Lombardic Silver-gilt Fibula, c. 6th Century AD
The Lombards (or Langobards) were a Germanic tribe who ruled Italy from 568 to 774. They descended from a small tribe called the Winnili who lived in southern Scandinavia before migrating to seek new lands. In the 1st century AD, they formed part of the Suebi, in northwestern Germany. By the end of the 5th century, they had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria north of the Danube river, where they subdued the Heruls and later fought frequent wars with the Gepids. The Lombard king Audoin defeated the Gepid leader Thurisind in 551 or 552; his successor Alboin eventually destroyed the Gepids at the Battle of Asfeld in 567.
Following this victory, Alboin decided to lead his people to Italy, which had become severely depopulated and devastated after the long Gothic War (535–554) between the Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom there. The Lombards were joined by numerous Saxons, Heruls, Gepids, Bulgars, Thuringians, and Ostrogoths, and their invasion of Italy was almost unopposed. By late 569 they had conquered all the principal cities north of the Po River except Pavia, which fell in 572. At the same time, they occupied areas in central and southern Italy. They established a Lombard Kingdom in Italy, later named Regnum Italicum (“Kingdom of Italy”), which reached its zenith under the 8th-century ruler Liutprand. In 774, the Kingdom was conquered by the Frankish King Charlemagne and integrated into his Empire. However, Lombard nobles continued to rule parts of the Italian peninsula well into the 11th century when they were conquered by the Normans and added to their County of Sicily. Their legacy is apparent in the regional name, Lombardy.