THE unity of Italy was first established by the Romans, who, in the second century before our era, conquered Cisalpina Gaul, and reached the barrier of the Alps. This unity really consisted in unfailing submission to the Romans and to the masters who were appointed by them. Next to the senate and the magistrates of the Republic carne the Italian and provincial emperors, and then the Gothic kings of Ravenna. These were replaced, in the middle of the sixth century, by a re-establishment of the imperial rule, under the auspices of the Emperor of Constantinople. All these revolutions had taken place without any parceling out of the land, for although there had been frequent change of authority, it had always been of the same nature. The last change resembled the close of a long and disastrous war. Now, however, people were beginning to forget not only the prosperous reigns of Theodoric and Amalasunta, but even the miseries of the Gothic war, and congratulated themselves on living peacefully under the distant though unmistakable rule of the Emperor Justinian.
This happy state of affairs was interrupted in 569 by the Lombard invasion. At the same time the unity of Italy received a mortal blow, from which it took many centuries to recover. Not that Alboin wished to harm it, for he would willingly have supported it could he have done so to his own advantage. But his people had neither military power, nor unity of purpose enough, to set themselves against the whole of Italy, nor could they hold the same position of authority as the Goths had done. Besides, the Byzantine Empire, suffering from the inroads of the Avars in the north, and the Persians and Arabs in the east, were no longer in a condition to live up to the high ideals of Justinian. The dilapidated state of its military and financial power enabled it to offer but a desultory opposition to the attacks of the German barbarians. Towards the close of the sixth century the Roman defence was represented by two effort’s not tending in the same direction. One—that of a boundless, unconquerable, but impotent hopefulness—was embodied in the person of the Exarch Romanus—a lieutenant of the Emperor Maurice. The other, that of local interests and practical claims, was led by the diplomatic Pope Gregory. This last effort was the only one which, under the circumstances, had any chance of success. It resulted in peace, but at the same time, in the loss of Italian unity, for the imperial rule was divided with the Lombards...