After suffering several raids from the Lombards between 570 and 575, the Frankish King Guntram of Burgundy (r. 561-593) decided to take preventative action by reportedly occupying strategic points on the Italian side of the Alps, such as the cities of Aosta and Susa, as well as the Val di Non. This strategy was a success in containing Lombard hostility within the Alps, but containment was all it was—the Lombard raids still occasionally continued, albeit against Frankish outposts at the Italian border.
A certain Count Ragilo from the Kingdom of the Lombards was known to have caused a significant border incident sometime after the Frankish King Guntram’s occupation of Alpine locations around 575 and before King Authari of the Lombards ascended to the throne in 584. During that vague timeframe, Count Ragilo set out with an army to raid and pillage Frankish outposts at the border. He apparently struck at occupied positions in the Non di Val region, where a Frankish military commander named Chramnichis was stationed. Count Ragilo had early successes in his raid, but the Franks eventually caught up to him and had their revenge. The clash between the two forces was described in the History of the Lombards, by Paul the Deacon (lived approximately c. 720-799), who wrote, “While he [Count Ragilo] was returning with his booty he was slain with many of his followers in the field of Rotalian by Chramnichis, the leader of the Franks, who went to meet him” (History of the Lombards, III.9).
Chramnichis, after defeating Count Ragilo and his raiders, was evidently filled with bloodlust and confidence. Instead of gathering up the stolen loot and returning to his headquarters in the Non di Val region, Chramnichis interestingly decided to keep marching his troops south. For some reason or other, Chramnichis confidently led his modest force against the city of Trento, ruled by the Lombard Duke Euin. This was a fatal mistake for Chramnichis, for he was outmatched against the duke’s army. As the story goes, Euin chased Chramnichis away from Trento and pursued him to nearby Salorno, where the Frankish force was defeated and Chramnichis was killed. This was recorded by Paul the Deacon, who wrote, “Euin, duke of Tridentum [i.e. the Trento region], followed and killed him with his companions in the place which is called Salurnis [Salorno], and shook out of him all the booty he had taken, and when the Franks had been driven out he took again the whole territory of Tridentum” (History of the Lombards, III.9). Such was the odd conclusion to the back-and-forth border dispute between Count Ragilo, Chramnichis and Duke Euin.
Chramnichis’ unsuccessful counter-attack into Lombard territory was a foreshadowing of things to come in the relationship between the Lombards and the Franks. Whereas King Guntram of Burgundy had been content to leave garrisons at the Alps, his nephew King Childebert II (r. 575-595) would prove to be more aggressive, sending Frankish armies to invade the Kingdom of the Lombards at various times between 584 and 590. Yet, as with Chramnichis’ own foray against the Lombards, the later invasions launched by King Childebert II against the Kingdom of Lombardy were largely met with stalemate and failure.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Social media crop Battle of Roncevaux, illustrated In a 14th-century manuscript of the Chroniques de France ou de St Denis (BL Royal 16 G VI, f. 178), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the British Library).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.