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Bill Thayer

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Book VII
Chapter 2, init.
(I: Trient)

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.
(III: Benevento)

Book VII (continued)

Vol. VI
Chapter II (continued)

The Four Great Duchies

p37 II. Duchy of Friuli


Source: —


Guides: —

My chief guide for this section is De Rubeis, Monumenta Ecclesiae Aquilejensis (Argentinae, 1740); but I have also received much benefit from the conversation and writings of Cav. G. Grion, a learned and patriotic citizen of Cividale. On the difficult question of Gisulf's genealogy I have been much helped by two papers in the first volume of Crivellucci's Studi Storici. The ordinary theory identifying Alboin's nephew with the Gisulf who was killed in the Avar invasion in the early part of the seventh century is beset with chronological difficulties, for a full statement of which I must refer to those papers. I accept Crivellucci's theory of two Gisulfs, but venture to differ from him by suggesting that Gisulf II may have been nephew, not grandson, of Gisulf I.

Situation of Friuli. From the Armenian convent,a or from any island on the north of Venice, the traveller on a clear afternoon in spring sees the beautiful outline of a long chain of mountains encircling the north-eastern horizon. He enquires their names, and is told that they are the mountains of Friuli. Possibly the lovely lines of Byron's 'Childe Harold' recur to his memory: —

'The moon is up, and yet it is not night;

Sunset divides the sky with her; a sea

Of glory streams along the Alpine height

Of blue Friuli's mountains';

and the very name Friuli bears to his ears a sound of idyllic beauty and peace. Yet the name really speaks of war and of prosaic trade; of the march of legions and the passage of long caravans over dusty Alpine roads to the busy and enterprising Aquileia. Friuli,  p38 once Forum Julii,1 derived its name, perhaps its origin, from the greatest of the Caesars, who probably established here a market for the exchange of the productions of Italy with those of the neighbouring Noricum, with which it communicated by means of the Pass of the Predil. Reading as we do in Caesar's Commentaries so much about his operations in Trans-Alpine Gaul and in Britain, we are in danger of forgetting the vast amount of quiet work of an organising kind which he achieved while tarrying in winter quarters in his other two provinces, Cis‑Alpine Gaul (that is, Northern Italy), and Illyricum. This north-eastern corner of Italy is eloquent of the memory of that work. The mountains which part it off from the tributaries of the Danube are called the Julian Alps; the sequestered valley of the Gail is said to have been named Vallis Julia,2 and two towns, Julium Carnicum, north of Tolmezzo, and this Forum Julii,3 in the valley of the Natisone, also tell of the presence of the great dictator.

Reason for the choice of Forum Julii (now Cividale) as the capital of the border duchy. This place, Forum Julii, now known not as Friuli but as Cividale4 (as having been the chief Civitas of the district), was chosen as the capital of the great  p39 frontier duchy. Aquileia had been the chief city of the province, and the high roads which still converged towards that Venice of the Empire, the Pontebba and Predil Passes, the Pass of the Pear Tree, the road which skirted the Istrian coast — all these gave its distinctive character to the region. But Aquileia, though, as we have seen, it still retained its ecclesiastical importance, was not the place chosen for the seat of the Lombard duke. It was probably too near the sea to be altogether safe from the galleys of Byzantium; it was perhaps already beginning to be tainted with malaria; it was possibly considered not the best place for watching the passes over the mountains. Whatever the cause, the place chosen by the Lombards was, as has been said, Forum Julii, a town which held a respectable position under the Empire,5 but which attained its highest pitch of prosperity and importance under its Lombard rulers. Present aspect of Cividale. Though now shorn of some of its old glory, Cividale is still one of the most interesting and picturesque cities of the Venetian mainland. It is situated on the north-eastern margin of that great alluvial plain, and clings, as it were, to the skirts of the mountains which are climbed by the highway of the Predil Pass. The city is divided from one of its suburbs by a deep gorge, through which,  p40 blue as a turquoise, flow the waters of the river Natisone on their way to the ruins of desolate Aquileia. The gorge is spanned by a noble bridge (Il ponte del Diavolo), and its steep cliffs are crowned by the tower of the church of St. Francesco, and — more interesting to an archaeologist — by the quaint little building called Il Tempietto. This was once a Roman temple, dedicated, it is said, to Juno, but afterwards converted into a Christian basilica. The low marble screen which separates the choir from the nave, and the six statues at the west end, stiff and Byzantine in the faces, but with some remembrance of classical grace in the fall of their draperies, give a decidedly archaic character to the little edifice, and may perhaps date from the days of the Lombards.6

