The Lombards (/ˈlɒmbərdz, -bɑːrdz, ˈlʌm-/) or Langobards (Latin: Langobardi) were a Germanic people who ruled most of the Italian Peninsula from 568 to 774, with origins near the Elbe in northern Germany and Scania in southern Sweden before the Migration Period.
The medieval Lombard historian Paul the Deacon wrote in the History of the Lombards (written between 787 and 796) that the Lombards descended from a small tribe called the Winnili, who dwelt in southern Scandinavia (Scadanan) before migrating to seek new lands. By the time of the Roman-era - historians wrote of the Lombards in the 1st century AD, as being one of the Suebian peoples, in what is now northern Germany, near the Elbe river. They continued to migrate south. By the end of the fifth century, the Lombards had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria and Slovakia north of the Danube, where they subdued the Heruls and later fought frequent wars with the Gepids. The Lombard king Audoin defeated the Gepid leader Thurisind in 551 or 552, and his successor Alboin eventually destroyed the Gepids in 567. The Lombards settled in modern-day Hungary in Pannonia. Archaeologists have unearthed burial sites in the area of Szólád of Lombard men and women buried together as families, a practice that was uncommon for Germanic peoples at the time. Traces have also been discovered of Mediterranean Greeks and of a woman whose skull suggests French ancestry, possibly indicating that migrations into the Lombard territory occurred from Greece and France.
Following Alboin's victory over the Gepids, he led his people into North Eastern Italy, which had become severely depopulated and devastated after the long Gothic War (535–554) between the Byzantine Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom. The Lombards were joined by numerous Saxons, Heruls, Gepids, Bulgars, Thuringians and Ostrogoths, and their invasion of Italy was almost unopposed. By late 569, they had conquered all of northern Italy and the principal cities north of the Po River, except Pavia, which fell in 572. At the same time, they occupied areas in central and southern Italy. They established a Lombard Kingdom in north and central Italy, later named Regnum Italicum ("Kingdom of Italy"), which reached its zenith under the eighth-century ruler Liutprand. In 774, the kingdom was conquered by the Frankish king Charlemagne and integrated into the Frankish Empire. However, Lombard nobles continued to rule southern parts of the Italian peninsula well into the 11th century, when they were conquered by the Normans and added to the County of Sicily. In this period, the southern part of Italy still under Lombard domination was known to the foreigners by the name Langbarðaland (Land of the Lombards), as inscribed in the Norse runestones. Their legacy is also apparent in the name of the region of Lombardy in northern Italy.