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Bill Thayer

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Book VII
Chapter 1

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!


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Book VII
Chapter 2, cont.
(II: Friuli)

Book VII (continued)

Vol. VI
Chapter II (beginning)

The Four Great Duchies

I. The Duchy of Trient


Sources: —

Paulus following Gregory and Secundus.

Guides: —

My chief guide in this section is Bartolommeo Malfatti (author of 'Imperatori e Papi'), who has contributed two admirable papers on the subject to the 'Archivio Storico per Trieste, l'Istria e il Trentino, 1882‑3.' In the first, 'I confini del Principato di Trento,' he discusses the boundaries of the Duchy and afterwards of the Prince-Bishopric of Trient. In the second, 'I castelli Trentini distrutti dai Franchi,' he examines with great care the statements of Paulus as to the Frankish campaigns in the Tridentine territory. Such an investigation as this, undertaken by one who knows thoroughly the district as well as the authorities, gives great confidence to a historian who is able to follow such a guide.

We are already confronted with that difficulty of treating the history of Italy from one central point of view, which recurs in a far more embarrassing form in the history of the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages.

Semi-independence of some Lombard duchies. The Lombard Monarchy, as the reader must have already perceived, was a very loosely aggregated body; the great Duchies were always tending to fly off from  p23 the central mass, and to revolve in orbits of their own. Two of them, Spoleto and Benevento, did in the end succeed in establishing a virtual independence of the Kingdom which had its seat at Pavia. There were two others, Trient and Friuli, which never quite succeeded in accomplishing the same result, being nearer to the heart of the monarchy, and not being liable, as the southern duchies were, to have their communication with the Lombard capital intercepted by bodies of Imperial troops moving between Rome and Ravenna. But though these great northern dukes did not achieve their independence, there can be little doubt that they desired it, and there is, to say the least, sufficient evidence of a separate political life in their states to make it desirable to treat their histories separately, though this course will involve us in some unavoidable repetition.

Dukes of Tridentum

or Evin,
569‑595 (?),
married a daughter
of Garibald duke
of the Bavarians.

'vir bonus ac fide
595 —.

circa 680‑690.

Geographical position of Trient. Tridentum, which I generally speak of under its modern name Trient,​a has made a great mark in the ecclesiastical history of the last three centuries, owing to the choice that was made of this city as the seat of the Council that was summoned to define the faith, and so regulate the practice of the Churches still  p24 obedient to the see of Rome after the storms of the Reformation.

In Roman times, and in the centuries with which we are now dealing, its importance was derived from the fact that it was one of the chief border towns of Northern Italy, an outpost of Latin civilization far up under the shadow of the Alps, and the capital of the district watered by the upper Adige.

The modern province of Tyrol, as every traveller among the Eastern Alps knows, is composed of two main valleys, one running East and West, the valley of the Inn, and another running in the main North and South, the valley of the impetuous Adige. With the former, which constitutes Northern Tyrol, we have here no concern, and we have not to deal with quite the whole of the latter. The Adige descends from the narrow watershed which separates it from the Inn, and flows through the long trough of the Vintschgau (called in old times Venosta) to Meran, situated at the confluence of the stone-laden Passeyer, and pride of its memories of the Tyrolese patriot Hofer. Here in the days of the Emperors was the Roman station Castrum Magense (the modern Mais). About twenty miles further down the valley, the Adige, which here flows over dark slabs of porphyry rock, is joined by the Eisach, coming down from Brixen, and from the long Pusterthal. The next important stream that joins it is the Noce, which falls in from the West, after flowing round the base of the mighty mountain mass of the Adamello, and through the interesting valleys of Italian-speaking people known as the Val di Sole and the Val di Non. A little lower down, the Avisio, which has risen at the foot of the noble Dolomitic  p25 mountain, the Marmolata, after then flowing through the Val di Cembra, joins the Adige from the East. Soon afterwards we reach at last the battlemented walls of the city of Trient, the true centre, as has been before said, of the Adige valley, being about equally distant from Meran in North, and from Verona in the South. An unimportant stream, the Fersina, is all that here brings its contribution to the central river; but the position of Tridentum is it for this reason, that only a few miles off, and across a low watershed, we enter the broad valley which is known as the Val Sugana, and through which flows the stream of the Brenta, a stream that takes its own independent course past Bassano and Padua to the Adriatic, and there, more than any other single river, has been 'the maker of Venice.'

