Ansfrit of Ragogna was a curious figure from 7th-century Italy who was known to have possessed a fortress and a loyal army in northern Italy. Ansfrit was not content with the power and authority that he had, and he wished to expand territorially and politically in Italy. Alas, the regions of northern Italy that he wanted to expand into, as well as Ansfrit’s own fiefdom, were all under the authority of the Kingdom of the Lombards, then ruled by King Cunincpert (r. 688-700), who would not take kindly to self-destructive warfare between his vassals. Therefore, if Ansfrit tried to overtly conquer the realm of one of his neighboring Lombard nobleman, the localized war would be tantamount to rebellion against the entire Kingdom of the Lombards. Ansfrit of Ragogna, however, decided he wanted to do exactly that.
Hoping to conquer as much territory as he could before opposing military forces could respond, Ansfrit secretly readied his troops for war. When he felt it was the right moment to strike, he launched a surprise invasion of his first target—the Lombard dukedom of Friuli, then ruled by Duke Rodoald. Ansfrit’s sudden invasion of Friuli was a success, catching Duke Rodoald completely by surprise. In a quick and easy campaign, Ansfrit’s army swept through the dukedom and forced the unprepared Duke Rodoald of Friuli to flee. Yet, Ansfrit’s inability to capture the fleeing duke was a dire mistake, for Rodoald was able to reach King Cunincpert and alert the royal court of Ansfrit’s aggression.
After hearing the news, King Cunincpert ignited the engines of the Lombard war machine, bringing both its military might, and also its more shadowy forces, into action. Ansfrit, meanwhile, marched toward Verona and began planning his next steps in the incoming war against King Cunincpert. Nevertheless, the conflict had an anticlimactic ending. According to the Lombard historian, Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), “[Ansfrit] was seized in Verona and brought to the king, his eyes were torn out and he was cast into banishment” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, VI.3). Ansfrit’s actual power and resources evidently did not compare his boldness and ambition. King Cunincpert, in contrast, used the incident to strengthen his central authority. Instead of sending the humiliated Duke Rodoald back to the dukedom of Friuli, King Cunincpert seized the opportunity to change the way Friuli was governed. The king installed Rodoald’s brother, Ado, over the region and gave the official the new title of Loci servitor (or caretaker).
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Lancelot from BL Royal 20 D IV, f. 260 , [Public Domain] via Creative Commons, Europeana, 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.