Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire The Lombards

State Of Italy Under The Lombards.

Author: Gibbon, Edward

Date: 1782 (Written), 1845 (Revised)

History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

Part I.

Reign Of The Younger Justin. - Embassy Of The Avars. - Their Settlement

On The Danube. - Conquest Of Italy By The Lombards. - Adoption And Reign Of

Tiberius. - Of Maurice. - State Of Italy Under The Lombards And The Exarchs. -

Of Ravenna. - Distress Of Rome. - Character And Pontificate Of Gregory The


During the last years of Justinian, his infirm mind was devoted to

heavenly contemplation, and he neglected the business of the lower world. His

subjects were impatient of the long continuance of his life and reign: yet all

who were capable of reflection apprehended the moment of his death, which

might involve the capital in tumult, and the empire in civil war. Seven

nephews ^1 of the childless monarch, the sons or grandsons of his brother and

sister, had been educated in the splendor of a princely fortune; they had been

shown in high commands to the provinces and armies; their characters were

known, their followers were zealous, and, as the jealousy of age postponed the

declaration of a successor, they might expect with equal hopes the inheritance

of their uncle. He expired in his palace, after a reign of thirty-eight

years; and the decisive opportunity was embraced by the friends of Justin, the

son of Vigilantia. ^2 At the hour of midnight, his domestics were awakened by

an importunate crowd, who thundered at his door, and obtained admittance by

revealing themselves to be the principal members of the senate. These welcome

deputies announced the recent and momentous secret of the emperor's decease;

reported, or perhaps invented, his dying choice of the best beloved and most

deserving of his nephews, and conjured Justin to prevent the disorders of the

multitude, if they should perceive, with the return of light, that they were

left without a master. After composing his countenance to surprise, sorrow,

and decent modesty, Justin, by the advice of his wife Sophia, submitted to the

authority of the senate. He was conducted with speed and silence to the

palace; the guards saluted their new sovereign; and the martial and religious

rites of his coronation were diligently accomplished. By the hands of the

proper officers he was invested with the Imperial garments, the red buskins,

white tunic, and purple robe. A fortunate soldier, whom he instantly promoted

to the rank of tribune, encircled his neck with a military collar; four robust

youths exalted him on a shield; he stood firm and erect to receive the

adoration of his subjects; and their choice was sanctified by the benediction

of the patriarch, who imposed the diadem on the head of an orthodox prince.

The hippodrome was already filled with innumerable multitudes; and no sooner

did the emperor appear on his throne, than the voices of the blue and the

green factions were confounded in the same loyal acclamations. In the

speeches which Justin addressed to the senate and people, he promised to

correct the abuses which had disgraced the age of his predecessor, displayed

the maxims of a just and beneficent government, and declared that, on the

approaching calends of January, ^3 he would revive in his own person the name

and liberty of a Roman consul. The immediate discharge of his uncle's debts

exhibited a solid pledge of his faith and generosity: a train of porters,

laden with bags of gold, advanced into the midst of the hippodrome, and the

hopeless creditors of Justinian accepted this equitable payment as a voluntary

gift. Before the end of three years, his example was imitated and surpassed by

the empress Sophia, who delivered many indigent citizens from the weight of

debt and usury: an act of benevolence the best entitled to gratitude, since it

relieves the most intolerable distress; but in which the bounty of a prince is

the most liable to be abused by the claims of prodigality and fraud. ^4

[Footnote 1: See the family of Justin and Justinian in the Familiae Byzantine

of Ducange, p. 89 - 101. The devout civilians, Ludewig (in Vit. Justinian. p.

131) and Heineccius (Hist. Juris. Roman. p. 374) have since illustrated the

genealogy of their favorite prince.]

[Footnote 2: In the story of Justin's elevation I have translated into simple

and concise prose the eight hundred verses of the two first books of Corippus,

de Laudibus Justini Appendix Hist. Byzant. p. 401 - 416 Rome 1777.]

[Footnote 3: It is surprising how Pagi (Critica. in Annal. Baron. tom. ii. p

639) could be tempted by any chronicles to contradict the plain and decisive

text of Corippus, (vicina dona, l. ii. 354, vicina dies, l. iv. 1,) and to

postpone, till A.D. 567, the consulship of Justin.]

