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
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