The museum of Cividale is rich in objects of interest; a Roman inscription of the end of the second century making mention of Colonia Forojuliensis; a very early codex of the Four Gospels, with autographs of Theudelinda and other illustrious personages of the Middle Ages;7 the Pax of St. Ursus, an ivory slab about six inches by three, representing the Crucifixion and set in a silver-gilt frame, which used to be handed to strangers to kiss, in token of peace;8 and many other valuable relics of antiquity. The 'Tomba di Gisolfo.' But the relic which  p41 is most important for our present purpose is the so‑called Tomb of Gisulf. This is an enormous sarcophagus, which, when opened, was found to contain a skeleton, a gold breast-plate, a golden boss of a shield, a sword, a dagger, the end of a lance, and a pair of silver spurs. There was also an Arian cross of gold with eight effigies of Christ, and a gold ring with a coin of Tiberius I attached to it, which perhaps served as a seal. Undoubtedly this is the tomb of some great barbarian chief; but, moreover, there are rudely carved upon the lid the letters C𐌹𐍃𐌵L𐍆, which are thought by some to indicate that we have here the tomb of Alboin's nephew, Gisulf I, or his great-nephew, Gisulf II. This opinion is, however, by no means universally accepted, and it has been even asked by a German critic 'whether local patriotism may not have so far misled some enthusiastic antiquary as to induce him in clever fashion to forge the name of the city's hero, Gisulf.'9

Such then is the present aspect of the little city which now bears the proud name of Cividale, and which once bore the even greater name of Forum Julii.10 No doubt the chief reason for making this  p42 a stronghold of Lombard dominion was to prevent that dominion from being in its turn overthrown by a fresh horde of barbarians descending from the mountains of Noricum. Alboin remembered but too well that entrancing view of Italy which he had obtained from the summit of 'the royal mountain,' and desired not that any Avar Khan or Sclovene chieftain should undergo the same temptation, and stretch out his hand for the same glittering prize.

Gisulf, first duke of Forum Julii. It was then with this view that (as has been already related)11 Alboin selected his nephew and master of the horse,12 Gisulf, a 'capable man,' probably of middle age, and made him duke of Forum Julii, assigning to him at his request some of the noblest and most warlike faras, or clans, of the Lombards for his comrades and his subjects. Horses also were needed, that their riders might scour the Venetian plain and bring swift tidings of the advance of a foe; and accordingly Gisulf  p43 received from his sovereign a large troop of brood mares of high courage and endurance.13

Boundaries of the Ducatus Forojuliensis. The boundaries of the duchy of Forum Julii cannot be ascertained with even the same approximation to accuracy which may be reached in the case of the duchy of Tridentum. Northwards it probably reached to the Carnic, and eastwards to the Julian, Alps, including, therefore, the two deep gorges from which issue the Tagliamento and the Isonzo. Southwards it drew as near to the coast-line as it dared, but was limited by the hostile operations of the Byzantine galleys. The desolate Aquileia, however, as we have already seen, was entirely under Lombard, that is, under Forojulian domination, and Concordia was won from the Empire about 615.14 Opitergium (Oderzo) was a stronghold of the Empire in these parts till about the year 642. The Lombard king (Rothari), who then captured the city, beat down its fortifications, and a later king, Grimwald, about 667, having personal reasons of his own for holding Opitergium in abhorrence, razed it to the ground, and divided its inhabitants among the three duchies of Friuli, Treviso,  p44 and Ceneda. The fact of this threefold division gives us some idea how far westward the duchy of Forojuliiº extended. In this direction it was bounded neither by the Alps nor by the unfriendly sea, but by other Lombard territory, and especially by the duchy of Ceneta (Ceneda).15 The frontier line between them is drawn by some down the broad and stony valley of the Tagliamento, by others at the smaller stream of the Livenza.16 On the latter hypothesis Gisulf and his successors ruled a block of territory something like fifty miles from west to east and forty miles from north to south. Broadly speaking, while Aquileia and the roads leading to it gave the distinctive character to this duchy, the necessity of guarding the passes against barbarous neighbours on the north gave its dukes their chief employment. It was emphatically a border principality, and markgraf was the title of its chief in a later century. The neighbours in question were perhaps the Bavarians at the north-west corner of the duchy; but far more emphatically all round its north-eastern and eastern frontiers, the Sclavonians, from whom are descended the Sclovenic inhabitants of the modern duchy of Carniola. Behind these men, in the recesses of Pannonia, roamed their yet more barbarous lords, the Asiatic Avars, the fear of whose terrible raids lay for centuries as a nightmare upon Europe.

 p45  Early rulers of the duchy. For a reason which will shortly be stated, the information vouchsafed to us by Paulus as to the earliest history of the duchy of Friuli is less complete than that which he gives us as to the neighbouring duchy of Trient; an inferiority which is all the more noticeable since the Lombard historian saw in Friuli the cradle of his own race. From the year 568 till about 610, we have only two or three meagre notices of the history of Forum Julii in the pages of Paulus; but some hints let fall in the correspondence of the Exarch of Ravenna with the Frankish king enable us partly to supply the deficiency. Gisulf I. Gisulf, the nephew of Alboin, was, as we are expressly informed, still living at the time of the commencement of the interregnum (575).17 His reign, however, was apparently not a very long one, Grasulf I. for in the year 589 we find another person playing a prominent part in the politics of north-eastern Italy, by name Grasulf; and this man, who was in all probability a brother of Gisulf I, was almost certainly duke of Forum Julii. To this Grasulf who was evidently an influential personage as he was addressed by the title 'Your Highness,'18 a strange but important letter was addressed in the name of the Frankish king Childebert19 by a secretary or other official named  p46 Gogo. Childebert's letter to Grasulf, 589 (?). In this letter the Frankish secretary acts a sort of 'honest broker' between the Emperor and the Lombard chief. He says in brief,

'Your Highness has made known to us by your relation Biliulf a certain proposition very desirable for all parties, which ought to be put into shape at once, that we may break the obstinacy of our foes. The most pious Emperor has signified that he is going to send a special embassy and we may expect its arrival any day: but as time presses we will lay before you two courses and leave it to you to decide between them.