[Footnote 4: Theophan. Chronograph. p. 205. Whenever Cedrenus or Zonaras are

mere transcribers, it is superfluous to allege their testimony.]

On the seventh day of his reign, Justin gave audience to the ambassadors

of the Avars, and the scene was decorated to impress the Barbarians with

astonishment, veneration, and terror. From the palace gate, the spacious

courts and long porticos were lined with the lofty crests and gilt bucklers of

the guards, who presented their spears and axes with more confidence than they

would have shown in a field of battle. The officers who exercised the power,

or attended the person, of the prince, were attired in their richest habits,

and arranged according to the military and civil order of the hierarchy. When

the veil of the sanctuary was withdrawn, the ambassadors beheld the emperor of

the East on his throne, beneath a canopy, or dome, which was supported by four

columns, and crowned with a winged figure of Victory. In the first emotions

of surprise, they submitted to the servile adoration of the Byzantine court;

but as soon as they rose from the ground, Targetius, the chief of the embassy,

expressed the freedom and pride of a Barbarian. He extolled, by the tongue of

his interpreter, the greatness of the chagan, by whose clemency the kingdoms

of the South were permitted to exist, whose victorious subjects had traversed

the frozen rivers of Scythia, and who now covered the banks of the Danube with

innumerable tents. The late emperor had cultivated, with annual and costly

gifts, the friendship of a grateful monarch, and the enemies of Rome had

respected the allies of the Avars. The same prudence would instruct the

nephew of Justinian to imitate the liberality of his uncle, and to purchase

the blessings of peace from an invincible people, who delighted and excelled

in the exercise of war. The reply of the emperor was delivered in the same

strain of haughty defiance, and he derived his confidence from the God of the

Christians, the ancient glory of Rome, and the recent triumphs of Justinian.

"The empire," said he, "abounds with men and horses, and arms sufficient to

defend our frontiers, and to chastise the Barbarians. You offer aid, you

threaten hostilities: we despise your enmity and your aid. The conquerors of

the Avars solicit our alliance; shall we dread their fugitives and exiles? ^5

The bounty of our uncle was granted to your misery, to your humble prayers.

From us you shall receive a more important obligation, the knowledge of your

own weakness. Retire from our presence; the lives of ambassadors are safe;

and, if you return to implore our pardon, perhaps you will taste of our

benevolence." ^6 On the report of his ambassadors, the chagan was awed by the

apparent firmness of a Roman emperor of whose character and resources he was

ignorant. Instead of executing his threats against the Eastern empire, he

marched into the poor and savage countries of Germany, which were subject to

the dominion of the Franks. After two doubtful battles, he consented to

retire, and the Austrasian king relieve the distress of his camp with an

immediate supply of corn and cattle. ^7 Such repeated disappointments had

chilled the spirit of the Avars, and their power would have dissolved away in

the Sarmatian desert, if the alliance of Alboin, king of the Lombards, had not

given a new object to their arms, and a lasting settlement to their wearied


[Footnote 5: Corippus, l. iii. 390. The unquestionable sense relates to the

Turks, the conquerors of the Avars; but the word scultor has no apparent

meaning, and the sole Ms. of Corippus, from whence the first edition (1581,

apud Plantin) was printed, is no longer visible. The last editor, Foggini of

Rome, has inserted the conjectural emendation of soldan: but the proofs of

Ducange, (Joinville, Dissert. xvi. p. 238 - 240,) for the early use of this

title among the Turks and Persians, are weak or ambiguous. And I must incline

to the authority of D'Herbelot, (Bibliotheque Orient. p. 825,) who ascribes

the word to the Arabic and Chaldaean tongues, and the date to the beginning of

the xith century, when it was bestowed by the khalif of Bagdad on Mahmud,

prince of Gazna, and conqueror of India.]

[Footnote 6: For these characteristic speeches, compare the verse of Corippus

(l. iii. 251 - 401) with the prose of Menander, (Excerpt. Legation. p 102,

103.) Their diversity proves that they did not copy each other their

resemblance, that they drew from a common original.]

[Footnote 7: For the Austrasian war, see Menander (Excerpt. Legat. p. 110,)

Gregory of Tours, (Hist. Franc. l. iv. c 29,) and Paul the deacon, (de Gest.

Langobard. l. ii. c. 10.)]

