Page 1061

1061 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-KINGDOMS IN ITALY.

retired beyond the Po, where they assembled

and chose Teias for their king.

The new monarch at once solicited the aid

of the Franks, and then marched into Campania to the relief of his brother Aligern, who

was defending the treasure-house of Cumae, in

which Totila had deposited a large part of the

riches of the state. In the year 553 Narses

met this second army in battle and again

routed the Goths and killed their king. Aligern was then besieged in Cumae for more

than a year, and was obliged to surrender.

At this juncture, however, an army of

seventy-five thousand Germans, led by the two

dukes of the Alemanni, came down from the

Rhaetian Alps and threatened to burst like a

thunder cloud upon Central Italy. The change

of climate, however, and the wine-swilling

gluttony of the Teutonic warriors combined to

bring on contagion and decimate their ranks.

Narses went forth with an army of eighteen

thousand men and met the foe on the banks

of the Vulturnus. Here, in 554, the petty

eunuch inflicted on the barbarians a defeat so

decisive as to reaffirm the status of Italy. The

greater part of the Gothic army perished

either by the sword or in attempting to cross

the river. The victorious army returned laden

with the spoils of the Goths, and for the last

time the Via Sacra was the scene of the spectacle of victory called a triumph.

Thus, in the year 554, after a period of

sixty years duration, was subverted the Ostrogothic throne of Italy. One-third of this time

had been consumed in actual war. The country was devastated-almost depopulated-by

the conflict. The vast area of the kingdom

was reduced to the narrow limits of a province,

which, under the name of the Exarchate of

Ravenna, remained as an appendage of the

Eastern Empire. As for the Goths, they either

retired to their native seats beyond the mountains or were absorbed by the Italians. The

Franks also receded beyond the limits of Italy,

and the Emperor and the pope, using Narses

as the right arm of their power, proceeded to

restore a certain degree of order to the distracted peninsula.

In the mean time two other barbarian nations became competitors for the sovereignty of the North. These were the Gepidae and the Lombards. The latter, after having disappeared from history since the days of Trajan, again returned to the stage, and for a season

became the principal actors of the drama.

After a contest of thirty years, they succeeded

in overthrowing the Gepidae, who before submitting fought to the verge of extermination.

Audoin, king of the Lombards, was succeeded

by his son, Alboin, who sought for his wife the

princess Rosamond, daughter of the king of

the Gepidae; but the demand was refused, and

Alboin undertook to. obtain by force the coveted treasure. A dreadful war ensued, which,

as above stated, resulted in the destruction of

the Gepidae. Alboin. took the princess Rosamond after the heroic fashion, and converted

the skull of his beloved father-in-law into a

drinking cup.

Thus had the king of the Lombards a taste

of the glory of war. He cast his eyes upon

the sunny plains of Italy. Around his banners were gathered not only his own tribes,

but also many of the Germans and Scyths.

Meanwhile, the able though tyrannical Narses,

accused by his Roman subjects of exactions

and cruelty, had been recalled from Italy, and

was succeeded by the exarch, Longinus. Fortunate it was for the Lombards that the puissant eunuch was not their competitor for the

possession of the Italian prize. In the year

567, Alboin descended from the Julian Alps

into the valley of the Po. Rumor spread her

wings before the avenging avalanche, and no

army could be found to confront the invaders.

The people fled like sheep before the terrible

Lombards, and Alboin was besought by the

cowering multitudes to assume the lawful sovereignty of the country. Only the fortress of

Pavia held out against the invaders until it

was reduced by famine. Here Alboin established his court, and for more than two centuries Pavia, the ancient Ticinum, became the capital of Lombardy.

Brief, however, was the glory of the conqueror. The barbarian instincts of Alboin

soon led to his destruction. Engaging in a

night revel in a palace near Verona, he drank

wine to furious intoxication. While his barbaric brain flashed with hilarious delirium, he