Liutprand

(d. 744)
   The greatest of the Lombard kings of Italy, Liutprand ruled during a time of great prosperity and growth for the Lombard kingdom (r. 712-744). He expanded the boundaries of the kingdom in Italy and sought to bring the entire peninsula under his authority. The Lombard duchies of the south were brought to heel by Liutprand, and he conquered many of the possessions of the Byzantine Empire in Italy. He also enjoyed success against the papacy, which owned extensive estates in central Italy coveted by Liutprand. His advances in central Italy were watched closely by the popes of his age, and his successes in Italy, paradoxically, laid the foundation for the later invasions of the Carolingian king Pippin and the conquest of the kingdom by Charlemagne. Although Carolingian rulers ultimately brought about the demise of the Lombard kingdom, Liutprand was a trusted ally of the Franks. He was also a skilled ruler who introduced important legal and administrative reforms in the kingdom.
   Although vilified in the Liber Pontificalis (The Book of the Popes), Liutprand was most likely a devout Christian, who came to the throne after the Lombards had converted from Arian Christianity to Catholic Christianity. He took the throne in 712, following a period of disarray in the Lombard kingdom, and shortly thereafter pursued the traditional Lombard policy of striving to unite Italy. His efforts led him into conflict with the popes of his day-Gregory II, Gregory III, and Zachary-but he did attempt to maintain good relations with the popes and, as Paul the Deacon notes, made pious donations to the church in his kingdom. He defended the Italian peninsula against attacks from Saracen pirates and declared himself the defender of the church and orthodoxy in response to the policy of iconoclasm instituted by the Byzantine emperor Leo III, the Isaurian. Indeed, he took the opportunity to combine his desires to unify Italy under his authority and to establish himself as defender of the church when he seized imperial territory in Italy during the turmoil of the iconoclastic controversy. He also reached a diplomatic settlement with Pope Zachary shortly after the pope ascended the throne, as part of which he returned four towns previously seized from papal territory. It seems, then, that Liutprand was not the enemy of the papacy he is sometimes styled by hostile sources, and he clearly was not the threat to the papacy that his predecessors were.
   Although not an open enemy of the institution of the papacy, Liutprand did threaten papal territories, just as he threatened the rest of the peninsula. During his long reign as king, Liutprand gradually extended the boundaries of the kingdom and the extent of Lombard power. In the 720s, in coordination with the Frankish mayor of the palace Charles Martel, Liutprand secured his northern border at the expense of the duchy of Bavaria. He also exploited Byzantine weakness in the 720s when he seized several cities in Italy, an action that unsettled Pope Gregory II, with whom Liutprand had previously had good relations. The pope in turn arranged an alliance with the Lombard duchies in the south, Spoleto and Benevento, which angered the king and may have forced him to attack papal territory in defense of Lombard interests. Although a treaty was negotiated between Rome and the king, the attack led to ill feelings, as well as Liutprand's subjugation of the southern duchies to his authority. After a period of quiet in the 730s, Liutprand was once again forced into action against the pope, now Gregory III, who had supported rebellion in the duchy of Spoleto and had called for the defense of Ravenna against Lombard aggression and conquest.
   It was during the hostilities at the end of the late 730s that Pope Gregory III laid the foundation for the later destruction of the Lombard kingdom. After Liutprand's renewed aggression and conquest of papal territories, Gregory sent a note to the Carolingian mayor Charles Martel, seeking aid against the Lombard king. This appeal by the pope proved fruitless for several reasons. The Lombards and Franks had long been allies, and Paul the Deacon tells the story of Charles sending his son Pippin to Liutprand to receive the traditional gift of the king's hair. Liutprand sent both his hair and many gifts to confirm the friendship between the two rulers and their peoples. It was also important at that time for Charles to preserve the alliance with Liutprand because Muslim armies from Spain continued to threaten the Frankish kingdom. Despite the failure of this attempt by Gregory, later popes did seek and receive aid from the Carolingians against the Lombards. Hostility between the pope and the king survived Gregory's reign, but it was eased during the early years of Pope Zachary, who personally met with Liutprand and negotiated the return of several papal towns. Indeed, it was Liutprand's devotion to the Catholic faith and respect for the holy see that contributed to Zachary's success.
   Although Liutprand's dream of uniting all of Italy ultimately was not realized, he exercised great influence over events on the peninsula and greatly enhanced Lombard royal authority in Italy. He also strengthened royal power within the Lombard kingdom. He strengthened his ties with the dukes and other nobles throughout the kingdom. He also enhanced his ties with all free people in the kingdom by imposing an oath that bound them all to him. He improved royal bureaucracy and the administration of justice. He also cultivated a more sophisticated concept of power. Finally, Liutprand revised the Lombard code of law. Although his struggles with the papacy led in the end to an alliance that brought about the end of the Lombard kingdom, Liutprand clearly presided over a highly successful period in Lombard history and left his successors, both Lombard and Frankish, an important legacy.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Christie, Neil. The Lombards: The Ancient Langobards. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
 ♦ Davis, Raymond, trans. The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of Nine Popes from a.d. 715 to a.d. 817. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1992.
 ♦ Herrin, Judith. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.
 ♦ Llewellyn, Peter. Rome in the Dark Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.
 ♦ Noble, Thomas X. F. The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680-825. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.
 ♦ Paul the Deacon. History of the Lombards. Trans. William Dudley Foulke. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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