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Authari in Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum, Secundus of Trent, and the Alexander tradition in early Lombard Italy

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Paul the Deacon, Authari, Agilulf, Theudelinda, Adaloald, Secundus of Trent, Lombards, Alexander the Great

Abstract (summary)

The vivid anecdotes in Paul the Deacon’s account of the Lombard king Authari have regularly been explained as the result of Lombard oral tradition, but, when compared with the historical and legendary accounts of Alexander the Great probably available in sixth-century Italy, they seem rather more likely to have a literary source. Authari seems to be modeled on Alexander, and the resulting portrait is not a flattering one. He is compared unfavorably to Agilulf, his successor as king and as husband to Queen Theudelinda. The author of this invidious comparison appears to be Secundus of Trent, one of Paul’s sources. Secundus’s authorship has not previously been widely considered, because it was generally assumed that his historiola must have been a severely abbreviated chronicle, without any kind of literary elaboration. If, however, we allow for the possibility that his history was more expansive and full-bodied, we can see Secundus pursuing a personally and politically important interest in his comparison of Authari and Agilulf. Not only did Secundus write under the patronage of Agilulf and Theudelinda—and so owed Agilulf some support—he officiated at the baptism of their son, Adaloald, while Authari had forbidden Catholic baptism to his Lombard subjects.

Publication Information

Garstad, Benjamin. “Authari in Paul the Deacon’s Historia Langobardorum, Secundus of Trent, and the Alexander Tradition in Early Lombard Italy.” Journal of Late Antiquity 9 (2016) 218-66.


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