Erchempert’s “History of the Lombards of Benevento”: A translation and study of its place in the chronicle tradition
By Joan Rowe Ferry
PhD Dissertation, Rice University, 1995
Abstract: Erchempert, a ninth-century Lombard monk attached to the monastery of Monte Cassino in Southern Italy, wrote the History of the Lombards of Benevento around 889, a history intended to contrast with Paul the Deacon’s earlier History of the Lombards by including the Carolingian conquest of the Lombard kingdom in 774 and by showing Lombard failings rather than achievements through narrating the decline of Lombard rulership in the South, which had flourished for three centuries in the Lombard duchy (later principality) of Benevento. Three known aspects of Erchempert himself–as Lombard, monk, and chronicler–connect him to his society and provide a basis for examining his History.
As a Lombard, his primary concern is loss of unified rule at Benevento following civil war and splitting of the principality into three more or less autonomous rulerships at Benevento, Salerno, and Capua, a division which weakens the Lombards’ ability to resist the competing claims of Carolingian and Byzantine rulers and the attacks of Islamic invaders. As a monk, Erchempert is present during events which occur following Monte Cassino’s destruction by Muslims in 883, when the monks are exiled to Teano and Capua and the abbey suffers loss of its property. As a chronicler and known grammaticus, Erchempert is an evident participant in the widespread system of monastic education; he later applies elements of this education to the writing of his History, which falls within the Christian chronicle tradition. A translation of Erchempert’s History from Latin into English is included in this study.