For the rest of its course the Adige flows through the narrow Val Lagarina, shut in by high hills on either side, and receiving no affluent of importance till it emerges upon the great Lombard plain, and darts under the embattled bridges of Verona, beyond which city we must not now follow its fortunes.

On the West, however, side by side with the Adige, during the last thirty miles of its course above Verona, but studiously concealed from it by the high barrier of Monte Baldo, stretches the long Lago di Garda, largest if not loveliest of all the Italian lakes; the sheet of water whose sea‑like billows and angry roar when lashed by the tempest were sung by the great bard of not far distant Mantua.​1 Into this lake at its northern end pours the comparatively unimportant stream of  p26 the Sarco, which draws its waters from the melted snows of the southern sides of Monte Adamello, as the Noce draws its waters from the North and West of the same great mountain-chain.

Every one who has travelled in the Tyrol knows that it is emphatically a land of mountain ridges and intervening valleys. Lakes like those of Switzerland are hardly to be met with there, but we find instead a cluster of long sequestered valleys, each of which is a little world in itself, and which, but for the artificial necessities of the tourist, would have little communication one with another. In order, therefore, to describe the territory of the Duchy of Trient under the Lombards, we have only to enumerate the chief valleys of which it was composed.

Limits of the Duchy of Trient. According to Malfatti (whose guidance I am here following), when the Lombards first entered the region (probably in the year 569), and established themselves there under the rule of their duke Euin (or Evin), they took possession of the central valley of the Adige, about as far northward as the Mansio of Euna (represented by the modern town of Neumarkt), and southward to a point not far from the present Austro-Italian frontier, where the mountains are just beginning to slope down to the Lombard plain.2

Of the lateral valleys, those watered by the Noce, the Avisio and the Sarco were probably included in the Duchy; and with the Sarco may have been also included the whole of the long and narrow valley of the Giudicarie, which touches that stream at its lower  p27 end. The short valley of the Fersina, of course, went with Tridentum, and probably also some portion, it is impossible to say how much, of the Val Sugana.

The boundary to the north is that which is most difficult to determine. As has been said, Malfatti fixes it in the earliest period at Euna. At that time we are to think of Bauzanum (Botzen), Castrum Magense (in the neighbourhood of Meran), and the valley of Venosta (Vintschgau), as all in the possession of the Bavarians, who were subject to the over-lordship of the kings of the Austrasian Franks. But as the tide of war ebbed and flowed, the Lombard dominion sometimes reached perhaps as far north as Meran in the valley of the Adige, and Brixen in the valley of the Eisach; and the Venostan region may have seen the squadrons of the Lombards, though it hardly can have owned them as its abiding lords.

Duke Euin, 569‑595 (?). The first duke of Tridentum, as has been said, was Euin or Evin (569‑595?), who seems to have been a brave and capable man, and a successful ruler. It was he who began that system of alliance with the Bavarian neighbours on the north which was afterwards carried further by Authari and Agilulf: for he, too, married a daughter of Duke Garibald, and a sister of Theudelinda.

Frankish invasion under Chramnichis, 575‑577 (?). It was probably a short time after Duke Euin's marriage (which we may date approximately at 575), that an army of the Franks, under a leader named Chramnichis, entered the Tridentine territory, apparently in order to avenge the Lombard invasion of Gaul by the three dukes Amo, Zaban, and Rodan, which had been valiantly repelled by Mummolus.3  p28 The Franks captured the town of Anagnis ('above Trient, on the confines of Italy'),​4 which seems to be reasonably identified with Nano in the Val di Non. The inhabitants, who had surrendered the town, seem to have been considered traitors to their Lombard lords, and a Lombard count named Ragilo, who (under Euin, doubtless) ruled the long Val Lagarina south of Trient, coming upon Anagnis in the absence of the Franks, retook the town and plundered its citizens. Retribution was not long in coming. In the Campus Rotalianus, the meadow plain at the confluence of the Noce and the Adige,​5 Chramnichis met Ragilo returning with his booty, and slew him, with a great number of his followers. The Frankish general then, we are told, 'laid waste Tridentum,' by which we are probably to understand the territory round the town rather than the town itself, as the capture of so important a place would have been more clearly indicated by the historian. For Chramnichis also the avenger was nigh at hand. Duke Euin met him 'and his allies,' possibly some Roman inhabitants of the Tridentine who, like the citizens of Anagnis, had embraced the cause of the Catholic invader. The battlefield was Salurn on the Adige, a little north of the Campus Rotalianus. This time fortune favoured the Lombards. Chramnichis and his allies were slain, the booty was recaptured, and Euin recovered the whole Tridentine territory.6

