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Bill Thayer

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Book IX
Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a section of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

published by the Clarendon 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 IX
Chapter 3

Note A

The Chronicon Salernitanum on Arichis and his family

This work is so evidently unhistorical as far as the events of the eighth century are concerned, that it is better not to attempt to combine it with our genuine historical authorities, meagre as they are. But as it is possible that a few grains of truth may be mingled with the alloy of legend given us by this anonymous author, I propose briefly to abstract what he has to tell us concerning Arichis, prince of Benevento.

(c. 19) Before he came to the throne he was once worshipping with his prince in the church of St. Stephen at Capua: and when all the young men had come into the church armed with their daggers after the fashion of the Lombards and were uttering the usual prayers, young Arichis began to sing 'Miserere mei Deus.' When he came to the words 'Spiritus principalis confirma me,'​1 the sheath of his dagger began to tremble as though some one shook it. Prayer being ended, he told his companions, with fear, what had happened. One of them, who was wiser than the rest, said, 'I believe thou wilt not depart out of this transitory life till the Lord has led thee to this dignity.' Accordingly on the death of Liudprand [sic] he was chosen prince, not by bribery, but by the unanimous voice of his countrymen.

(c. 20) This is the pedigree of Arichis:

[image ALT: A genealogical tree of the immediate family of Arichis duke of Benevento. The top line has 'Arichis, †787, Anno Aetatis 53, Anno Regni, 30' married to 'Adelperga, daughter of Desiderius'. The rank below is that of their five children, oldest left to right, 'Romwald, † July 21, 787, Anno Aet. 25; Grimwald, †807, Anno Aet. 37; Gisif (Gisulf); Theoderada; Adelchisa.']

(c. 10) Paulus Diaconus (having fallen into disfavour with Charles) was taken by Arichis into his palace, and received from him servants, fine clothes, and good food. They often spake together concerning the liberal arts, and when they spake of the  p92 Holy Scriptures the prince felt his heart burn within him. Once they began to talk about Charles, and Paulus said, 'As far as I can guess, Charles will come against you with a great army.' This induced Arichis to leave Benevento and fortify Salerno, a very strong place, abounding in wealth and store of provisions; and Arichis made it into a very strong fortress.

(c. 8) Now Charles before this, on being confirmed as king of all Italy, was much enraged that Arichis alone despised his commands and placed a precious crown on his own head. When he heard these tidings he swore a great oath, 'Unless with this sceptre which I hold in my hand I can strike the breast of Arichis, I am unwilling to live.'

(c. 10, continued.) So now Charles came against him with a mighty army composed of all the nations under his sway, and in great wrath. Arichis raised yet higher the walls of Salerno, and sent to summon all the chief bishops of his principality. They came to him in his secret chamber, and he with downcast face implored their blessing and the help of their counsel. The bishops clothed themselves with sackcloth and rode forth upon their asses to meet King Charles, praying all the way. They passed through Capua, and found the king encamped on the banks of the Garigliano. When near the camp they dismounted and walked in procession, each one preceded by a cleric bearing his crosier. The king saw them afar off, and being told that they were the bishops of Benevento, said, 'Why should they come to me, seeing that they already placed a crown of gold on their prince's head?' The bishops drew nigh and fell on their faces to the ground. At the king's command they arose trembling, and the king said to them, 'I see shepherds without any sheep.' Plucking up courage they said, 'The wolf has come and scattered the sheep.' In angry tones the king said, 'Who is the wolf? 'Yourself,' said the bishops boldly. Perceiving their courage the king replied more gently, 'I was born again in the sacred wave, am called a Christian, and often defend my body with the sign of the cross. Why do you call me wolf?' David, bishop of Benevento,​2 said, 'Be not angry if I speak. With no desire to insult you do we liken you to a beast, but as the wolf tears the prey which he has caught, so if you became lord of our  p93 Samnium would you, wolf-like, rend asunder the bodies of many Christians. The Lord says to you, "I from the last of the people made thee Emperor​3 (sic), gave thy enemy into thy hand, placed thy seed upon the throne, gave thee a toil-less triumph, and now thou seekest to triumph at the cost of My faithful ones whom I redeemed with My blood." '

(c. 11) The Emperor pleaded that he was bound by his oath not to return till he had struck the breast of Arichis with his sceptre. The bishops reminded him of Herod's oath which led to the execution of John the Baptist and which he ought to have broken, but they said that they would find a way to enable him to fulfil his oath without harming any man.

Next day the king called upon them to fulfil their promise, and they led him to the church of St. Stephen (apparently in or near Capua). After prayers the king said, 'I will give Arichis high rank among my followers, only this one thing I insist upon, that he shall become my armour-bearer and servant.'​4

In great fear the bishops showed the king a great [mosaic] portrait of Arichis. The king in a rage accused them of making game of him, and said that unless they fulfilled their promise of bringing him into the presence of Arichis he would send them into banishment in Gaul.

Bishops. 'To Gaul if you like, or to Africa if you like. We have done what we promised and do not fear your threats."

Charles. 'Did you promise to show me clay, or a man? variegated colours, or the real form of man?'

Bishops. 'Be not angry, Lord Emperor! Arichis himself is clay. God formed man out of the dust of the earth, and to dust we must all return. Fulfil your oath if you will on this picture of Arichis: for Arichis himself you shall not see till the Day of Judgment.'

