Duchy of Rome
The Duchy of Rome was a Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 district in the Exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Ravenna
The Exarchate of Ravenna or of Italy was a centre of Byzantine power in Italy, from the end of the 6th century to 751, when the last exarch was put to death by the Lombards.-Introduction:...

. Like other Byzantine states in Italy
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, it was ruled by an imperial functionary with the title dux
Dux is Latin for leader and later for Duke and its variant forms ....

. These were often in conflict with the Papacy for the supreme power in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


Within the exarchate, the two chief districts were the country about Ravenna where the exarch was the centre of Byzantine opposition to the Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, and the Duchy of Rome, which embraced the lands of Latium
Lazio is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, situated in the central peninsular section of the country. With about 5.7 million residents and a GDP of more than 170 billion euros, Lazio is the third most populated and the second richest region of Italy...

 north of the Tiber
The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing through Umbria and Lazio to the Tyrrhenian Sea. It drains a basin estimated at...

 and of Campagna
Ciociaria is the name of a traditional region of Central Italy without a defined border nor historical identity. The name was adopted by a fascist movement of Frosinone as an ethnical denomination for the province of Frosinone, when it was created in 1927....

 to the south as far as the Garigliano. There the pope himself was the soul of the opposition.

Furthermore, the greatest pains were taken, as long as it was at all possible, to retain control of the intervening districts and with them communication over the Apennine mountains. Hence the strategic importance of the Duchy of the Pentapolis
Duchy of the Pentapolis
In the Byzantine Empire, the Duchy of the Pentapolis was a duchy , a territory ruled by a duke appointed by and under the authority of the Praetorian Prefect of Italy and then the Exarch of Ravenna . The Pentapolis consisted of the cities of Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, Rimini and Sinigaglia...

 (Rimini, Pesaro, Fano, Sinigaglia, Ancona) and Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

. If this strategic connexion were broken, it was evident that Rome and Ravenna could not singly maintain themselves for any length of time. This was recognized by the Lombards also. The same narrow strip of land in fact broke the connexion between their Duchies of Spoleto and Benevento and the main portion of the king's territories in the north, and it was against this therefore that, from the second decade of the eighth century, they aimed their attacks with ever-increasing energy. In the beginning the popes were able repeatedly to wrest from their hands all that they had gained. In 728 the Lombard King Liutprand took the Castle of Sutri
Sutri is a town and comune in the province of Viterbo, about 50 km from Rome, and about 30 km south of Viterbo. It is picturesquely situated on a narrow tuff hill, surrounded by ravines, a narrow neck on the west alone connecting it with the surrounding country.thumb|220px|Entrance to the...

, which dominated the highway at Nepi
Nepi is a town and comune in Italy in the province of Viterbo, region of Lazio. The town lies 30 km southeast of the city of Viterbo and about 13 km southwest from Civita Castellana....

 on the road to Perugia. But Liutprand, softened by the entreaties of Pope Gregory II, restored Sutri "as a gift to the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul".

This expression of the Liber pontificalis
Liber Pontificalis
The Liber Pontificalis is a book of biographies of popes from Saint Peter until the 15th century. The original publication of the Liber Pontificalis stopped with Pope Adrian II or Pope Stephen V , but it was later supplemented in a different style until Pope Eugene IV and then Pope Pius II...

was erroneously interpreted to mean that in this gift the beginning of the States of the Church was to be recognized. This is incorrect inasmuch as the popes continued to acknowledge the imperial Government, and Greek officials appear in Rome for some time longer. True it is, however, that here for the first time we meet the association of ideas on which the States of the Church were to be constructed. The pope asked the Lombards for the return of Sutri for the sake of the Princes of the Apostles and threatened punishment by these sainted protectors. The pious Liutprand was undoubtedly susceptible to such pleas, but never to any consideration for the Greeks. For this reason he gave Sutri to Peter and Paul, that he might not expose himself to their punishment. What the pope then did with it would be immaterial to him.

The belief that the Roman territory (at first in the more restricted, but afterwards also in the wider sense) was defended by the Prince of the Apostles became more and more prevalent. In 738 the Lombard duke Transamund of Spoleto captured the Castle of Gallese
Gallese is an Italian comune in the Province of Viterbo, 35 km from that city.It was taken by Duke Thrasimund II of Spoleto in 737 or 738, at which time it was essential to communications between Rome and Ravenna and had a large fortress....

