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7-08-2015, 21:23

Byzantine italy in 680

By the last quarter of the seventh century the Byzantine areas of Italy had experienced over a century of upheaval. Within decades of their first invasion of Italy in 568 the Lombards had established a powerful kingdom consisting of the territories north of the river Po, Tuscany and the two outlying duchies of Spoleto and Benevento. The empire was confined to the areas of Rome and its duchy, Ravenna, and the neighbouring areas of the exarchate and the Pentapolis, approximating to the present-day Romagna and Marche, and a few coastal areas elsewhere. The Byzantines had only been able to hold on to their possessions by initiating a thoroughgoing militarisation of society, which involved the concentration of land in military hands and the concentration of authority in the hands of the commanderin- chief in Ravenna (the exarch) and his subordinates (duces and magistri militum at a provincial level and tribuni in the localities). In many areas, such as the Roman Campania, this process was accompanied by a steady shift of population, as settlement became concentrated on military strongholds and refuges, usually located on promontories. Although the pressure eased somewhat in the seventh century, Liguria and most of the remaining settlements on the Venetian mainland were lost to the Lombards in the reign of King Rothari (636–52), and the duchy of Benevento made continual encroachments in the south, accelerating after the unsuccessful expedition of Emperor Constans II (641–68) to southern Italy in 663–8. Internal tensions were reflected in a series of revolts, the determined opposition led by the papacy to Constans II’s monothelite doctrines and a bitter conflict between the sees of Rome and Ravenna over the same emperor’s grant of ecclesiastical autonomy (autokephalia) to the latter in 666.1 In two letters addressed to his successor, Pope Agatho (678–81) bemoaned the dislocation caused by the ‘gentiles’ and complained that lack of food forced the clergy to work the land.2 By 680, however, the outlook appeared more hopeful. In that year, or shortly before, the empire had concluded a treaty with the Lombards which seems to have involved formal recognition of their kingdom.3 Constantine IV (668–85) pursued a policy of reconciliation with the papacy which was reflected in his abandonment of support for Rome’s ecclesiastical rival, the archbishopric of Ravenna; reduced taxation of papal patrimonies; and a renunciation of monotheletism in favour of Chalcedonian orthodoxy at the sixth ecumenical council, held in Constantinople in 680–1.4 The process of absorbing the Lombards into the Roman and Christian mainstream was facilitated when the Arian beliefs which had long served as an anti-Roman rallying-point for many Lombard kings and their followers were finally repudiated by King Perctarit (661–2, 671–88). Complete unity within the catholic ranks was at last achieved when the damaging schism over the Three Chapters was resolved by the council of Pavia in 698 (see above, pp. 117–18, 212–14). Byzantine influence was considerable in many respects, for example the strong presence of eastern clerics and artists not only in imperial territories such as Rome, but also in the kingdom of Italy; eight of the nine pontiffs who sat on the throne of St Peter between 676 and 715 were of Greek, Syrian or Sicilian origin. Any euphoria was short-lived because the situation within the remaining Byzantine enclaves was inherently unstable. Successful resistance to the Lombards had been achieved through concentrating power in the hands of locally formed elites from the imperial garrison units (numeri). Bureaucrats and soldiers of eastern origin had married into native families, accumulated property locally and assumed a dominant hereditary position within their communities. This group, which probably included some more adaptable elements from among the middle-ranking civilian landowners surviving from the late Roman period, came to identify strongly with local interests and traditions; it was in a position to flex its muscles whenever it saw its position threatened by an imperial government which it regarded as remote and alternately impotent or oppressive. As a result of this process, and of the empire’s preoccupation with more immediate threats from the Arabs, Bulgars and Slavs and its consequent shortage of resources, the position of the exarch and other officials sent out from the east became increasingly marginal. Exarchal power was further limited in the early 690s by the elevation of Sicily into a theme, whose governor (strat¯egos) was also granted authority overNaples and the other imperial territories in the southern mainland.5 In this context the transformation of the Lombards from barbarian bogeymen to Romanised catholics served to weaken allegiance to the empire further.