Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Lombards
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(lŏm'bӘrdz, –bärdz), ancient Germanic people. By the 1st cent. A.D. the Lombards were settled along the lower Elbe. After obscure migrations they were allowed (547) by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to settle in Pannonia and Noricum (modern Hungary and E Austria). In 568, under the leadership of Alboin, they invaded N Italy and established a kingdom with Pavia as its capital. They soon penetrated deep into central and S Italy, but Ravenna, the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia), and much of the coast remained under Byzantine rule while Rome and the Patrimony of St. Peter (see Papal States) were kept by the papacy. After Alboin's death (572?) and the brief reign of Cleph (d. 575), no king was elected and Lombard Italy fell under the disunited rule of 36 dukes. The Lombard duchies of Spoleto and Benevento in central and S Italy were set up independently. In 584 the Lombard nobles united to elect Cleph's son, Authari, as the new king in order to strengthen themselves against the enmity of the Franks, the Byzantines, and the popes.

The Lombard kingdom reached its height in the 7th and 8th cent. Paganism and Arianism, which were at first prevalent among the Lombards, gradually gave way to Catholicism. Roman culture and Latin speech were accepted, and the Catholic bishops emerged as chief magistrates in the cities. Lombard law combined Germanic and Roman traditions. King Liutprand (712–44) consolidated the kingdom through his legislation and reduced Spoleto and Benevento to vassalage. One of his successors, Aistulf, took Ravenna (751) and threatened Rome. Pope Stephen II appealed to the Frankish King Pepin the Short, who invaded Italy; the Lombards lost the territories comprised in the Donation of Pepin to the papacy. After Aistulf's death King Desiderius renewed (772) the attack on Rome. Charlemagne, Pepin's successor, intervened, defeated the Lombards, and was crowned (774) with the Lombard crown at Pavia. Of the Lombard kingdom only the duchy of Benevento remained, and it was conquered in the 11th cent. by the Normans. The iron crown of the Lombard kings (now kept at Monza, Italy) was also used for the coronation (951) of Otto I (the first Holy Roman emperor) as king of Italy and for the crowning of several succeeding emperors. The Lombards left their name to the Italian region of Lombardy. The chief historian of the Lombards was Paul the Deacon.

  • See Hodgkin, T. , Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. V and VI (1895, repr. 1967);.
  • Villari, P. , Barbarian Invasions of Italy (2 vol., tr. 1902);.
  • Hallenbeck, J. T. , Pavia and Rome: The Lombard Monarchy and the Papacy in the Eighth Century (1982).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Lombards
Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World

The Lombards (Latin Langobardi , from Old High German, “Long-beards”) shifted from their settlement in the Roman province of Pannonia to enter...

Full text Article Lombard Kingdom
Encyclopedia of Empire

Byzantines Franks integration invasion Italy papacy Romans settlement Abstract The Lombards arrived in Italy in 569 ce. The progress of the inv

See more from Credo