Rothari

Rothari
(d. 652)
   A Lombard king (r. 636-652) and lawgiver, Rothari was a successful warrior and the last of the Arian Lombard kings. His reign continued the anti-Catholic reaction begun by his predecessor, Ariold (626-636), but was noted most for Rothari's codification of the Lombard laws. His reforms of the law reveal the sometimes ambivalent attitude of the Lombards toward the Romans. The law code he created used Roman models, even as Rothari made major assaults on the last section of imperial Italy governed by the Byzantine Empire.
   Rothari, according to the Lombard historian Paul the Deacon, was "brave and strong, and followed the path of justice; he did not however, hold the right line of Christian belief, but was stained by the infidelity of the Arian heresy" (193-194). Indeed, like his predecessor, Ariold, Rothari restored the traditional Lombard support for Arianism and continued the reaction against the pro-Catholic policy of Theudelinde. His support for Arian Christianity was intended, as it had been for Ariold, as a means to preserve the identity of the Lombards and distinguish them from the native population of Italy, which was Catholic. The Lombards had long been kept apart from the Italo-Roman population and often took a hard line against the empire. And on these matters Rothari was a traditional Lombard.
   The new king followed the model of Ariold in one other significant way, if we are to trust the Frankish historian Fredegar. According to Fredegar, on the death of Ariold, his widow, Gundeberga, was invited by the Lombard nobility to choose a new king and husband, just as her mother, Theudelinde, had done at the death of her first husband, Authari (r. 584-590). Gundeberga asked Rothari to put away his wife and to become her husband and king of the Lombards. Fredegar notes that Rothari married Gundeberga, but kept her locked away in a little room and lived with concubines for several years, until he restored her to her place at the suggestion of the Merovingian king Clovis II (r. 639-657). The similarity with Paul the Deacon's tale of Theudelinde renders this tale suspect, but Rothari did, in fact, marry Gundeberga, probably in order to preserve the continuity of the monarchy and the stability of the kingdom.
   As king, Rothari made two major contributions to the history of the Lombard kingdom. He launched a highly successful assault against imperial Italy in 643, undertaken in concert with attacks on imperial territory by the independent Lombard duke of Beneventum. He conquered parts of the Italian coast as well as the Italian imperial capital of Ravenna in 643, a conquest that seriously hindered Constantinople's ability to influence Italian affairs and, in the long run, forced the papacy to find another protector. Rothari's success against the empire also led to a treaty between the two in 652. The king's second great accomplishment also occurred in 643, when he codified the laws of the Lombards. Known as Rothari's Edict (Edictus Rothari), the code of Lombard laws and customs was arranged in 388 chapters and, like the other barbarian law codes of the time, was written in Latin. Among other things, the Edict emphasized the cooperation between the king and the people, as represented in the army and council of nobles. Rothari dealt with manumission of slaves, inheritance, division of property, marriage customs, and the place of women in society in the code. He also sought to eliminate or at least reduce the practice of the vendetta in Lombard society and thereby guarantee peace. Indeed, preservation of the peace was an important goal of the Edict, which legislated on manslaughter and personal injury. Rothari, therefore, was a great king, conqueror, and lawgiver of the Lombards.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Christie, Neil. The Lombards: The Ancient Langobards. Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.
 ♦ Drew, Katherine Fisher, trans. The Lombard Laws. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1973.
 ♦ Herrin, Judith. The Formation of Christendom. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.
 ♦ Llewellyn, Peter. Rome in the Dark Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996.
 ♦ Paul the Deacon. History of the Lombards. Trans. William Dudley Foulke. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1974.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Barbarian West, a.d. 400-1000. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., ed. and trans. The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar with Its Continuations. London: Nelson, 1960.
 ♦ Wolfram, Herwig. The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. Trans. Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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