboin, or he thee." So he unwillingly consented to the deed, and at mid-day, when all the palace lay asleep, Rosamund bound the king's sword so tightly to the bed-head that it could not be drawn, and then bid Peredeo go in and slay her husband. When Alboin heard

an armed man enter, he sprang from his couch, and strove to Murder of draw his sword without avail. For some space

Aiboin. he fought hard for his life with a stool that he caught up, but what could the best of warriors do without arms against an armed champion? He was slain like a weakling, and, after passing unharmed through so many battles, died by the counsel of one woman, and she his own wife. So the Lombards took up his body, with much weeping, and buried it beneath the great flight of steps over against the palace, where it lay till my own days.' (May 672.)

Helmichis strove in vain to make himself king in his master's room, but the Lombards would have none of him, and he was forced to fly with Rosamund and the murderer Peredeo, to take shelter with the Romans -at Ravenna. There all three of them came to evil ends, 'for the hand of Heaven was upon them for doing such a foul deed.'

Meanwhile the Lombards crowned as king, in the room of Alboin, Clepho, one of the mightiest of their dukes, though not of the royal blood; for Alboin had no son, and was the last of the Lethings. Clepho completed the conquest of all northern Italy, as far as the southern limits of Tuscany and the gates of Ravenna. But ere he had reigned a year he was slain by one of his own slaves, whom he had wronged. After he was dead the Lombards chose no more kings to reign over them for ten years, but each tribe went forth conquering and plundering under its own elective duke. It is said that no less than thirty-five of these chiefs were ranging over Italy at Anarchy, tne same time (573-83). Nothing can show better

573-83- the survival of primitive Teutonic ideas among the Lombards than this period of anarchy. They had not yet learned to look upon the king as a necessary part of the constitution of the tribe, but, like the Germans of the first century, regarded him as a war-chief, to be followed in time of peril alone. The Goths or the Franks, who had advanced to a further stage, could not have borne to live kingless for ten whole years.

[ocr errors]

Strangely enough, the loss of their supreme head seems to have detracted in no wise from the warlike vigour of the Lombards. In the ten kingless years they went on subduing the land, and pushed their incursions farther to the west and south. Three dukes of Neustria crossed the Alps and harried Provence, then in the hands of king Guntram the Frank, the peaceful brother of the warlike Sigibert and the wicked Chilperich. They took many cities, and were only driven out of the land, after much fighting, by Mummolus, the great GalloRoman general, who served king Guntram so well; but for him, Provence might have become part of Lombardy. Meanwhile other Lombard dukes were pressing southward down the Italian peninsula. They did not act on any combined plan of invasion, but each passed on with his war-band, leaving to right and to left many cities held by Imperialist garrisons, till he found a place of settlement that pleased his eye. Hence it came to pass that Lombard duchies and Roman cities were curiously intermixed. In central Italy, Faroald, the first duke of Spoleto, left Ravenna and Ancona to the north, and established himself in the central valley of the Tiber, with Imperialist garrisons all around him. Zotto, the first duke of Benevento, passed even farther to the south, and founded a realm in the Samnite valleys, which was almost entirely out of touch with the other Lombard states. It was hemmed in to east and west by the Roman garrisons of Rome, Naples, and Calabria. The dukes of Lucca and Chiusi, who held the bulk of Tuscany, did not push their limits down to the Tiber, but stopped short at the Ciminian hills, leaving a considerable district north of Rome in the hands of the Imperialists. Even in northern Italy the dukes of Neustria left Genoa and the Ligurian coast alone, and those of Austria did not subdue the marshland of Mantua and Padua, nor follow the fugitive inhabitants of Venetia into the islands where Venice and Grado were just beginning to grow up in the security of the lagoons. All over Italy Lombard and Roman districts were hopelessly confused, and, save that the Po valley was wholly Lombard,

« ՆախորդըContinue »