Longobardi (otherwise called LOMBARDS), a Teutonic people of the Suevic race, who maintained a dominion in Italy from A.D. 568 to 774.
The name Lombards is derived from the Latin Longobardi or Langobardi, a form in use since the 12th century, and generally supposed to have been given in reference to the long beards of this people; although some derive it rather from a word paruta or barste, which signifies a battle-axe.
The first historical notices present them as a people small in number, having their original seat on the west side of the Lower Elbe, in a territory extending some sixty miles southward from Hamburg. They advanced into Moravia and Hungary, the abode of the Rugi, before 500, and conquered the Heruli, and were invited by Justinian to the neighborhood of the Danube in the year 526. They afterwards crossed into Pannonia, where, though at first in alliance with the Gepide, they subsequently (A.D. 566 or 567) subdued the people, yielding in turn to the Avars, and in 569 crossed the Alps into Italy under Alboin, having been invited thither by Narses, as it is said, out of revenge against the province and the emperor. This was fourteen years after the overthrow of the Gothic kingdom, and the exhausted state of the country left Northern Italy an easy prey. The Goths were Arians, and religious differences with both the Roman and Greek churches went far to prevent the acceptance of their rule, and the establishment at that time of a united government in Italy, for the want of which the country has so many centuries suffered. The Lombards succeeded no better in securing entire dominion. They, however, extended their power, establishing the duchies of Frioul, Spoleto, and Benevento, until only the districts of Rome and Naples, the southern extremity of the peninsula, Venice, and the east coast from the Po to Ancona, with Ravenna as the city of the exarchs, remained sunder the power of the Greek emperor. The conduct of the Lombards as conquerors has been severely characterized on the authority of early writers of the Romish Church. Gregory the Great, in his epistles and dialogues, draws a frightful picture of their oppressions, as does Paulus Diaconus of the unquestionably lawless sway of the thirty-five dukes, who were the only rulers in the interregnum after the death of Cleph, till, by the threatening approach of the Franks, they were compelled to elect a king in the person of Autharis. Now for the first time (584-590) an orderly constitution was established. Paulus Diaconus speaks with great praise of the new state of things. "Wonderful was the state of the Lombard kingdom: violence and treachery were alike unknown; no one was oppressed, no one plundered another; thefts and robberies were unheard of; the traveler went wherever he would in perfect security" (Paul. Diac. 3:16).
A general idea of their political constitution may be found in the edict of king Rothari (636-652), a kind of Bill of Rights, which was promulgated November 22, 643, and is memorable as having become the foundation of constitutional law in the Germanic kingdoms of the Middle Ages. It was revised and extended by subsequent Lombard kings, but subsisted in force for several centuries after the Lombard kingdom had passed away. The edict recognises, as among all German nations, three classes — the free, the semi-free, and slave or vassal. Among the free were the nobiles. The army secured the national unity, civil officers being regarded as rendering military service. The king was elective, and among the dukes he represented the nation. He was commander of the army, head of all police power, chief judge, and general ward. There were courtiers of various ranks. The dukes were also called judges, or judices civitatis. Under each judex were many local, judicial, police, and military authorities. The cities chosen by the dukes severally as their residences were centers of the Lombard government. There would seem to be but little room for the old Roman municipal constitutions. Concerning the relation of the Lombard rule to the continuance of the Roman law and the rights of the conquered people there are differences of opinion. Under the Goths the former laws and customs remained largely unaffected; but it has been maintained (as by Leo) that under the Lombards the personal liberty, right of property, and municipal constitutions of the conquered people were abolished. The subject was much discussed by the Italians in the last century; and in this century the historians Savigny, Leo, Bandi di Vesme, Fossati, Troya, Bethmann-Hollwseg, etc., present conflicting or somewhat varied views. The Lombard laws themselves give but little precise information on this point. The Romans at least lost all united nationality. Roman law seems to have been first distinctively brought into use under Luitprand. The feeling of enmity which, for a long time at least, existed between the people and their conquerors, was increased by religious differences, and on this account the new power was specially obnoxious to the authorities of the Roman Church. A state of war generally prevailed between the two powers. The Church writers are constant and bitter in their complaints of Lombard impiety and oppressions — at least during the earlier period of their dominion — in the wasting of churches and monasteries, and the treatment of ecclesiastics. The Lombard clergy themselves, however, do not seem to be charged as active participants in these deeds. Gregory the Great discerns in the times signs of the approaching judgment. "What is happening in other parts of the world," he says, "we know not; but in this the end of all things not merely announces itself as approaching, but shows itself as actually begun" (Dial. 3). Such representations of the spirit and course of the conquerors must be taken with considerable qualification. Still more untrustworthy are the accounts given, especially by Gregory, of numerous miraculous interferences in behalf of the true faith.
