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Scientific Area » Longobard History » Military Control of Population

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The Longobard immigration affected italian territory according to a specific strategy of military control -of population, agricultural resources, pasture- and woodlands, as well as trade routes.
They started by occupying the most important cities then settled in the countryside, in the places where the ancient roman urban and economic organization was best preserved, and where the road system still guaranteed connections between urban centers and farmlands.

The most recent archaeological excavations have revealed that the Longobards - who settled in the ancient roman centers, declining due to wars and economic recession - placed their centers of power in the periphery of cities, in well-protected areas.
Such centers were the curtis regia, the seat of the royal representative; and the curtis ducis, the ducal seat.
In particular, they placed these seats near ruining public buildings over which they had fiscal rights, such as palatial domus, circuses and amphitheaters.
This transfer of political and administrative functions from the ancient central forum areas to peripheral sectors is quite evident in Cividale del Friuli, as well as in Brescia and Benevento.

In general, the Longobard conquest marks the beginning of a period of urban destructuring, of which Brescia is a prominent example. several areas were abandoned while others, close to inhabited sectors, were used for the activities of craftsmen, or as burial grounds—at first, sporadically, by the elite aristocracy (such as in Cividale del Friuli) and increasingly, by all social groups. In the same, early period of Longobard occupation, building types were elementary, with simple construction techniques and materials that were not very durable -wood, straw and mud- and re-employed materials.

Fortifications of late antiquity, raised in response to the barbarian invasions of the 3rd and 4th centuries, were also reused by Longobards during their settling phase.
The castrum of Castelseprio is a prominent example: like several other castles it is mentioned in the 7th century Byzantine sources that refer to it as Civitas.
Between the 6th and the 8th century, these fortified citadels became juridical and administrative centres for vast royal and fiscal districts. Perhaps they were the seat of mints or temporary residences for the royal court, ensuring a rapid military response to possible Frankish invasions.

Some of the citadels, such as Castelseprio, are distinguished by their city walls equipped with towers and by a “urban” style structure.
Castelseprio, a Flavia city in Desiderius’ tremissis, might have worked during the Longobard period almost as a substitute of Milan, which was anyway in connection with the royal court, keeping mostly its trading and productive functions.
By the way, it seems to be significant that Castelseprio shares the title of Flavia both with other citadels and cities such as Pavia, Treviso and Milan itself.

The walls and towers re-employment, in order to obtain from them or lean against them dwelling structures, is a phenomenon which involved big cities as well, and has large and diffused parallels in early Middle Ages Europe.

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