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Eth. LANGOBARDI, LONGOBARDI (Eth.Λαγγοβάρδοι, Eth. Λογγοβάρδοι, also Λαγγοβάρδαι and Λογγοβάρδαι), a tribe of Germans whom we first meet with in the plain, south of the lower Elbe, and who belonged to the Suevi (Strab. vii. p.290, where Kramer reads Λαγκόβαρδοι; Ptol. 2.11. § § 9,17). According to Paulus Diaconus, himself a Langobard, or Lombard (Hist. Longob. 1.3, 8; comp. Isidor. Orig. 9.2; Etym. M. s. v. γένειον), the tribe derived its name from the long beards, by which they distinguished themselves from the other Germans, who generally shaved their beards. But it seems to be more probable that they derived the name from the country they inhabited on the banks of the Elbe, where Börde (or Bord) still signifies “a fertile plain by the side of a river;” and a district near Magdeburg is still called the lange Börde (Wilhelm, Germanien, p. 286). According to this, Langobardi would signify “inhabitants of the long bord of the river.” The district in which we first meet with them, is the left bank of the Elbe, from the point where the Sala empties itself into it, to the frontiers of the Chauci Minores, so that they were bounded in the north by the Elbe, in the east by the Semnones, in the south by the Cherusci, and in the west by the Fosi and Angrivarii. Traces of the name of the Langobardi still occur in that country in such names as Bardengau, Bardewik. The earliest writer who mentions the Langobardi as inhabiting those parts, is Velleius Paterculus (2.106). But notwithstanding the unanimous testimony of the ancients that they were a branch of the Suevi, their own historian (Paul. Diac. l.c.; comp. Euseb. Chron. ad an. 380) states that the Langobardi originally did not inhabit any part of Germany, but had migrated south from Scandinavia, where they had borne the name of Vinili, and that they assumed the name Langobardi after their arrival in Germany. It is impossible to say what value is to be attributed to this statement, which has found as many advocates as it has had opponents. From Strabo (l.c.) it is clear that they occupied the northern bank of the Elbe, and it is possible that they were among those Germans whom Tiberius, in the reign of Augustus drove across the Elbe (Suet. Aug. 21). In their new country they were soon reduced to submission by Maroboduus, but [p. 2.120]afterwards they shook off the yoke, and, in conjunction with the Semnones, joined the confederacy of the Cheruscans against the Marcomanni. (Tac. Ann. 2.45.) When, in consequence of the murder of Arminius, the power of the Cheruscans was decaying more and more, the Langobardi not only supported and restored Italus, the king of the Cheruscans who had been expelled, but seem to have extended their own territory in the south. so as to occupy the country between Halle, Magdeburg, and Leipzig. (Tac. Ann. 11.17.) They were not a numerous tribe, but their want of numbers was made up for by their natural bravery (Tac. Germ. 40), and Velleius describes them as a “gens etiam Germana feritate ferocior.” Shortly after these events the Langobardi disappear from history, until they are mentioned again by Ptolemy (l.c.), who places them in the extensive territory between the Rhine and Weser, and even beyond the latter river almost as far as the Elbe. They thus occupied the country which had formerly been inhabited by the tribes forming the Cheruscan confederacy. This great extension of their territory shows that their power must have been increasing ever since their liberation from the yoke of Maroboduus. After this time we again hear nothing of the Longobardi for a considerable period. They are indeed mentioned, in an excerpt from the history of Petrus Patricius (Exc. de Legat. p. 124), as allies of the Obii on the frontiers of Pannonia; but otherwise history is silent about them, until, in the second half of the 5th century, they appear on the north of the Danube in Upper Hungary as tributary to the Heruli (Procop. de Bell. Goth. 2.15, who describes them as Christians). Whether these Langobardi, however, were the same people whom we last met with between the Rhine and the Elbe, or whether they were only a band of emigrants who had in the course of time become so numerous as to form a distinct tribe, is a question which cannot be answered with certainty, although the latter seems to be the more probable supposition. Their natural love of freedom could not bear to submit to the rule of the Heruli, and after having defeated the king of the latter in a great battle, they subdued the neighbouring Quadi, likewise a Suevian tribe, and henceforth they were for a long time the terror of their neighbours and the Roman province of Pannonia. (Paul. Diac. 1.22.) For, being the most powerful nation in those parts, they extended their dominion down the Danube, and occupied the extensive plains in the north of Dacia on the river Theiss, where they first came in conflict with the Gepidae, and entered Pannonia. (Paul. Diac. 1.20.) The emperor Justinian, wanting their support against the Gepidae, gave them lands and supplied them with money (Procop. Bell. Goth. 3.33), and under their king Audoin they gained a great victory over the Gepidae. (Paul. Diac. 1.25; Procop. Bell. Goth. 3.34, 4.18, 25.) Alboin, Audoin‘s successor, after having, in conjunction with the Avari, completely overthrown the empire of the Gepidae, led the Langobardi, in A. D. 568, into Italy, where they permanently established themselves, and founded the kingdom from which down to this day the north-east of Italy bears the name of Lombardy. (Exc. de Legat. pp. 303, 304; Marius Episc. Chron. Ronc. 2.412.) The occasion of their invading Italy is related as follows. When Alboin had concluded his alliance with the Avari, and had ceded to them his own dominions, Narses, to take revenge upon Justin, invited them to quit their poor country and take possession of the fertile plains of Italy. Alboin accordingly crossed the Alps, and as the north of Italy was badly defended, he succeeded in a short time in establishing his kingdom, which continued to flourish until it was overpowered and destroyed by Charlemagne. (Paul. Diac. 2.5; Eginhard, Vit. Carol. M. 6.) The history of this singular people whose name still survives, has been written in Latin by Paulus Diaconus (Warnefried), in the reign of Charlemagne, and by another Lombard of the 9th century, whose name is unknown. (Comp. Wilhelm, Germanien, p. 281, foll.; Zeuss, die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme, p. 109, foil.; F. Dufft, Quaestiones de Antiquissima Longobardorum Historia, Berlin, 1830, 8vo.; Koch-Sternfeld, das Reich der Longobarden in Italien, Munich, 1839; Latham, Tac. Germ. p. 139, and Epileg. p. lxxxiv.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.17
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.45
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 21
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.11
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