While Alboin served under his father's standard, he encountered in

battle, and transpierced with his lance, the rival prince of the Gepidae. The

Lombards, who applauded such early prowess, requested his father, with

unanimous acclamations, that the heroic youth, who had shared the dangers of

the field, might be admitted to the feast of victory. "You are not

unmindful," replied the inflexible Audoin, "of the wise customs of our

ancestors. Whatever may be his merit, a prince is incapable of sitting at

table with his father till he has received his arms from a foreign and royal

hand." Alboin bowed with reverence to the institutions of his country,

selected forty companions, and boldly visited the court of Turisund, king of

the Gepidae, who embraced and entertained, according to the laws of

hospitality, the murderer of his son. At the banquet, whilst Alboin occupied

the seat of the youth whom he had slain, a tender remembrance arose in the

mind of Turisund. "How dear is that place! how hateful is that person!" were

the words that escaped, with a sigh, from the indignant father. His grief

exasperated the national resentment of the Gepidae; and Cunimund, his

surviving son, was provoked by wine, or fraternal affection, to the desire of

vengeance. "The Lombards," said the rude Barbarian, "resemble, in figure and

in smell, the mares of our Sarmatian plains." And this insult was a coarse

allusion to the white bands which enveloped their legs. "Add another

resemblance," replied an audacious Lombard; "you have felt how strongly they

kick. Visit the plain of Asfield, and seek for the bones of thy brother: they

are mingled with those of the vilest animals." The Gepidae, a nation of

warriors, started from their seats, and the fearless Alboin, with his forty

companions, laid their hands on their swords. The tumult was appeased by the

venerable interposition of Turisund. He saved his own honor, and the life of

his guest; and, after the solemn rites of investiture, dismissed the stranger

in the bloody arms of his son; the gift of a weeping parent. Alboin returned

in triumph; and the Lombards, who celebrated his matchless intrepidity, were

compelled to praise the virtues of an enemy. ^8 In this extraordinary visit he

had probably seen the daughter of Cunimund, who soon after ascended the throne

of the Gepidae. Her name was Rosamond, an appellation expressive of female

beauty, and which our own history or romance has consecrated to amorous tales.

The king of the Lombards (the father of Alboin no longer lived) was contracted

to the granddaughter of Clovis; but the restraints of faith and policy soon

yielded to the hope of possessing the fair Rosamond, and of insulting her

family and nation. The arts of persuasion were tried without success; and the

impatient lover, by force and stratagem, obtained the object of his desires.

War was the consequence which he foresaw and solicited; but the Lombards could

not long withstand the furious assault of the Gepidae, who were sustained by a

Roman army. And, as the offer of marriage was rejected with contempt, Alboin

was compelled to relinquish his prey, and to partake of the disgrace which he

had inflicted on the house of Cunimund. ^9

[Footnote 8: Paul Warnefrid, the deacon of Friuli, de Gest. Langobard. l. i.

c. 23, 24. His pictures of national manners, though rudely sketched are more

lively and faithful than those of Bede, or Gregory of Tours]

[Footnote 9: The story is told by an impostor, (Theophylact. Simocat. l. vi.

