From the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages: The struggle for Ravenna in the eighth century

Nicole Lopez-Jantzen, Fordham University


Through an analysis of both literary and non-literary materials, this dissertation considers the multiple levels of Ravenna's value that drove the fight to acquire it. I argue that by conquering Ravenna, the Lombards took possession of a city full of specifically Christian imperial imagery, built up by the city's archbishops to further their own ambitions. Seizing the city was fundamental to legitimize the Lombard kings as the rightful rulers of the entire Italian peninsula. The Lombard kings were also able to take advantage of the economic, religious and political status of Ravenna and of tensions among the archbishops of Ravenna, the Byzantine exarchs and the popes. Thus the city played a crucial role in the kings' attempt to create a Lombard kingdom of Italy. My dissertation uses an interdisciplinary approach and integrates documentary and material sources regarding one city, Ravenna, during the crucial transition period of the late seventh and eighth centuries. I analyze the different aspects of Ravenna's value that drove the fight to acquire it, normally studied separately, in order to highlight the interconnectedness of political, religious and economic trends, of the Byzantines and Lombards as well as of regional and international networks in Italy in this period. This approach has allowed me to call into question the interpretive dichotomies and simplifications of the master narrative of the end of late antiquity and the beginning of the middle ages, specifically the differences, both cultural and economic, between the 'barbarian' Lombards and the Byzantines, as I argue that political and economic interests crossed cultural lines. This perspective has also enabled me to contribute to the debate over the end of the antique trade pattern and the beginning of the medieval pattern. I argue that the growth of new trading centers in Italy in the upper Adriatic was a result of the privileged position of Ravenna in the Byzantine state and economy, and therefore, at least in this region, there is an important relationship, not a clear dichotomy, between the late antique trade system and the new medieval one.

Subject Area

Medieval history

Recommended Citation

Lopez-Jantzen, Nicole, "From the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages: The struggle for Ravenna in the eighth century" (2012). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3543380.