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Odin and Frigg looking out of a window in the heavens…
The Invasion of the Lombards
The Lombards (the men with long, ‘long’ beards, according to the traditional interpretation of the name) belonged to the East Germans more than to the Westerners. They were a demographically small town and probably hailed from Scandinavia, perhaps Gotland. They became sedentary around the time that is indicated as the passage from the Ancient Ages to the Middle Ages, and thus related to the Saxons, in the lower Elbe, where part of their people remained constantly and where still in the 20th century names as Bardengau and Bardewick remember them.
For centuries the Lombards are hardly mentioned in history. Their presence is proven in the manner of geological strata, the emigrants first followed the course of the Elbe to spread from the 4th century, and for two hundred years, through Bohemia, Moravia and a part of present-day Lower Austria, ‘Rugiland’, which they occupied around 488, after the withdrawal of the Rugian: another Germanic people, also a native of Scandinavia and who left the name of their island there, Rugen. Through Hungary they advanced south, creating in the Danube basin a kingdom that extended as far as Belgrade.
Auxiliary Lombards troops had supported Justinian’s wars against the Persians, as well as in 552 under the command of Narses, in the decisive battle against the Ostrogoths. Disillusioned by Byzantium, its leader Alboin allied himself with the misers, in union with whom he annihilated in another decisive battle (567) the kingdom of the Gepids, another East Germanic people. The carnage on both sides was such—there were 60,000 deaths—‘that out of such a large crowd hardly a messenger to announce the destruction survived’ (Paul the Deacon).
Alboin took Rosamund, daughter of Cunimund, the defeated Gepid king, as his wife. The Gepids no longer continued their settlement between the Lombards and the Avars, who broke in immediately. In the spring of 568—according to a contemporary Burgundian chronicler—‘the entire Lombard army, having set fire to their settlement, left Pannonia, followed by the women and the rest of the population’. Under the pressure of greedy expansion and attracted by the south, at the orders of their boss Alboin they stormed through Emona and the gorges of the Julius Alps, entering the generally unprotected north of Italy. It was the same path that Alaric and Theodoric had already travelled.
This was the last great advance of the invasion of the Nordic peoples.
With the Lombards, who together may have formed a people of 130,000 souls, came other tribal groups, populations from Pannonia, the Noricum, numerous Saxons, remnants of Gepids, Thuringians, Swabians, and Slavs. And just as the Lombards were open to the integration of other peoples, they were also open to religious tolerance. Converted to Christianity in good part from about the year 500, the majority of the population was made up of Arians. But among them there were also Catholics—Alboin was first married to Chothsind, daughter of Chlothar I—and there were above all pagans, who for a long time continued their sacrifices and sacrificial banquets, without apparently the change of beliefs of the different kings playing any role.