c. 10;) but he had art enough to build his fictions on public and notorious


When a public quarrel is envenomed by private injuries, a blow that is

not mortal or decisive can be productive only of a short truce, which allows

the unsuccessful combatant to sharpen his arms for a new encounter. The

strength of Alboin had been found unequal to the gratification of his love,

ambition, and revenge: he condescended to implore the formidable aid of the

chagan; and the arguments that he employed are expressive of the art and

policy of the Barbarians. In the attack of the Gepidae, he had been prompted

by the just desire of extirpating a people whom their alliance with the Roman

empire had rendered the common enemies of the nations, and the personal

adversaries of the chagan. If the forces of the Avars and the Lombards should

unite in this glorious quarrel, the victory was secure, and the reward

inestimable: the Danube, the Hebrus, Italy, and Constantinople, would be

exposed, without a barrier, to their invincible arms. But, if they hesitated

or delayed to prevent the malice of the Romans, the same spirit which had

insulted would pursue the Avars to the extremity of the earth. These specious

reasons were heard by the chagan with coldness and disdain: he detained the

Lombard ambassadors in his camp, protracted the negotiation, and by turns

alleged his want of inclination, or his want of ability, to undertake this

important enterprise. At length he signified the ultimate price of his

alliance, that the Lombards should immediately present him with a tithe of

their cattle; that the spoils and captives should be equally divided; but that

the lands of the Gepidae should become the sole patrimony of the Avars. Such

hard conditions were eagerly accepted by the passions of Alboin; and, as the

Romans were dissatisfied with the ingratitude and perfidy of the Gepidae,

Justin abandoned that incorrigible people to their fate, and remained the

tranquil spectator of this unequal conflict. The despair of Cunimund was

active and dangerous. He was informed that the Avars had entered his

confines; but, on the strong assurance that, after the defeat of the Lombards,

these foreign invaders would easily be repelled, he rushed forwards to

encounter the implacable enemy of his name and family. But the courage of the

Gepidae could secure them no more than an honorable death. The bravest of the

nation fell in the field of battle; the king of the Lombards contemplated with

delight the head of Cunimund; and his skull was fashioned into a cup to

satiate the hatred of the conqueror, or, perhaps, to comply with the savage

custom of his country. ^10 After this victory, no further obstacle could

impede the progress of the confederates, and they faithfully executed the

terms of their agreement. ^11 The fair countries of Walachia, Moldavia,

Transylvania, and the other parts of Hungary beyond the Danube, were occupied,

without resistance, by a new colony of Scythians; and the Dacian empire of the

chagans subsisted with splendor above two hundred and thirty years. The

nation of the Gepidae was dissolved; but, in the distribution of the captives,

the slaves of the Avars were less fortunate than the companions of the

Lombards, whose generosity adopted a valiant foe, and whose freedom was

incompatible with cool and deliberate tyranny. One moiety of the spoil

introduced into the camp of Alboin more wealth than a Barbarian could readily

compute. The fair Rosamond was persuaded, or compelled, to acknowledge the

rights of her victorious lover; and the daughter of Cunimund appeared to

forgive those crimes which might be imputed to her own irresistible charms.

[Footnote 10: It appears from Strabo, Pliny, and Ammianus Marcellinus, that

the same practice was common among the Scythian tribes, (Muratori, Scriptores

Rer. Italic. tom. i. p. 424.) The scalps of North America are likewise

trophies of valor. The skull of Cunimund was preserved above two hundred

years among the Lombards; and Paul himself was one of the guests to whom Duke

Ratchis exhibited this cup on a high festival, (l. ii. c. 28.)]

[Footnote 11: Paul, l. i. c. 27. Menander, in Excerpt Legat. p. 110, 111.]

The destruction of a mighty kingdom established the fame of Alboin. In

the days of Charlemagne, the Bavarians, the Saxons, and the other tribes of

the Teutonic language, still repeated the songs which described the heroic

virtues, the valor, liberality, and fortune of the king of the Lombards. ^12

But his ambition was yet unsatisfied; and the conqueror of the Gepidae turned

his eyes from the Danube to the richer banks of the Po, and the Tyber. Fifteen

years had not elapsed, since his subjects, the confederates of Narses, had

visited the pleasant climate of Italy: the mountains, the rivers, the

highways, were familiar to their memory: the report of their success, perhaps

the view of their spoils, had kindled in the rising generation the flame of

emulation and enterprise. Their hopes were encouraged by the spirit and

eloquence of Alboin: and it is affirmed, that he spoke to their senses, by

producing at the royal feast, the fairest and most exquisite fruits that grew

spontaneously in the garden of the world. No sooner had he erected his

standard, than the native strength of the Lombard was multiplied by the

adventurous youth of Germany and Scythia. The robust peasantry of Noricum and

Pannonia had resumed the manners of Barbarians; and the names of the Gepidae,

Bulgarians, Sarmatians, and Bavarians, may be distinctly traced in the

provinces of Italy. ^13 Of the Saxons, the old allies of the Lombards, twenty

thousand warriors, with their wives and children, accepted the invitation of

Alboin. Their bravery contributed to his success; but the accession or the

absence of their numbers was not sensibly felt in the magnitude of his host.

