The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians
THE LOMBARD INVASION OF ITALY
THE ORIGIN OF THE LOMBARDS---CHANGES IN SOUTH GERMANY---THE LOMBARD MIGRATIONS---THE ADVENT OF THE AVARS---THE DESTRUCTION OF THE GEPIDAE---THE LOMBARD SETTLEMENTS IN ITALY---THE LOMBARD POLITY
THE ORIGIN OF THE LOMBARDS
The Roman Emperor Justinian had hardly resumed the administration of Italy in his own hands, the Roman citizens had scarcely got rid of the foreigners who had been established in their midst, when a new host of invaders descended into Italy, to establish a dominion of a very different kind of from that of Odovacar and Theoderic. The people who now appear on the scene are the Langobardi, who during the past four centuries have been moving about in central Europe in a way which it is very difficult to trace. We meet them at an early stage of German history, bestriding the banks of the lower Elbe, in the reign of Augustus. They are one of the peoples who feel the might of that emperor's stepson Tiberius. In the second century, at the time of the great migratory movements in Germany, they leve their northern home, and move southwards towards the banks of the Danube. In the time of the Marcomanni War (under Marcus Aurelius) they try to enter Pannonia, but are repelled. From this time to the fifth century their name disappears entirely from our Roman records. But their own traditions professed to tell their history during this period. Those traditions are preserved in a document known as the Origo gentis Langobardorum, dating from the seventh century; and in our main authority for Lombard history, the Historia Langobardorum of Paul the Deacon, who wrote before the end of the eighth century. Many attempts have been made to disentangle the movements of the Langobardi from these traditions, but none of them seems very successful; and, while I do not despair that it may still be possible to determine the history which underlies those traditions, I think we must content ourselves for the present with saying that the Langobardi lived and moved in the regions north of the Danube for the three centuries after the reign of Marcus Aurelius; and that they were necessarily included in the Empire of Attila. After the destruction of the Rugian power by Odovacar (487), it is said that they occupied the Rugian land on the north bank of the Danube over against the province of Noricum; but about 505 they were subdued by the Heruls and forced to move into the campi patentes, which must mean some part of the low plains of Hungary (which the Hungarians call the Alföla); between the Danube and the Theiss. Here they were neighbours of the Gepids who had occupied Dacia and part of Pannonia; and here they lived tributary to the Heruls for three years, and then about 508 they rose in rebellion and in a great battle they broke utterly the power of the Heruls. This war is described by the Greek historian Procopius as well as by Paul the Deacon. The Heruli or Eruli (the name is not improbably the same as jarl or earl) are a people whose wanderings are no less perplexing than those of the Langobardi themselves. After the break up of the Hun Empire they moved in the same geographical area as the Langobardi, north of the middle Danube. The war with the Langobardi almost extirpated them; the small remnant that escaped were partly settled by the Emperor in Moesia, and partly received into the kingdom of the Gepids. During the next sixty years the chief factor in Langobardic history was antagonism to the Gepids, and it was this mutual hostility of these peoples which led Justinian to offer the Langobardi settlements in Noricum and western Pannonia, to be a counterpoise to the Gepids, who were continually harassing the lower Danube. During this period the Langobardi appear as useful and sufficiently loyal federates of the Empire, not only helping it against the Gepids but also sending auxiliaries to fight against the Ostrogoths in Italy.
CHANGES IN SOUTH GERMANY
I must pause to point out some changes which had taken place, in these critical years, in the south German lands---the lands of the upper Danube. We saw that the Alamanni, after their defeat by the Franks, had settled in Rhaetia and the land which came to be generally known as Swabia. Their eastern boundary was fixed as the river Lech, on the banks of which is the city of Augsburg.
Now the future of the lands east of the Lech, and southwards to the Brenner, was decided about the year 500. These lands were occupied then by the Marcomanni and Quadi, who had been the leading peoples in the great German war of Marcus Aurelius. Their home was in Bohemia. Bohemia was originally a Celtic land: the name Bohemia is Boio-heim, the home of the Boii, a Celtic people. This was the name given by its German neighbours; but about the time of the Christian era it became a German land, being occupied by the Marcomanni.
The German period of the history of Bohemia lasted for about five hundred years; then its German folk migrated, and it was occupied by Slavs.
When the Marcomanni and Quadi appeared in the regions of the river Inn and the upper Danube, they were designated by the people of those regions as Bojuvari or Bojovares, "people from the land of the Boii" in fact Bohemians. From this name of the German settlers, indicative of their old home, the land was called Bajovaria, Bavaria. This is the origin of Bavaria. You see how the name is curiously derived from the same Celtic people who gave their name to Bohemia.
We cannot say how the Langobardi were affected by this migration which resulted in the making of Bavaria. I must now point out an important change of another kind with which the Langobardi are connected. It was probably in the course of the fifth century that the German speech in south German lands underwent a change which produced what is known as High Dutch or High German. This change seems to have worked from Burgundy in the west to Bohemia in the east; later on it extended northwards. The chief characteristics of this linguistic change was the shifting of the consonants, known as the "second shifting". The "first shifting", which is formulated in Grimm's famous rule, had affected all the Germanic tongues; the "second shifting", formulated in the same rule, was confined to certain geographical limits, and the language, so modified, afterwards spread beyond those limits. It is in consequence of this shifting, which may have been going on about the year 500, that the Germans say Gott, zehn, and thal, where we say god, ten and dale. But whereas in the first ancient, prehistoric shifting all the explosive consonants had been affected alike, according to the same rules, the second historical shifting was only partial; some of the consonants escaped altogether.
