King Alboin of the Lombards (r. 560s-572/573) led his people into Italy, seizing land which was at that time weakly held by the Empire of Constantinople. Alboin’s migrating kingdom reached Italy in 568, and by the time of the king’s death a few years later, great portions of the Italian peninsula had been wrested away from imperial control. The Empire of Constantinople, from its Italian seat of power at the stronghold of Ravenna, put up a fight against the Lombards, even going so far as to call in military aid from the Franks. Yet, the formidable Lombards survived these attacks and continued expanding their territory.
One of King Alboin’s important military leaders was a man named Faroald. Due to his skills, talents and merits, Faroald found himself empowered as a dux or duke of the Lombard people. If this promotion did not occur under King Alboin, it likely happened during the reign of his son and successor, King Cleph (r. 572-574). Whatever the case, by the time of Cleph’s death, Faroald was a powerful Lombard nobleman who, along with other dukes, was able to delay the recognition of another Lombard king for around a decade. During that kingless intermission, the Lombard dukes ran wild, working sometimes alone and other times together to expand their personal realms. This was the case for Faroald, as he used that period of unchecked autonomy to entrench himself in his chosen seat of power at Spoleto. Duke Faroald proved himself to be quite a foe to be reckoned with, for he is thought to have been involved in the death of Baduarius—a son-in-law to Emperor Justin II of Constantinople (r. 565-578)—who was killed in battle around 575 or 576. Faroald also expanded his realm in the direction of Ravenna, going so far as to momentarily seize Ravenna’s strategic port of Classis from 579 to 584. The year that Classis returned to Constantinople’s control was also the year that a new Lombard king, Authari (r. 584-590), was appointed to oversee the realm’s defense against coordinated invasions from Emperor Maurice of Constantinople (r. 582-602) and King Childebert II of Austrasia (r. 575-595). As King Authari fought off these waves of assaults, Duke Faroald was becoming quite old, and he died of natural causes in 591.
Faroald had at least two sons at the time of his death, but, mysteriously, neither of them immediately succeeded their late father. Instead, a mysterious figure named Ariulf seized power in Spoleto. Ariulf’s relationship to the family of the previous duke is unknown, but Faroald’s sons were widely considered to be his heirs. Perhaps he was an uncle or another such kinsman with seniority. Speculation aside, Ariulf was able to contain Faroald’s sons for around a decade. During that time, Ariulf ruled Spoleto on his own, waging at least one known military campaign against Camerino and Rome. Interestingly, although the sons of Faroald might have been impatient with this mysterious Ariulf delaying their ascendance to power, he turned out to be a stabilizing and healthy influence for the power-hungry boys. Yet, when Duke Ariulf died around 601 or 602, all of that restraint and containment disappeared. With the proverbial floodgates opened, all of the pent-up ambitions of Faroald’s sons poured out into Spoleto’s courtly politics, leading to a volatile situation.
There was apparently not enough room in the duchy for the ambitions and egos of the two rival brothers. Opportunist courtiers encouraged the divide, gathering in factions around one son of Faroald or the other. A civil war ultimately emerged for control of Spoleto, but what exactly happened next is unfortunately vague. The war seemingly was over rather quickly and the victorious brother evidently erased his sibling from history—we do not even know the name of the brother who lost. The Lombard historian, Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), briefly summarized the conflict by commenting, “after two sons of Faroald the former duke had contended between themselves for the dukedom, one of them, Teudelapius by name, was crowned with victory and received the dukedom” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 4.16). This Teudelapius, also known by the alternate names Theudelapius or Theodelap, apparently won the power struggle quickly and decisively, presumably defeating his brother within a year after Ariulf’s death. Duke Teudelapius or Theodelap’s reign lasted from 601/602 until as late as 653. The fate of the victorious duke’s defeated brother is unknown.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Caesar in battle from a manuscript labeled BL Royal 16 G VII, f. 272, [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.