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Luoghi, i personaggi e le storie che raccontano l’anima autentica di Ravenna

Droctulf, defender of Ravenna: the story that inspired Borges

The wall of Droctulf

In the vicinity of the Arian Baptistery there is a very particular wall that is distinguishable from all of the other walls of the city due to its three large cusps with marble ornamentations. Many have seen it, but not all know its name; it is the so-called Wall Of Droctulf.

According to the Ravennese historian Agnello (9th century AD) Droctulf lived in this area, a knight of Lombard origin that lived in the 6th century, noted for his very particular story.

But what makes Droctulf so special?

Wall of Droctulf
Wall of Droctulf

Droctulf was of Suebian or Alemannic origins and in his youth was a slave at the court of the Lombard king Alboin. Despite this, he become a Lombard duke due to his great merits.

In 572 AD there was a turning point that made him famous: during the war between his people and the Byzantines for the conquest of Italy, he betrayed his fellow soldiers and fought with the inhabitants of Ravenna for the city’s defense.

The reason for this choice isn’t clear, but the historian Paul the Deacon hypothesized that the betrayal occurred in order to avenge the imprisonment that he had suffered as a young man.

From then on, Droctulf lived and fought on the side of the Byzantines, and distinguished himself in important undertakings, such as the liberation of Classe. He died far away from Ravenna but, as per his request, was buried here.

He was celebrated with full honors, and his tomb was placed by the side of that of Vitalis the Martyr. A beautiful epitaph was dedicated to him, praised for its literary quality by Benedetto Croce and it inspired a story from the great Jorge Luis Borges.

Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Luis Borges | Photo ©

The story by the Argentine writer is titled “The Story of the Warrior and the Captive”, and today it can be found in the L’Aleph collection.

Borges re-elaborate the story of Droctulf, accidental defender of Ravenna, and talks about his love at first sight for the city.

In this video you can listen to a reading of the work in its original language:



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By the Local Editorial Staff

Publication date:16 October 2018
Revision date:1 December 2022