Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book VII
Note G

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Chapter 1

Book VII (end)

Vol. VI
Chapter XIV

Political State of Lombard Italy


Sources: —

Paulus Diaconus and the Lombard Laws.

Guides: —

The authors who have treated of the subject of the following chapter — one of the most difficult in the history of the Middle Ages — are numerous and important. I will not attempt to enumerate even all whom I have myself consulted, but will mention the four from whom I have derived most assistance.

1. Savigny, in the first volume of his 'Geschichte des Römischen Rechts im Mittelalter,' argues with unsurpassed force and weight of learning on behalf of his favourite theory that not only Roman Law, but to some extent Roman institutions and Roman franchises, survived the storm of the barbarian conquest of Italy. The Lombard laws, in his view, concerned the Lombards alone, and he believes that the Romans in Italy lived their own life, molested doubtless, but not deprived of all rights of citizenship by their conquerors.

2. Against this view Troya, in almost every page of his 'Codice diplomatico-Longobardo,' argues with nearly equal learning, with great copia verborum, and, it must be confessed, with much wearisome repetition. He will have none of Savigny's theory of Personal Law in Lombard times; and at each successive  p566 enactment he stops to ask the question, 'How could this apply to the Lombard only and not to the Roman also? Must not this law be territorial?'

3. Hegel, in his 'Geschichte der Städteverfassung von Italien,' adopts in the main the same views as Troya, but defends them in a calmer tone, and with a wider survey of the whole field of controversy. He is to my mind the most helpful writer we have had on the question of the origin of the Italian Republics.

4. But on the whole, for a concise, clear, and temperate statement of the question of the condition of the Romans under the Lombards, there is nothing better than what Hegel calls the two precious essays of Marquis Gino Capponi, 'Sulla dominazione dei Longobardi in Italia.' They are in the shape of letters addressed to his friend Prof. Pietro Capei, and were published in the Archivio Storico Italiano (App. 7), but have been reprinted separately. They occupy only fifty-four pages, but contain an admirable summary of the whole question now before us. Capponi is mainly on the side of Troya and opposed to Savigny, but he suggests several lines of thought which will not be found in either of those authors. I could wish that a translation of these valuable essays were in the hands of the English reader.

We now turn to consider the political and social state of the much larger portion of Italy which was under the rule of the Lombard conquerors. Our enquiry into this part of the subject may be shorter than that which occupied us in the last chapter. Documentary evidence (except that furnished by the laws, which we have already examined) is scanty and obscure. The best evidence is that which is furnished by the actual history of the Lombard State as exhibited in the course of these two volumes,a and from that evidence each individual reader can form his own conclusion.

Monarchy elective and hereditary. Thus in the first place, as to him who stood at the  p567 head of the State, the king of the Lombards in his palace-hall at Pavia, we can feel instinctively what perhaps cannot be expressed scientifically, how the two elements of election and hereditary descent concurred, when the throne was vacant, towards the determination of its next occupant. The element of popular election, present in all these Teutonic monarchies, was there, but there was also a strong preference for the representatives of certain special lines of descent, especially during all the seventh century for the representatives of the sainted Theudelinda. Thus the succession to the throne, though much less strictly hereditary than that which obtained amongst the Franks, was much more so than that of the Visigoths. In Spain before the Moorish conquest and after the fall of the monarchy of Toulouse there was hardly a single royal family that succeeded in maintaining itself for more than two generations, whereas Aripert II, who got possession of the throne in 700, was descended in the fourth degree from the brother of Theudelinda.

Kingly power. The king of the Lombards, if he were a man of any force of character, was able to make his will felt very effectively, at any rate through all the north of Italy. He moved the national army whither he would: his favour could make or mar the fortunes of a subject: and the fabric of his wealth, the foundation of which was laid in the day when at the close of the interregnum the thirty‑six dukes surrendered each one‑half of his domains to the newly-elected Authari, was doubtless raised higher and higher by the confiscation of the property of rebellious nobles, and especially by the multitude of fines which, as we have seen in commenting on the laws of Rothari and Liutprand,b  p568 were payable to 'the King's Court' or 'the King's Palace.'1

'The king's rights' (I borrow here the language of a great German jurist)2 'as limited by popular freedom were the following. The laws were devised by him in consultation with the great men and nobles of the land, then accepted by the collected army which formed the assembly of the people, and given forth in his name. He was the supreme judge, but, like other national judges, he was assisted by jurors3 in finding the verdict. From him went forth the summons to the host, but without doubt war, before being declared, was first talked over with the great men and approved in the assembly of the people, which was generally held on the 1st of March. The public domain, that is all the land that was not divided among private persons, was his, and was administered by officers specially named by him, the gastalds. It was he who safe-guarded the peace of the community: therefore the highest criminal jurisdiction was in his hands, and was partly exercised by him directly, partly handed over to his own officers or to the heads of the people. The former mode was generally adopted when the disturbers of the peace were great and powerful persons. All crimes against the commonwealth, such as treason, disturbance of the national assembly, and the like, were punished by the king, either with death or with the maximum fine (900 solidi), and an equally  p569 heavy penalty avenged any breach of the peace which occurred in the king's palace. Even of the fines which were inflicted for injuries on private persons, one half [as a general rule] went to the king to atone for the breach of the public peace, while the other half went as solace and compensation to the injured party. Moreover the king exercised the highest police-jurisdiction, and took the necessary precautions for the safety of persons and property throughout the land. Without his permission, no free man accompanied by his clan (fara) might change his residence even within the kingdom [still less leave the country]: no one might exercise the craft of a goldsmith or coin money. Under his especial protection were all churches and convents with their appurtenances, as well as foreigners settling in the realm (wargangi). He also represented the woman as against her guardian (mundwald), the retainer as against his lord, and afforded a last refuge to men otherwise unarmed and unprotected. Out of these rights as universal patron or supreme guardian there arose for him various claims of inheritance which he exercised on behalf of the community when private heirs failed.'

