The Lombard historian Paul the Deacon wrote in the Historia Langobardorum that the Lombards descended from a small tribe called the Winnili, who dwelt in southern Scandinavia (Scadanan) before migrating to seek new lands. In the 1st century AD, they formed part of the Suebi, in northwestern Germany. By the end of the 5th century, they had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria and Slovakia north of the Danube river, where they subdued the Heruls and later fought frequent wars with the Gepids. The Lombard king Audoin defeated the Gepid leader Thurisind in 551 or 552; his successor Alboin eventually destroyed the Gepids in 567.
Following this victory, Alboin decided to lead his people to Italy, which had become severely depopulated and devastated after the long Gothic War (535–554) between the Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom there. The Lombards were joined by numerous Saxons, Heruls, Gepids, Bulgars, Thuringians, and Ostrogoths, and their invasion of Italy was almost unopposed. By late 569 they had conquered all of northern Italy and the principal cities north of the Po River except Pavia, which fell in 572. At the same time, they occupied areas in central Italy and southern Italy. They established a Lombard Kingdom in north and central Italy, later named Regnum Italicum ("Kingdom of Italy"), which reached its zenith under the 8th-century ruler Liutprand. In 774, the Kingdom was conquered by the Frankish King Charlemagne and integrated into his Empire. However, Lombard nobles continued to rule southern parts of the Italian peninsula, well into the 11th century when they were conquered by the Normans and added to their County of Sicily. In this period, the southern part of Italy still under Longobardic domination was known by the name Langbarðaland (Land of the Lombards) in the Norse runestones. Their legacy is also apparent in the regional name Lombardy (in the north of Italy).
The fullest account of Lombard origins, history, and practices is the Historia Langobardorum (History of the Lombards) of Paul the Deacon, written in the 8th century. Paul's chief source for Lombard origins, however, is the 7th-century Origo Gentis Langobardorum (Origin of the Lombard People).
The Origo Gentis Langobardorum tells the story of a small tribe called the Winnili dwelling in southern Scandinavia (Scadanan) (the Codex Gothanus writes that the Winnili first dwelt near a river called Vindilicus on the extreme boundary of Gaul). The Winnili were split into three groups and one part left their native land to seek foreign fields. The reason for the exodus was probably overpopulation. The departing people were led by the brothers Ybor and Aio and their mother Gambara and arrived in the lands of Scoringa, perhaps the Baltic coast or the Bardengau on the banks of the Elbe. Scoringa was ruled by the Vandals and their chieftains, the brothers Ambri and Assi, who granted the Winnili a choice between tribute or war.
The Winnili were young and brave and refused to pay tribute, saying "It is better to maintain liberty by arms than to stain it by the payment of tribute." The Vandals prepared for war and consulted Godan (the god Odin), who answered that he would give the victory to those whom he would see first at sunrise. The Winnili were fewer in number and Gambara sought help from Frea (the goddess Frigg), who advised that all Winnili women should tie their hair in front of their faces like beards and march in line with their husbands. At sunrise, Frea turned her husband's bed so that he was facing east, and woke him. So Godan spotted the Winnili first and asked, "Who are these long-beards?," and Frea replied, "My lord, thou hast given them the name, now give them also the victory." From that moment onwards, the Winnili were known as the Longbeards (Latinised as Langobardi, Italianised as Longobardi, and Anglicized as Longobards or Lombards).
When Paul the Deacon wrote the Historia between 787 and 796 he was a Catholic monk and devoted Christian. He thought the pagan stories of his people "silly" and "laughable". Paul explained that the name "Langobard" came from the length of their beards. A modern theory suggests that the name "Langobard" comes from Langbarðr, a name of Odin. Priester states that when the Winnili changed their name to "Lombards", they also changed their old agricultural fertility cult to a cult of Odin, thus creating a conscious tribal tradition. Fröhlich inverts the order of events in Priester and states that with the Odin cult, the Lombards grew their beards in resemblance of the Odin of tradition and their new name reflected this. Bruckner remarks that the name of the Lombards stands in close relation to the worship of Odin, whose many names include "the Long-bearded" or "the Grey-bearded", and that the Lombard given name Ansegranus ("he with the beard of the gods") shows that the Lombards had this idea of their chief deity. The same Old Norse root Barth or Barði, meaning "beard", is shared with the Heaðobards mentioned in both Beowulf and in Widsith, where they are in conflict with the Danes. They were possibly a branch of the Langobards.
