The Lombard kingdom reached its height in the 7th and 8th cent. Paganism and Arianism, which were at first prevalent among the Lombards, gradually gave way to Catholicism. Roman culture and Latin speech were accepted, and the Catholic bishops emerged as chief magistrates in the cities. Lombard law combined Germanic and Roman traditions. King Liutprand (712–44) consolidated the kingdom through his legislation and reduced Spoleto and Benevento to vassalage. One of his successors, Aistulf, took Ravenna (751) and threatened Rome. Pope Stephen II appealed to the Frankish King Pepin the Short, who invaded Italy; the Lombards lost the territories comprised in the Donation of Pepin to the papacy. After Aistulf's death King Desiderius renewed (772) the attack on Rome. Charlemagne, Pepin's successor, intervened, defeated the Lombards, and was crowned (774) with the Lombard crown at Pavia. Of the Lombard kingdom only the duchy of Benevento remained, and it was conquered in the 11th cent. by the Normans. The iron crown of the Lombard kings (now kept at Monza, Italy) was also used for the coronation (951) of Otto I (the first Holy Roman emperor) as king of Italy and for the crowning of several succeeding emperors. The Lombards left their name to the Italian region of Lombardy. The chief historian of the Lombards was Paul the Deacon.
See T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. V and VI (1895, repr. 1967); P. Villari, Barbarian Invasions of Italy (2 vol., tr. 1902); J. T. Hallenbeck, Pavia and Rome: The Lombard Monarchy and the Papacy in the Eighth Century (1982).
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