 p29  Lombard annexation. Not only did Euin resume possession of his duchy after the Frankish inroad, but he seems to have extended its limits; for when the Franks next invade the country, all the valley of the Adige as far as Meran, and that of the Eisach nearly up to Brixen, appear to be in the keeping of the Lombards. It is a probable conjecture, but nothing more, that this extension of the territory of the Lombards may have been connected in some way with the domestic troubles of their Bavarian neighbours, when Garibald their duke was attacked, possibly deposed, by his Frankish over­lords.7

Lombard invasion of Istria. In the year 587, Duke Euin commanded the army sent by Authari into 'Istria.' Conflagration and pillage marked his steps, and after concluding a peace with the Imperialists for one year, he returned to his king at Pavia, bearing vast spoils.8

Frankish invasion under Chedin, 590. The next Frankish invasion of the Tridentine duchy was in 590, the year of Authari's death, when, as we have already seen,​9 the Austrasian king and the Roman Emperor joined forces for the destruction of the unspeakable Lombards. We need not here repeat what the generals of the western armies, Audovald and Olo, accomplished, or failed to accomplish, against Bellinzona and Milan. Chedin,​10 the third Frankish general, with thirteen 'dukes' under him, invaded the Lombard kingdom by way of the valley of the Adige,  p30 coming probably through the Engadine and down the Vintschgau to Meran.​11 Thirteen strong places were taken by them: the sworn conditions upon which the garrisons or the inhabitants surrendered these towns were disregarded with characteristic Frankish faithlessness, and the citizens were all led away into captivity. The names of these captured fortresses can for the most part be identified, and enable us to trace the southward progress of the invaders through the whole Tridentine territory. Tesana and Sermiana (Tiseno and Sirmian) are placed on the right bank of the Adige, some ten or twelve miles south of Meran. The position of Maletum is uncertain, but it was probably at Male, in the Val di Sole.​12 Appianum is the castle of Hoch Eppan on the mountains opposite Botzen. Fagitana is probably Faedo on the hilly promontory between the Adige and the Avisio, over­looking the former battlefield of the Rotalian plain. Cimbra must be placed somewhere in the lower part of the valley of the Avisio, which is still known as the Val di Cembra. Vitianum is Vezzano, a few miles west of Trient. Bremtonicum is Brentonico between the Adige and the Lago di Garda, nearly on a level with the head of the latter. Volaenes is Volano, a little north of Roveredo. The site of Ennemase must remain doubtful. If it is intended for Euna Mansio it is mentioned out of its natural order, as that station, whether rightly placed at Neumarkt or not, was certainly not far south of Botzen. The names of the other three 'camps' captured are not given us, but we are told that two were  p31 in Alsuca (the Val Sugana), and one in [the territory of] Verona.13

But where during this inflowing of the Frankish tide was the warlike duke of Tridentum? We are not expressly told, but, remembering that the letter of the Exarch of Italy to Childebert​14 mentions not only that Authari had shut himself up in Pavia, but that 'the other dukes and all his armies had enclosed themselves in their various castles,'​15 we may conjecture that  p32 Euin, in obedience to the plan of defence devised for the whole kingdom, was holding Trient with a strong force, ready to resist a siege, but renouncing the attempt to prevent the ravage of his territory.

