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Book VII
Chapter 7

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 9

Book VII (continued)

Vol. VI
Chapter VIII

Story of the Duchies, continued

Following the course of the chief highway of Lombard history, we have now emerged from the seventh century and have arrived at the threshold of the reign of the greatest, and nearly the last, of the Lombard kings. But before tracing the career of Liutprand, we must turn back to consider the changes which forty years had wrought in the rulers of the subordinate Lombard states, and also in the relations of the Empire and the Papacy.

Trient. I. Duchy of Trient

Duke Alahis. Of one turbulent duke of Trient, namely Duke Alahis, we have already heard, and marked his attempts, his almost successful attempts, to overthrow the sovereigns who ruled at Pavia by the combined exertions of all the cities of the Lombard Austria. Apparently the forces of the Tridentine duchy were exhausted by this effort, for we hear nothing concerning the successors of Alahis in the remaining pages of Paulus Diaconus.

Friuli. II. Duchy of Friuli

The story of the duchy of Friuli, perhaps on account of the historian's own connection with that region, is much more fully told.

 p328  The brave Wechtari from Vicenza was succeeded in the duchy by Landari, and he by Rodwald. These to us are names and nothing more, Duke Ansfrit. but Rodwald during his absence from Cividale was ousted from his duchy by a certain Ansfrit, an inhabitant (probably a count or gastald) of Reunia,​1 on the banks of the Tagliamento. Rodwald fled into Istria, and thence by way of Ravenna (evidently at this time there were friendly relations between king and exarch) he made his way to the court of Cunincpert. Ansfrit's invasion of the duke of Friuli had taken place without the king's sanction, and now, not content with the duchy, he aspired to the crown, and marched westward as far as Verona. There, however, he was defeated, taken prisoner, and sent to the king. According to the barbarous Byzantine fashion of the times, his eyes were blinded and he was sent into exile. For some reason or other, probably on account of his proved incapacity, Ado. Rodwald was not restored, but the government of the duchy was vested in his brother Ado, who, however, ruled only with the title of Caretaker (Loci Servator). Duke Ferdulf. After he had governed for nineteen months he died, and was succeeded by Ferdulf, who came from Liguria in the West, a stirring chief, but somewhat feather-headed and unstable,​2 in whose occupation of the duchy a notable event occurred.3

His wars with the Sclovenes. The Sclovenic neighbours of Friuli were much given  p329 to cattle-lifting excursions across the border, by which the Lombards of the plain suffered severely. Apparently Duke Ferdulf thought that one regular war would be more tolerable than these incessant predatory inroads: or else it was, as Paulus asserts, simply from a vainglorious desire to pose as conqueror of the Sclovenes that he actually invited these barbarians to cross over into his duchy, and bribed certain of their leaders to support the expedition in the councils of the nation.​4 Never was a more insane scheme devised, and the danger of it was increased by Ferdulf's want of prudence and self-control. Quarrel with Argait. A certain sculdahis5 or high-bailiff of the king, named Argait, a man of noble birth and great courage and capacity, had pursued the Sclovene depredators after one of their incursions, and had failed to capture them. 'No wonder,' said the hot‑tempered duke, 'that you who are called Argait can do no brave deed, but have let those robbers escape you' (Arga being the Lombard word for a coward).​6 Thereat the Sculdahis, in a tremendous rage at this most unjust accusation, replied, 'If it please God, Duke Ferdulf, thou and I shall not depart this life before it has been seen which of us  p330 two is the greater Arga.' Soon after this interchange of vulgar abuse​7 came the tidings that the mighty army of the Sclovenes, whose invasion Ferdulf had so foolishly courted, was even now at hand. They came, probably pouring down through the Predil Pass, under the steep cliffs of the Mangert, and round the buttresses of the inaccessible Terglou. Ferdulf saw them encamped at the top of a mountain, steep and difficult of access, and began to lead his Lombards round its base, that he might turn the position, which he could not scale. But then outspake Argait: 'Remember, Duke Ferdulf, that you called me an idle and useless thing, in the speech of our countrymen an Arga.​8 Now may the wrath of God light upon that one of us who shall be last up that mountain, and striking at the Sclaves.' With that he turned his horse's head, and charged up the steep mountain. Stung by his taunts, and determined not to be outdone, Ferdulf followed him all the way up the craggy and pathless places. The army, thinking it shame not to follow its leader, pressed on after them. Thus was the victory given over to the Sclovenes, who had only to roll down stones and tree-trunks​9 on the ascending Lombards, and needed neither arms nor valour to rid them of their foes, nearly all of  p331 whom were knocked from their horses and perished miserably.