Every mode of religion was freely practised by its respective votaries. The

king of the Lombards had been educated in the Arian heresy; but the Catholics,

in their public worship, were allowed to pray for his conversion; while the

more stubborn Barbarians sacrificed a she-goat, or perhaps a captive, to the

gods of their fathers. ^14 The Lombards, and their confederates, were united

by their common attachment to a chief, who excelled in all the virtues and

vices of a savage hero; and the vigilance of Alboin provided an ample magazine

of offensive and defensive arms for the use of the expedition. The portable

wealth of the Lombards attended the march: their lands they cheerfully

relinquished to the Avars, on the solemn promise, which was made and accepted

without a smile, that if they failed in the conquest of Italy, these voluntary

exiles should be reinstated in their former possessions.

[Footnote 12: Ut hactenus etiam tam apud Bajoarior um gentem, quam et Saxmum,

sed et alios ejusdem linguae homines .... . in eorum carmini bus

celebretur. Paul, l. i. c. 27. He died A.D. 799, (Muratori, in Praefat. tom.

i. p. 397.) These German songs, some of which might be as old as Tacitus, (de

Moribus Germ. c. 2,) were compiled and transcribed by Charlemagne. Barbara et

antiquissima carmina, quibus veterum regum actus et bella canebantur scripsit

memoriaeque mandavit, (Eginard, in Vit. Carol. Magn. c. 29, p. 130, 131.) The

poems, which Goldast commends, (Animadvers. ad Eginard. p. 207,) appear to be

recent and contemptible romances.]

[Footnote 13: The other nations are rehearsed by Paul, (l. ii. c. 6, 26,)

Muratori (Antichita Italiane, tom. i. dissert. i. p. 4) has discovered the

village of the Bavarians, three miles from Modena.]

[Footnote 14: Gregory the Roman (Dialog. l. i. iii. c. 27, 28, apud Baron.

Annal Eccles. A.D. 579, No. 10) supposes that they likewise adored this she-

goat. I know but of one religion in which the god and the victim are the


They might have failed, if Narses had been the antagonist of the

Lombards; and the veteran warriors, the associates of his Gothic victory,

would have encountered with reluctance an enemy whom they dreaded and

esteemed. But the weakness of the Byzantine court was subservient to the

Barbarian cause; and it was for the ruin of Italy, that the emperor once

listened to the complaints of his subjects. The virtues of Narses were

stained with avarice; and, in his provincial reign of fifteen years, he

accumulated a treasure of gold and silver which surpassed the modesty of a

private fortune. His government was oppressive or unpopular, and the general

discontent was expressed with freedom by the deputies of Rome. Before the

throne of Justinian they boldly declared, that their Gothic servitude had been

more tolerable than the despotism of a Greek eunuch; and that, unless their

tyrant were instantly removed, they would consult their own happiness in the

choice of a master. The apprehension of a revolt was urged by the voice of

envy and detraction, which had so recently triumphed over the merit of

Belisarius. A new exarch, Longinus, was appointed to supersede the conqueror

of Italy, and the base motives of his recall were revealed in the insulting

mandate of the empress Sophia, "that he should leave to men the exercise of

arms, and return to his proper station among the maidens of the palace, where

a distaff should be again placed in the hand of the eunuch." "I will spin her

such a thread as she shall not easily unravel!" is said to have been the reply

which indignation and conscious virtue extorted from the hero. Instead of

attending, a slave and a victim, at the gate of the Byzantine palace, he

retired to Naples, from whence (if any credit is due to the belief of the

times) Narses invited the Lombards to chastise the ingratitude of the prince

and people. ^15 But the passions of the people are furious and changeable, and

the Romans soon recollected the merits, or dreaded the resentment, of their

victorious general. By the mediation of the pope, who undertook a special

pilgrimage to Naples, their repentance was accepted; and Narses, assuming a

milder aspect and a more dutiful language, consented to fix his residence in

the Capitol. His death, ^16 though in the extreme period of old age, was

unseasonable and premature, since his genius alone could have repaired the

last and fatal error of his life. The reality, or the suspicion, of a

conspiracy disarmed and disunited the Italians. The soldiers resented the

disgrace, and bewailed the loss, of their general. They were ignorant of their

new exarch; and Longinus was himself ignorant of the state of the army and the

province. In the preceding years Italy had been desolated by pestilence and

famine, and a disaffected people ascribed the calamities of nature to the

guilt or folly of their rulers. ^17

[Footnote 15: The charge of the deacon against Narses (l. ii. c. 5) may be

groundless; but the weak apology of the Cardinal (Baron. Annal Eccles. A.D.