Royal power not helped by the Church. So far Hegel. But great as were the powers of the Lombard king when wielded by a strong and vigorous arm, it must not be forgotten that, as Hegel and other enquirers have pointed out, one influence which in other States did much to consolidate and strengthen royal power was wanting here. The Church, which undoubtedly did so much to establish the Frankish and the Saxon monarchies, seems to have been always cold towards that of the Lombards, nor could all the lavish gifts of kings and dukes to basilica and  p570 monastery do more than win a kind of grudging assent to the proposition that the nefandus Langobardus was somewhat less intolerable than aforetime.

The Iron Crown of the Lombards. Before we leave the subject of the Lombard kings, something must be said as to the chief emblem of their dignity, the far‑famed Iron Crown.4 In the church of St. John the Baptist at Monza is still to be seen that little golden circlet ('15 centimetres in diameter, 5.3 centimetres high') which was guarded there among the most precious treasures of the Church for more than twelve centuries. It is made in six separate pieces, and it has in it twenty‑two jewels of various kinds (chiefly pearls and emeralds), twenty‑six golden roses, and twenty-four finely wrought enamels. But that which has give the crown its name and its special historic interest in which not its precious gems, but the thin circlet of iron (only 3 oz. in weight and a centimetre high) which runs round the inside of the diadem. This iron rim is now said to be composed of a nail which was used in the crucifixion of Christ, and was brought from Jerusalem by Helena, mother of Constantine.c With this precious ring of iron the crown of Constantine may have been adorned: it may have travelled from Constantinople to Rome: it may have been sent by Pope Gregory the Great to Theudelinda, though it is not probable that he would dare to give to a Lombard queen the emblems of Imperial sovereignty. But for all these conjectures, whether probable or improbable,  p571 there does not exist any shadow of proof: and in fact, the theory of the connection of the Iron Crown with the sacred nail cannot be certainly traced back for more than three or four centuries, and is generally considered to have received its death-blow at the hands of Muratori. To one who, like the present writer, views with the utmost suspicion all the supposed discoveries at Jerusalem of the enthusiastic and credulous Helena, the question of one fiction less or more in connection with the sacred nails is not extremely interesting, and does not seem worth the tons of printed paper which have already been devoted to it. But the story of the Crown for its own sake, and as a great historic emblem, is undoubtedly interesting.

Till the twelfth century it appears to have been always called the Corona Aurea; after that, the name of Corona Ferrea gradually became more usual; and in the fourteenth century the Emperors Henry VII and Lewis the Bavarian being for so reason unable to obtain the precious so‑called Iron Crown itself, are said to have been crowned with one made entirely of iron.5 This baser rival however soon vanishes from the scene, and the true Iron-Golden Crown re‑appears, and is used for the coronation of Charles IV, the author of the Golden Bull and Charles V, the world-wide Emperor. Strangest of all the scenes in the history of the venerable ornament was that when, in the hands of a French Master of the Ceremonies, accompanied by the Arch-priest and twelve citizens of Monza (dressed by their own especial desire in uniform), and escorted by fifty‑six cavalry soldiers, it was transferred on the 18th of May, 1805, to the Cathedral of Milan, where eight  p572 days after, the son of a Corsican attorney placed it on his imperial brow, uttering the well-known words, 'Dio me l'ha data, guai a chi la toccherà.'6

But though the Iron Crown still survives at Monza, a scarcely less interesting relic of Lombard domination has disappeared almost in our own days. Side by side with the Iron Crown were to be seen at Monza in the time of Muratori two other crowns, one of Agilulf and one of Theudelinda. The former, in some respects the most interesting of the three, was adorned with figures of Our Saviour, two Angels, and the Twelve Apostles, each standing in an alcove of laurel boughs. It had 65 carbuncles and emeralds and 158 pearls, and round the bottom of it ran an inscription recording that 'Agilulf the glorious man, by Divine grace king of the whole of Italy, offered this crown to St. John the Baptist in the church of Monza.'7 Unfortunately this most interesting historical relic must now be spoken of in the past tense. Having been carried off by Napoleon to Paris, it was kept there among the treasures of the Bibliothèque Nationale, but in January, 1804, it was stolen by one of the custodians named Charlier, and carried off by him to Amsterdam, the gold melted, and the jewels sold. The thief was captured and died in prison, but the crown of the noble Agilulf was irrecoverably lost.8

 p573  As for the Iron Crown itself, after figuring in the coronation of two Austrian Emperors at Milan, it was after the battle of Solferino carried eastward to Venice, the last stronghold of Austrian power in Italy, and only after the war of 1866 was it brought back to its old home in Monza, where it may be hoped that it will now rest, to be used hereafter only for the coronation of the sovereigns of an united Italy.

