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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

He called for the skull of Cunimund


[Footnote 18: Which from this translation was called New Aquileia, (Chron. Venet. p. 3.) The patriarch of Grado soon became the first citizen of the republic, (p. 9, &c.,) but his seat was not removed to Venice till the year 1450. He is now decorated with titles and honors; but the genius of the church has bowed to that of the state, and the government of a Catholic city is strictly Presbyterian. Thomassin, Discipline de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 156, 157, 161--165. Amelot de la Houssaye, Gouvernement de Venise, tom. i. p. 256--261.]

[Footnote 19: Paul has given a description of Italy, as it was then divided into eighteen regions, (l. ii. c. 14--24.) The Dissertatio Chorographica de Italia Medii Aevi, by Father Beretti, a Benedictine monk, and regius professor at Pavia, has been usefully consulted.]

[Footnote 20: For the conquest of Italy, see the original materials of Paul, (l. p. 7--10, 12, 14, 25, 26, 27,) the eloquent narrative of Sigonius, (tom. il. de Regno Italiae, l. i. p. 13--19,) and the correct and critical review el Muratori, (Annali d' Italia, tom. v. p. 164--180.)]

The reign of the founder was splendid and transient; and, before he could regulate his new conquests, Alboin fell a sacrifice to domestic treason and female revenge. In a palace near Verona, which had not been erected for the Barbarians, he feasted the companions of his arms; intoxication was the reward of valor, and the king himself was tempted by appetite, or vanity, to exceed the ordinary measure of his intemperance. After draining many capacious bowls of Rhaetian or Falernian wine, he called for the skull of Cunimund, the noblest and most precious ornament of his sideboard. The cup of victory was accepted with horrid applause by the circle of the Lombard chiefs. "Fill it again with wine," exclaimed the inhuman conqueror, "fill it to the brim: carry this goblet to the queen, and request in my name that she would rejoice with her father." In an agony of grief and rage, Rosamond had strength to utter, "Let the will of my lord be obeyed!" and, touching it with her lips, pronounced a silent imprecation, that the insult should be washed away in the blood of Alboin. Some indulgence might be due to the resentment of a daughter, if she had not already violated the duties of a wife. Implacable in her enmity, or inconstant in her love, the queen of Italy had stooped from the throne to the arms of a subject, and Helmichis, the king's armor-bearer, was the secret minister of her pleasure and revenge. Against the proposal of the murder, he could no longer urge the scruples of fidelity or gratitude; but Helmichis trembled when he revolved the danger as well as the guilt, when he recollected the matchless strength and intrepidity of a warrior whom he had so often attended in the field of battle. He pressed and obtained, that one of the bravest champions of the Lombards should be associated to the enterprise; but no more than a promise of secrecy could be drawn from the gallant Peredeus, and the mode of seduction employed by Rosamond betrays her shameless insensibility both to honor and love. She supplied the place of one of her female attendants who was beloved by Peredeus, and contrived some excuse for darkness and silence, till she could inform her companion that he had enjoyed the queen of the Lombards, and that his own death, or the death of Alboin, must be the consequence of such treasonable adultery. In this alternative he chose rather to be the accomplice than the victim of Rosamond, [21] whose undaunted spirit was incapable of fear or remorse. She expected and soon found a favorable moment, when the king, oppressed with wine, had retired from the table to his afternoon slumbers. His faithless spouse was anxious for his health and repose: the gates of the palace were shut, the arms removed, the attendants dismissed, and Rosamond, after lulling him to rest by her tender caresses, unbolted the chamber door, and urged the reluctant conspirators to the instant execution of the deed. On the first alarm, the warrior started from his couch: his sword, which he attempted to draw, had been fastened to the scabbard by the hand of Rosamond; and a small stool, his only weapon, could not long protect him from the spears of the assassins. The daughter of Cunimund smiled in his fall: his body was buried under the staircase of the palace; and the grateful posterity of the Lombards revered the tomb and the memory of their victorious leader.


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