'I. If you can give the Republic sufficient security20 for the fulfilment of your promises, we are prepared to hand over to you the whole sum of money in hard cash. Thus the injuries done to God will cease; the blood of our poor Roman relations will be avenged, and a perpetual peace will be established [between you and the Empire].21

'II. But if you are not satisfied with the authority of the document which conveys to you the Emperor's  p47 offer,22 and therefore cannot yet come to terms, the most pious Emperor will send pleni­potentiaries, and you also should send men to meet them somewhere in our territory. Only we beg that there may be no more delay than such as is necessarily caused by a sea voyage in this winter season; and that you will send persons who have full power finally to settle everything with the representatives of the Emperor.

'Do this promptly, and we are prepared to join our forces with yours for the purpose of revenge [on the common foe], and to show by our actions that we are worthy to be received by the most pious Emperor into the number of his sons.'

Obscure as is the wording of this letter, there can be no doubt as to its general purport. Grasulf, evidently a man of high rank and great power, is a traitor to the national Lombard cause, and is preparing to enter into some sort of federate relation with the Empire, if he can receive a sufficiently large sum of money: and for some reason with which we are not acquainted, the Frankish king, or rather his secretary, is employed as the go‑between to settle the price of Grasulf's fidelity, and the terms of payment.

If the intending traitor was, as I believe him to have been, a nephew of Alboin, and the duke of the great frontier-province of the new kingdom, it is evident that we have here a negociation which might have been of the utmost importance to the destinies of Italy. And the suggestion23 that one motive for  p48 Grasulf's meditated treason may have been resentment at his own exclusion from the throne when, at the end of the interregnum, he, Alboin's nephew, was passed over, and the young Authari was invested with the robes of the restored kingship, seems to me one which has much to recommend it on the score of probability though we can produce no authority in its favour.

Second letter. Exarch Romanus to Childebert, 590. However, the negociations for some reason or other fell through, and Grasulf did not surrender the duchy of Forum Julii to the Empire. For in the year 590, the Exarch Romanus, writing to King Childebert, and describing the course of the war, says, 'Returning [from Mantua] to Ravenna, we decided to march into the province of Istria24 against the enemy Grasulf. When we arrived in this province Duke Gisulf, vir magnificus, son of Grasulf, desiring to show himself in his youthful manhood better than his father, came to meet us that he might submit himself, his chiefs, and his entire army with all devotion to the holy Republic.'25

Here again, though we have no express identification  p49 of the actors in the drama with the ducal family of Friuli, everything agrees with the theory that they are the persons concerned. Duke Grasulf, as we may reasonably conjecture, was only half-hearted in his treachery to the Lombard cause. When it came to the point of actually surrendering fortresses, or giving any other sufficient security for the fulfilment of his compact with the Roman Republic, the negociation broke down. His son Gisulf, who had perhaps succeeded his father Grasulf in the course of this campaign of the Exarch's,26 took an opposite line of policy to his father, and professed that he would do that which Grasulf had failed to do. He would show himself more loyal to the Empire than his father, and would bring over all the heads of the Lombard faras, who were serving under him, and all their men, to the holy Republic.

Gisulf (II) reconciled to Agilulf, 603. However, as far as we can discern the misty movements of these Sub‑Alpine princes, Gisulf did not in the end prove himself any more capable friend to the Empire than Grasulf had done. If there had been any wholesale surrender of Forojulian fortresses to the Exarch we should probably have heard of it from Paulus. As it is, all that the Lombard historian tells us is that Gisulf of Friuli, as well as his brother-duke Gaidwald of Trient, having previously stood aloof from the alliance of King Agilulf, was received by him in  p50 peace after the birth of his son,27 and that Gisulf concurred with the king in promoting the election of Abbot John as the schismatic Patriarch of Aquileia after the death of Severus in 606.28

