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The Fanes' saga - Short essays


The “Arimanni”


The Fassan tradition tells that for a time the militiamen who defended the valley were called “Arimanni”. We saw in >Analysis >The Fassan Trilogy that the use of this term dates the related events back to earlier than the XIth century.
Notice: Italians name Lombards, the Germanic invaders who entered Italy in 568 A.D., as “Longobardi” and their language as “Longobardo”, while the inhabitants of the Italian region named Lombardy
(after the “Longobardi”) are named “Lombardi”, and the dialects that are spoken there today are defined as “Lombardi” and have nothing to share with the “Longobardo” language. Only a few words have migrated from “Longobardo” into Italian, and not more into “Lombardi” dialects than into those of other regions. Moreover, no Italian would make any mental connection whatsoever between “Longobardi” (Germanic people) and “Lombardi” (inhabitants of Lombardy). This clarified, in this site we shall use the English words “Lombards” and “Lombard language” as referred to the Germanic people and their language. Just remind that this implies no specific reference to the region Lombardy, its inhabitants or the dialects spoken there, although it is true that the name “Lombardy” is a contraption of “Longobardia”, because the invaders established their capital at Pavia. Lombards entered Italy with their whole people just one century after the fall of the Western Roman empire and few years after the devastating war between between Goths, who were eventually defeated, and “Greeks”, the representatives of the Eastern Roman empire, whom Lombards named “Romans” and today we usually define as “Byzantines”. Lombards occupied most of an exhausted and depopulated Italy in just three years, with the simple tactics of invading the undefended areas and leaving behind the defended ones. The result was a “leopard’s skin” map of Italy. Lombards and “Greeks” fought desultory wars until 774, when Charles the Great’s Franks sealed the end of the Lombard’s kingdom.

Arimanni” is a typically Lombard word, that was translated into Latin as “exercitales”, i.e. “army people” (from Heer-, army and -Mann, man). In the Lombard society, the “Arimanni” were anyway not soldiers in the sense we would understand today: “Arimanni” were all and only the free male Lombards, and wearing arms was not intended as a duty of theirs, but the most important of their own rights, as they were the members of an army that was no separate organization, but the nation itself, perennially at arms. As a consequence, the “Arimanni” for this reason alone exclusively detained full civil rights, like for instance that of owning land, and they were not supposed to perform any other job but the profession of arms. The other components of the Lombard society were the “aldii”, half-free peasants, and the slaves proper – both, basically, the non-Lombards, i.e. the Italians.
A non-Lombard indeed had, in theory, a chance to be accepted among the “Arimanni”. This became easier and easier as the Lombards settled down from their nomadic condition and mixed with the “Roman” population, overwhelmingly superior to them in number and culture, and at the same time they started differentiating into poorer and richer “Arimanni”.

The Lombard population was divided into “faras”, essentially enlarged familiar clans who lived together, moved together and fought together; when the people started taking roots, the word indicated also the land where the “fara” had settled. The “faras”, into which the Italian territory occupied by Lombards had been divided, were grouped into duchies (eventually there were 36 of them), of variable size; in the North-East we can list that of Friuli, very important also because it was the first to be established, then that of Treviso, of Trento, of Ceneda (part of today’s Vittorio Veneto), of Verona, of Vicenza. In the border areas where no “fara” had settled, but a military garrison was required, a Duke had faculty to establish the so-called “Arimannie”, i.e. stable settlements of “Arimanni”, distinct from a “fara” substantially because the “Arimanni” were sent (as volunteers?) to reside there and there were no necessary clan bonds among the men who peopled them.

The words “Arimanni” and “Arimannia” survived much longer than the Lombard kingdom, although their meaning over time got farther and farther removed from the original one. In the XIIth century, e.g., in the Fiemme valley the word “Arimannia” indicated a unit of tax collection, first in kind, later in money.

One of these border “Arimannia”, in the original meaning of the word, was established at Roccapietore, where the Pettorina stream joins the Cordevole, mostly on the purpose of keeping under control any possible manoeuvre by the Bavarians. The land assigned to this “Arimannia” stretched to include the upper Badia and the upper Fassa valleys. As an evidence of this, Father Frumenzio Ghetta found in ancient documents that during the Middle Ages the upper Fassa valley, north of the Duron stream, payed taxes to the bishop of Bressanone in a completely different form (grain measures) from the rest of the valley (ovine livestock): and he concluded that this difference must have derived from a period when both territories were subject to different political entities.

