Exarchate of Ravenna

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The Exarchate of Ravenna around 750

The Exarchate of Ravenna (also known as the Exarchate of Italy ) was an Eastern Roman / Byzantine administrative district in Italy , with the establishment of which Emperor Maurikios in 584 (?) Bundled the civil and military powers of the Praetorian prefect and the magister militum in the hands of the exarch . The Exarchate of Ravenna was the cornerstone of Byzantine power in Italy until it was conquered by the Lombards in 751. However, it was not the only Eastern Roman province in the western half of the ancient empire . Sicily formed its own administrative unit; Corsica and Sardinia belonged to the Exarchate of Carthage until 698 .

Longobard Invasion and Byzantine Response

In 402, under Emperor Flavius ​​Honorius, Ravenna became the main residence of the Western Roman Empire because of its excellent Classis port on the Adriatic Sea and its ideal defenses in the midst of impassable swamps . This remained until the dissolution of the western empire in 476, when it became the seat of government of Odoacer and under King Theodoric from 493 the capital of the Ostrogoths . During the First Gothic War , the Eastern Roman general Belisarius in 540 occupied the city. In 555 his successor Narses became governor of Eastern Rome in Ravenna. At that time, the administrative structure of Italy, with a few changes, still corresponded to the late antique division that had been made by Emperor Diocletian and retained in the core by both Odoacer and the Goths. However, Emperor Justinian I had abolished most of Italy's senatorial offices in 554 (only the city ​​prefecture of Rome remained) and so the power was already more concentrated in the hands of his governor.

In 568, Lombards under their king Alboin, along with other Germanic allies, moved to northern Italy during the last phase of the great migration . The area had only been pacified for a few years and had suffered greatly during the long Gothic War. The Eastern Roman troops stationed there were weak, and so after having captured several other cities, the Lombards were able to capture Milan in 569 . They took Pavia in 571 after a three year siege and made it their capital. In the following years they occupied Tuscany . Other groups of the Longobards under Faroald I of Spoleto and Zotto invaded central and southern Italy and founded the duchies of Spoleto and Benevento there . About half of the peninsula, including Ravenna and Rome, could, however, be held by the imperial troops. After Alboin's assassination in 573, the area of ​​the Longobards split into several independent ducats (duchies).

Emperor Justin II , Justinian's successor, tried to use this and in 576 sent his son-in-law Baduarius to Italy. However, this one was defeated and killed in battle. The ongoing crises in the Balkans and on the eastern border made further efforts to recapture impossible. Because of the incursions of the Lombards, the Eastern Roman possessions in Italy fell into several isolated areas. In 580, Emperor Tiberios I divided them into five provinces, which are now called eparchiai in Greek : the Annonaria in northern Italy around Ravenna, Calabria , Campania , Emilia with Liguria and the Urbicaria around the city of Rome ( Urbs ).

The exarchate

The borders of the Byzantine Empire from 650 under Emperor Constans II.

Since the fight against the Persian Sassanids in particular required all efforts, it was decided a little later in Constantinople to leave Italy, Africa and the islands largely to their own devices. In order to enable the most efficient defense possible using all local forces, it seemed necessary, contrary to tradition, to bundle civil and military authority in these areas in one hand. In 584 at the latest, Emperor Maurikios therefore reorganized the administration of the remaining areas of Italy. They were divided into the seven ducats Istria , Venetia , the actual Exarchate of Ravenna with Calabria, the Pentapolis with Rimini , Pesaro , Fano , Senigallia , and Ancona , the ducat Rome, Naples and Liguria, which mainly comprised the coastal cities as the Longobards here had dominated the hinterland. All areas on the eastern flank of the Apennines were under the direct administration of the exarch and formed the exarchate in the narrower sense. The other areas were controlled by duces and a magister militium and were more or less directly under the authority of the exarch, who in turn was accountable only to the emperor. The Lombards had their capital in Pavia and controlled the great valley of the Po . The Piedmont , the Lombardy , the mainland of Veneto , Tuscany and the hinterland of Naples belonged to the Lombards. The Pope, who acted more and more independently, developed into the real ruler in Rome.

The need to defend the exarchate against the Lombards led to the formation of local militias, which were initially assigned to the emperor's troops, but increasingly acted independently, as they were recruited at their home locations. These armed men formed the exercitus Romanae militiae . They were the distant forerunners of the free armed citizens of the Italian cities of the Middle Ages .

At the end of the 6th century the exarchate essentially still consisted of Istria, a narrow coastal strip of Veneto on the Adriatic, the area around Ravenna, the adjoining coastal region with Ancona, the ducat of Rome with a narrow corridor through Umbria to the exarchate and the immediate vicinity from Gaeta and Naples; and (up to 650) from the Genoa area.