It especially concerns us now that the Langobardi came under the influence of this change. Their language, as they spoke it in Italy, exhibits the consonantal shifting which is the characteristic mark of High German. This fact is very important, because it is one of the data which enable us to determine approximately the date of that shifting. It must have been prior to the migration of the Lombards into Italy, because the Lombard language must have been affected by it while they were still in contact with the geographical region when the change originated and was consummated. If the shifting did not begin till the end of the sixth century, till after the Lombards had departed for Italy, it is inconceivable that it could have affected their speech beyond the mountains.
THE LOMBARD MIGRATIONS
Let us now resume in a few words the meagre outline of Lombard history up to the eve of their invasion of Italy. Their earliest historical seats were close to the mouth of the Elbe, between the East Germans and the West Germans. There they were neighbours of the Angles and the Saxons, and the memory of this ancient Lombardy was preserved in the Middle Ages in the name of the Bardengau on the lower Elbe. Migrating southward in the second century, they lived and moved obscurely in the regions of Austria and Hungary for more than two hundred years till they were included in the Empire of the Huns. Living in the neighbourhood of High German peoples, their tongue underwent the change which produced the High German language. At last the Emperor Justinian admitted them into the provinces which they had in vain sought to enter nearly four hundred years before when the Emperor was Marcus Aurelius. They were now federates and subjects of the Empire.
THE ADVENT OF THE AVARS
Towards the close of the reign of the Emperor Justinian, a hundred years after the fall of the Huns, another Asiatic people, ethnologically akin to the Huns, resembling them in character and manners, arrived on the scene to take their place. These were the Avars. They were not destined to create as great an empire as that of Attila, but they formed a strong power in the Danube lands which played towards the Empire a similar part to that which the Huns had played, and they were a very important factor in the political situation during the second half of the sixth century. We first hear of the Avars in the fifth century, when they still lived beyond the Volga. In the reign of Justinian they moved westward; conquered the Sabiri and various other peoples north of the Caucasus, gradually moved across the steppes of southern Russia, till they reached the Dnieper and then the Danube. But in the course of this movement they seem to have left a portion of their people in the region between the Caspian, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus. There is at the present day a people called Avars in Lesghistan. It is a remarkable fact that these Lesghian or Caucasion Avars have a number of names and words which are identical with the names used by the ancient Huns, and this is an argument for the otherwise probable view that the Avars were a people very closely related to the Huns.
The first embassy of the Avars to Constantinople was in the last years of Justinian. Their chief at this time was Baian---the Attila of the Avars. He was determined to push his power and conquest very much farther to the west. When he reached the Danube, his way was blocked by the imperial power to the south, and by the power of the Gepids in Dacia. But he pushed forward in the north, and perhaps extended his power over the Slavonic peoples who during the past centuries had been steadily pressing westward to the Elbe. Certain it is that about the year 562 an Avar host invaded Thuringia and was defeated by the Franks. The Gepids were the great obstacle to Baian's designs; they showed no signs of fleeing before the Avars as the Visigoths had fled before the Huns. But their days were numbered. They had on both sides foes who desired their destruction---the Avars on the east, the Langobardi on the west.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE GEPIDAE
It was about the year of Justinians death (565) that Alboin succeeded to the kingship of the Lombards. Alboin saw in the power of the Avars a means of crushing the Gepids. He proposed a compact to Baian. He said: "Let us join hands and destroy these Gepids who lie between your lands and mine. If we conquer them, you shall have their lands and half the spoils." This alliance sealed the fate of the Gepids. They were conquered in a great battle, of which the date is about 567, and politically annihilated. This was the end of another of the great East German peoples, who, though less famous than Goths and Vandals, had played a considerable part in the Danubian lands. A new period in the history of Dacia ensued. That country now passed into the hands of the Avars, who soon extended their power farther west.
The destruction of the Gepids seems to have been, on the part of the Lombard king, prompted by hatred and vindictiveness, not by policy. He slew Cunimund, the Gepid king, in the battle with his own hand; afterwards he took Rosamund, his daughter, to wife, and, according to a doubtful tale, fashioned her father's skull into a drinking cup to be used at solemn banquets. But no sooner had the extirpation of his hated neighbours been completed and his passion of vengeance satisfied than he determined to leave his home in Pannonia and seek a new home in Italy. He may perhaps have come to the conclusion that the Avars would not be more agreeable neighbours than the Gepids had been. He is said to have made the Avars the conditional inheritors of his Pannonian territory. He said: "If we Lombards conquer Italy, you shall have all our territory in Pannonia; but you must promise that, if we fail, you will restore it to us". However this may be, Pannonia, on the departure of the Lombards, was occupied by the Avars apparently without consulting the Emperor.
Our authorities tell us that the Lombards were always few in numbers, and this fact explains some circumstances in their history. When they decided to attempt the conquest of Italy, they did not go forth alone. They took to themselves partners and allies. Men of various races followed their standards, but their chief allies were Saxons---a host, it is said, of 20,000 Saxons with their wives and children. The historian calls the Saxons their old friends---referring to the fact that they had in ancient days lived in proximity on the lower Elbe. It would seem to be implied that they maintained relations with one another in the intervening period. It may be observed that in law and custom there were many points of community between the Lombards and the Saxons. After the conquest of Italy, the Saxons wished to live in their portion of the conquered territory independently and according to their own laws. But the Lombards would not tolerate this arrangement. They insisted that there confederates should live subject to Lombard rule and Lombard laws. Rather than submit to abandoning the laws and customs of their fathers, the Saxons left Italy, returned north, and south to settle in Swabia, where after a protracted struggle they were nearly extirpated by the Franks.