Rule of the Dukes
The Rule of the Dukes was an interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

 in the Lombard
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (medieval)
The Kingdom of Italy was a political entity under control of Carolingian dynasty of Francia first, after the defeat of the Lombards in 774. It was finally incorporated as a part of the Holy Roman Empire in 962....

 (574/5–584/5) during which Italy was ruled by the Lombard duke
Duke (Lombard)
Among the Lombards, the duke or dux was the man who act as political and military commander of a set of "military families" , irrespective of any territorial appropriation.-Etymology:...

s of the old Roman province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

s and urban centres
In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas , according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law . It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other...

. The interregnum is said to have lasted ten years according to Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon , also known as Paulus Diaconus, Warnefred, Barnefridus and Cassinensis, , was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards.-Life:...

, but all other sources—the Fredegarii Chronicon, the Origo Gentis Langobardorum
Origo Gentis Langobardorum
The Origo Gentis Langobardorum is a short 7th century account offering a founding myth of the Lombard people. The first part visions the origin and naming of the Lombards, and the following text more resembles a king-list, up until the rule of Perctarit , which helps date the original writing of...

, the Chronicon Gothanum, and the Copenhagen continuator of Prosper Tiro—accord it twelve. Here is how the rule is described in Paul's own terms:

After his death the Langobards had no king for ten years but were under dukes, and each one of the dukes held possession of his own city, Zaban of Ticinum, Wallari of Bergamus, Alichis of Brexia, Euin of Tridentum, Gisulf of Forum Julii. But there were thirty other dukes besides these in their own cities. In these days many of the noble Romans were killed from love of gain, and the remainder were divided among their "guests" and made tributaries, that they should pay the third part of their products to the Langobards. By these dukes of the Langobards in the seventh year from the coming of Alboin and of his whole people, the churches were despoiled, the priests killed, the cities overthrown, the people who had grown up like crops annihilated, and besides those regions which Alboin had taken, the greater part of Italy was seized and subjugated by the Langobards.

The Origo gives a shorter version of the same events, with twelve years assigned to the dukes' rule:

Reliqui langobardi levaverunt sibi regem nomine cleph de beleos, et regnavit cleph annos duos, et mortuus est. Et iudicaverunt duces langobardorum annos duodecim; posthaec levaverunt sibi regem nomine autarine, filio claffoni; et accepit autari uxorem theudelenda, filia garipald et walderade de baiuaria.

The rest of the Langobards set over themselves a king named Cleph, of the stock of Beleos, and Cleph reigned two years and died. And the dukes of the Langobards administered justice for twelve years and after these things they set up over themselves a king named Autari, the son of Cleph. And Autari took as his wife Theudelenda, a daughter of Garipald and of Walderada from Bavaria.

The Lombards had entered the Italian peninsula in 568
Year 568 was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 568 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Europe :* April 1 – King Alboin leads the Lombards...

 under Alboin
Alboin was king of the Lombards from about 560 until 572. During his reign the Lombards ended their migrations by settling in Italy, the northern part of which Alboin conquered between 569 and 572...

. Under Alboin's successor, Cleph
Cleph was king of the Lombards from 572 or 573 to 574 or 575.He succeeded Alboin, to whom he was not related by blood. He was a violent and terrifying figure to the Romans and Byzantines struggling to maintain control of the peninsula...

, they continued to expand at the expense of the Byzantines
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...

. Cleph's reign was short and his rule hard. Upon his death, the Lombards did not elect another leader-king, leaving the territorial dukes the highest authorities in Lombard territories.

The dukes were unable to organise themselves under a single leader capable of continuing their successes against the Empire. When they invaded Merovingian Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

Year 584 was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 584 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Asia :* Fourth Turkic khagan Taspar dies. Interregnum...

 or 585
Year 585 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 585 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Europe :* The Suebi kingdom on the Iberian peninsula...

), the Frankish kings Guntram
Saint Guntram was the king of Burgundy from 561 to 592. He was a son of Chlothar I and Ingunda...

 and Childebert II
Childebert II
.Childebert II was the Merovingian king of Austrasia, which included Provence at the time, from 575 until his death in 595, the eldest and succeeding son of Sigebert I, and the king of Burgundy from 592 to his death, as the adopted and succeeding son of his uncle Guntram.-Childhood:When his father...

 invaded Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

, took Trent
Trento is an Italian city located in the Adige River valley in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. It is the capital of Trentino...

