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Lombards (lŏmˈbərdz, –bärdz), ancient Germanic people. By the 1st cent. A.D. the Lombards were settled along the lower Elbe. After obscure migrations they were allowed (547) by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to settle in Pannonia and Noricum (modern Hungary and E Austria). In 568, under the leadership of Alboin, they invaded N Italy and established a kingdom with Pavia as its capital. They soon penetrated deep into central and S Italy, but Ravenna, the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia), and much of the coast remained under Byzantine rule while Rome and the Patrimony of St. Peter (see Papal States) were kept by the papacy. After Alboin's death (572?) and the brief reign of Cleph (d. 575), no king was elected and Lombard Italy fell under the disunited rule of 36 dukes. The Lombard duchies of Spoleto and Benevento in central and S Italy were set up independently. In 584 the Lombard nobles united to elect Cleph's son, Authari, as the new king in order to strengthen themselves against the enmity of the Franks, the Byzantines, and the popes.

The Lombard kingdom reached its height in the 7th and 8th cent. Paganism and Arianism, which were at first prevalent among the Lombards, gradually gave way to Catholicism. Roman culture and Latin speech were accepted, and the Catholic bishops emerged as chief magistrates in the cities. Lombard law combined Germanic and Roman traditions. King Liutprand (712–44) consolidated the kingdom through his legislation and reduced Spoleto and Benevento to vassalage. One of his successors, Aistulf, took Ravenna (751) and threatened Rome. Pope Stephen II appealed to the Frankish King Pepin the Short, who invaded Italy; the Lombards lost the territories comprised in the Donation of Pepin to the papacy. After Aistulf's death King Desiderius renewed (772) the attack on Rome. Charlemagne, Pepin's successor, intervened, defeated the Lombards, and was crowned (774) with the Lombard crown at Pavia. Of the Lombard kingdom only the duchy of Benevento remained, and it was conquered in the 11th cent. by the Normans. The iron crown of the Lombard kings (now kept at Monza, Italy) was also used for the coronation (951) of Otto I (the first Holy Roman emperor) as king of Italy and for the crowning of several succeeding emperors. The Lombards left their name to the Italian region of Lombardy. The chief historian of the Lombards was Paul the Deacon.


See T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. V and VI (1895, repr. 1967); P. Villari, Barbarian Invasions of Italy (2 vol., tr. 1902); J. T. Hallenbeck, Pavia and Rome: The Lombard Monarchy and the Papacy in the Eighth Century (1982).

Lombard Street

Lombard Street, in London, England. It is a street of banks and financial houses that takes its name from the Lombard merchants and moneylenders who settled there in the 13th cent.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a Germanic tribe.

In the first century A.D. the Lombards inhabited the left bank of the lower reaches of the Elbe River. In the fourth and fifth centuries they moved to the basin of the middle Danube. In 568, under pressure from the Avars, the Lombards, heading a large alliance of tribes (besides the Lombards, it included the Saxons and Sarmatians), invaded northern Italy under the command of King Alboin. In the struggle with Byzantium they conquered the territory of Lombardy (it received its name from the Lombards) and Tuscia (Tuscany), forming their own kingdom. Later the Lombards occupied Spoleto and Benevento, which became autonomous duchies. During the conquest the Lombards destroyed cities and executed or drove out many Roman landowners, confiscating their property. The Roman population had to turn over one-third of its income to the Lombards. However, the Late Roman landholding structure was not completely destroyed. There were no systematic divisions of land between the Lombards and the Romans. The Lombards settled separately from the Romans in blood-related groups under the leadership of dukes, who had substantial autonomy in the Lombard kingdom.

In the late sixth to mid-seventh centuries the Lombards were in a transition stage from a tribal-clan to an early feudal system. Most of the Lombards were free commune members, and their property and social positions were in the process of stratification. In the eighth century an intensive process of feudalization began. Impoverished commune members lost their freedom, becoming dependent personally and for the use of land on royal officials, soldiers, and ordinary freemen who had become wealthy. Precarium, benefice, and immunity came into existence. The most important sources for studying the social system of the Lombards are what are called the Lombard laws—the edict of Rothari (reigned in 636–652) and the laws of Liudprand (reigned in 712–744) and Aistulf (reigned in 749–756). In the late seventh and eighth centuries handicrafts and trade became lively. The cities that were residences of dukes, royal officials, and bishops continued to exist as commercial and handicraft centers under the Lombards.

By the mid-eighth century royal authority under the Lombards had weakened. An effort by Liudprand and Aistulf to draw support from the Catholic clergy also failed to strengthen their power. The Lombards’ expansionist policy (seizure of Ravenna in 751 and an attempt to capture Rome) ended in failure, which to a certain extent was caused by the intervention of the Franks, who were in alliance with the papacy. In 773–774, under Desiderius (reigned in 756–774), the kingdom of the Lombards was conquered by Charlemagne.


Istorila Italii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1970. (Contains a bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.