Gogo, the majordomo of King Childebert II, writes to Grasulf, the Lombard duke of Friuli, proposing an alliance with the Franks, the Papacy, and the Byzantine Empire against their common foes (presumably the Avars and the Slavs, but possibly even the Lombards).
Incipit dicta Gogone ad Grasulfo de nomen regis.
Rem necessariam et valde partibus oportunam celsitudo vestra per Biliulfo parenti vestro innotuit, quam oportet fixo ordine pro resecanda contumacia infestantium celeriter confirmare.
Et licet piissimus imperator revertentibus legatariis nostrisa sacris principalibus indicavit, legationem suam confestim velle ipsorum e vestigio ad nos dirigere, quam diebus singulis et venturam credimus et votis ambientibus excipere et optamus; sed quia oportere tractatis ut nulla mora causa sustineat, adeo in vestro arbitrio hanc rem commisimusb finienda. Una elegite de duabus, si vobis munit de parte reipublicae certa securitas, ut possitis necessaria placita fugire et promissa et volvere, iam de praesentiam certamine pecuniarum summa integra distinetur.
His itaque omnibus adimpletis, instituite placito, et temptemus pariter Dei iniuria et sanguine parentibus nostris Romanis, Christo praesule, vindicare, ita ut in perpetuae pacis securitatem vel de reliquis capitulis, utriusque partibus oportunis intercurrentibus, in posterum terminetur.
Ceterum si in vos vigor pontificii non consistit, ut iam de praesenti possitis haec omnia fiducialiter placiscere vel finire, sicut ordoc rationabilis exegit, de latere piissimi imperatoris procedant, cum quibusdam fortis causas fixis terminibus roborentur; et, quatenus hiemalis tempus cursum navium serrat, per vos facile, si fuerit directa ligatio, in finibus nostris transponitur, ubi in ipsorum exceptione, sicut dignum est, praeparatur, ut nec in veniendo sit tarditas et celerius inter partes figantur placita oportuna, rogamus, ut talis eveniant, quibus sit potestas iuxta illa manu vel sensu, quod domnus imperator nostris legatariisd reddidit in responsis, cuncta placiscere vel finire.
Et ne dicatur, quod pars nostra aliquam dilationem exhibeat, vos nulla mora protendite, et videamus perfecta deliberatione vel securitate de partibus reipublicae procedere, parati sumus, vobiscum contra adversus insurgere in vindicta, et locum requirimuse et actibus cupimus ostendere, qualiter nos piissimus imperator se dignanter admittit, in numero recipiat filiorum.
a) ex nostri corr. B. b) ex commisemus corr. B. c) ex odo corr. B. d) ex ligatariis corr. B. e) ex requiremus corr. B.
“At this time, he [Pamphranius, the Byzantine patrician in Italy] had come to the palace from Old Rome to beg the Caesar to mount an expedition to defend Italy which was exhausted by the Lombard raids. Since the Persian war demanded all his attention and was his sole concern, he was unable to send an army there, nor did he think that he should fight in the east and the west at the same time. Nevertheless, he gave Pamphronius money, in order that, if he were able, he might persuade some of the leaders of the Lombard people, out of desire for gain, to come over to the Romans with their followers. Thus, they would cease to trouble Italy and, if they were willing to fight in the east, they could aid the Roman Empire.” - Menander the Guardsman, 6th-century Byzantine historian, Fragments, this one dated to c. 577-578.
“Italy had been almost entirely devastated by the Lombards. Therefore, men were sent from the senate of Old Rome together with priests dispatched by the archbishop of Rome and they came as envoys to the Emperor to ask him to defend the lands there. However, the war with the Persians was raging both in Armenia and in the East, and not only was it not abating but was causing even greater difficulties. The result was that the Emperor was unable to send a considerable army or any force that was adequate for the situation there. Nevertheless, the Emperor did send a small army from the men whom he had available and he made great efforts to win over some of the leaders of the Lombards by approaching them with gifts and promising them very great rewards. Very many of the chiefs did accept the Emperor's generosity and came over to the Romans.” - Menander the Guardsman, 6th-century Byzantine historian, Fragments, this one dated to c. 579.
Roger C. Blockley (ed. and trans.), The History of Menander the Guardsman, ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 17 (Liverpool 1985), pp. 197, 217.
This undated letter, written during the period in which Gogo acted as the mayor of the palace (majordomo) of King Childebert II, that is between 571 and his death in 581, has been variously interpreted in historiography.
The main point that needs to be cleared is the presumed ducal title of Grasulf and the corresponding geographical area under his control. Namely, Gogo does not refer to Grasulf as duke, but he does address him as "your Highness" (celsitudo vestra), thus implying some kind of title. Paul the Deacon, however, fails to mention Grasulf as duke. The fact that Gisulf II, Grasulf's son, is mentioned as duke both by Paul the Deacon as well as by Exarch Romanus in a letter to King Childebert II (see the source here), does point to the conclusion that Grasulf too was a duke and the only region that could be under their rule is Friuli.
However, the only region that is explicitly mentioned in connection to Grasulf and Gisulf II is Istria. Namely, Paul the Deacon mentions a military expedition to Istria that was dispatched by King Authari and led by Duke Ewin of Trento (see the source here). At roughly the same time, the letter issued by Exarch Romanus to King Childebert II mentions Grasulf and his son, Duke Gisulf II, fighting in Istria against their enemies (see the source here). These two sources led the editors of the MGH edition to dub Grasulf a "Histriae dux" in their regestum of the letter hereby edited. Subsequently, the interpretation that these two Lombard dukes held Istria - possibly as Byzantine federates - gained ground. This interpretation is wrong.
Namely, Istria remained a Byzantine territory until the mid-8th century Lombard takeover (see the source here) and both Grasulf and Gisulf II could therefore only be the dukes of the neighboring Friuli, indeed a Lombard territory. The fact that the skirmishes were taking place in Istria is telling of the fact that the Byzantine court managed to "buy" the support of the neighboring Lombard dukes and this is corroborated by the account of Menander the Guardsman quoted above. It remains a mystery, however, who precisely these enemies were: the Avars and Slavs seem the most logical candidates.
Finally, it is almost universally argued that Grasulf's filoimperial policy came to an abrupt end following Duke Ewin's military expedition into Byzantine Istria. While Grasulf's support of the Byzantines may have waned, Gisulf II, who, it would seem, became duke of Friuli while his father was still alive, returned to the filoimperial policy and fought side by side with the imperials in Istria (see the source here).
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