Alternatively some etymological sources suggest an Old High German root, barta, meaning “axe” (and related to English halberd), while Edward Gibbon puts forth an alternative suggestion which argues that:
…Börde (or Börd) still signifies “a fertile plain by the side of a river,” and a district near Magdeburg is still called the lange Börde. According to this view Langobardi would signify “inhabitants of the long bord of the river;” and traces of their name are supposed still to occur in such names as Bardengau and Bardewick in the neighborhood of the Elbe.
The historian then explains the etymology of the name Scoringa:
The shores of Uppland and Östergötland are covered with small rocks and rocky islands, which are called in German Schæren and in Swedish Skiaeren. Heal signifies a port in the northern languages; consequently Skiæren-Heal is the port of the Skiæren, a name well adapted to the port of Stockholm, in the Upplandske Skiæren, and the country may be justly called Scorung or Skiærunga.
The legendary king Sceafa of Scandza was an ancient Lombardic king in Anglo-Saxon legend. The Old English poem Widsith, in a listing of famous kings and their countries, has Sceafa [weold] Longbeardum, so naming Sceafa as ruler of the Lombards.
Similarities between Langobardic and Gothic migration traditions have been noted among scholars. These early migration legends suggest that a major shifting of tribes occurred sometime between the 1st and 2nd century BC, which would coincide with the time that the Teutoni and Cimbri left their homelands in Scandinavia and migrated through Germany, eventually invading Roman Italy.
Archaeology and migrations
The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988):
Settlements before 750 BC
New settlements by 500 BC
New settlements by 250 BC
New settlements by AD 1
Distribution of Langobardic burial fields at the Lower Elbe Lands (according to W. Wegewitz)
The first mention of the Lombards occurred between AD 9 and 16, by the Roman court historian Velleius Paterculus, who accompanied a Roman expedition as prefect of the cavalry. Paterculus says that under Tiberius the "power of the Langobardi was broken, a race surpassing even the Germans in savagery".
From the combined testimony of Strabo (AD 20) and Tacitus (AD 117), the Lombards dwelt near the mouth of the Elbe shortly after the beginning of the Christian era, next to the Chauci. Strabo states that the Lombards dwelt on both sides of the Elbe. He treats them as a branch of the Suebi, and states that:
Now as for the tribe of the Suebi, it is the largest, for it extends from the Rhenus to the Albis; and a part of them even dwell on the far side of the Albis, as, for instance, the Hermondori and the Langobardi; and at the present time these latter, at least, have, to the last man, been driven in flight out of their country into the land on the far side of the river.
Suetonius wrote that Roman general Nero Drusus defeated a large force of Germans and drove some “to the farther side of the Albis (Elbe)” river. It is conceivable that these refugees were the Langobardi and the Hermunduri mentioned by Strabo not long after.
The German archaeologist Willi Wegewitz defined several Iron Age burial sites at the Lower Elbe as Langobardic. The burial sites are crematorial and are usually dated from the 6th century BC through the 3rd century AD, so a settlement breakoff seems unlikely. The lands of the lower Elbe fall into the zone of the Jastorf Culture and became Elbe-Germanic, differing from the lands between Rhine, Weser, and the North Sea. Archaeological finds show that the Lombards were an agricultural people.
Tacitus also counted the Lombards as a remote and aggressive Suebian tribe, one of those united in worship of the deity Nerthus, who he referred to as "Mother Earth", and also as subjects of Marobod the King of the Marcomanni. Marobod had made peace with the Romans, and that is why the Lombards were not part of the Germanic confederacy under Arminius at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9. In AD 17, war broke out between Arminius and Marobod. Tacitus records:
Not only the Cheruscans and their confederates... took arms, but the Semnones and Langobards, both Suebian nations, revolted to him from the sovereignty of Marobod... The armies... were stimulated by reasons of their own, the Cheruscans and the Langobards fought for their ancient honor or their newly acquired independence. . . "
In 47, a struggle ensued amongst the Cherusci and they expelled their new leader, the nephew of Arminius, from their country. The Lombards appeared on the scene with sufficient power to control the destiny of the tribe that had been the leader in the struggle for independence thirty-eight years earlier, for they restored the deposed leader to sovereignty again.