Invasion of the Avars, 610 (?). But terrible disaster from an unexpected quarter was impending over the house of Gisulf and the duchy of Friuli. We have seen that hitherto, from the time of the Lombards' departure from Pannonia, their relations with the Avar lords of Hungary had been of the most friendly character. There had been treaties of alliance; menacing cautions to the Frankish kings that if they wished peace with the Avars they must be at peace with the Lombards also; joint invasions of Istria; help given by Agilulf to the Great Khan29 by furnishing shipwrights to fit out his vessels for a naval expedition against the Empire.30 Now, for some reason or other, possibly because the Lombards were growing too civilized and too wealthy for the taste of their barbarous neighbours, the relations between the two peoples underwent a disastrous change. Somewhere about the year 610, the Khan of the Avars mustered his squalid host, and with 'an innumerable multitude' of followers appeared on the frontier of Friuli.31 Duke Gisulf set his army in  p51 array, and went boldly forth against the enemy, but all his Lombard faras were few in number in comparison with that multitudinous Tartar horde: they were surrounded and cut to pieces; few fugitives escaped from that terrible combat, and Gisulf himself was not among the number. There was nothing left for the remnant of the Lombards but to shut themselves up in their stronghold, and to wait for the help which doubtless they implored from King Agilulf. Seven strong fortresses, partly in the valley of the Tagliamento and partly under the shadow of the Julian Alps, are expressly mentioned as having been thus occupied by the Lombards, besides the capital and several smaller castles.32

Siege of Forum Julii. But the kernel of the national defence was, of course, Forum Julii itself, where the few survivors of Gisulf's host, with the women and the lads who had been too young for the battle, manned the walls, whence they looked forth with angry, but trembling hearts on the Avar hordes wandering wide over the  p52 fair land, burning, robbing and murdering. Hardly more than a generation had passed since the Lombards had been even thus laying waste the dwellings of the 'Romans,' and now they were themselves suffering the same treatment at the hands of a yet more savage foe. The family of the dead warrior Gisulf, as they stood on the battlements of Forum Julii, consisted of his widow Romilda and his four sons, of whom two, Taso and Cacco, were grown up, while Radwald and Grimwald were still boys. There were also four daughters, two of whom were named Appa and Gaila, but the names of the other two have perished.

Romilda's crime. The Avar host of course besieged Forum Julii, and bent all their energies to its capture. While the Grand Khan was riding round the walls of the city, seeking to espy the weakest point in its fortifications, Romilda looked forth from the battlements, and seeing him in his youthful beauty, felt her heart burn with a shameful passion for the enemy of her people, and sent him a secret message, that if he would promise to take her for his wife she would surrender to him the city with all that it contained. The Khan, with guile in his heart, accepted the treacherous proposal; Romilda caused the gates to be opened; and the Avars were within the city. Every house was, of course, plundered, and the citizens were collected outside the walls that they might be carried off into captivity. The city itself was then given to the flames. As for Romilda, whose lustful heart had been the cause of all this misery, the Khan, in fulfilment of his plighted oath, took her to his tent, and for one night treated her as his wife; but afterwards handed her over to the  p53 indiscriminate embraces of his followers, and finally impaled her on a stake in the middle of the plain, saying that this was the only husband of whom Romilda was worthy. The daughters of the traitress, who did not inherit her vile nature, succeeded by strange devices in preserving their maiden honour; and though sold as slaves and forced to wander through strange lands, eventually obtained husbands worthy of their birth, one of them being married to the king of the Alamanni, and another to the duke of the Bavarians.33

Fate of the Lombard captives. As for the unhappy citizens of Forum Julii, their captors at first somewhat soothed their fears by telling them that they were only going to lead them back to their own former home in Pannonia. But when in the eastward journey they had arrived as far as the Sacred Plain,34 the Avars either changed their minds, or revealed the murderous purpose which they had always cherished, and slaughtered in cold blood the Lombard males who were of full age, dividing the women and children among them as their slaves. The sons of duke Gisulf, seeing the wicked work begun, sprang on their horses, and were about to take flight. But it was only Taso, Cacco, and Radwald who were yet practised horsemen, and the question arose what should be done with the little Grimwald, who was thought to be yet too young to keep his seat on a galloping horse. It seemed a kinder deed to take his life than to leave him to the squalid misery of  p54 captivity amongst the Avars; and accordingly one of his older brothers lifted his lance to slay him. But the boy cried out with tears, 'Do not pierce me with thy lance; I, too, can sit on horseback.' Escape of Grimwald. Thereupon the elder brother stooped down, and catching Grimwald by the arm, swung him up on to the bare back of a horse, and told him to stick on if he could. The lad caught hold of the bridle, and for some distance followed his brothers in their flight. But soon the Avars, who had discovered the escape of the princes, were seen in pursuit. The three elder brothers, thanks to the swiftness of their steeds, escaped, but the little Grimwald fell into the hands of the foremost of the band. The captor deemed it unworthy of him to smite with the sword so young an enemy, and determined rather to keep him, and use him as a slave. He therefore caught hold of his bridle, and moved slowly back to the camp, delighting in the thought of his noble prize: for the slender figure of the princely boy, his gleaming eyes, and thick clustering locks of flaxen hair were fair to behold, especially to one accustomed to nought but the mean Kalmuck visages of the swarthy Avars. But while the captor's heart was swelling with pride, grief at his captivity burned in the soul of Grimwald.

