Duke Faroald II was a fairly autonomous Lombard duke of Spoleto from around 703 until 724. He lived during a prosperous, but tumultuous, time for the Lombard realm. Faroald became duke of Spoleto during the reign of the usurper, King Aripert II (r. 701-712), whose family seized the Lombard throne from a vulnerable boy-king named Liutpert (r. 700). King Aripert II was ultimately defeated in war by Ansprand, the former guardian of the murdered boy-king. Victorious Ansprand proclaimed himself king, but only ruled for a short time around 712. The new order, however, was continued by Ansprand’s son, King Liutprand (r. 712-744). Such was the complicated political situation that Duke Faroald II of Spoleto had to navigate during his time in power.
Duke Faroald II, it appears, had a hard time reading King Liutprand’s national ambitions for the Lombards. It is not quite a surprise that the duke had trouble, for Liutprand was a talented geo-political schemer, who could, in one breath, preach peace with his regional rivals (the Roman pope and the Emperors of Constantinople), while, in the very next breath, launch wars to reduce papal and imperial land and influence in Italy. Confused by these mixed signals, Duke Faroald II of Spoleto stopped trying to understand the king’s true wants and wishes. Ultimately, putting concern over the king’s reaction to the wayside, Duke Faroald II decided to embark on a mission that would have pleased most previous Lombard rulers—he chose to conduct a private military campaign to capture a long-coveted port called Classis, which was vital to Constantinople’s Italian stronghold city of Ravenna. Duke Faroald II reportedly succeeded in his campaign, capturing the strategic port. Yet, sadly for the duke, the conquest seemed to have been at a disadvantageous time for King Liutprand’s overarching plans. Duke Faroald’s campaign and Liutprand’s response was recorded by a Lombard historian named Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), who wrote, “During these times Faroald, duke of the Spoletans, attacked Classis, a city of the Ravenna people, but by command of king Liutprand it was restored to those same Romans” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 6.44).
After the Classis debacle, Spoleto became a place of unrest. Perhaps, the locals were angry with Faroald for launching his campaign in the first place, or, on the other hand, maybe they were frustrated that he did not insist on keeping the port after having shed sweat and blood to conquer it from Ravenna. Whatever the case, the populace and nobles in Spoleto soon turned against Duke Faroald II. Around 724, Faroald was deposed by his own son, Transamund II, and the replacement did not seem to be condemned or objected to by the monarchy. Unfortunately for King Liutprand and his successors on the troubled Lombard throne, Duke Transamund II of Spoleto would prove to be a much more rebellious and belligerent figure than his father. The more reserved Faroald II, meanwhile, was forced to become a churchman. Ironically, Classis—the reported cause of Duke Faroald’s downfall—was quickly reconquered by unpredictable King Liutprand around 725. That year, according to Paul the Deacon, “Liutprand besieged Ravenna and took Classis and destroyed it” (History of the Lombards, 6.49). Despite this curious turn of events, Faroald II remained relegated to church life.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Duke Friedrich IV, disguised as a minstrel, reveals himself to his faithful Tyroleans while fleeing Constance (1851), by Franz Schams (c. 1824–1883), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and Artvee).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.