To the south, Cassius Dio reported that just before the Marcomannic Wars, 6,000 Lombards and Obii (sometimes thought to be Ubii), crossed the Danube and invaded Pannonia. The two tribes were defeated, whereupon they ceased their invasion and sent Ballomar, King of the Marcomanni, as ambassador to
Aelius Bassus, who was then administering Pannonia. Peace was made and the two tribes returned to their homes, which in the case of the Lombards was the lands of the lower Elbe. At about this time, in his Germania Tacitus says that "their scanty numbers are a distinction" because "surrounded by a host of most powerful tribes, they are safe, not by submitting, but by daring the perils of war".
In the mid-2nd century, the Lombards apparently appeared in the Rhineland, because according to Claudius Ptolemy, the Suebic Lombards lived "below" the Bructeri and Sugambri, and between these and the Tencteri. To their east stretching northwards to the central Elbe are the Suebi Angili. But Ptolemy also mentions the "Laccobardi" to the north of the above-mentioned Suebic territories, east of the Angrivarii on the Weser, and south of the Chauci on the coast, probably indicating a Lombard expansion from the Elbe to the Rhine. This double mention has been interpreted as an editorial error by Gudmund Schütte, in his analysis of Ptolemy. However, the Codex Gothanus also mentions Patespruna (Paderborn) in connection with the Lombards.
From the 2nd century onwards, many of the Germanic tribes recorded as active during the Principate started to unite into bigger tribal unions, such as the Franks, Alamanni, Bavarii, and Saxons. The Lombards are not mentioned at first, perhaps because they were not initially on the border of Rome, or perhaps because they were subjected to a larger tribal union, like the Saxons. It is, however, highly probable that, when the bulk of the Lombards migrated, a considerable part remained behind and afterwards became absorbed by the Saxon tribes in the Elbe region, while the emigrants alone retained the name of Lombards. However, the Codex Gothanus states that the Lombards were subjected by the Saxons around 300 but rose up against them under their first king, Agelmund, who ruled for 30 years. In the second half of the 4th century, the Lombards left their homes, probably due to bad harvests, and embarked on their migration.
The migration route of the Lombards in 489, from their homeland to "Rugiland", encompassed several places: Scoringa (believed to be their land on the Elbe shores), Mauringa, Golanda, Anthaib, Banthaib, and Vurgundaib (Burgundaib). According to the Ravenna Cosmography, Mauringa was the land east of the Elbe.
The crossing into Mauringa was very difficult. The Assipitti (possibly the Usipetes) denied them passage through their lands and a fight was arranged for the strongest man of each tribe. The Lombard was victorious, passage was granted, and the Lombards reached Mauringa.
The Lombards departed from Mauringa and reached Golanda. Scholar Ludwig Schmidt thinks this was further east, perhaps on the right bank of the Oder. Schmidt considers the name the equivalent of Gotland, meaning simply "good land." This theory is highly plausible; Paul the Deacon mentions the Lombards crossing a river, and they could have reached Rugiland from the Upper Oder area via the Moravian Gate.
Moving out of Golanda, the Lombards passed through Anthaib and Banthaib until they reached Vurgundaib, believed to be the old lands of the Burgundes. In Vurgundaib, the Lombards were stormed in camp by "Bulgars" (probably Huns) and were defeated; King Agelmund was killed and Laimicho was made king. He was in his youth and desired to avenge the slaughter of Agelmund. The Lombards themselves were probably made subjects of the Huns after the defeat but rose up and defeated them with great slaughter, gaining great booty and confidence as they "became bolder in undertaking the toils of war."
In the 540s, Audoin (ruled 546–560) led the Lombards across the Danube once more into Pannonia, where they received Imperial subsidies as Justinian encouraged them to battle the Gepids. In 552, the Byzantines aided by a large contingent of Foederati, notably Lombards, Heruls and Bulgars, defeated the last Ostrogoths led by Teia in the Battle of Taginae.
In 560 circa, Audoin was succeeded by his son Alboin, a young and energetic leader who defeated the neighboring Gepidae and made them his subjects; in 566, he married Rosamund, daughter of the Gepid king Cunimund. In the spring of 568, Alboin led the Lombard migration into Italy:
"Then the Langobards, having left Pannonia, hastened to take possession of Italy with their wives and children and all their goods." B.2-Ch.7
Various other people who either voluntarily joined or were subjects of King Alboin were also part of the migration:
At least 20,000 Saxon warriors, old allies of the Lombards, joined them with their families in their new migration.