The Lombard Duke. Passing now from the Royal to the Ducal office, we observe first a curious fact. The history of the interregnum and the high position attained by the rulers of Spoleto and Benevento, together with many other indications of the same kind, clearly show that the Duke was a most important person in the Lombard State, no foreign importation, but a home-growth of the Teutonic genius, and yet we are entirely unacquainted with his true national name. Dux is of course Latin, taken over as we have seen from the Imperial hierarchy of office. Neither Paulus nor the laws of Rothari nor those of Liutprand give us the slightest indication how the office of Gisulf or Farwald was spoken of by himself and by his countrymen when no ecclesiastic was at hand to translate their language into the barbarous Latin of a legal document. We may conjecture that the Lombard name was some compound of Ari, the equivalent of army,9 and thus that it may have resembled the Anglo-Saxon Heretoga (Army-leader), but this can be only a conjecture, and  p574 raises the further question, 'Had the Lombards any word like Ealdorman to express the civil as distinct from the military duties of this great functionary, to describe the duke when sitting on the judgment-seat rather than when leading his warriors to battle?'10

The power and the possibilities of power residing in the office of the Lombard dukes have perhaps sufficiently indicated in the course of the preceding history. We have seen how an office which was at first delegated only for life, became in some cases virtually hereditary; how the perpetual rebellions of the Lombard dukes against their sovereign divided and enfeebled the State; how these rebellions were suppressed, and the dukes of Northern Italy were brought into comparative subjection and subordination before the end of the seventh century; but how far harder even the great Liutprand found it to deal with the semi-independent dukes of Spoleto and Benevento. As to these latter princes and their relation to the central authority, our information is extremely vague. We can see that there was no close cohesion, but we are perhaps hardly entitled to assert that there was during the great part of Lombard history absolute alienation and hostility between them. Matrimonial alliances between the families of king and duke are not uncommon: the sons of the duke are friendly visitors at Pavia: when occasion arises they can work together against Emperor or Exarch. Thus, though it is undeniable that the tie which bound the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento to the Northern kingdom was a somewhat loose one, and though commentators are right in calling attention to the pointed omission of  p575 the names of these dukes in the prologues to the laws even of the great Liutprand,11 it is not quite certain that we are right in deducing from this latter circumstance that they were really disaffected to the Lombard king. With the Flaminian Way still more or less blocked by Imperial troops, it might be unsafe for a great personage like the duke of Spoleto or Benevento to travel to Pavia without an escort, which would have been in fact an army. And it is noteworthy in this connection, that at none of the later diets held by Liutprand (not even when Benevento at any rate was loyal, being under the rule of the king's nephew, Gregory) have we any express mention of the presence at these assemblies of nobles from either of the southern duchies.

The gastald. In connection with the ducal office generally, (passing on from the question of the larger semi-independent duchies), it will be well to notice an institution, peculiar, or nearly so,12 to the Lombard State, that of the gastaldat. The gastald, whose name was  p576 probably derived from the Gothic word gastaldan, to acquire or possess, seems to have been a royal officer whose special business it was to collect the fines due to the king, and to administer the royal domain, distributed as it was through the various districts of Italy. It is a not improbable conjecture of Hegel, that when, at the restoration of the kingship, the dukes surrendered half of their territories in order to constitute such royal domain, this was a division of land, not of the revenues accruing from land, and that this may have been the occasion on which gastalds were appointed in order to safe-guard the king's rights in the surrendered districts; to collect his rents and taxes; to judge the causes which arose within their gastaldat; and to lead forth to war the free Lombards who dwelt therein. Whether he lived in the same city as the duke we cannot say: probably in most cases he would fix his abode in a town of secondary importance. But it is essential to observe that the gastalds thus holding the king's commission were, and were meant to be, a check upon the power of the dukes, who though in theory themselves also the nominated servants of the Crown, were fast becoming hereditary rulers. Thus the two principles, what may be called by an anachronism the feudal principle and that of the centralised monarchy, being represented respectively by the duke and the gastald, and exercised upon one another a reciprocal control. As was said in the laws of Rothari, 'If a duke shall unjustly harass one of his men-at‑arms, let the gastald relieve him until he find out the truth, and bring him to justice, either in the presence of the king, or at least before his duke.' 'If any gastald  p577 shall unreasonably harass his man-at‑arms, let the duke relieve him until he shall find out the truth of his case.'13

It is to be noted, as a sign of the semi-independent position of the two great Southern dukes, that no royal gastalds appear to have existed in their dominions, but they appointed gastalds of their own, who seem to have been of somewhat inferior position to their namesakes in the rest of Italy, holding a delegated authority from the duke, each one in the little actus or township which formed the administrative unit in the duke of Benevento, perhaps also in that of Spoleto. Meanwhile the duke himself lived almost in royal splendour at Benevento or Spoleto. His court was the centre of all power and all brilliancy. He had his chancellor (referendarius), his high constable (cubicularius and vestararius), and his grand treasurer (stolesaz). And, significant fact, in his charters and donations he always mentioned the year of his own reign, and forgot to mention that of his sovereign who was reigning at Pavia.

For Lombard Italy as a whole we find the number of gastalds apparently increasing, and that of the duces diminishing, as the seventh century wears on. In civitates such as those of Parma and Piacenza, which had been betrayed by their dukes to the Empire, it was natural that Agilulf, when he recovered them,  p578 should appoint not an aspiring duke but a subservient gastald to administer the affairs of the city, and that he should speak of these places as 'cities of our royal house.'14 Rothari too when he won from the Greeks the fair cities on the coast of the Riviera, probably put them under the rule of his gastalds. And in some of those cases in which the rebellion of a turbulent duke was with difficulty suppressed (as for instance in the case of Treviso), it seems probable that the king, while confiscating the private property of the duke, added his territory to the royal domain, and divided it up into gastaldats.