, and opened negotiations with Tiberius II Constantine
Tiberius II Constantine
Tiberius II Constantine was Byzantine Emperor from 574 to 582.During his reign, Tiberius II Constantine gave away 7,200 pounds of gold each year for four years....

, Emperor of the East and nominal overlord of the hard-pressed 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:...

. Finally, tired of disunion, fearing a pincer action from the Greeks of the Mezzogiorno
The Midday is a wide definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the southern half of the Italian state, encompassing the southern section of the continental Italian Peninsula and the two major islands of Sicily and Sardinia, in addition to a large number of minor islands...

 and the Franks, and lacking the leadership necessary to withstand combined military forces, the dukes elected a king, Authari
Authari also known as Agilolf, was king of the Lombards from 584 to his death. After his father, Cleph, died in 574, the Lombardic nobility refused to appoint a successor, resulting in ten years interregnum known as the Rule of the Dukes.In 574 and 575 the Lombards made the blunder of invading...

. They ceded to Authari the old capital of Pavia
Pavia , the ancient Ticinum, is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 km south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It is the capital of the province of Pavia. It has a population of c. 71,000...

 and half of their ducal demesnes, though the fidelity to their oath with which this last promise was carried out is suspect. Authari successfully consolidated the Lombard realm against enemies on all sides throughout his reign.

Among the known reigning dukes of the times were:
  • Zotto
    Zotto was the military leader of the Lombards in the Mezzogiorno. He is generally considered the founder of the Duchy of Benevento in 571 and its first duke : “…Fuit autem primus Langobardorum dux in Benevento nomine Zotto, qui in ea principatus est per curricula viginti annorum…” Zotto (also...

    , duke of Benevento
  • Vallari, duke of Bergamo
    Bergamo is a town and comune in Lombardy, Italy, about 40 km northeast of Milan. The comune is home to over 120,000 inhabitants. It is served by the Orio al Serio Airport, which also serves the Province of Bergamo, and to a lesser extent the metropolitan area of Milan...

  • Alagis I, duke of Brescia
    Brescia is a city and comune in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy. It is situated at the foot of the Alps, between the Mella and the Naviglio, with a population of around 197,000. It is the second largest city in Lombardy, after the capital, Milan...

  • Gisulf I
    Gisulf I of Friuli
    Gisulf I was probably the first duke of Friuli , a nephew of Alboin, first king of the Lombards in Italy. Alboin appointed him duke around 569 after the Lombard conquest of the region, though some scholars believe he appointed Gisulf's father, his brother, Grasulf, duke.Before this, Gisulf had been...

    , duke of Friuli
    Duke of Friuli
    The dukes and margraves of Friuli were the rulers of the Duchy and March of Friuli in the Middle Ages.The dates given below, when contentious, are discussed in the articles of the respective dukes.-Lombard dukes:* 568–c.584 Grasulf I...

  • Zaban
    Zaban was the Lombard dux of Pavia during the decade-long interregnum known as the Rule of the Dukes . Pavia had been the capital of the Lombard kingdom, but after the death of King Cleph, it became the centre of a great duchy, one of thirty five into which the Lombard state was then divided...

    , duke of Pavia
  • Faroald I, duke of Spoleto
  • Euin
    Euin , also Ewin or Eoin, was the first Lombard Duke of Trent during the Rule of the Dukes, an interregnum during which the Kingdom of Italy was ruled by its regional magnates, the dukes of the thirty or so cities. Euin participated in several significant wars during his long reign...

    , duke of Trent
    Duchy of Tridentum
    The Duchy of Tridentum was an autonomous Lombard duchy, established by Euin during the Lombard interregnum of 574–584 that followed the assassination of the Lombard leader Alboin...

  • Aimone, duke of Turin
    Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...


  • Oman, Charles
    Charles Oman
    Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman was a British military historian of the early 20th century. His reconstructions of medieval battles from the fragmentary and distorted accounts left by chroniclers were pioneering...

    . The Dark Ages, 476–918. London: Rivingtons, 1914.
  • Paul the Deacon
    Paul the Deacon
    Paul the Deacon , also known as Paulus Diaconus, Warnefred, Barnefridus and Cassinensis, , was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards.-Life:...

    . Historia Langobardorum. Translated by William Dudley Foulke. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1907.
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