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7-08-2015, 21:24

751 and its consequences

In early 744 Liutprand died, and Zacharias was able to confirm the twentyyear treaty with his successor-but-one, Ratchis (744–9). For obscure reasons Ratchis abandoned his pro-Roman policy in 749 and launched a campaign against the Pentapolis. Zacharias met the king and prevailed upon him to renounce his conquests, but within a short time Ratchis became a monk and was succeeded by his brother Aistulf (749–56). Aistulf adopted a more aggressive policy, including attacks on Istria, Ferrara, Comacchio and Ravenna itself, which was in his hands by 4 July 751. The ease with which the capital was finally taken may in part be explained by the exarch Eutychios’ realism in surrendering the city in the face of considerable odds. The existence of a pro-Lombard party among its citizens – hostile to the only viable alternative, papal overlordship – may also help explain the city’s defeat: this group may have included the city’s archbishop, Sergius, who, according to Agnellus, had aspirations to rule the area ‘just like an exarch’.29 Certainly Aistulf showed himself aware of Ravennate sensibilities by observing the forms and titles of Roman rulership, patronising the city’s churches and showing deference to its patron, St Apollinaris. Nor did he attempt a military occupation of the exarchate, relying on control exercised on its border through the foundation of the royal monastery of Nonantola and the foundation of the duchy of Persiceto under a loyal Friulian noble. The long-term consequences of the fall of Ravenna in 751 proved dramatic for the papacy and for the Lombard and Frankish kingdoms, especially since the same annus mirabilis saw the deposition of the lastMerovingian king with the sanction of Pope Zacharias, and the anointing of Pippin the Short (751–68) as king of the Franks by the Frankish bishops. Ironically the fall of the capital with more of a whimper than a bang had little direct effect on the remaining territories of Byzantine Italy. The process of decentralisation had been underway for decades, with effective power in the hands of local elites led by duces. Nevertheless the history of the surviving provinces is best studied by examining them in three separate blocks, since in each the relatively uniform social structure of the imperial period was gradually transformed by particular local factors. In the north, Venetia and Istria retained their imperial allegiance; in the south, Sicily and the duchies of Calabria, Otranto and Naples continued to come under the authority of the strat¯egos of the Sicilian theme;and in central Italy the exarchate, the Pentapolis and the duchies of Perugia and Rome were the subject of a tug-of-war between the Lombards, the papacy and entrenched local elites.

 

 

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