Besides the gastald, there were other officers of the royal domain called by the general name of actores regis, the gradation of whose rank and various duties it is not easy to discover.15 It is interesting however to observes the important, even judicial functions of the saltarius or forester.16 The sculdahis. The sculdahis, or sculdhaizo,17 of whom frequent mention is made in the laws, seems to have been not unlike one of our justices of the peace. His title ('the enforcer of obligations')18 seems to show that it rested with him to enforce obedience to the decisions of the court above; and the words by  p579 which Paulus Diaconus translates it (rector loci)19 show us that practically the sculdahis was the chief man in the little town or village in which he dwelt.

The particular sculdahis of whom Paulus speaks in this passage was that Argait whose unfortunate name, coupled with his want of success in capturing the Sclovene robbers from over the mountains, exposed him to the clumsy banter of Duke Ferdulf of Friuli, and led to the loss of hundreds of Lombard lives through Argait's fool-hardy attempt to wipe off the stain upon his honour.20 But notwithstanding this error, Paulus tells us that he was 'a noble man, powerful in courage and strength'; in fact, just like a stalwart, hot‑tempered English squire, more terrible with that strong sword‑arm of his, than successful in matching his wits against the shifty, nimble, petty thieves21 from over the border.

Condition of the vanquished Romans under the Lombards. The organisation of the Lombard State was undoubtedly crude and somewhat barbarous, though in the very quaintness of its barbarism there is a certain charm when we compare it with the pompous and effete hierarchy of Byzantine officialism. But the question which, as I have already often hinted, attracts while it continually eludes us is, 'What was the condition of the earlier population of Italy, of the men who though of various stocks all called themselves Roman, under these their Lombard conquerors?' This question, as I have said, must attract us. After we have followed the history of the Imperial race from  p580 the hut of Faustulus to the glories of the Palatine and the Capitol, after gazing in many widely sundered lands on the handiwork of the Roman legionary and thus learning afresh in manhood the marvel of the schoolboy's commonplaces concerning 'the lords of the world, the nation of the toga,' how can we turn away from them in the day of their calamity, or fail to enquire how the sons of Italy, when their turn came to be enslaved, bore themselves in their bondage?

But the question, though it must be asked, cannot be satisfactorily answered. The pit of ruin into which Rome fell was so deep that scarcely a voice reaches us from its dark recesses. The Greek in similar circumstances would surely have told us something of his reverses. He would have written histories or sung elegies, or in some way or other coined his sorrows into gold. The Roman, always naturally unexpressive, endured, was silent, and died. The actual evidence as to the condition of the Latin population under their Lombard lords is scanty, and can soon be summarised for the reader. The conjectures with which we cannot help filling up the blank interstices of that evidence are endless, and a volume would be needed to discuss them thoroughly.

Paulus Diaconus on the land-settlement of the Lombards. To begin with, there is the important statement by Paulus of the results of the Lombard conquest to which reference has already been made.22 'In these days [under the rule of the thirty dukes, just after the death of Alboin] many of the noble Romans were slain through avarice. But the rest being divided among their "guests" on condition of paying the third  p581 part of their produce to the Lombards, are made tributaries.'23

The general purport of this passage is clear enough. The largest land-owners among the Romans, the nobles who owned any latifundia which might still exist in Italy, were, as a rule, killed by the greedy Lombards, who probably portioned out their lands among them. The rest of the Roman inhabitants (for so surely we must understand the passage, not 'the rest of the nobles') found themselves assigned as 'hosts' to the new‑comers who were their 'guests,' and bound to pay over to them one‑third of the produce of their lands. The result of this revolution was of course in a certain sense to take away their freedom and make them tributaries (that is, not 'tenants' but more nearly 'serfs') to the invading Lombards. We have here therefore again nearly the same process which we have already watched in the Italy of Odovacar and Theodoric. The word hospes (host or guest) is a technical one in this connexion, and expresses with unintended irony the relation in which the poor dispossessed Roman stood to his most unwelcome guest.24 Only we have to notice this difference, that whereas in Odovacar's and Theodoric's land-settlements and in that of the Burgundians and Visigoths a third or other fraction of the land itself was taken by the invader,  p582 here it was a third of the produce of the land to which he helped himself. This is an important difference, and at once raises the question, 'Was it a third of the gross produce of the soil, or was the "host" allowed to take subsistence for himself and those who helped him in the cultivation first, and then to pay a third of the net produce to his "guest"? If the latter, the tribute was, as such things went, fair and moderate: if the former, it is considered that it was equivalent to taking two‑thirds of the net produce and that it probably left but a narrow margin for the cultivator and his family. We have no means of deciding the question, but it seems on the whole most likely that the harsher view is the true one, and that the Lombard took his third of everything grown on the land before the Roman was allowed any wages for his labour.25

The Lombards took not a third of the land, but a third of the produce of the land. However this may be, the following consequences seem necessarily to flow from the fact that the Lombards took from the previous inhabitants of Italy, not a quota of land, but a quota of produce. In the first place, they were themselves thus exempted from the necessity of agricultural labour. They could live like gentlemen on the tribute paid by their down-trodden 'hosts,' could perhaps drift into the cities, or go hunting in the forests: in short, they missed that sobering, steadying influence which is given to the cultivator of the soil by his long annual struggle with Nature.

 p583  Secondly, the softening and harmonising influence which is sometimes exercised by neighbourhood and a common pursuit was necessarily here wanting. Cassiodorus26 says that Liberius, to whom was assigned the duty of marking out the Thirds in the Ostrogothic land settlement, so fulfilled his mission as actually to draw the men of the two nations closer together. 'For whereas men are wont to come into collision on account of their being neighbours, with these men the common holding of their farms proved in practice a reason for concord.'27 Doubtless this statement is coloured by the official optimism which is characteristic of its author, but in the Lombard land settlement such a result was impossible. The Lombard hospes was a landlord, often probably an absentee landlord, and was hated accordingly.