567, No. 8 - 12) is rejected by the best critics - Pagi (tom. ii. p. 639,

640,) Muratori, (Annali d' Italia, tom. v. p. 160 - 163,) and the last

editors, Horatius Blancus, (Script. Rerum Italic. tom. i. p. 427, 428,) and

Philip Argelatus, (Sigon. Opera, tom. ii. p. 11, 12.) The Narses who assisted

at the coronation of Justin (Corippus, l. iii. 221) is clearly understood to

be a different person.]

[Footnote 16: The death of Narses is mentioned by Paul, l. ii. c. 11. Anastas.

in Vit. Johan. iii. p. 43. Agnellus, Liber Pontifical. Raven. in Script. Rer.

Italicarum, tom. ii. part i. p. 114, 124. Yet I cannot believe with Agnellus

that Narses was ninety-five years of age. Is it probable that all his

exploits were performed at fourscore?]

[Footnote 17: The designs of Narses and of the Lombards for the invasion of

Italy are exposed in the last chapter of the first book, and the seven last

chapters of the second book, of Paul the deacon.]

Whatever might be the grounds of his security, Alboin neither expected

nor encountered a Roman army in the field. He ascended the Julian Alps, and

looked down with contempt and desire on the fruitful plains to which his

victory communicated the perpetual appellation of Lombardy. A faithful

chieftain, and a select band, were stationed at Forum Julii, the modern

Friuli, to guard the passes of the mountains. The Lombards respected the

strength of Pavia, and listened to the prayers of the Trevisans: their slow

and heavy multitudes proceeded to occupy the palace and city of Verona; and

Milan, now rising from her ashes, was invested by the powers of Alboin five

months after his departure from Pannonia. Terror preceded his march: he found

every where, or he left, a dreary solitude; and the pusillanimous Italians

presumed, without a trial, that the stranger was invincible. Escaping to

lakes, or rocks, or morasses, the affrighted crowds concealed some fragments

of their wealth, and delayed the moment of their servitude. Paulinus, the

patriarch of Aquileia, removed his treasures, sacred and profane, to the Isle

of Grado, ^18 and his successors were adopted by the infant republic of

Venice, which was continually enriched by the public calamities. Honoratus,

who filled the chair of St. Ambrose, had credulously accepted the faithless

offers of a capitulation; and the archbishop, with the clergy and nobles of

Milan, were driven by the perfidy of Alboin to seek a refuge in the less

accessible ramparts of Genoa. Along the maritime coast, the courage of the

inhabitants was supported by the facility of supply, the hopes of relief, and

the power of escape; but from the Trentine hills to the gates of Ravenna and

Rome the inland regions of Italy became, without a battle or a siege, the

lasting patrimony of the Lombards. The submission of the people invited the

Barbarian to assume the character of a lawful sovereign, and the helpless

exarch was confined to the office of announcing to the emperor Justin the

rapid and irretrievable loss of his provinces and cities. ^19 One city, which

had been diligently fortified by the Goths, resisted the arms of a new

invader; and while Italy was subdued by the flying detachments of the

Lombards, the royal camp was fixed above three years before the western gate

of Ticinum, or Pavia. The same courage which obtains the esteem of a

civilized enemy provokes the fury of a savage, and the impatient besieger had

bound himself by a tremendous oath, that age, and sex, and dignity, should be

confounded in a general massacre. The aid of famine at length enabled him to

execute his bloody vow; but, as Alboin entered the gate, his horse stumbled,

fell, and could not be raised from the ground. One of his attendants was

prompted by compassion, or piety, to interpret this miraculous sign of the

wrath of Heaven: the conqueror paused and relented; he sheathed his sword, and

peacefully reposing himself in the palace of Theodoric, proclaimed to the

trembling multitude that they should live and obey. Delighted with the

situation of a city which was endeared to his pride by the difficulty of the

purchase, the prince of the Lombards disdained the ancient glories of Milan;

and Pavia, during some ages, was respected as the capital of the kingdom of

Italy. ^20

[Footnote 18: Which from this translation was called New Aquileia, (Chron.