During the 7th and 8th centuries, the growing threat from the Lombards and Franks , the divisions between Eastern and Western Christendom caused by Monotheletism and the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and the bitter rivalry between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople made the position of the Exarchs increasingly untenable.

The second exarch Smaragdus succeeded in 585 in signing a truce with the Lombards. In 588 he had Bishop Severus of Aquileia detained in Ravenna for a year and forced reunification with the Roman Church ( three chapters dispute ). In 616 Eleutherius was appointed by Emperor Herakleios to succeed Exarch John , who was killed in an uprising . Eleutherius made an attempt to have himself crowned emperor by the Pope in 619, but was murdered by his own troops. There was a brief period of peace under his successor Isaacius . Emperor Konstans II as a supporter of monotheleticism sent the exarch Olympius to Rome in 649 to have Pope Martin I arrested. Olympius, however, sided with the Pope and evidently aspired to the Empire himself. He held power in the exarchate for three years, during which Martin could exercise his office unmolested, and then died in a battle in Sicily.

The Exarch Paulus should on the orders of Emperor Leo III. tried to kill or have arrested Pope Gregory II . As the Liber Pontificalis reports, this attack failed, however, which led to a new wave of uprisings in Italy and to the further erosion of imperial rule, to which the usurpation of Tiberios Petasius also contributed. In 726/27 the last exarch Eutychius allied himself with the Lombard king Liutprand against Pope Gregory without them succeeding in overthrowing him. After the first capture of Ravenna by the Longobards around 729/34, Eutychius was able to win back the city, this time with papal and Venetian support. Until the riot about the iconoclasm, Ravenna remained the seat of the exarch. In 751, Aistulf, King of the Lombards, conquered the city, ending the exarchate of Ravenna.

In contrast to the research literature, the term exarchatus only appears in the sources after the fall of Ravenna 750/51. For Constantinople it was a provincia under the leadership of a patricius et exarchus . The term exarchus appears for the first time on October 4, 584 in a letter from Pope Pelagius II. It referred to a military commander. An immediate appointment of local commanders by the exarch is for the last time in the year 687. Around 700, the establishment of local duces was at best approved by the exarch.


When the Franks drove the Lombards out in 756, Pope Stephen II claimed the exarchate for himself. His ally Pippin the Younger , King of the Franks, donated the conquered territories of the former exarchate to the papacy in 756; This Pippin donation , which was confirmed by his son Charles in 774, marked the beginning of the secular rule of the Popes, the Patrimony of Peter .

After the end of the exarchate, the remains of the Byzantine possessions on the mainland, Naples and Calabria, were placed under the Katepanate of Italy . When Sicily was conquered by the Arabs in the 9th century, the themes Langobardia and Calabria were created from the remains . Istria was added to Dalmatia . Bari , the last Byzantine fortress in Italy, finally fell in 1071.

See also


  • Charles Diehl: Etudes sur l'Administration byzantine dans l'exarchat de Ravenne. (568-751) . Thorin, Paris 1888 ( Bibliothèque des Écoles Françaises d'Athènes et de Rome 53, ISSN  0257-4101 ), (At the same time: Paris, Univ., Thesis, 1888).
  • André Guillou, Filippo Burgarella (ed.): L'Italia bizantina. Dall'esarcato di Ravenna al tema di Sicilia . Utet Libreria, Turin 1988, ISBN 88-7750-126-X ( Storia degli stati italiani dal medioevo all'unità ).
  • Ludo Moritz Hartmann : Studies on the history of the Byzantine administration in Italy. (540-750). Hirzel, Leipzig 1889.
  • Jon R. Martindale: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire . Vol. 3, Cambridge 1992.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Hodgkin: Italy and her Invaders . Vol. 6, Oxford 1885, pp. 71-73.
  2. Johannes von Biclaro : Iohannis Biclarensis chronicon. In: Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann (Ed.): Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina Vol. 173A, Turnhout 2001.
  3. Ornella Mariani: Bisanzio, storia di un Impero. Associazione Culturale Italia Medievale, 2003-2007
  4. ^ Edward Hutton: Ravenna, a Study. ( Memento from May 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) The Project Gutenberg
  5. Thomas Frenz: Italy in the Middle Ages (568-1454) . In: Wolfgang Altgeld u. a .: History of Italy, 3rd updated and expanded edition, Reclam, Stuttgart 2016, pp. 109–132. (Older versions online: Supplementary chapter to Little Italian History ( Memento from April 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive ))
  6. ^ Ferdinand Gregorovius : History of the city of Rome in the Middle Ages in the Gutenberg-DE project