Siege of Verruca. Over against the capital city of Trient on its western side stood the high hill-fortress of Verruca, as to the construction and repair of which, under Theodoric, we have some interesting information in the letters of Cassiodorus.​16 This castle probably it was which the historian calls 'Ferruge castrum,'​17a and which underwent a rigorous siege by the invading army. The fortress would have been compelled to surrender, but two bishops, Agnellus of Tridentum and Ingenuinus of Savio,​17b interceded for the garrison, who were permitted to ransom themselves at the rate of a solidus18 a head. The total ransom amounted to 600 solidi.19

Retreat of the Franks. It will be remembered that the campaign of the allied powers in 590 ended in a treaty between the Franks and the Lombards, which the Imperialists viewed with deep disgust, but the conclusion of which  p33 they were powerless to prevent. Probably the ransom of the garrison of Verruca was arranged for in these negotiations. The Frankish historian mentions the unwonted heat of the Italian summer as having exercised an unfavourable influence on the health of the invaders, and describes them as returning to their homes, decimated by dysentery, worn by hunger, and compelled to part with their raiment, and even with their arms, in order to procure necessary food. We can well understand that the Tridentine duchy was not at this time a highly cultivated or wealthy district, and that after three months of ravage not even the licence of a brutal soldiery​20 could extract any more plunder from the exhausted peasantry.

Peace in the Tridentine. This, however, was the last invasion — as far as we know — that the Tridentine territory had to undergo for more than a century. The peace concluded by Agilulf with the Frankish kings must have been an especial blessing to this district, which had no other foes to fear except those who might enter their country from the north; since high mountain ranges secured them from invasion on the east and west, and on the south was the friendly territory of Verona.

Duke Gaidwald, 595. It was probably about five years after the Frankish invasion that Duke Euin died, and was succeeded by Gaidwald, perhaps not a member of Euin's family,​21 but who is spoken of as 'a good man and a Catholic.' With peace, and probably some measure of prosperity, the relations between the Lombards and the Romano- p34 Rhaetian population in the valley of the Adige were growing more friendly, and now both ruler and people were no longer divided by the difference of creed.

The 'centrifugal' tendency, as it has been well called, so often to be found in these Teutonic states, and so especially characteristic of the Lombards, carried both Gaidwald of Trient and his neighbour of Friuli into opposition, estrangement, perhaps, rather than open rebellion, against King Agilulf. How long this estrangement may have lasted, or in what overt acts it may have borne fruit, we cannot say. All that we know is that the joyful year 603, perhaps the very Eastertide which witnessed the baptism of Theudelinda's son in the basilica of Monza, saw also the reconciliation of Gaidwald and his brother duke with Agilulf.22

Duke Alahis (close of the seventh century). From this point we hear very little more of the separate history of the Adige valley. We know neither the date of Gaidwald's death, nor the names of any of his successors save one. That one is a certain Alahis, who about the year 680 fought with the Count (Gravio) of the Bavarians, and won great victories over him, obtaining possession of Botzen (which had evidently therefore passed out of Lombard hands), and of many other strong places. These successes so inflated his pride that he rebelled against the then reigning king Cunincpert (688‑700), with results which will have to  p35 be recorded when we come to that king's reign in the course of general Lombard history.

For the earliest period of the Lombard monarchy our information as to the duchy of Trient, doubtless derived from its citizen, 'the servant of Christ,' Secundus,​23 is fairly full and satisfactory; but after his death (612) this source dries up, and none other is opened to us in its stead.

The Author's Notes:

1 'Fluctibus et fremitu adsurgens Benace marino,' Virgil, Georgics, II.159, 160.

2 Malfatti is inclined to fix the boundary at the little Veronese town of Belluno, which must not be confounded with the larger Belluno on the Piave.

3 See vol. V p220. Malfatti (p302) brings down the date of this invasion to 584, but I hardly think he shows sufficient cause for such a departure from his authority (Paulus, H. L. III.9).

4 'Anagnis Castrum, quod super Tridentum in confinio Italiae positum est.'

5 For this identification and that of all the other places about to be mentioned, I must refer to Malfatti's paper 'I Franchi nel Trentino.'

6 'Expulsisque Francis Tridentinum territorium recepit.'

7 'Cum propter Francorum adventum perturbatio Garibaldo regi advenisset' is all that we can learn as to the punishment of Garibald (Paulus, H. L. III.30).

