In short, Liutprando failed in the face of the opposition of various and even disagreeing forces, but also, against a Lombard conquest, in solidarity: Greek empire or high and middle Italian dignitaries, often operating with great autonomy from Byzantium and tending to find the their base; duchies of Benevento and Spoleto, that is, large groups of Lombards settled far from the center; Italian populations, initiated into a political order of their own, such as the inhabitants of the lagoons, or settled under the suave iugum of the bishops, among which that of Rome emerges, who of all the Italians subject to Byzantium is the spiritual leader, strong in his religion but also in the weapons of the Roman and Ravenna militia, of the Venetian ships, of the military aid of the rebel dukes. It can be admitted that the king also had another enemy in his Christian and almost Roman spirit which guided him in the reform of the “impious or inhuman” laws of his nation. But the vision or awareness of the great difficulty, even military, of overcoming the resistance of those adverse forces that were centered in the pope, of being able to place such different and resistant elements in the kingdom made him much more hesitant and compliant in the face of the pope. Right vision, after all: and the equal and greater failure of Liutprando’s successors will prove it.
And yet dangerous allies or supporters, for the Roman Church, those Benevento and Spoleto dukes who craved the lands of the Church no less than the Lombard king, those Byzantine exarchs who occasionally threw Rome and Italy into turmoil with their heresies and their interference in the field of the Church, those Roman militias that drew strength especially from the secular aristocracy, competing with the ecclesiastical one! The two popes who found themselves in the midst of such a varied melee, Gregory II and Gregory III, must have felt this well. In which, therefore, the idea of finding other, safer and less compromising supports developed. Where there was, bordering on the Lombard kingdom, the Frankish kingdom, the very first of the various barbaric kingdoms to accept Catholicism, eager to promote the evangelization of the Anglo-Saxons and the Germans, bulwark now against the Arabs of Spain. More than once, the Franks and the empire had agreed to the detriment of the interposed Lombard kingdom. The Roman Church therefore turns to them, certainly the emperor consenting. Gregory III wrote for the first time to Carlo Martello in 739; a second the following year. For the moment, the appeals were in vain. But when, Liutprand died, Rachi overthrown by the party that wanted to resume the conquest and expel the Greeks from Italy, king Astolfo advanced on the exarchate, occupied Comacchio and Ravenna, and tightened, from near Spoleto and the Roman duchy; then the pope, Stephen II, recently elected, went to France, and the king Pipino, assumed the year before to the throne with the consent, or rather encouragement of Pope Zacharias, promised him to obtain the restitution of the lands from Astolfo. Stephen had crossed the Alps in agreement with the emperor. But certainly he thought more of Blessed Peter than of the rights of Byzantium; and certainly the restitution was agreed for the benefit of Blessed Peter, the new sovereign. In fact, the pope, now crowned King Pepin, conferred on him and his successors the title of patrician of the Romans: a title that until then only the emperor had conferred. With it, the lands of the Church were placed under the protection of Pepin. The first Frankish expedition of 754 followed, with its siege of Astolfo in Pavia and his promise to make the lands occupied. Then, the second expedition of 756, after Astolfo, not only returning the lands, marched hostile against Rome. And this time the exarchate and the Roman duchy were returned, that is, given to the pope. With the exarchate and the Roman duchy, the duchy of Perugia also passed to the pope, recent Byzantine institution. This is the famous donation of Pippin, smaller than the interpolated and counterfeit document that has handed down the news to us, but always very important in the formation of the state of the Church.
According to holidaysort, the popes have now benefited from the Greeks against the Lombards, now from the Lombards against the Greeks, now from the Italian populations against the Greeks and Lombards. Finally, they resorted to the Franks in agreement with the emperor, under whose high authority they still remain, for the lands received. But work began immediately in the curia to remove any juridical basis from this authority of Byzantium. Immediately after Pepin’s real donation, here is a false donation from Constantine, Constitutum Constantini, which is manipulated in the years immediately following the first and most likely in Rome itself; certainly, in Rome, immediately known and used. It had to serve to demonstrate that the pontiff recognized nothing from the empire that he did not already have by right of his own and to an even greater extent. With the pope’s independence from Byzantium, the dependence of the Roman aristocracy on the pope was also sought, denying it any right to civil offices, almost as if it shared, with the pope, in Rome and in the duchy, the Byzantine inheritance.
In the midst of the conflicts raised by this papal and curia policy, a Lombard party was formed in Rome. And the court of Pavia sought a rapprochement with the Franks, to detach them from the Holy See. But the marriage of two daughters of King Desiderius to Charles of Neustria and Charlemagne of Austrasia, who succeeded Pippin in 768, did not interrupt what now seemed to be the natural course of things. Carlo, who remained alone in 772, and Desiderio came to rupture. And when Desiderio invaded the exarchate, pentapolis, Roman duchy, Charles, urged by the pope, resumed the via delle Alpi, flowed into the Po valley, besieged Pavia and Verona, entered Rome, renewed the donation. Meanwhile, Pavia and Verona capitulated, the Lombards almost all submitted, the kingdom was reunited with the Frankish one.