The first important city to fall was Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friuli) in northeastern Italy, in 569. There, Alboin created the first Lombard duchy, which he entrusted to his nephew Gisulf. Soon Vicenza, Verona and Brescia fell into Germanic hands. In the summer of 569, the Lombards conquered the main Roman centre of northern Italy, Milan. The area was then recovering from the terrible Gothic Wars, and the small Byzantine army left for its defence could do almost nothing. Longinus, the Exarch sent to Italy by Emperor Justin II, could only defend coastal cities that could be supplied by the powerful Byzantine fleet.
Pavia fell after a siege of three years, in 572, becoming the first capital city of the new Lombard kingdom of Italy.
In the following years, the Lombards penetrated further south, conquering Tuscany and establishing two duchies, Spoleto and Benevento under Zotto, which soon became semi-independent and even outlasted the northern kingdom, surviving well into the 12th century. Wherever they went, they were joined by the Ostrogothic population, who was allowed to live peacefully in Italy with their Rugian allies under Roman sovereignty. The Byzantines managed to retain control of the area of Ravenna and Rome, linked by a thin corridor running through Perugia.
When they entered Italy, some Lombards retained their native form of paganism, while some were Arian Christians. Hence they did not enjoy good relations with the Early Christian Church. Gradually, they adopted Roman or Romanized titles, names, and traditions, and partially converted to orthodoxy (in the 7th century), though not without a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts. By the time Paul the Deacon was writing, the Lombard language, dress and even hairstyles had nearly all disappeared in toto.
The whole Lombard territory was divided into 36 duchies, whose leaders settled in the main cities. The king ruled over them and administered the land through emissaries called gastaldi. This subdivision, however, together with the independent indocility of the duchies, deprived the kingdom of unity, making it weak even when compared to the Byzantines, especially since these had begun to recover from the initial invasion. This weakness became even more evident when the Lombards had to face the increasing power of the Franks. In response, the kings tried to centralize power over time, but they definitively lost control over Spoleto and Benevento in the attempt.
In 572, Alboin was murdered in Verona in a plot led by his wife, Rosamund, who later fled to Ravenna. His successor, Cleph, was also assassinated, after a ruthless reign of 18 months. His death began an interregnum of years (the "Rule of the Dukes") during which the dukes did not elect any king, a period regarded as a time of violence and disorder. In 586, threatened by a Frankish invasion, the dukes elected as king Cleph's son, Authari. In 589, he married Theodelinda, daughter of Garibald I of Bavaria, the Duke of Bavaria. The Catholic Theodelinda was a friend of Pope Gregory I and pushed for Christianization. In the meantime, Authari embarked on a policy of internal reconciliation and tried to reorganize royal administration. The dukes yielded half their estates for the maintenance of the king and his court in Pavia. On the foreign affairs side, Authari managed to thwart the dangerous alliance between the Byzantines and the Franks.
Authari died in 591 and was succeeded by Agilulf, the duke of Turin, who also married Theodelinda in the same year. Agilulf successfully fought the rebel dukes of northern Italy, conquering Padua in 601, Cremona and Mantua in 603, and forcing the Exarch of Ravenna to pay tribute. Agilulf died in 616; Theodelinda reigned alone until 628 when she was succeeded by Adaloald. Arioald, the head of the Arian opposition who had married Theodelinda's daughter Gundeperga, later deposed Adaloald.
Arioald was succeeded by Rothari, regarded by many authorities as the most energetic of all Lombard kings. He extended his dominions, conquering Liguria in 643 and the remaining part of the Byzantine territories of inner Veneto, including the Roman city of Opitergium (Oderzo). Rothari also made the famous edict bearing his name, the Edictum Rothari, which established the laws and the customs of his people in Latin: the edict did not apply to the tributaries of the Lombards, who could retain their own laws. Rothari's son Rodoald succeeded him in 652, still very young, and was killed by his opponents.