For, thirdly, the necessary result of taking not land but a portion of his yearly produce from the Roman cultivator, was to make of him, as Paulus says, a 'tributarius,' and thus to deprive him, more or less, of his freedom. When the Ostrogothic or Rugian 'guest' had with the high hand taken the allotted portion away from his Roman neighbour, it was nothing to him what that neighbour did with the rest. He might starve or grow fat on his diminished holding; he might drift away to Rome or Constantinople; he might enter the service of the church, or join the army of diggers who by Theodoric's orders were draining the marshes of Terracina, — it all one to the barbarian 'guest' who had been quartered upon him. But the Lombard who had received not land but the arms of the subject-race for his portion,  p584 would undoubtedly insist that his 'host' should remain upon the land and make it bring forth as plenteous crops as he could, and the whole force of the new rough barbarian kingdom would back his claim. Thus the Roman, lately perhaps a free cultivator, became not a tenant but a tributarius, and practically a 'serf bound to the soil.'28

Obscure passage in Paulus about the division of the hospites. We next come to a mysterious and difficult sentence of Paulus, which has been more discussed than anything else written by its author, and has given rise to almost as much controversy as the celebrated sentences of Tacitus as to the land-system of the Germans. After describing the period of the interregnum and how it was ended by the elevation of Authari to the throne, his assumption of the title Flavius, and the surrender by the dukes of half their property 'to royal uses in order that there might be a fund out of which the king himself, his adherents, and those who were bound to his service by their various offices might be supported,' Paulus says, 'Populi tamen adgravati per Langobardis hospites partiuntur.'29 He then goes on to describe the happy state of the kingdom of the Lombards under Authari, the absence of robbery and crime, the cessation of unjust exactions (angaria), and the fearless security with which every one went about his lawful business.

In the earlier pages of this history30 I have suggested as a translation of the above sentence, '[In this division] the subject populations who had been  p585 assigned to their several Lombard guests were [also] included': that is to say, that along with the lands the tributary Roman populations settled upon them were handed over to the king. This seems to be the sense required by the general drift of the passage, but it must be confessed that it is difficult to get it out of the sentence as it stands.31 What seems an easier translation is offered by Marquis Capponi:32 'The tributary populations (populi adgravati) however are divided' (that is remain divided) 'among their Lombard guests.' This translation gives a good meaning to the word tamen (however), but it is difficult to get 'remain divided' out of partiuntur, and it is also in itself improbable. For what would be the object of handing over to the king broad lands denuded of the tributary Romans who cultivated them, and what would the surrendering dukes do with the great populations thus thrown on their hands and deprived of the land from which they derived their sustenance?

On the whole, without going minutely here into the various and sometimes desperate devices which have been resorted to in order to obtain a satisfactory meaning from the passage, the safest course seems to be to acquiesce in the decision of Capponi, that, whatever may be its construction, it is too obscure to make it safe to resort to it for any fresh information as to the condition of the vanquished Romans. The subject with which Paulus is mainly dealing is the financial arrangements made between the dukes and their new  p586 sovereign. These it is probably hopeless now to understand, but it seems clear that the system by which the Roman landowner was made tributary to a Lombard hospes still remained in force, whoever that hospes may have been.33

Light thrown by the Lombard laws on the question of the condition of the vanquished Romans. Having gathered such scanty information as we could from the pages of Paulus, let us now turn to consider what light is thrown by the Lombard laws on the condition of the vanquished Romans. The laws of Rothari, as we have said, are eloquently silent as to the very name of Roman. Except for the one contemptuous allusion to the case of a Roman female slave (ancilla Romana) whose seduction was to be atoned for by a fine scarcely more than half that which was payable for the seduction of a Teutonic slave (ancilla gentilis), we might have supposed that Rothari and his counsellors lived on a planet to which the fame of Rome had never reached. We find however in these very laws a large number of enactments as to the rights and wrongs of the Aldius, a man who,  p587 as discovered, occupied a position midway between the 'folk-free' Lombard of the king's army and the mere slave. Everything seemed to show that we were here dealing with a man not greatly or essentially different from the Roman colonus, who cultivated the ground for a master and who could not change his condition or his home, but who on the other hand could not have his rent (if we call it so) raised arbitrarily upon him, nor be sold like the mere slave into distant bondage. In alluding, as I then did,34 to the suggestion that among the Aldii of the Lombard law‑book we had to look for the vast mass of the so‑called 'Roman' inhabitants of Italy who occupied it before the Lombard conquest, I proposed that we should for the time neither accept this theory nor yet reject it, but keep it before our minds and see how far it explained the phenomena which came before us.

The Romans as Aldii. Now, at the close of this enquiry, I ask the reader if he does not consider that the probability of this theory amounts almost to certainty? It is true we have not — would that we had — any distinct statement by Paulus or any other contemporary authority, 'The Romans were made Aldii'; but we are told that they were made tributarii, and finding in the Lombard law‑book continual allusions to a class of men — manifestly a large class — who are evidently tributarii, we say with some confidence: 'Surely the staple of this class is the vanquished Roman population.' I may say that this theory is not the special discovery of any one student, though perhaps Troya has done more to establish its correctness than any other writer. It has by this time almost passed into one of the  p588 commonplaces of Lombard history; but it has seemed desirable to review the reasons by which it is supported and to show that they are likely to stand the test of further investigation.

