Romoald (or Romuald) II, son of Duke Gisulf I of the Beneventan Lombards, succeeded his father as Duke of Benevento around the year 706. At that time, the Dukedom of Benevento was nominally tied to an overarching Lombard monarchy, but Romoald and his predecessors had scrounged considerable autonomy for their realm, and they embraced this by increasingly behaving like an independent power. Nevertheless, Duke Romoald II lived at the same time as powerful King Liutprand of the Lombards (r. 712-744), and the king made it his policy to rein in the freewheeling Lombard dukedoms.
Unfortunately for Duke Romoald II, his Dukedom of Benevento was a prime target for the king’s new project of reasserting crown authority. Yet, good fortune graced Duke Romoald when a man named Transamund II ascended to the Lombard Dukedom of Spoleto around the year 724. This Duke Transamund was much more rebellious and belligerent than Duke Romoald, and, consequently, the direct brunt of the king’s wrath and punitive measures were suffered by Spoleto. Around 730, King Liutprand made a show of force and cajoled dukes Transamund and Romuald into renewing their oaths of fidelity to the monarchy—and it was Spoleto, not Benevento, that was directly invaded during the king’s mission to reimpose his authority. Despite close calls such as this, Duke Romaold II managed to live out his life relatively unmolested by the powerful king, and he ultimately married Liutprand’s sister, Gumperga. Romoald, however, did not live long after the marriage; he died a natural death around the year 731, leaving behind a young son named Gisulf II as his heir.
As the boy-duke was a son of the aforementioned Gumperga, he was consequently King Liutprand’s nephew. While such status had its boons, perhaps it was also a source of tension among some courtiers in the independently-minded dukedom of Benevento. Whatever the case, young Gisulf II found that his reign was anything but stable, and soon a threatening faction formed in Benevento around a mysterious figure named Audelais. Little is known about this curious character, but he evidently was able to depose Gisulf II and usurp power in Benevento for around two years. Young Gisulf either escaped or was spared during Audelais’ period of rule, and due to his survival, he was able to make a comeback. Gisulf II’s followers were able to rally together and, perhaps with some muscle from King Liutprand, they managed to oust Audelais’ regime. A Lombard historian named Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799) described this conflict, writing, “Some conspirators rose against him [Gisulf] and sought to destroy him, but the people of the Beneventans who were always faithful to their leaders, slew them and preserved the life of their duke” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 6.55).
While King Liutprand was helping Duke Gisulf II sort out the problems in Benevento, the monarch must have not liked what he saw in the region’s political landscape. Perhaps thinking that the region needed a more mature ruler than a boy-duke, King Liutprand decided to remove young Gisulf from power and instead appointed another nephew, Gregory, to oversee the dukedom for the time being. During those years, young Gisulf was not abandoned; he was instead raised and educated within King Liutprand’s court. Maybe Gisulf did not mind his temporary demotion because he was a child at the time, but his period of displacement lasted for quite a while. Duke Gregory commanded Benevento from around 732 until he died in 739.
Gisulf II by then might have been old enough to rule Benevento, at least with a regency council supporting him, but—once again—opportunists within the Beneventan court made the first move. A popular military man named Godescalc quickly usurped the dukedom in 740 with the support of the Beneventan army. Knowing the king would target him, Godescalc speedily negotiated alliances with Liutprand’s foes in Spoleto and Rome. Godescalc’s coalition was a challenge for the Lombard king, but Liutprand ultimately overcame them in battle. By 742, King Liutprand removed from power both Duke Transamund II of Spoleto and Duke Godescalc of Benevento. Finally, with Godescalc ousted, Gisulf II made his long-delayed journey back to Benevento to assume rule over the region. Duke Gisulf II continued to oversee Benevento until his death around 751.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Cropped death-bed scene of Duke Richard of Normandy from BL Royal 16 G VI, f. 259v, [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.