Venet. p. 3.) The patriarch of Grado soon became the first citizen of the

republic, (p. 9, &c.,) but his seat was not removed to Venice till the year

1450. He is now decorated with titles and honors; but the genius of the

church has bowed to that of the state, and the government of a Catholic city

is strictly Presbyterian. Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 156,

157, 161 - 165. Amelot de la Houssaye, Gouvernement de Venise, tom. i. p. 256

- 261.]

[Footnote 19: Paul has given a description of Italy, as it was then divided

into eighteen regions, (l. ii. c. 14 - 24.) The Dissertatio Chorographica de

Italia Medii Aevi, by Father Beretti, a Benedictine monk, and regius professor

at Pavia, has been usefully consulted.]

[Footnote 20: For the conquest of Italy, see the original materials of Paul,

(l. p. 7 - 10, 12, 14, 25, 26, 27,) the eloquent narrative of Sigonius, tom.

il. de Regno Italiae, l. i. p. 13 - 19,) and the correct and critical review

el Muratori, (Annali d' Italia, tom. v. p. 164 - 180.)]

The reign of the founder was splendid and transient; and, before he could

regulate his new conquests, Alboin fell a sacrifice to domestic treason and

female revenge. In a palace near Verona, which had not been erected for the

Barbarians, he feasted the companions of his arms; intoxication was the reward

of valor, and the king himself was tempted by appetite, or vanity, to exceed

the ordinary measure of his intemperance. After draining many capacious bowls

of Rhaetian or Falernian wine, he called for the skull of Cunimund, the

noblest and most precious ornament of his sideboard. The cup of victory was

accepted with horrid applause by the circle of the Lombard chiefs. "Fill it

again with wine," exclaimed the inhuman conqueror, "fill it to the brim: carry

this goblet to the queen, and request in my name that she would rejoice with

her father." In an agony of grief and rage, Rosamond had strength to utter,

"Let the will of my lord be obeyed!" and, touching it with her lips,

pronounced a silent imprecation, that the insult should be washed away in the

blood of Alboin. Some indulgence might be due to the resentment of a

daughter, if she had not already violated the duties of a wife. Implacable in

her enmity, or inconstant in her love, the queen of Italy had stooped from the

throne to the arms of a subject, and Helmichis, the king's armor-bearer, was

the secret minister of her pleasure and revenge. Against the proposal of the

murder, he could no longer urge the scruples of fidelity or gratitude; but

Helmichis trembled when he revolved the danger as well as the guilt, when he

recollected the matchless strength and intrepidity of a warrior whom he had so

often attended in the field of battle. He pressed and obtained, that one of

the bravest champions of the Lombards should be associated to the enterprise;

but no more than a promise of secrecy could be drawn from the gallant

Peredeus, and the mode of seduction employed by Rosamond betrays her shameless

insensibility both to honor and love. She supplied the place of one of her

female attendants who was beloved by Peredeus, and contrived some excuse for

darkness and silence, till she could inform her companion that he had enjoyed

the queen of the Lombards, and that his own death, or the death of Alboin,

must be the consequence of such treasonable adultery. In this alternative he

chose rather to be the accomplice than the victim of Rosamond, ^21 whose

undaunted spirit was incapable of fear or remorse. She expected and soon

found a favorable moment, when the king, oppressed with wine, had retired from

the table to his afternoon slumbers. His faithless spouse was anxious for his

health and repose: the gates of the palace were shut, the arms removed, the

attendants dismissed, and Rosamond, after lulling him to rest by her tender

caresses, unbolted the chamber door, and urged the reluctant conspirators to

the instant execution of the deed. On the first alarm, the warrior started

from his couch: his sword, which he attempted to draw, had been fastened to

the scabbard by the hand of Rosamond; and a small stool, his only weapon,

could not long protect him from the spears of the assassins. The daughter of

Cunimund smiled in his fall: his body was buried under the staircase of the

palace; and the grateful posterity of the Lombards revered the tomb and the

memory of their victorious leader.

[Footnote 21: The classical reader will recollect the wife and murder of

Candaules, so agreeably told in the first book of Herodotus. The choice of

Gyges, may serve as the excuse of Peredeus; and this soft insinuation of an

odious idea has been imitated by the best writers of antiquity, (Graevius, ad

Ciceron. Orat. pro Miloue c. 10)]

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