There fell Ferdulf himself, and Argait, and all the nobles of Friuli; such a mass of brave men as might with forethought and a common purpose have done great things for their country; all sacrificed to foolish pique and an idle quarrel.10

There was indeed one noble Lombard who escaped, almost by a miracle. This was Munichis, whose two sons, Peter and Ursus, long after were dukes of Friuli and Ceneda respectively. He was thrown from his horse, and one of the Sclovenes came upon him and they tied his hands; but he, though thus manacled, contrived to wrest the Sclovene's lance from his right hand, to pierce him with the same, and then, all bound as he was, to scramble down the steep side of the mountain and get away in safety.

Duke Corvolus. In the room of the slain Ferdulf, a certain Corvolus obtained the ducal dignity. Not long, however, did he rule the city of Forum Julii, for, having fallen in some way under the displeasure of the king (apparently Aripert II), he was, according to that monarch's usual custom, deprived of his eyes, and spent the rest of his life in ignominious seclusion. This and several other indications of the same kind clearly show that these northern dukes had not attained nearly the same semi-independent position which had been achieved by their brethren of Spoleto and Benevento.

 p332  Duke Pemmo. To him succeeded Pemmo, and here we seem to reach firmer ground, for this is the father of two well-known kings of the Lombards, and we may yet read in a church of Cividale a contemporary inscription bearing his name. The father of Pemmo was a citizen of Belluno named Billo, who having been engaged in an unsuccessful conspiracy, probably against the duke of his native place, came as an exile to Forum Julii, and spent the remainder of his days as a peaceful inhabitant of that city.

Pemmo himself, who is highly praised by Paulus as a wise and ingenious man, and one who was useful to his fatherland,​11 must have risen early to a high position by his ability, for ancestral influence must have been altogether wanting. He probably became duke of Friuli somewhere about 705,​12 a few years before the death of Aripert II, and held the office for about six and twenty years. The history of his fall will have to be told in connection with the reign of Liutprand, but meanwhile we may hear the story of his family life, as quaintly told by Paulus.13

 p333  Pemmo's domestic relations. 'This Pemmo had a wife named Ratperga, who, as she was of a common and countrified appearance,​14 repeatedly begged her husband to put her away and marry another wife whose face should be more worthy of so great a duke.

But he, being a wise man, said that her manners, her humility, and her shame-faced modesty pleased him more than personal beauty. This wife bore to Pemmo three sons, namely, Ratchis, Ratchait, and Aistulf, all vigorous men, whose careers made glorious their mother's lowliness.

'Moreover, Duke Pemmo, gathering round him the sons of all those nobles who had fallen in the above described war [with the Sclovenes], brought them up on an exact footing of equality with his own children.'​15

King Pemmo's altar-slab. I have said that a single existing monument preserves the memory of Duke Pemmo in the city over which he bore sway. Leaving the central portion of Cividale behind him, and crossing the beautiful gorge of the Natisone by the Ponte del Diavolo, the traveller comes to a little suburb, of no great interest in itself, and containing a modernised church, the external appearance of which will also probably fail to interest him, the little church of St. Martin. The altar of this church is adorned with a bas‑relief in a barbarous style of ecclesiastical art. A rudely carved effigy of Christ between two winged saints (possibly the Virgin and John the Baptist)​16 is surrounded by four angels, whose large hands, twisted bodies, and curiously folded  p334 wings show a steep descent of the sculptor's art from the days of Phidias. Round the four slabs which make up the altar runs an inscription,​17 not easy to decipher, which records in barbarous Latin the fact that the illustrious and sublime Pemmo had restored the ruined church of St. John, and enriched it with many gifts, having amongst other things presented it with a cross of fine gold; and that his son Ratchis had adorned the altar with beautifully coloured marbles. Here then, in this little, scarce noticed church, we have a genuine relic of the last days of the Lombard monarchy.​a

Benevento. III. Duchy of Benevento

Our information as to the history of this duchy during the period in question is chiefly of a genealogical kind, and may best be exhibited in the form of a pedigree.

 p335  We hear again of the piety of Theuderada, the heroine of the legend of St. Barbatus, and we are told that she built a basilica in honour of St. Peter outside the walls of Benevento, and founded there a convent, in which dwelt many of the 'maids of God.' Duke Grimwald II. Her son, Grimwald II, married, it will be observed, a daughter of King Perctarit and sister of Cunincpert. Apparently, therefore, the strife between the royal and the ducal line, which was begun by the usurpation of Grimwald, might now be considered as ended.