'And mighty thoughts stirred in that tiny breast.'35

He quietly drew from its sheath the little sword which he carried as the child of a Lombard chief, and watching his opportunity dealt with all his might a blow on the crown of the head of his Avar captor.  p55 Wonderful to tell, the stripling's stroke was fatal. The Avar fell dead from his horse, and Grimwald, turning the head of his steed rode fast after his brothers, whom he overtook, and who hailed him with shouts of delight both at his escape, and at his first slaughter of a foe.

So runs the story of Grimwald's escape as told in the pages of Paulus. It is Saga of course: and in order to magnify the deeds of one who became in after years the foremost man of the Lombard nation, it is very possible that the bards have somewhat diminished the age of the youthful warrior. But it is not worth while to attempt the now hopeless task of disentangling poetry from prose. A historian who is so often compelled to lay before his readers mere names of kings and dukes without one touch of portraiture to make them live in the memory, may be excused for wishing that many more such Sagas had been preserved by the Lombard chronicler.

Story of the ancestors of Paulus Diaconus. Happily at this point Paulus interrupts the course of the general history, in order to give us some information as to the fortunes of his own forefathers;36 and this little chapter of family history helps us to understand the immense and terrible importance of the Avar raid into Friuli, a raid which in many ways reminds us of the Danish invasions of Anglo-Saxon England in the ninth and tenth centuries; like them blighting a young and tender civilization, and like them probably destroying many of the records of the past.

 p56  The first of his ancestors mentioned by Paulus is Leupchis,37 who came into Italy in the year 568 at the same time with the great body of his countrymen.38 After living many years in Italy he died, leaving behind him five young sons, who having apparently escaped death by reason of their tender age, were all swept by the tempest of the invasion from Friuli into Avar-land. Here they groaned under the yoke of their captivity for some years; but when they had reached man's estate, the youngest, named Lopichis, by an inspiration from above, conceived the thought of returning to Italy, and regaining his freedom. Having resolved on flight he started, taking with him only his quiver and his bow, and as much food as he could carry. He was utterly ignorant of the road, but, strange to say, a wolf was his guide through the mountain solitudes. When he halted the wolf halted too: when he lagged behind, the creature looked around to see if he were following, and thus he at length perceived that the wild beast was his divinely appointed guide. But after some days' wandering  p57 amid the desolate mountains (probably in the district of the Karawanken Alps) his provisions came to an end, and his death seemed nigh at hand. Faint with hunger, he fitted an arrow to the string and aimed at his heaven-sent guide, thinking that even its flesh might save him from starvation. The wolf, however, seeing what he meditated, vanished from his sight. Then Lopichis, despairing of life, fell to the ground and slept: but in his slumber he saw a man who seemed to say to him, 'Arise! why sleepest thou? Resume thy journey in the opposite direction to that in which thy feet are now pointing, for there lies the Italy of thy desire.' He arose at once, journeyed in the direction indicated, and soon came among the dwellings of man. It was a little Sclavonic village that he entered; and there he found a kindly woman who, perceiving that he was a fugitive, received him into her cottage, and hid him there, and perceiving moreover that he was nearly dead with hunger, gave him food gradually and in small quantities as he was able to bear it. At length, when he had sufficiently recovered his strength, she gave him provisions for the journey, and pointed out to him the road to Italy, which country he entered after certain days. He at once sought his old home, but found no trace of the ancestral dwelling left, only a vast tangle of thorns and briers. Having cleared these away, he came upon a large elm growing within the old enclosure of his home, and in this tree he hung up his quiver.39 Some of his relatives and friends gave him presents which enabled him to rebuild his house and to marry a wife:  p58 but the property which had once been his father's he could not recover, as the men who had occupied it pleaded successfully the rights of long possession. Lopichis was the father of Arichis, Arichis of Warnefrit, and Warnefrit, by his wife Theudelinda (named no doubt in honour of the great Lombard queen) had two sons, one of whom was the historian, and the other (named after his grandfather) was his brother Arichis.40

Dukes Taso and Cacco. We return to the history of the duchy of Friuli, of which, after the death of Gisulf, and the withdrawal of the Avars, Taso and Cacco, the two eldest sons of Gisulf, became joint lords. Extension of territory Northward. They seem to have been valiant in fight, for they pushed the boundaries of their territory northward as far as Windisch-Matrei, adding the whole long valley of the Gail to their dominions, and compelling the Sclovene inhabitants of that region to pay tribute, which they continued to do for more than a century.41

 p59  Treachery of the Exarch (?) Gregory. But the two sons of Gisulf, who had escaped from the swords of the Avars, fell before the vile treachery of a Byzantine official. The Exarch42 Gregory invited the young duke Taso to come and meet him at the Venetian town Opitergium (Oderzo), which was still subject to the Empire, promising to adopt him as his 'filius per arma,' the symbol of which new relationship was the cutting off of the first downy beard of the young warrior by his adoptive father. Fearing no evil, Taso went accordingly to Opitergium with Cacco, and a band of chosen youthful warriors. As soon as they had entered the city, the treacherous governor caused the gates to be shut, and sent a band of armed men to attack the young Forojulian chiefs. Seeing that death was inevitable, they resolved to sell their lives dearly, and having given one another a last farewell, the two dukes and their comrades rushed through the streets and squares of the city slaying all whom they met. The slaughter of Roman citizens was terrible, but in the end all the Lombards were left dead upon the pavement of Opitergium. The Exarch ordered the head of Taso to be brought to him, and with traitorous fidelity cut off the beard of the young chieftain, so fulfilling his promise.43

Such is the story of the massacre of Opitergium  p60 as related to us by the Lombard historian. It is possible that there is another side to the story, and that some excesses of Taso's henchmen may have provoked a tumult, in which he and his brother perished: but as it is told to us the affair reminds us of the meditated massacre of Marcianople;44 and like that massacre it was bitterly avenged.