At the death of King Aripert I in 661, the kingdom was split between his children Perctarit, who set his capital in Milan, and Godepert, who reigned from Pavia (Ticinum). Perctarit was overthrown by Grimoald, son of Gisulf, duke of Friuli and Benevento since 647. Perctarit fled to the Avars and then to the Franks. Grimoald managed to regain control over the duchies and deflected the late attempt of the Byzantine emperorConstans II to conquer southern Italy. He also defeated the Franks. At Grimoald's death in 671 Perctarit returned and promoted tolerance between Arians and Catholics, but he could not defeat the Arian party, led by Arachi, duke of Trento, who submitted only to his son, the philo-Catholic Cunincpert.
King Liutprand - (712-744) "was a zealous Catholic, generous and a great founder of monasteries"
Religious strife and the Slavic raids remained a source of struggle in the following years. In 705, the Friuli Lombards were defeated and lost the land to the west of the Soča River, namely the Gorizia Hills and the Venetian Slovenia. A new ethnic border was established that has lasted for over 1200 years up until the present time.
The Lombard reign began to recover only with Liutprand the Lombard (king from 712), son of Ansprand and successor of the brutal Aripert II. He managed to regain a certain control over Spoleto and Benevento, and, taking advantage of the disagreements between the Pope and Byzantium concerning the reverence of icons, he annexed the Exarchate of Ravenna and the duchy of Rome. He also helped the Frankish marshal Charles Martel drive back the Arabs. The Slavs were defeated in the
Battle of Lavariano, when they tried to conquer the Friulian Plain in 720. Liutprand's successor Aistulf conquered Ravenna for the Lombards for the first time but had to relinquish it when he was subsequently defeated by the king of the Franks, Pippin III, who was called by the Pope.
After the death of Aistulf, Ratchis attempted to become king of Lombardy, but he was deposed by Desiderius, duke of Tuscany, the last Lombard to rule as king. Desiderius managed to take Ravenna definitively, ending the Byzantine presence in northern Italy. He decided to reopen struggles against the Pope, who was supporting the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento against him, and entered Rome in 772, the first Lombard king to do so. But when Pope Hadrian I called for help from the powerful Frankish king Charlemagne, Desiderius was defeated at Susa and besieged in Pavia, while his son Adelchis was forced to open the gates of Verona to Frankish troops. Desiderius surrendered in 774, and Charlemagne, in an utterly novel decision, took the title "King of the Lombards". Before then the Germanic kingdoms had frequently conquered each other, but none had adopted the title of King of another people. Charlemagne took part of the Lombard territory to create the Papal States.
The Lombardy region in Italy, which includes the cities of Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, and the old capital Pavia, is a reminder of the presence of the Lombards.
Though the kingdom centred on Pavia in the north fell to Charlemagne, the Lombard-controlled territory to the south of the Papal States was never subjugated by Charlemagne or his descendants. In 774, Duke Arechis II of Benevento, whose duchy had only nominally been under royal authority, though certain kings had been effective at making their power known in the south, claimed that Benevento was the successor state of the kingdom. He tried to turn Benevento into a secundum Ticinum: a second Pavia. He tried to claim the kingship, but with no support and no chance of a coronation in Pavia.
Charlemagne came down with an army, and his son Louis the Pious sent men, to force the Beneventan duke to submit, but his submission and promises were never kept and Arechis and his successors were de facto independent. The Beneventan dukes took the title prínceps (prince) instead of that of king.
The Lombards of southern Italy were thereafter in the anomalous position of holding land claimed by two empires: the Carolingian Empire to the north and west and the Byzantine Empire to the east. They typically made pledges and promises of tribute to the Carolingians, but effectively remained outside Frankish control. Benevento meanwhile grew to its greatest extent yet when it imposed a tribute on the Duchy of Naples, which was tenuously loyal to Byzantium and even conquered the Neapolitan city of Amalfi in 838. At one point in the reign of Sicard, Lombard control covered most of southern Italy save the very south of Apulia and Calabria and Naples, with its nominally attached cities. It was during the 9th century that a strong Lombard presence became entrenched in formerly Greek Apulia. However, Sicard had opened up the south to the invasive actions of the Saracens in his war with Andrew II of Naples and when he was assassinated in 839, Amalfi declared independence and two factions fought for power in Benevento, crippling the principality and making it susceptible to external enemies.