Duke Gisulf I. After Grimwald's short reign he was succeeded by a brother, Gisulf I, whose name recalled the ancestral connection of his family with Friuli, and their descent from the first Gisulf, the marpahis of Alboin.

Duke Romwald II. Gisulf's son, Romwald II, reigned at the same time as King Liutprand, and his story, with that of his family, will have to be told in connection with that king, whose sister he married.

Conquest of Tarentum by Romwald I. Though we hear but little of the course of affairs during these years in the 'Samnite duchy,' it is evident that Lombard power was increasing and the power of the Emperors diminishing in Southern Italy. Romwald I collected a great army with which he marched against Tarentum and Brundisium, and took those cities. 'The whole of the wide region round them was made subject to his sway.'​18 This probably means that the whole of the Terra di Otranto, the vulnerable heel of Italy, passed under Lombard rule. Certainly the ill‑judged expedition of Constans was  p336 well avenged by the young Lombard chief whom he thought to crush.

Romwald's son, Gisulf, pushed the border of his duchy up to the river Liris, wresting from the Ducatus Romae the towns of Sora, Arpinum,​19 and Arx. It is interesting to observe that in our own day the frontier line between the States of the Church (representing the Ducatus Romae) and the kingdom of Naples (representing the duke of Benevento) was so drawn as just to exclude from the former Sora, Arpino, and Rocca d'Arce.

Invasion of Campania by Gisulf I. It was during the pontificate of John VI (701‑705), and possibly at the same time that these conquests were made, that Gisulf invaded Campania with a large force, burning and plundering; and arriving at the great granary of Puteoli,​20 pitched his camp there, no man resisting him. By this time he had taken an enormous number of captives, but the Pope sending some priests to him 'with apostolic gifts,' ransomed the captives out of his hands, and persuaded Gisulf himself to return without further ravages to his own land.

Spoleto. IV. Duchy of Spoleto

Here, too, we have little more than the materials for a pedigree, as the remarkable denudation of historical materials which was previously noticed​21 still continues.

 p337  Transamund, Grimwald's ally, becomes Duke of Spoleto, 663 (?). It will be remembered that Grimwald of Benevento, in his audacious and successful attempt on the Lombard crown (661) was powerfully aided by Transamund, Count of Capua, whom he ordered to march by way of Spoleto and Tuscany to collect adherents to his cause, and that soon after his acquisition of sovereign power, he rewarded his faithful ally by bestowing on him the duchy of Spoleto, and the hand of one of his daughters.

Transamund appears to have reigned for forty years (663‑703).​22 Duke Farwald II. He was succeeded by his son Farwald II, evidently named after the famous Duke Farwald of an earlier day, the founder of the duchy, and the conqueror of Classis. Notwithstanding the long reign of Transamund, his son appears to have been young at his accession, and his uncle Wachilapus was associated with him in the dukedom.23

 p338  The story of Farwald II, and his turbulent son Transamund II, will be related when we come to deal with the reign of Liutprand.​b

The Author's Notes:

1 Now Ragogna, about thirty miles west of Cividale.

2 'Homo lubricus et elatus.'

3 Paulus (H. L. VI.3 and 24) gives us no date for these transactions. We can only say that the usurpation of Ansfrit occurred during the reign of Cunincpert (688‑700). After that all is vague.

4 'Qui dum victoriae laudem de Sclavis habere cupiit, magna sibi et Forojulanis detrimenta invexit. Is praemia quibusdam Sclavis dedit, ut exercitum Sclavorum in eadem (sic) provinciam suâ adhortatione immitterent' (Paulus, H. L. VI.24).