Grasulf (II) duke. The two young dukes of Friuli being thus cut off in their prime, their uncle Grasulf, brother of Gisulf, succeeded to the vacant duchy.45 Radwald and Grimwald, sore at heart at being thus passed over, took ship, and sailed for Benevento,b where, as we shall  p61 see, they had an old friend in the person of the reigning duke. We, too, will follow their example, and leave Friuli for Benevento, for there is nothing further recorded of the history of the former duchy for half a century after the invasion of the Avars.

The Author's Notes:

1 Called Forum Julium by the cosmographer of Ravenna, but I prefer to adopt the (surely more correct) form of the name used by Paulus.

2 So say Gilbert and Churchill (Dolomite Mountains, p179).

3 There is another and perhaps better known Forum Julii in Provence, the name of which has been transformed in Fréjus.

4 According to De Rubeis (p560), the first trace of the city's new name, 'Civitas Austria,' is to be found in a charter of the year 1097. In the sixteenth century there appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt to revive the old name Forum Julii for the city (p1102). This name, however, was never lost for the district, which, as the Marca or Comitatus Forojuliensis, had a separate existence throughout the Middle Ages, owning the Patriarch of Aquileia as its feudal superior. In 1418 it became subject to Venice as the result of a war between the Patriarch and the Republic.

5 Forum Julii was evidently considered under the Empire one of the three most important places in the district of Carni, which nearly corresponded with the modern duchy of Friuli. Ptolemy (III.1.29) enumerates Forum Julii (Φόρος Ἰούλιος), Concordia and Aquileia as the three chief inland cities of the Carni; and Cassiodorus (Var. XII.26), on behalf of the Gothic king, remits the contributions of cornº and wine which had been ordered from the cities of Concordia, Aquileia and Forum Julii.

6 The Tempietto has been much altered and remodelled; but it seems to be admitted that no important change has been made in it since the eleventh, or at latest the twelfth, century.

7 There is an interesting article by C. L. Bethmann, on the curious signatures scattered over this MS., in the second volume of the Neues Archiv (pp115‑128).

8 On this 'Pax' the sun and moon are represented (probably as veiling their faces at the sight of the Crucifixion). The Sun is represented as a young woman, the Moon as a stern old man; a curious evidence of Teutonic influence on symbolic art.

9 See A. Crivellucci, 'Studi Storici,' I.84, quoting Freudenberg.

10 Bethmann (referring to Venantius Fortunatus in Vita S. Martini) contends that the capital of the duchy, which he calls Castrum Julium, was at first fixed at Julium Carnicum, now the little village of Zuglio, among the mountains to the north of Tolmezzo, and that it was afterwards removed to Cividale. I do not think this theory ought to be accepted. It is most improbable that the Lombard duke would be willing to fix his headquarters so high up among the mountains in the rainiest region of all Europe. At Tolmezzo, some eight miles below Zuglio, the average rainfall for the year is 75 inches, and in one year amounted to 141 inches (see Ball's Eastern Alps, p544). Gisulf might as well, nay better, have remained on the north of the Alps as fix his seat at Julium Carnicum. How would his illustrious faras have relished the prospect of shivering away their lives in those mountain solitudes? and how would the troops of high-bred horses be reared in the narrow valley of the Chiasso? Moreover, by comparing the Antonine Itinerary with the Geographer of Ravenna, we can clearly distinguish Castrum Julium (Zuglio) from Forum Julii (Cividale), and Paulus throughout always speaks of 'Civitas vel potius castrum Forojulianum' as the capital of Gisulf.

[I am informed by S. Grion that the identification of Zuglio with Forum Julii was the device of the citizens of Udine, between which city and Cividale much jealousy existed. The Roman inscription mentioned above puts it beyond a doubt that Cividale was the colony of Forum Julii, and the theory for which Bethmann contended has now scarcely any supporters.]

11 See vol. V p160.

12 Marpahis: derived by Meyer (p298) from marh = horse, and paizan = to bridle (connected with Anglo-Saxon boetan): or, as before remarked = 'the mare-bitter.'

