I just finished Book Five in Hodgkin’s series on the barbarian invasions of Rome and Italy, published by the Folio Society. As time goes on, the focus of the volumes concentrate primarily on events in Italy, with information on its neighbors only when it impinges on the situation in Italy.
Up until this point, the invasions have not changed the fact that Italy remained a single political unit – Odoacer replaced the West Empire, the Ostrogoths replaced Odoacer, and in the last book the Eastern Roman Empire crushed and replaced the Ostrogoths. But almost at once after that, the Lombards invaded Italy from the region of the Danube where the previous troubles had also come from. The difference was that the Lombards were not able to totally eject the Byzantines, taking slabs of Italy for themselves and leaving a collection of enclaves along the coast, This started the divided Italy that would persist until the 19th Century.
The Lombards themselves were more divided than previous invaders – their lands were separated into duchys that cooperated only fitfully with each other. For a time the Lombard dispensed with a king altogether.
In the face of this invasion, the Byzantine exarch did little, and failed at most of what he did attempt. One effect this had — the Papacy, technically loyal subjects of the Empre, came into increased prominence. Under a particularly strong Pope, Gregory the Great, the Papacy became a stronger player in Italy with every passing year, ransoming captives from the ‘unspeakable Lombards’ as well as running its own properties across the country. The schisms in the Church, where the Imperial government supported the other side also helped develop the independency of the Papacy from the East. This would only grow as the reach of Constantinople faded and the religious differences grew leading up to the final separation of the Eastern Orthodox from the Catholics.
- The Imperial Restoration – Thomas Hodgkin (kilobooks.wordpress.com)
- The Ostrogoths – Thomas Hodgkin (kilobooks.wordpress.com)
- The Huns and the Vandals – Thomas Hodgkin (kilobooks.wordpress.com)