5 Called Sculdhaizo in the laws of Rothari (see p232).

6 Thus we read in the laws of Rothari (381) that if any one called another Arga, and afterwards pleads that he only said it in passion, he must first swear that he does not really know him to be Arga, and then for his insulting words must pay a fine of 12 solidi (£7 4s.). If he sticks to it that the other man is Arga, the matter must be settled by single combat.

7 'Haec cum sibi invicem vulgaria verba locuti fuissent' (Paulus, H. L. VI.24). Yet vulgaria verba probably means rather words spoken in the non‑Roman, barbaric tongue, than precisely what we understand by 'vulgar.'

8 'Memento, dux Ferdulf, quod me esse inertem et inutilem dixeris et vulgari verbo arga vocaveris.'

9 'Et magis lapidibus ac securibus quam armis contra eos pugnantes.' I take it that 'secures' were used in felling trees to be used as above.

10 'Tantique ibi viri fortes per contentionis malum et improvidentiam debellati sunt, quanti possent per unam concordiam et salubre consilium multa millia sternere aemulorum' (Paulus, H. L. VI.24). True for many other passages in Lombard history besides this.

11 'Qui fuit homo ingeniosus et utilis patriae' (Paulus, H. L. VI.26). Of course 'ingeniosus is not quite accurately translated by 'ingenious.' If the word 'talented' were ever admissible one would like to use it as a translation of 'ingeniosus.'

12 De Rubeis (p319) fixes his accession at this time, I know not on what authority.

13 Pedigree of Pemmo: —

14 'Quae cum esset facie rusticana' (Paulus, H. L. VI.26).

15 Ibid.

16 To the latter of whom the church was originally dedicated.

17 The inscription is thus given by Troya (Cod. Dip. Lang. No. DXXXIX), but I am not certain of its accuracy: —

(1) de maxima dona xpi ad clarit svbeimi concessa Pemmoni vbiqve dirvto

(2) formarentvr vt templa nam ei inter reliqvas

(3) solarivm Beati Johannis ornabit pendola ex avro pvlchro alt

(4) are ditabit marmoris colore Rat . chis hidebohohrit.

(It is suggested that this last barbarous word is the name of the fara of Pemmo.)

Thayer's Note: The inscription, running around the altar on the upper border, reads (according to Nicolette Gray, "The Paleography of Latin Inscriptions in the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Centuries in Italy", Papers of the British School at Rome [1948], 16:66):

(1) Maxima dona Xpi ad clarit svblemi concessa Pemmoni vbiqve dirvto

(2) formarentvr vt templa nam et inter reliqvas

(3) donvm beati Johannis ornabit pendola + tegvro pvlchro al

(4) tare ditabit marmoris colore Ratechis hidebohohrit

As can be seen in this photograph of the front of the altar, the inscription, being found in precisely the area most subjected to wear, has become hard to read.

18 'Parique modo Brundisium et omnem illam quae in circuitu est latissimam regionem suae dicioni subjugavit' (Paulus, H. L. VI.1).

19 Paulus calls it Hirpinum (H. L. VI.27).

20 The remarks of Beloch in his 'Campanien,' p137, make me think that 'locum qui dicitur Horrea' must = Puteoli.

21 See p96.

22 These are the dates assigned by Bethmann (Neues Archiv, III.238 and 243), and accepted by Waitz. A donation of Farwald II in the Regesto di Farfa (II.22) is assigned by the editors to 705.

23 'Igitur defuncto Transamundi duce Spolitanorum Farualdus, ejus filius, in loco patris est subrogatus. Denique Wachilapus germanus fuit Transamundi et cum fratre pariter eundem rexit ducatum' (Paulus, H. L. VI.30). One is inclined to think either that Transamundi is a mistake for Faroaldi, or that we should read for 'fratre' 'fratris filio' (the view adopted in the text).

Thayer's Notes:

a The altar of Ratchis, as it is known today, has been moved from the church of S. Martino to the diocesan art museum near the cathedral.

Setting aside Hodgkin's pejorative characterization of the altar reliefs as barbarous, etc., which would not be that of any art expert today, his description also includes an error of fact: Christ is flanked not by two saints, but by two seraphim, clearly recognizable as such by their six wings.

A good detailed page on the altar can be found at Capsa, ars scriptoria.

b Chapters X and XII.

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