13 'Igitur ut diximus dum Alboin animum intenderet, quem in his locis ducem constituere deberet, Gisulfum, ut fertur, suum nepotem virum per omnia idoneum, qui eidem strator erat, quem linguâ propriâ marpahis appellant, Forojulianae civitati et totae (sic) illius regioni praeficere statuit. Qui Gisulfus non prius se regimen ejusdem civitatis et populi suscepturum edixit, nisi ei quas ipse eligere voluisset Langobardorum faras (hoc est generationes vel lineas) tribueret. Factumque est, et annuente sibi rege quas obtaverat (sic) Langobardorum praecipuas prosapias ut cum eo habitarent accepit. Et ita demum ductoris honorem adeptus est. Poposcit quoque a rege generosarum equarum greges, et in hoc quoque liberalitate principis exauditus est' (H. L. II.9).

14 See Diehl, Études, &c., p50, n. 7, and authorities there cited.

15 As there was the seat of a bishopric at Belluno, we may perhaps conjecturally place the residence of a Lombard duke at that city, ruling the valley of the upper Piave, and possibly part of the valley of the Brenta (see Pabst, p438).

16 See De Rubeis, p223. He remarks, 'Fines ampliores decursu temporum obtinuit Ducatus Forojuliensis.'

17 Paulus (H. L. II.32) mentions 'Gisulfus' as 'dux Forumjuli.'

18 'Vestra Celsitudo.'

19 I take both the date of this letter, and its connection with Childebert, on the authority of Troya and Weise. The letter itself (No. XLII in Troya, IV.1) is simply entitled 'Gogo Grasulpho de nomine regis,' but it seems to be admitted on all hands that this king is Childebert. Gregory of Tours informs us that there was a Gogo who was 'nutricius' ('foster-father') of the child-king Childebert; but he says that he died not long after the sixth year of that king's reign, about 582‑83. If therefore the date assigned to this letter (589) be right, it cannot have been written by that Gogo. But in our great ignorance of the transactions of these times I do not see a thing in the contents of this letter to forbid the hypothesis that it was written about 583 or 584, and therefore possibly by the 'nutricius' Gogo. In that case Crivellucci's suggestion that Grasulf's treason was caused by pique at the election of Authari would receive striking confirmation.

This letter is full of enigmatical passages, partly proceeding from corruption of the text, and I do not pretend to give anything like a literal translation.

20 Or rather perhaps 'if you are satisfied with the security offered you by the Republic,' but Gogo's language is very obscure.

21 'His itaque omnibus adimpletis instituite placita (?) et tentemus pariter Dei injuriam et sanguinem parentibus nostris Romanis (Christo praesule) vindicare, ita ut in perpetuae pacis securitatem, vel de reliquis capitulis utriusque partibus opportunis intercurrentibus, in posterum terminetur.'

22 A conjectural translation of 'Si in vos vigor Pontificii (sic) non consistit ut jam de praesenti possitis haec omnia fiducialiter pacisci.'

23 Made by Crivellucci, p68.

24 Some difficulty has been caused by the use of the words 'the province of Istria,' because it is thought that the territory of Forum Julii would not be included within its limits, the Isonzo having been of old the boundary between Istria and Venetia. But I think that both the express words of Paulus (H. L. II.14) and the usage of Gregory I justify us in saying that Venetia and Istria were at this time always treated as one province, which (especially since the greater part of Venetia had fallen into the hands of the Lombards) was often called by the name of Istria alone.

25 'Ravennam remeantes in Histriam provinciam, contra hostem Grasoulfum deliberavimus ambulare. Quam provinciam venientes, Gisulfus Vir Magnificus, Dux, filius Grasoulfi, in juvenili aetate meliorem se patre cupiens demonstrare, occurrit nobis, ut cum omni devotione Sanctae Reipublicae, se cum suis prioribus et integro suo exercitu, sicut fuit (? fecit) subderet' (Troya, IV.1, No. XLVI). See vol. V p273.

26 We might in this way explain the fact that Romanus marches 'contra hostem Grasoulfum,' and yet that Gisulf is spoken of as 'Dux.' Or his father may have been old and infirm, and he may have been associated with him as 'Dux,' and put in command of the main body of the army which he here proposes to lead over to the enemy.

27 '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).

28 'His diebus defuncto Severo patriarcha ordinatur in loco ejus Johannes Abbas patriarcha in Aquileiâ vetere cum consensu regis et Gisulfi ducis' (Paulus, H. L. IV.33). See vol. V p481.

29 Or Chagan.

30 Paulus, H. L. IV.24, 20.

31 'Circa haec tempora rex Avarum quem sua lingua Cacanum appellant cum innumerabili multitudini veniens Venetiarum fines ingressus est' (Paulus, H. L. IV.37). Some writers, in order to lessen the difficulties of the Gisulf genealogy, bring the Avar invasion forward to 602. The date usually assigned to it is 611. I do not think the vague 'Circa haec tempora' of Paulus immediately following the history of the reign of Phocas (602‑610) will enable us to go further than I have done in the text. If the death of Severus, the Patriarch of Aquileia, occurred in 606, the Avar invasion must be placed after that date, since Gisulf concurred in the nomination of his successor (see Crivellucci, pp79‑80). He places the invasion about 603, but I think this is too early.

