Lombards and Vikings

Before calling themselves Langbarte (long beards), these people were known with another name: Winnilis.

The legend tells they came from South Scandinavia (Scania) and were led by Ybor and Aio, sons of Gambara, in search of new horizons.

After leaving Scandinavia, they arrived in Scoringa, ruled by Vandals, who imposed two choices to the Winnilis: Fight and die, or pay a tribute in order to remain on the land. The Winnilis prepared themselves for war, and sought help from Freyja, Óðinn’s wife. Óðinn, before the battle, told the vandals that he would give victory to those who he would have seen at sunrise, and Freyja, knowing that, warned all Winnilis’ women to tie their hair in front of their faces (like very long beards), and march in line with their husbands. At sunrise the Ásynja turned Óðinn’s bed in the direction of the Winnilis’ army, so he could see them. He asked: “Who are these long beards?”, and Freyja replied: “My lord, you gave them a name. Now give them the victory”.

From that day, the Winnilis were known as the ferocious Longbeards (or Lombards), and they loved the symbology of their beards, as well as the story of how they gained their name so much that Lombard law foresaw serious punishment for those who had ruined a warrior’s beard.

Lombards’ warrior skills were undisputed and recognized throughout Europe. Tacitus, a roman author, wrote about them: “The low number ennobles the Lombards. While surrounded by numerous and valiant peoples, they find their security not in submission, but in the risk of battles”. Paolo Diacono, a Lombard historian, described a kind of warriors like the Scandinavian Úlfhéðnar, writing about their ferocity: “They make believe they have cynocephali (man with dog’s head). They say they wage war without breaks, drink the blood of their enemies and, if there are no enemies, they quench their thirst with their own blood”. Diacono was a Christian, so we can understand why he wrote that story as it was a legend, but it is quite plausible that such warriors existed (and they were devoted to Óðinn.

After going through Europe from North to South they finally arrived in Italy, were they found a weak resistance: in fact, Italy had just come out of a twenty-year war between Ostrogoths and Romans. A Bishop, before they arrived, had a dream: He saw a man who told him that the end of all fleshes was coming… When he woke up, he looked at the sky and noticed there were spears and flaming spikes. A few days later the Lombards invaded Italy. 

They put their capital in Pavia and ruled almost the entire peninsula for 200 years. They replaced the entire roman ruling class with dukes and other types of magistrates. Cohabitation between them and the natives was not easy initially: Each people, though living in the same territory, had its own laws. After years of cruel domination, Lombards and Romans began to peacefully coexist and collaborate and that is attested by the fact that the Romans also composed Lombard army’s ranks. In 774 AD a coalition between Franks and the Pope moved war against them and Carl the Great subdued that proud people. A rebellion after few years of Frankish domination had the purpose of making sit on the throne the son of the last Lombard king, but it failed.

Despite the defeat, the culture of northern Italy and Italian language are still permeated by Lombards’ customs and terms (a region of this country is called Lombardia, in honor of them).