If it be once admitted that the great mass of the Roman population are represented by the Aldii of the Lombard Codes, most of the desired information is ours. Almost all the events that could happen to them can be expressed (if we may speak mathematically) in terms of the guidrigild, which guidrigild however, we must always remember, was payable not to the Aldius himself but to his master. If a Roman cultivator was fatally injured by some truculent Lombard swashbuckler, it is not upon his injury or on his family's claims to compensation that Rothari meditates, but he argues that if his master is not indemnified for the loss of so profitable a drudge, there will be a faida between him and the homicide, and he therefore fixes the tariff of guidrigild to be paid by the homicide to the master.

Thus then, speaking generally, we may say if any one would know how the countrymen of Virgil and Cicero were faring during the latter part of the sixth and the seventh centuries and what sort of lives they lived, let him study the Lombard Codes and see what they say as to the position of the Aldius and Aldia in Lombard Italy. But there are two classes of persons to whom we cannot feel sure that this information applies.

Possible exceptions:
1. Artisans.
The first are the handicraftsmen and dwellers in towns. Is there anything in the above-quoted words of Paulus about 'paying the third part of their crops (frugum) to the hospites which entitles us to say  p589 that a worker in metal living within the walls of a town was made subject to this tribute? It is generally conjectured by historical enquirers that this artisan class shared the degradation and the liability to tribute of their rural fellow-countrymen; but we cannot be said to have any proof of this proposition, nor is it so easy to understand how the quartering of the Lombard guest upon the Roman could be accomplished in the town as in the country.

2. Wealthy Romans. And, secondly, the wealthy and leisured class apart from the mere land-owners, if there were any such class left in Italy, — how did they fare under the new system? I say, 'if there were any such left,' because the influences which had been at work in Italy to drain it of those whom we should call its gentlemen had been mighty and had been working for centuries. The impoverishment of the Curiales, the invasions of Alaric, of Attila, of Gaiseric, Odovacar and his Herulians, Theodoric and his Ostrogoths, pre‑eminently the bloody revenges which marked the latter stages of the Ostrogothic war, the emigration to Constantinople, the tendency of all men of good birth and education to flock to the seat of officialism, whether at Ravenna or at Constantinople, in search of a career, the attractions of the Church for some, of the Convent for others, — all these causes had doubtless worked a terrible depletion of the rural aristocracy of Italy, even before the unspeakable Lombard came to hasten the process.

How did the Lombard laws punish crime and outrage committed in the free Roman population? Still there may have been Roman gentlemen, as there may have been Roman artisans, who were no man's Aldii, and therefore stood outside the pale of express Lombard law, and if there were such I think  p590 we can only conjecture what amount of protection they received for life and property. My own conjecture would be that in the first generation after the conquest they received none at all. The sentence of Paulus, 'In these days many of the noble Romans were slain through avarice,' expresses, I suspect, the state of things not only under the lawless dukes, but even under Authari and Agilulf, at any rate in the earlier years of the reign of the latter monarch. Even under Rothari, if the son of a murdered Roman came to the King's Court and claimed compensation for his father's death, we can imagine the king's reply, 'When Lombard has killed Lombard, we have ordered that a certain guidrigild be paid, ut cesset faida, to prevent a blood-feud. But how can any blood-feud exist between the Lombard and the soft weaponless Roman? No more than between a Lombard man and a woman. I cannot decree the payment of any guidrigild, but you can if you like try your fortune as a camfio in the dread wager of battle.' And thereat, inextinguishable laughter would resound through the hall at the thought of the delicate Roman mounting horse and couching spear against the stalwart Lombard exercitalis.

Such would seem to have been the law, or rather the absence of law, in the earlier days of the Lombard state. But we saw in the laws of Liutprand that a stronger feeling against crimes of violence had then been growing up in the community. The conviction that murder was not merely a wrong to the relations of the murdered man, but a disgrace to the State, a breach, as our ancestors would say, of 'the King's peace,' had evidently entered into the mind of the  p591 legislator. It was under the influence of this conviction that he ordained that the murderer of 'any free man' would atone for his crime by the loss of the whole of his property, part of which was to go to the murdered man's heirs and the rest to the King's Court.35 Here at first we think we have got the desired answer to our question as to the protection afforded by the law to the unattached Roman, who is no man's Aldius. As a free man he surely shares in the advantages of this law, and any one who kills him asto animo (of malice prepense) will forfeit his whole property for the crime. But unfortunately, as has been already pointed out,36 a law which was passed four years later for the express purpose of explaining this law seems to limit those hopeful words, 'any free man.' It is true that the legislator here deals only with manslaughter in self-defence and does not expressly repeal any part of the law against premeditated murder. But when we find that the lowest guidrigild known to the legislator is for 'the humblest person who shall be found to be a member of our army,37 we feel that these words are probably to be taken as limiting the application of the earlier law also, and we fear that we may not infer that the truculent Lombard who of malice aforethought killed a free man of Roman origin was punished for the crime by the forfeiture of all his estates. Thus then, in the silence of the Lombard legislator, we are left to mere conjecture as to the condition of the Roman population. Individually I am disposed to conjecture that the increasing civilisation of their  p592 conquerors had, at any rate by the time of Liutprand, perhaps long before, wrought great improvement in their condition, and that the murder or mutilation of a free Italian of non‑Lombard descent was noticed and punished in some way by the Lombard magistrate, but how, to what extent, under the provision of what law, I do not think we have any evidence to show.