32 The seven fortresses are Gemona, Artenia, Osopo and Reunia (perhaps = the modern Ragegna) in the valley of the Tagliamento, Nemae (Nimis) under Monte Bernardin, Ibligo (Ipplis, about five miles south of Cividale), a fortress 'whose position is altogether impregnable,' and Cormones (Cormons), still further to the south, now situated on the railway between Udine and Görz. I take the identification of sites from the M. G. H., but have not as much confidence in them as in Malfatti's work on the Tridentine castles.

33 Paulus, H. L. IV.37, from whom all this narrative is taken, relates these two distinguished marriages of Gisulf's daughters with a 'dicitur.'

34 'Cum patriam revertentes ad campum quem Sacrum nominant pervenissent.' Apparently this place has not been identified with any modern site.

35 Paulus here quotes a line from Virgil —

'Ingentes animos angusto in pectore versans.'

The quotation is from Georgic IV.83, where it is applied to the soldier-bees.

36 'Exigit vero nunc locus, postpositâ generali historiâ, pauca etiam privatim de meâ, qui haec scribo, genealogiâ retexere, et quia res ita postolat (sic) paulo superius narrationis ordinem replicare.'


Genealogy of Paulus Diaconus

38 The language of Paulus seems to leave it doubtful whether Leupchis was actually one of Alboin's soldiers, though he came from Pannonia at the same time as the rest of his countrymen.

39 As a sign of taking possession (?).

40 It seems probable that Paulus has omitted some links in the family genealogy. Three generations are very few to cover the period between the Avar invasion and Charles the Great, between Leupchis, who came (presumably as a full-grown man) into Italy in 568, and Paulus himself, who was born about 720. Besides, it is strange that Leupchis, a grown man in 568, should leave five little children ('pueruli') at the time of the Avar invasion in 610. Most likely, then, owing to the destruction of records during that invasion, a generation has been omitted from the historian's own pedigree, as well as from that of duke Gisulf. Even after Lopichis' return the number of generations (say three to 120 years if Lopichis was born in 600) is somewhat scanty, though not impossibly so.

41 Till the time of duke Ratchis (740). 'Hi suo tempore, Sclavorum regionem quae Zellia appellatur usque ad locum qui Medaria dicitur possiderunt (sic). Unde usque ad tempora Ratchis ducis idem Sclavi pensionem Forojulanisº ducibus persolverunt' (Paulus, H. L. IV.38). For the identification of Zellia with the Gail-thal I am indebted to Gilbert and Churchill (Dolomite Mountains, p179 note). It seems to me much more probable than the identification with Cilli. For Medaria, Waitz suggests Windisch-Matrei.

42 Paulus calls him 'Patricius Romanorum,' but we can hardly be wrong in interpreting this to mean Exarch.

43 'Fredegarius' (so‑called) tells a story (IV.69) which seems to be derived from this, as to the murder of Taso, 'duke of Tuscany,' by the Patrician Isaac. According to him Charoald (Ariwald), king of the Lombards, offers Isaac that he will remit one of the three hundredweights of gold which the Empire pays yearly to the Lombards if he will put Taso out of the way. Isaac accordingly invites Taso to Ravenna, offering to help him against 'Charoald,' whom Taso knows that he has displeased. Taso repairs to Ravenna with a troop of warriors, who, through fear of the Emperor's displeasure, are prevailed upon to leave their arms outside the walls. They enter the city, and the prepared assassins at once rush upon and kill them. Thenceforward the yearly beneficia from the Empire to the Lombards are reduced from three hundredweights of gold to two. Soon after 'Charoald' dies. As Ariwald's reign lasted from 626 to 636, and as Isaac did not become Exarch till 620, it seems to me absolutely impossible in any way to reconcile this wild story with the events described by Paulus, which must have happened many years earlier. Either 'Fredegarius,' who is a most unsafe guide, has got hold of an utterly inaccurate version of the death of Taso, son of Gisulf II, or the coincidence of name is accidental, and the story of 'Fredegarius' relates to some completely different series of events to which we have lost the clue.

44 See vol. I p109 (p257, second edition).

45 I do not attempt to assign any date for these events. De Rubeis puts the Avar invasion in 615, the accession of Grasulf (II) 616, and his death 661. The last date is almost certainly too late, but we have only conjecture to guide us.

Thayer's Notes:

a S. Lazzaro degli Armeni, on a very small island, the easternmost of all islands south of Venice; the southern islands west of it may have their northeastward views of the mountains on the mainland obscured by the city, but S. Lazzaro does not.

The hospitable Armenian Mekhitarist convent of S. Lazzaro has for centuries been a renowned place of study, with its scholarly press (only recently closed) and its library of ancient works, set in the peace of an isolated garden overlooking the Venetian lagoon: it's not hard to read here a fond memory of Hodgkin's for the place where he must have spent many days in tranquil research.

b An awkward phrase, which might mislead some. Benevento is an inland city, 50 km from the sea, and its river, the Calore, is not navigable. The brothers likely sailed to Naples and proceeded from there on horseback.

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