The civil war lasted ten years and ended with a peace treaty imposed in 849 by Emperor Louis II, the only Frankish king to exercise actual sovereignty over the Lombard states. The treaty divided the kingdom into two states: the Principality of Benevento and the Principality of Salerno, with its capital at Salerno on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Andrew II of Naples hired Saracen mercenaries for his war with Sicard of Benevento in 836; Sicard responded with other Muslim mercenaries. The Saracens initially concentrated their attacks on Sicily and Byzantine Italy, but soon Radelchis I of Benevento called in more mercenaries, who destroyed Capua in 841. Landulf the Old founded the present-day Capua, "New Capua", on a nearby hill. In general, the Lombard princes were less inclined to ally with the Saracens than with their Greek neighbours of Amalfi, Gaeta, Naples, and Sorrento. Guaifer of Salerno, however, briefly put himself under Muslim suzerainty.
In 847 a large Muslim force seized Bari, until then a Lombard gastaldate under the control of
Pandenulf. Saracen incursions proceeded northwards until Adelchis of Benevento sought the help of his suzerain, Louis II, who allied with the Byzantine emperor Basil I to expel the Arabs from Bari in 869. An Arab landing force was defeated by the emperor in 871. Adelchis and Louis remained at war until the death of Louis in 875. Adelchis regarded himself as the true successor of the Lombard kings, and in that capacity he amended the Edictum Rothari, the last Lombard ruler to do so.
After the death of Louis, Landulf II of Capua briefly flirted with a Saracen alliance, but Pope John VIII convinced him to break it off. Guaimar I of Salerno fought the Saracens with Byzantine troops. Throughout this period the Lombard princes swung in allegiance from one party to another. Finally, towards 915, Pope John X managed to unite the Christian princes of southern Italy against the Saracen establishments on the Garigliano river. The Saracens were ousted from Italy in the Battle of the Garigliano in 915.
Lombard principalities in the 10th century
Italy around the turn of the millennium, showing the Lombard states in the south on the eve of the arrival of the Normans.
The independent state of Salerno inspired the gastalds of Capua to move towards independence, and by the end of the century they were styling themselves "princes" and as a third Lombard state. The Capuan and Beneventan states were united by Atenulf I of Capua in 900. He subsequently declared them to be in perpetual union, and they were separated only in 982, on the death of Pandulf Ironhead. With all of the Lombard south under his control, except Salerno, Atenulf felt safe to use the title Princeps Gentis Langobardorum ("prince of the Lombard people"), which Arechis II had begun using in 774. Among Atenulf's successors the principality was ruled jointly by fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, and uncles for the greater part of the century. Meanwhile, the prince Gisulf I of Salerno began using the title Langobardorum Gentis Princeps around mid-century, but the ideal of a united Lombard principality was realised only in December 977, when Gisulf died and his domains were inherited by Pandulf Ironhead, who temporarily held almost all Italy south of Rome and brought the Lombards into alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. His territories were divided upon his death.
The diminished Beneventan principality soon lost its independence to the papacy and declined in importance until it fell in the Norman conquest of southern Italy. The Normans, first called in by the Lombards to fight the Byzantines for control of Apulia and Calabria (under the likes of Melus of Bari and Arduin, among others), had become rivals for hegemony in the south. The Salernitan principality experienced a golden age under Guaimar III and Guaimar IV, but under Gisulf II, the principality shrank to insignificance and fell in 1078 to Robert Guiscard, who had married Gisulf's sister Sichelgaita. The Capua principality was hotly contested during the reign of the hated Pandulf IV, the Wolf of the Abruzzi, and, under his son, it fell, almost without contest, to the Norman Richard Drengot (1058). The Capuans revolted against Norman rule in 1091, expelling Richard's grandson Richard II and setting up one Lando IV.
Capua was again put under Norman rule after the Siege of Capua of 1098 and the city quickly declined in importance under a series of ineffectual Norman rulers. The independent status of these Lombard states is in general attested by the ability of their rulers to switch suzerains at will. Often the legal vassal of pope or emperor (either Byzantine or Holy Roman), they were the real power-brokers in the south until their erstwhile allies, the Normans, rose to preeminence: The Lombards regarded the Normans as barbarians and the Byzantines as oppressors. Regarding their own civilisation as superior, the Lombards did indeed provide the environment for the illustrious Schola Medica Salernitana.