An excerpt (pp. 98-100) of  "The Lombards, the ancient Longobards", Neil Christie, Blackwell, 1995
A fascinating passage in the Historia Langobardorum records a group of Bulgars under their duke Alzec requesting lands from Grimoald in return for military service.  They may have been ex-Byzantine federates already stationed in Italy, but Grimoald readily welcomed these cavalry troopers and settled them in the badly depopulated territories of Sepino, Boiano, Isernia 'and other towns' in the northern part of the Duchy of Benevento.  Paul the Deacon recounts that in his own day these people spoke Latin but still used their native tongue.  The settlement of these federates - much in the manner of Roman policy in the late fourth and fifth centuries - will have aided in repopulating the land, in defending the northern and western borders of the Duchy and perhaps also in securing royal Longobard control in central Italy.  Archaeological confirmation of the Bulgar presence may in fact come from the localities in Vicenne and Morrione, near Campochiaro, between Boiano and Sepino, where, since 1987, excavations by the Superin - tendency of Molise have uncovered over 120 burials, including a set of ten horse burials characteristic of nomadic, steppe tribes such as the Avars and Bulgars (pl. 18).  The W-E aligned graves, set in rows, are mainly earth-cut, but occasionally contain traces of coffins; male burials are equipped with weapons, including arrow-heads and stirrups (both elements rare in Longobard contexts), and personal dress items such as belt-fittings and even earrings.  The combined warrior and horse graves are amongst the best-furnished in the cemeteries and should undoubtedly be viewed as housing members of the high-born warrior class.  Of particular interest in this respect was the presence in Tomb 33 of a gold ring with an engraved Roman gemstone on the upper face and, in contact with the finger, an inset gold copy of a later seventh-century Beneventan coin.  As we will see late, similar seal-rings recovered from the seventh-century Longobard cemetery of Trezzo sull'Add near Milan have been interpreted as symbols of state office.  If so, we could tentatively identify the officer buried in Tomb 33 at Vicenne with the documented duke/gastald Alzec or one of his successors.  Finds overall represent a mixture of cultural styles and of Avar-Byzantine and Italo-Longobard types, and are datable, on the basis of metalwork and coins, mainly to the period 650-700.  We can note that there are indications that the nearby towns were not totally uninhabited by this date:  excavations in the forum and theatre at Sepino and in the amphitheatre at Larino have revealed a number of tombs of post-Roman date set into or over the decayed Roman structures but containing few, if any, grave-goods.  Although these tombs cannot be closely dated, they do at least indicate that people were still eking out an existence within the shells of the old Roman centres. [ Paul HL, V.  29, See V.Ceglia, 'Lo scavo della necropoli di Vincenne', Conoscenze, iv (1988), 31-48, and various contributions in Samnium.  Archeologia del Molise (exh.  cat., ed.  by S.  Capini & A. di Niro; Rome, 1991), 329-65. ]

Copyright (c) Neil Christie 1995

The right of Neil Christie to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.