The Warrior

Discussing the Langobards, the first image that comes to mind is that of a warrior wearing or brandishing weapons. Simply meeting a Langobard warrior must have been an experience that would not be easily forgotten: tall, the nape of his neck shaved, long hair with a central parting, a thick moustache, a very long beard and weapons of all kinds hanging from his belt, details that all together gave him a fierce air.

The Langobard warrior is a topos in the collective vision of the early Middle Ages, both because of the importance of this figure within his own social group, and because a large part of our knowledge of the Langobards comes from necropolis finds, contexts that show that the society of the time wished to represent the majority of men as warriors.

This ostentation of knightly status is amplified in the tombs of Castel Trosino (AP) where an overabundance of objects was found, precious for the material used (gold and silver) and for the workmanship, which qualify the deceased as a warrior on horseback.

In tomb 119 yielded one of the richest male trousseaus in the Italian early medieval necropolis, next to elements of the Langobard military outfitting, already present in the burials prior to the arrival in Italy, such as the sword, the scramasax, the shield, the lance, and armaments acquired on Italian territory such as the helmet and the lamellar armour.

These elements, of oriental origin but spread to the West probably through the Byzantine army, have rarely been found in Langobardic burial grounds in Italy, proving the strong interest and peculiarities of the necropolis in the Marche region.

The very rich grave goods of this burial, probably belonging to a prominent figure of the community of Castel Trosino (AP), allow us to reconstruct the image of a knighted warrior of the first half of the 7th century in full armour.

Raniero Mengarelli, who conducted the work in the necropolis of Castel Trosino between 1893 and 1896, worked out an abstract typology of the typical Langobard warrior outfit on the basis of tombs 90 and 119:

Almost always together with the skeleton of each warrior are found all or part of the following objects: […] a bone comb and a round shield with a prominent iron umbo, […] a broadsword with a wide, straight, double-edged blade, […], a spearhead of various shapes […], a small knife or scramasax […], a short dagger, sometimes garnished with gold in the hilt and sheath, a bow and quiver with iron darts […] supported by the baldric decorated with metal tiles […], a belt buckle with a terminal tip and with ornaments similar to those of the baldric, thin gold sheets […] in the shape of an equilateral cross […] sewn onto the clothing.

The tombs of the horsemen, unlike those of the infantrymen, contained […] a basin […] to dress the horses […], as well as a pair of large shears […], bit, harness and saddle.

Finally, the very poor graves of the non-warrior males did not have any furnishings other than a few terracotta vases and glass vessels.

The graves with weapons would therefore undoubtedly have belonged to Langobard soldiers and those without to their servants.

Tomb 119 yielded one of the richest male grave goods among the Italian early medieval necropolises. The extreme richness and the presence of objects such as gold fringed belts, daggers with gold decorations and gold saddle trimmings, show strong contacts with the cultural areas of Rome and Byzantium.

These contacts can also be explained in relation to the geographical position of the necropolis, located along the Via Salaria and part of the Langobard Duchy of Spoleto, which governed a strategic territory from a political and commercial point of view between the Byzantine areas of the Exarchate and Rome.

The National Museum of the Early Middle Ages in Rome keeps extraordinary finds from the burial grounds of Nocera Umbra (PG) and Castel Trosino (AP).

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