The king in anger struck the breast of the pictured prince with his sceptre and caused the crown​5 which was upon his head to crumble and fall, adding these words: 'So be it with every one who puts upon his head that to which he has no right.' The bishops fell on their faces and adored Charles, praying that peace might at once be ratified. This was done: Grimwald was  p94 handed over as a hostage; the bishops went back to their fields; the king returned by the way by which he had come, and one of the most eminent of the Frankish nobles was sent to Salerno to ratify the peace and receive the hostages.

(cc. 12‑13) When this ambassador arrived at the court of Arichis he was received with great pomp and passed through successive groups of courtiers.

First he saw lads holding sparrow-hawks and other birds in their hands; then young men in the flower of their age holding hawks; then middle-aged grey-haired men with various equipments; and lastly, old men, each bearing a staff in his hand.

The ambassador, as he came to each group, expected to find the king there,​6 but each time was told to fare forward, and at last found Arichis on his golden throne, surrounded by the old men. When he saw him the ambassador fell prone on the ground and worshipped him, declaring that what he saw surpassed all the fame of his splendour. When he beheld all the wisdom of Arichis, his servants, his tables, and so forth, he was amazed, and [like the Queen of Sheba] there was no more spirit left in him.

There were come who said that Charles himself was present, disguised, in the train of the ambassador, in order that he might gaze on the far‑famed magnificence of Arichis.

(c. 17) After Arichis had reigned twenty-nine years and six months, being now in mature age, he died peacefully at Salerno, and was buried near the church of the Virgin. At the same time bishop Roppert presided over the Church, and for love of Arichis he caused a chamber to be erected over his tomb and that of his wife and son. For he was a man mild and courageous, and admirably imbued with liberal learning. Besides his fortification of Salerno, he built in it a palace of rare bigness and beauty, and on the north side a church in honour of Saints Peter and Paul, on the site, it is said, of an old sanctuary of Priapus; and there prince Arichis found a great idol of gold which he used for the gilding of the church.

(c. 18) He was not puffed up nor elated by the great victory which he won over the Greeks (sic), but showed his gratitude to the Creator by clothing many poor people.

 p95  (c. 23) On the death of Arichis the people of Benevento sent to Charles begging him to restore Grimwald his son. Charles said to the young prince, 'I hear that thy father is dead,' and Grimwald answered, 'Lord Emperor! as far as I can conjecture, my father is safe and his glory will live for ever.'

(c. 24) Charles. 'Thy father has really vanished from the light of day.'

Grimwald. 'From the day when I came under thy rule I have had neither father nor mother nor any kinsman but thee.'

Then the nobles who stood by said, 'He is worthy to receive the Samnite duchy.'

Charles. 'Dost thou wish to see thine own land again?'

Grimwald. 'I do, my Lord.'

Charles. 'Swear then that as soon as thou hast entered Salerno, thou wilt pull down its walls to the very foundations, and wilt deal in like manner with Cumsa and Aggerentia.'

(c. 25) Having given this promise Grimwald was sent back to Benevento with many gifts, accompanied by two of Charles's most illustrious courtiers, Autharis and Paulipert, whom Grimwald was to enrich in his own principality and to marry to noble wives.

(cc. 26‑20) Ere they came to the Vulturno they were received by an immense multitude of his subjects. About one thousand people of both sexes and all ages poured forth from Benevento to meet the young prince, singing, 'Come, O shepherd of thy people, thou who after God art our salvation.' Having entered the city and paid his devotions in the church of the Virgin, he passed on to Salerno, where the welcome was even more enthusiastic than at Benevento. Here too were a thousand of his subjects, who shouted, 'Come, O lord! come thou who fearedst not to deliver over thine body for thy sheep.' Here too he went to the church of the Virgin, implored pardon for his sins, and shed tears over the graves of his father and his brother.

The nobles complained of the proposed destruction of the splendid walls reared by the most pious father of the prince. When Grimwald pleaded the necessity laid upon him by his oath they acquiesced: 'Thou art our lord; do whatever is right in thine eyes.' Having built a new and safer stronghold at Veteri (Vietri) Grimwald returned to Salerno, [destroyed its walls,] and  p96 went with a strong army to Cumsa. He so demolished the walls of this place (which is safe enough without any walls) that it looked like a ruined city. Then he went to Aggerentia (Acerenza), whose fortifications he also levelled, but built another stronger city near it. For not far from that city was a great mountain which he climbed and diligently surveyed, and as it pleased his eye he directed his men to build a city there. So he lingered in the territory of Apulia till that city was built to the top‑stone. Then he travelled round the borders of Calabria, and great gifts were brought to him there.

The Author's Notes:

1 'Uphold me with Thy free spirit' (Psalm li.14).º

2 The epitaph on Romwald was written by this bishop.

3 Of course Charles in the year 787 was not yet Emperor.

4 The text is obscure here and my interpretation is doubtful.

5 Probably a gilt crown, such as those in Byzantine mosaics.

6 The Monk of St. Gall (II.6) tells a similar story, probably a pure fiction, about the reception of the Byzantine ambassadors at the court of Charles.

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Page updated: 4 May 20