, which protected the road to Perugia to the north of Nepi. By a large payment Pope Gregory III
Pope Gregory III
Pope Saint Gregory III was pope from 731 to 741. A Syrian by birth, he succeeded Gregory II in March 731. His pontificate, like that of his predecessor, was disturbed by the iconoclastic controversy in the Byzantine Empire, in which he vainly invoked the intervention of Charles Martel.Elected by...

 induced the duke to restore the castle to him. The pope then sought by an alliance with Duke Transamund to protect himself against Liutprand. But Liutprand conquered Spoleto, besieged Rome, laid waste the Duchy of Rome, and seized four important frontier fortresses (Blera
Blera is a small town and comune in the northern Lazio region of Italy near Rome, known during the Middle Ages as Bieda, an evolved form of its ancient name, which was restored in the 20th century...

, Orte
Orte is a comune in the province of Viterbo, in the Italian region Latium Lazio, located about 60 km north of Rome and about 24 km east of Viterbo. As of 31 December 2006, Orte had a population of 8,364....

, Bomarzo
Bomarzo is a town and comune of the province of Viterbo , in the lower valley of the Tiber. It is located 14.5 km ENE of Viterbo and 68 km NNW of Rome.-History:...

, and Amelia
-Places:* Amelia, Umbria, a town in Italy* Amelia, Louisiana, a census-designated place in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, United States* Amelia, Nebraska, an unincorporated community in Holt County, Nebraska, United States...

), thereby cutting off the communication with Perugia and Ravenna.

In this exigency the pope now (739) for the first time turned to the powerful Frankish kingdom, under the protection of which Boniface had begun his successful labours as a missionary in Germany. He sent to Charles Martel
Charles Martel
Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

, "the powerful mayor of the palace" of the Frankish monarchy and the commander of the Franks in the famous battle at Tours, undoubtedly with the consent of the Greek dux, and appealed to him to protect the tomb of the Apostle. Charles Martel replied to the embassy and acknowledged the gifts, but was unwilling to offer aid against the Lombards, who were helping him against the Saracens.

Accordingly the successor of Gregory III, pope Zachary
Pope Zachary
Pope Saint Zachary was Pope of the Catholic Church from 741 to 752. A Greek from Calabria, he was the last pope of the Byzantine Papacy...

 (the last Greek who occupied the papal chair) changed the policy that had been previously followed toward the Lombards. He formed an alliance with Liutprand against Transamund, and received (741) in return the four castles, as the result of a personal visit to the camp of the king at Terni
Terni is a city in southern Umbria, central Italy, capital of the province of Terni, located in the plain of the Nera river. It is 104 km N of Rome, 36 km NW of Rieti, and 29 km S of Spoleto.-History:...

. Liutprand also restored a number of patrimonies that had been seized by the Lombards, and furthermore concluded a twenty years' peace with the Pope.

The duchy now had a respite from Lombard attacks. The Lombards fell upon Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

, which they had already held from 731 to 735. The Exarch had no other recourse than to seek the aid of the pope. Liutprand did in fact allow himself to be induced by Zachary to surrender the greater part of his conquests. Nor was it unimportant that these districts too once owed their rescue to the pope. Only a short time after Liutprand's death (744) Zachary was successful in further postponing the catastrophe.

When Rachis
Rachis is a biological term for a main axis or "shaft".-In zoology:In vertebrates a rachis can refer to the series of articulated vertebrae, which encase the spinal cord. In this case the rachis usually form the supporting axis of the body and is then called the spine or vertebral column...

, the next Lombard king, was besieging Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

 (749), Zachary so wrought upon his conscience that the king raised the siege. But as a result of this Rachis was overthrown, and Aistulf
Aistulf was the Duke of Friuli from 744, King of Lombards from 749, and Duke of Spoleto from 751. His father was the Duke Pemmo.After his brother Ratchis became king, Aistulf succeeded him in Friuli. He succeeded him later as king when Ratchis abdicated to a monastery...

, who was put into his place, at once showed by his acts that no consideration could halt him in his course.


The dukes were initially appointees of the exarch, but by mid-century they were created by the Pope.
  • Peter ( –725)
  • Marinus (725– )
  • Stephen (fl. 743)
  • Toto
    Toto of Nepi
    Toto was the self-styled duke of Nepi, the leading magnate of Etruria, who staged a coup d'état in Rome in 767. He became Duke of Rome for a year until his death...

  • Gratiosus (769–72)
  • John (772– )
  • Theodore (fl. 772×95)

The office of Duke of Rome disappeared around 778–81, but there are scattered references to dukes among the Papal officers, who may be successors of the dukes of Rome:
  • Leoninus (fl. 772×95)
  • Sergius (815)


  • AA.VV., Atlante storico-politico del Lazio, Regione Lazio, Editori Laterza
    Laterza is a town and comune in the province of Taranto, part of the Apulia region of southeast Italy....

    , Bari
    Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

  • Galasso G., Storia d'Italia, Vol I, Utet, Torino 1995.
  • Bavant B., Le Duché byzantin de Rome, Mélanges de l’Ecole Française de Rome 1979.
  • Liber pontificalis.
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