8 Paulus, H. L. III.27.

9 See vol. V p267.

10 Called Chenus in the Byzantine letter to Childebert, apud Troya, IV.1.121.

11 See Malfatti, ubi supra, p316.

12 I do not think Malfatti (p319) shows sufficient cause against this identification.

13 The passage of Paulus (H. L. III.31) from which these details are taken is a specimen, and not a very successful one, of his manner of dovetailing his authorities together. All the rest of the campaign of the Three Dukes is given in the words of Gregory of Tours (X.3), the extract from whom ends with this sentence, 'Chedinus autem cum tredecim ducibus, laevam Italia ingressus quinque castella cepit, quibus etiam sacramenta exegit.' Notice that Paulus does not even alter the 'laevam' of Gregory, who is writing as one north of the Alps, to the 'dexteram' which would be suitable in an Italian. Then comes the following passage, evidently an extract from the history of Secundus, and not quite agreeing with what has gone before, inasmuch as it enumerates thirteen castles instead of five: 'Pervenit etiam exercitus Francorum usque Veronam et deposuerunt castra plurima per pacem post sacramenta data, quae se eis crediderant, nullum ab eis dolum existimantes. Nomina autem castrorum quae diruerunt in territorio Tridentino ista sunt: Tesana, Maletum, Sermiana, Appianum, Fagitana, Cimbra, Vitianum, Bremtonicum, Volaenes, Ennemase, et due in Alsucâ, et unum in Veronâ. Haec omnia castra cum diruta essent a Francis, cives universi ab eis ducti sunt captivi. Pro Ferruge vero Castro intercedentibus episcopis Ingenuino de Savione et Agnello de Tridento data est redemptio per capud (sic) uniuscujusque viri solidus unus usque ad solidos sexcentos.' Paulus then with a few connecting words resumes the extract from Gregory.

14 Troya, IV.1.121. See vol. V p272.

15 'Et hoc habuimus in tractu quia Autharit (sic) se in Ticinis incluserat, aliique Duces omnesque ejus exercitus per diversa se castella recluserant.'

16 Variarum, III.48.

17a 17b Savio is probably the same as Sublavio, a station mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary, on the highway between Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg) and Verona: and it is believed to correspond with Seben, in the valley of the Eisach, a little south of Brixen. It is from this intervention of the bishop of Seben on behalf of the Lombard garrison that Malfatti infers that the Lombard duchy, before the Frankish invasion, included the valley of the lower Eisach, a probable but not a proved hypothesis.

18 Twelve shillings.

19 £360. The words used by Paulus (see note on p31) are peculiar. The last four words seem a roundabout way of saying that the garrison were 600 in number, if that be the writer's meaning. Is it possible that he means that the ransom varied from one solidus for a common soldier to 600 solidi for a chieftain?

20 See Greg. Tur. X.3 for the ravages committed by the Frankish troops in their own territory.

21 The words of Paulus, 'datus est eidem loco dux Gaidoaldus,' sound as if he had no hereditary claim to succeeded Euin.

22 'Hoc anno Gaidoaldus dux de Tridento et Gisulfus de Forojuli cum antea a regis Agilulfi societate discordarent, ab eo in pace recepti sunt' (Paulus, H. L. IV.27). If we are to take 'hoc anno' precisely, and as referring to what goes before, the death of the Emperor Maurice, the reconciliation of the two dukes must be dated in 602. But it seems rather to be connected with what follows — the baptism of Adalwald, which took place in 603.

23 'Sequenti quoque mense Martis defunctus est apud Tridentum Secundus servus Christi de quo saepe jam diximus, qui usque ad sua tempora succinctam de Langobardorum gestis composuit historiolam' (Paulus, H. L. IV.40).

Thayer's Note:

a An Austrian territory when Hodgkin wrote, thus he properly refers to it by its German name; he will mention the Austro-Italian border a few paragraphs further on, which is much farther north now that the Trentino is part of Italy, having been won from Austria in World War I. The territory's capital city is thus now usually referred to by its Italian name, Trento; in English, often called Trent (as for example in the name of the church council mentioned by Hodgkin).

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