Survival of Roman law among the vanquished for their own internal affairs. But while in criminal matters the man of Roman origin was thus at the mercy of the law, or rather the lawlessness, of his conquerors, in civil affairs we may reasonably suppose that he retained his own law, as far as he had knowledge and understanding enough to use it. Why, for instance, should the Lombard official trouble himself with the disposition of the Roman artisan's scanty savings among his descendants? Why should he care to impose upon him the Lombard principle of the exclusion of daughters in favour of sons, or the provision made by the laws of Rothari for illegitimate offspring? All these were surely matters far below the range of the Lombard duke or sculdahis; and so the men of Roman origin in their purchases and sales to one another, in making their wills, in dividing the property of an intestate, would go on, very likely clumsily and ignorantly enough, following, as far as they knew them, the provisions of the Digest and the Code. Thus we have at once a natural explanation of those passages already noticed in the laws of Liutprand where he uses emphatically the words 'Si quis Langobardus' in treating of the laws of inheritance; of his refusal of the Lombard rights of faida and anagriph to the Lombard woman who has come under a Roman's mundium; and above all, of the important law 'de scribis,' in which conveyancers  p593 are ordered, under very severe penalties for disobedience, to prepare their deeds either according to the law of the Lombards or according to the law of the Romans, and not to presume to alter either of these to suit their own convenience.

Personal law in the Lombard state. Thus we find that in the Lombard State, as in most of the other States founded by the barbarians on the ruins of the Empire, we have the germs of what is known as the system of Personal Law, as opposed to that of Territorial Law which is now universal in Christian Europe.38 Under this system, not only had the Barbarian one code of laws and the Roman another, but after the barbarian peoples had begun to get mixed with one another by wars and invasions, each separate barbarian nation kept its own laws, and thus, as Bishop Agobard said in the ninth century when writing to Louis the Pious, 'you may see five men sitting or walking together, each of whom has his own law.'39 We shall find this system in full operation under Charles the Great, and though undoubtedly it was less completely developed in Italy than in some of the other countries of Western Europe, owing to the attempt made by the Lombards to assimilate all other laws and customs to their own, Personal Law is there in the Laws of Liutprand, and it would probably have asserted itself more strongly had the life of the State been a longer one.

 p594  Here then for the present we leave the story of the Lombard settlers in Italy. They have succeeded in making good their position in the peninsula, notwithstanding all the efforts of Pope and Exarch, of Caesar and of Meroving to expel them. They have been steadily extending their frontier, and it seems clear that their final expulsion of 'the Greeks' (as the Imperial forces are beginning to be called) is only a question of time, and not of any long time either. They have renounced their Arian Creed, have become great church-builders and convent-founders, and, as far as religious reasons go, there seems no cause why they should not live on terms of cordial friendship with the See of Rome. Lastly, they have been for more than thirty years under the sway of a hero-king — wise, courageous, merciful — who has done more than any of his predecessors towards welding their somewhat disorderly and discordant elements into one coherent and harmonious whole. 'United Italy' appears full in view, and it seems as if by the arms of the rude Lombard this great victory will be won for humanity.

Why and how this fair promise failed, and how Europe organised herself at the expense of a hopelessly divided Italy, it will be my business to set forth in the concluding volume.

The Author's Notes:

1 Fines for breach of the peace and mal­administration of justice are said to be payable to the king's palace; for certain acts of immorality, to the king's court. Pabst (p444) thinks there is an important distinction here, but I do not clearly understand what it is.

2 Hegel, I.448‑450.

3 Schöffen.

4 There is a helpful article on the Lombard crowns in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities. The plates representing them at p460 of the first volume of Muratori's Rerum Italicarum Scriptores are especially valuable now that one of the crowns has perished. See also Prof. Freeman's Historical and Architectural Sketches, pp266‑270.

5 Marimonti, Storia di Monza, 110 and 114.

6 'God has given it to me. Woe betide him who shall touch it.' The ceremony of transportation is minutely described by Marimonti, pp119‑121.

Thayer's Note: I've been unable so far to discover in what language Napoleon said this. I suspect French rather than Italian, and it's usually quoted in French,

"Dieu me l'a donnée, gare à qui la touche."

Variants are also seen, some of them ungrammatical.

7 'Agilvlf · grat · dī · vir · glor · rex · totivs · Ital · offeret · sc̅o · Iohanni · Babtiste · in · ecc̅la · Modicia.'

8 I take some of these particulars from Theodore de Murr's Dissertatio de Coronâ Regni Italiae, vulgo Ferreâ dictâ (Munich, 1810). He says that Charlier (whom he rightly calls 'furcifer' — gallows-bird) died in prison of indigestion caused by eating too much meat‑pie and drinking too much brandy.

9 Found in Aripert, Arichis, Ariwald, &c.

10 See Kemble, The Saxons in England, II.126.

11 For instance, the prologues to the laws of March 1, 717, 'Similiter modo cum omnibus judicibus nostris de partibus Austriae, Neustrie necnon et de Tuscie finibus seu et ceteris nostris Langobardis'; March 1, 720, 'Una cum inlustribus viris optimatibus meis Neustrie, Austrie et de Tuscie partibus, vel universis nobilibus Langobardis.' On this Pabst remarks, 'We know that the dukes of Benevento and Spoleto did not appear at the first diets. Liutprand ignores their absence, and acts just as if those regions belonged not at all to his kingdom.' But surely the words about 'the other noble Lombards' are meant to apply to them?

