A man named Lupus was assigned as the commander or duke of the Friuli region of Italy toward the end of the reign of King Grimoald of the Lombards (r. 662-671). Lupus and the king got along quite well at first. In fact, the king’s son, Romuald, reportedly married Lupus’ daughter, Theuderada. Even more, King Grimoald evidently trusted Lupus enough to put the man in a stewardship role in northern Italy when the king had to march south to confront armies sent by the Emperor Constans II of Constantinople, who personally sailed to Italy around 663. Nevertheless, Lupus ultimately did not live up to the king’s expectations.
In the king’s absence, Lupus allegedly administered the realm with corruption and misrule. Lupus’ stewardship of northern Italy was so bad that, when King Grimoald eventually returned, worried Lupus fled back to Friuli and allegedly felt that his life could only be saved by gambling on rebellion. Committing himself to this idea, Lupus raised whatever troops were loyal to him in Friuli and revolted against King Grimoald. If Lupus was expecting other nobles to join his rebellion, he was sorely mistaken. No prominent dukes within the Lombard kingdom joined the revolt, and even Lupus’ own Friulans had wavering enthusiasm for their leader. In the end, the revolt of Lupus posed little threat to King Grimoald, but he had to deal with it, nonetheless.
King Grimoald was said to have taken highly unorthodox measures to crush Lupus’ rebellion. A Lombard historian, Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), claimed that Grimoald “sent word to the Cagan, king of the Avars, to come into Forum Julii [Friuli] with his army against duke Lupus and defeat him in war” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 5.19). If this tradition is true, then King Grimoald had found himself in an awkward alliance, for the Avars had allegedly killed both of his parents during one of their previous incursions into Italy. Whatever the case, due to invitation or whim, the Avars did reportedly invade the Friuli region and waged war against Lupus’ fledgling rebellion. The lone duke held his ground for a few days, but he was ultimately killed in battle against the Avars. Lupus’ rebellion died before King Grimoald had finished mobilizing his own army.
Although Lupus and his loyalists were crushed, King Grimoald now had to deal with the Avars (that he may or may not have invited). Grimoald, who could be cold and calculating when he needed to be, was said to have been in no hurry to confront the Avars. Instead, he allegedly let them pillage the Friuli region while he developed diplomatic channels with the Avar leader. Through messengers and ambassadors, King Grimoald let the Avars know that if they did not willingly withdraw from Friuli, then the Lombard military would force them out. As the story goes, the Avars heeded the warning, gathered their loot, and crossed out of Lombard territory without any further fighting.
When King Grimoald reimposed his authority over Friuli, he handed control of the region to a new figure named Wechtari. Curiously, around that time, a son of the slain Lupus emerged from the shadows, trying to stir the region of Friuli back into rebellion. This time, however, the Friulans were in no mood for rebellion, and they instead killed Lupus’ ambitious son in battle.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Duke William the Bastard from BL Royal 16 G VI, f. 266v, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons, Europeana, and The British Library.jpg).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.