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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great and his successors (518-610)

Slavs and Avars 


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Page 2

After the death of Justinian, Italy was insufficiently protected against the attacks of enemies, which explains the ease and speed with which it was again conquered by a new German barbarian tribe, the Lombards, who appeared there only a few years after Justinian had destroyed the Ostrogothic kingdom. In the middle of the sixth century the Lombards, in alliance with the Avars, destroyed the kingdom of the barbarian tribe of the Gepids (Gepidae) on the Middle Danube. Later, perhaps in fear of their own allies, they advanced from Pannonia into Italy under the leadership of their king (konung), Alboin, moving with their wives and children. They included many different tribes, among whom the Saxons were particularly numerous. Popular tradition has accused Narses, a former general in Justinian's army and the aged ruler of Italy, of having invited the Lombards into his country, but this accusation must be considered unfounded. After the accession of Justin II he retired because of old age and died shortly after in Rome. In the year 568 the Lombards entered northern Italy. A wild barbaric horde, Arian by faith, they laid waste all the localities through which they passed, They soon conquered northern Italy, which became known as Lombardy. The Byzantine ruler, lacking sufficient means for resisting them, remained within the walls of Ravenna, which the barbarians by-passed as they moved on to the south. Their large hordes dispersed over almost the entire peninsula, occupying the unprotected cities with great ease. They reached southern Italy and soon occupied Benevento (Beneventum). Though they did not capture Rome, they surrounded the Roman province on three sides: from the north, east, and south. They cut off all connections between Ravenna and Rome, so that Rome could hope for no help there and still less for help from the even more distant rulers of Constantinople, who were passing through one of the most difficult and troubled periods in the history of the East.

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