This circumstance would explain the presence of “Arimanni” in the Fassa valley, but on the wrong side, i.e. it would apparently identify the “Arimanni” with their traditional foes, the “Trusani”! There might be several ways to explain this paradox; let us try listing some of them:

1. the duke of Trento might have created another “Arimannia” in the Fassa valley in his turn, although no trace or documentation of it is left; no doubt, the existence of “Arimannie” in the Fiemme valley, albeit in the later and distorted meaning of the word, might let us suppose something like that;
2. the Fassan peasants might actually have called a few “Arimanni” to defend them (a sort of “seven samurais”);
3. a few “Arimanni” might have settled in the Fassa valley of their own initiative, establishing a sort of “self-declared Arimannia”, not documented, but rather in style with their times (this might have well been a consequence of 2));
4. a few “Arimanni” from Roccapietore might have settled in Fassa, initially to better control their entrusted territory, but later they might have entered into conflict with the original core of their own “Arimannia”.

Of course, many other options are possible. For the moment, I’m unable to indicate any alternative as the most probable, or to negate the chance that a still better one might exist.

In order to try dating these possible occurrences, it is however interesting to remark that the chief of these “Arimanni”, nicknamed “Tarlui”, “lightining”, (although in the legend he accomplishes nothing to justify it) is named Hermagoras. It seems that St.Hermagoras (the name is Greek, and was also that of a famous rhetorician) was martyrized in today’s Belgrade in the year 304 or 305 A.D., and that his body was translated to Aquileia about one century later. Only later the legend, that wants him converted by saint Paul and nominated by Peter himself as the first bishop of Aquileia, began being established; Venantius Fortunatus in the VIIth century, although he twice mentions St.Fortunatus, with whom Hermagoras is traditionally connected, doesn’t mention the latter at all. In any case, the spreading of churches dedicated to Hermagoras and Fortunatus (and presumably also the diffusion of Hermagoras as a personal name) only took place in the IXth century. To this period, e.g., the foundation of the parish of Hermagor (Carinthia) should be dated. The cult of Hermagoras and Fortunatus doesn’t seem as having been specially lively in the Fassa valley: therefore, the name appears allusive of an allochtonous origin of the “Arimanno”, plausibly from Veneto or Friuli, since long under the Patriarch of Aquileia’s spiritual influence (Also the dedication to St. Proculus of the small church in Naturno, whose oldest frescoes are dated today to the VIIIth or IXth century, supports the penetration in the upper Adige valley of influences coming from the Aquileia patriarchate area, at a time when the Venosta valley was already under a strong Bavarian domination).

A further clue comes from the tale “Bedoyela”, where we are shown the son of a hut owner above Alba of Canazei, named Loogut – certainly no Neolatin name! – who joins the “Arimanni”, and it is stated that at his time in Fassa there were still several pagans. This detail dates him not later than the IXth century, the time when Christendom completed its establishment in the Dolomites.

If, in any case, we must see these “Arimanni” who settled in the Fassa valley as real Lombard “Arimanni”, we must expect that they considered themselves as the only legitimate landowners for right of conquest, and not obliged to do anything unless defending it. At least at a first time, they sure were welcome by the peasants, since they were able to lead them to effectively repulse the devastating raids that the “Trusani” (almost certainly other Lombards from the Roccapietore “Arimannia”) were launching into their upper valley; but later on, that danger having been eliminated, they came to be only considered as useless foreign bloodsuckers (the Lumberc?) and eventually they must have been overthrown by a popular revolt (remind that, according to the legend itself, not a single “Arimanno” will leave the Fassa valley alive!). The “tournament” with which the “Arimanni” would have been dissolved should be, therefore, a sheer literary fiction, maybe borrowed from another tale as a coverup to a much bloodier and much less politically correct story. In my opinion, it is very likely that the “Arimanni”, chased from the valley, tried to escape to the Lombard towns of Feltre or Belluno, retreating through the san Pellegrino pass and ther lower Cordevole valley, but were reached and destroyed by the Fassan people; and that the slaughter was attributed to the standard Trusani, (who must have already been utterly defeated) only much later, i.e. when the glorification of a peasants’ revolt must have been regarded by civilian and religious authorities only as a crime instigation to be repressed with the utmost severity. (Notice the following incoherent details in the recount of the battle: the “Trusani” had allowed the Fassans a long period of peace, but they reappear exactly at the moment when the “Arimanni” are leaving forever; after the slaughter, the Fassa valley is at their mercy, but the “Trusani” don’t sack it at all; the Fassan militia, whose necessity should have been widely demonstrated by the events, on the contrary is never more reconstituted).