The Lombards were Arians. Unlike the Franks, who became by religious sympathy the natural defenders of the pope, they, with the Goths, Vandals, Burgundians, and Suevians, had been converted to Christianity, about the end of the 5th century, by Arian missionaries. Such was the case with the German tribes generally on the lower Danube. But there were among them many, some of whom entered Italy, who were still heathens, and worshipped their gods Odin and Freia south of the Alps. There were probably also some Catholic Pannonians and Noricans who, with their bishops, had joined the expedition. The first influence exerted by Rome for the conversion of the Lombards was through the wife of Alboin, a niece of Clovis, who was a good Roman Catholic, and had been enjoined by the bishop of Treves to convert her husband from his Arian heresy. Theodolinda of Bavaria also exerted a like influence upon her husband Autharis, and under his reign the Catholic faith made considerable progress. On the death of Autharis (590), Theodolinda married Agilulf, and under his government also she continued to labor for the advancement of the Catholic Church, hoping thereby to refine the manners of her own people. Theodolinda persuaded Agilulf to restore a portion of their property and dignities to the Catholic clergy, and to have his own son baptized according to the Catholic ritesan example which was followed by multitudes. Her brother Gundwald, duke of Asti, she influenced to build the magnificent Basilica of St. John the Baptist at Monza, near Milan, in which in subsequent times was kept the Lombard crown, called the Iron Crown; indeed, she improved any and every opportunity to advance the interests of the Catholics, and thus hastened the successful establishment of their religion among the Lombards. Gregory the Great (590-604), founder of the papacy, maintained frequent correspondence with the queen in a friendly relation, similar to that existing between Gregory VII and the countess Matilda. On the occasion of the baptism of her children she received a present from Gregory. Earlier he had sent her four Books of Dialogues, "because he knew that she was true to the faith in Christ, and strong in good works" (Paul. Diac. 4:5).
If the Roman Church had met with material losses by the Lombard invasion, it now gained much for the power of the papacy in the more complete dependence with which all parts of Italy began to look to Rome for a common defense of their faith. Rome became a certain center of national life through the diffused power of its bishops, and what the Roman Empire had lost by arms the Roman Church was to regain by peaceful means. After Gregory's death Agilulf received the monk Columban with great favor, and allowed him to settle where he would. At Milan he wrote against Arianism. He founded the powerful monastery of Bobbia, which was subsequently very influential in the conversion of the Lombards. Grundeberg, daughter of Theodolinda, married successively the kings Ariowald and Rotharis. Under the latter there was a Catholic and Arian bishop in each city. Aribert (653-661), the son of duke Gunduald, was the first Catholic king. Dollinger says of him, "Rex Horibertus, pius et catholicus, Arrianorum abolevit haeresem et Christianam fidem fecit crescere." The Lombards became now enthusiastic churchmen; many monasteries and churches were founded and richly endowed. There was always, however, a certain degree of independence manifest among them. At the Lateran Council of 649, summoned by Martin I, Milan and Aquileia were not represented. A certain patriarchal and metropolitan prerogative was allowed the pope, with a due reservation of national liberty. In the latter half of the 7th century internal contests for the Lombard crown secured a greater degree of attachment to the Church, while the disputes of Rome with Constantinople brought the Lombards to the defense of the former. In the 8th century the powerful king Luitprand (713-35), who raised the Lombard kingdom to its highest prosperity, sought anxiously to complete the conquest of all Italy, and before 800 it may be said that the national unity of Italy was complete. Each subject was called a Lombard. SEE LUITPRAND. The Church was subject to the state. Though its clergy and bishops obtained increasing power, it was not of a political character as in France. The bishops were subject to the king, and the inferior clergy to the subordinate judges. The bishops were chosen by the people. The cloisters were subject to magisterial power. But the prospect looming up before the popes of soon becoming themselves subject to the rule of the barbaric Lombards, they now entered upon that Machiavelian policy which they long incessantly pursued, of laboring to prevent a union of all Italy under one government, in order to secure for themselves the greater power in the midst of contending parties. This, with the disputes which arose concerning the succession to the Lombard throne, led to the downfall of the Lombard kingdom within no long time after it had reached its utmost greatness. Gregory III, in his distress, fixed his gaze on the youthful greatness of a transalpine nation, the Franks, to afford him the necessary assistance in the struggle now ensuing. The movement against the Lombards was initiated at the election of Zachary, by discarding the customary form of obtaining the consent of the exarchate's authority, at this time vested in the Lombard king; and Stephen II made way for Pepin, after having anointed him to the patriciate, i.e., the governorship of Rome, to make war upon Aistulf, the successor of Luitprand. Naturally enough, Pepin's military successes were all turned to the advantage of the pope in securing to him the exarchate and Pentapolis. New causes of hostility between the Frank and Lombard monarchs arose when Charlemagne sent back to her father his wife, the daughter of the Lombard king Desiderius (754-774). In the autumn of 773 Charlemagne invaded Italy, and in May of the following year Pavia was conquered, and the Lombard kingdom was overthrown. In 803 a treaty between Charlemagne, the western, and Nicephorus, the eastern emperor, confirmed the right of the former to the Lombard territory, with Rome, the Exarchate, Ravenna, Istria, and part of Dalmatia; while the Eastern empire retained the islands of Venice and the maritime towns of Dalmatia, with Naples, Sicily, and part of Calabria. See Tiurk, Die Longobarden und ihr Volksrecht (Rost. 1835); Flegler, Das Konigreich der Longobarden in Italien (Leipz. 1851); Abel, Der Untergang d. Longobardenreichs in Italien (Gott. 1858); Leo, Gesch. d. itatl. Staaten (1829), vol. i; Hautleville, Hist. des Communes Lolmbardes depuis leur origine jusqu'a la fin du xiii Siscle (Paris, 1857), volume 1; Reichel, Roman See in the Middle Ages, page 50 sq.; Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, 1:472; 2:39 sq. SEE LOMBARDY.