The duchies of Spoleto and Benevento

Duke Ariulf outperformed his predecessor for the greatness of the duchy, extending its borders widely, as well as the kingdom’s. For example, he persuaded Arigysus of Benevento to break the truce with the Neapolitans and attack the city with his help.

Together with King Authari and the dukes of Tuscany, Gummari and Nordulf, he ravaged the lands of the Maremma, still under Greek rule. Soana was destroyed along with some other towns, extending Longobard domination as far as the sea. Ariulf did not take part in this enterprise as an auxiliary, but captained it. In fact Ariulf wrote to the pope to inform him that the inhabitants of Soana had sworn submission to him; but just like the pope did when writing to the commanders Maurilio and Vitaliano concerning what to do, to prevent those places from falling under the dominion of the enemy, he only meant himself.

The Duke of Spoleto was really also then, as in the time of Faroald, the ruler of the other neighbouring dukes” (A. Sansi)

“If even minor Dukes often dared to come into armed conflict with the King, this was much easier for the Dukes of a large State and especially for those two very powerful Dukes of Spoleto and Benevento. Indeed, it can be said that long before the defeat of the Kingdom, these two dukedoms formed two separate states rather than two members of the Longobard Kingdom.

The succession of these Dukes often took place with the sole consent of the Great or amidst contrasting pretenders, without the king’s involvement. Thus, from the time of King Agilulf, when Ariulf, Duke of Spoleto, died, the two sons of his predecessor Faroald fought over the principality, which sticked with the winner Theodelapius. Nor is it known that the King interposed his authority on it. On the contrary, the kings themselves sometimes seemed to consider the two duchies as foreign.

We have several very significant arguments for this in the body of the Longobard laws. First of all, in the very Prologues of the various laws of Liutprand and Ratchis, where the King legislator expressly states that he has composed the laws with the intervention and consent of all his judges, that is, of the Dukes and the other Greats, of Austria, Neustria and Tuscia, he never mentions the Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento, as if they were outside the Kingdom: and yet in such a momentous affair, it seems that they should have had a part and a very important mention.

Furthermore, in some laws, such as the 61st and 108th of Liutprand, Austria, Tuscia and Neustria are mentioned, adapting the law to the various conditions of these provinces; Spoleto and Benevento are not mentioned, as if the law did not have to provide for them. There are, it is true, two only treaties of the Longobard Code, in which express mention is made of the two duchies are expressely mentioned; they are namely the 88th law of Liutprand on fugitive servants, and the 9th of Ratchis on messengers sent to foreign lands. But the first only says that if the servant has fled to Spoleto or Benevento, the master has three months to look for him, while only two months are allowed if he has fled to Tuscia, and only one month if he has fled to this side of the Apennines. The second prohibits, on pain of death and confiscation, the sending of messengers without the King’s permission to Spoleto and Benevento, as well as to Rome, Ravenna, France, Bavaria, Alemagna, the Rhaetia and Avaria; and by equating the two Longobard Duchies with these foreign or enemy States, it offers a very strong argument to show how the King himself treated them as two independent States rather than as two provinces of the kingdom.


The Kingdom of Italy, often heard of in the history of the Middle Ages, never embraced the whole peninsula, but only included upper Italy and changing parts of the middle; while the southern part reigned as an independent state, forming, so to speak, another Italy, by character, customs, traditions and political interests completely different from the North and impossible to join them in a single social body. When Charlemagne himself established the Kingdom of Italy on the ruins of the Longobard kingdom and gave it to his son Pepin, he did not even think of incorporating the Duchy of Benevento into it; but leaving the Duchy its autonomy, he contented himself with making it a tributary: and it was not long before the Dukes and then the Princes of Benevento freed themselves from this tribute under Charlemagne’s successors.

The alliances that the dukes of Spoleto and Benevento made with the Romans several times in the 8th century are very well known, as well as the spontaneous dedication with which their people ran to place themselves under the protection of the Popes; so much so that, due to the influence of nearby Rome and the common interest they had in resisting the Longobard Kings, they now seemed more Roman than Longobard” (“L’ultimo dei Re Longobardi” published in “La Civiltà Cattolica”, Rome 1862).


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