12 Ducange quotes a passage from Theophanes (A. M. 6169) referring to the κάσταλδοι of the Chagan of the Avars: also from Ordericus Vitalis speaking rhetorically of the 'Satellites et Gastaldi' of the Norman kings of England. But is it not probably in the latter case a 'loan-word' from the Lombards?

13 l. 23: 'Si dux exercitalem suum molestaverit injustè gastaldius eum solatiet, quousque veritatem suam inveniat, et in praesentiam regis aut certè apud ducem suum ad justitiam perducat.'

l. 24: 'Si quis gastaldius exercitalem suum molestaverit contra rationem, dux eum solaciet, quousque veritatem suam inveniat.'

14 'Domus nostrae civitates' (Troya, Cod. Dip. Long. II.534).

15 Such are the scario, oviscario and scaffardus who are mentioned in the laws and charters. See Pabst, p496.

16 Laws of Liutprand, 44, 85. The saltarius is one of the magistrates charged (under heavy penalties for remissness) with the pursuit of fugitive slaves and the discovery and punishment of witches.

17 The name of the sculdahis still survives in the German Schultheiss.

18 So Meyer: 'Wörtlich derjenige, dem es oblag Verpflichtungen (sculd) zu befehlen (haizan).'

19 'Subsecutus est hos rector loci illius, quem sculdahis linguâ propriâ dicunt, vir nobilis animoque et viribus potens; sed tamen eosdem latrunculos adsequi non potuit' (H. L. VI.24).

20 See p329.

21 'latrunculi.'

22 See vol. V p188.

23 'His diebus multi nobilium Romanorum ob cupiditatem interfecti sunt. Reliqui vero per hospites divisi, ut tertiam partem suarum frugum Langobardis persolverent, tributarii efficiuntur' (Paulus, H. L. II.32).

24 As Savigny says (I.400), 'hospes was the special word used to express the relation engendered by the land-settlement'; and (I.298), 'Not only was the Roman called the Burgundian's hospes, but also vice versâ.'

25 Savigny took originally the view most favourable to the Lombards, but abandoned it in his second edition. Leo, Hegel, and Troya all contend for the 'third of gross produce.' Hegel especially urges (I.357) that to adopt Savigny's original view is to make the 'nefandissimi Langobardi' the mildest and most generous of all the Teutonic conquerors.

26 Variarum, II.16.

27 See vol. III p303.º

28 Hegel (I.402) strongly argues that we must not think of the Romans under the Lombards as mere coloni, but as a somewhat higher class, like the Frankish lites. Still I think 'serfs bound to the soil' fitly describes their condition.

29 H. L. III.16.

30 Vol. V p232.

31 For why should we have 'tamen' after 'populi,' and why should we not have 'etiam,' and why not 'inter regem et duces' instead of 'inter Langobardos hospites'?

32 'Sui Longobardi in Italia,' p18.

33 Savigny's explanation (I.401) is nearly the same as Capponi's: 'The king was endowed by the nobles. The Romans were in the meantime divided among the individual Lombards as their hospites, and the old relation between them remained unchanged.'

Hegel's (I.353) is somewhat similar: 'The king repressed acts of lawless violence, but there was no change in the general condition of the conquered Romans. They remained divided among their hospites.'

Troya (Storia d'Italia, I.5.ccccx) contends that the true reading is 'patiuntur,' and translates, 'The dukes gave half of their property to the king: nevertheless the populations oppressed by the Lombard guests suffered for it; the dukes made up for their patriotic surrender to the king by screwing a larger tribute out of the oppressed Romans.' This does not go very well with the sentence that follows about the Golden Age.

34 p181.

35 See p396.

36 p398.

37 'Minima persona qui exercitalis homo esse inveniatur.'

38 I say Christian Europe, because the 'Capitulations' by which the citizens of the leading European States are protected from decisions uttered by Turkish judges in accordance with the Koran furnish an excellent modern illustration of the principle of Personal Law.

39 Agobardi Ep. ad Lud. P. apud Bouquet, VI.356 (quoted by Savigny, I.116).

Thayer's Notes:

a Hodgkin means his own two volumes of this work, Books VI ("The Lombard Invasion") and VII ("The Lombard Kingdom") of which this chapter is a part.

b Of Rothari, VII.182 ff.; of Liutprand, VII.395 and passim.

c It had been noticed many years ago that the iron circlet was not attracted to magnets, and it turns out there was a good reason: it isn't iron at all, but silver, as determined by a full panoply of scientific analyses conducted on the crown in 1993 at the University of Milan. It would seem that the iron was not in this band, but in arches forming a dome for the crown; these arches, if they ever existed, have been lost in the crown's many travels.

As for the Iron Crown's containing a Nail of the Cross, the first mention of any such thing was apparently only in the late 16c; and, with Hodgkin, I will forbear delving into the Nails themselves, how many there might have been, whether they were in fact what was found by Helena, nor of course where any might be today. The 1911 Catholic Encyclopaedia, s.v. "Holy Nails", points out the number of nails used in the Crucifixion is unknown (two, three, or four), and that there are thirty or more contending Holy Nails throughout the world.

A particularly interesting discussion of the Iron Crown, with much more information, some of it quite surprising, can be found in a lecture delivered by Gianni Selvatico to the Associazione Amici dei Musei di Monza e Brianza on May 6, 2014: the text is available online as a downloadable PDF.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 14 Jul 20