IN the year 600 the Roman empire still included substantial territories in the central and western Mediterranean. In 533 Justinian had sent an expeditionary force to Africa under the command of Belisarios which reconquered the Vandal kingdom with its capital at Carthage. In 535 Belisarios had invaded Sicily and the following year begun the conquest of Italy. The Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy at first looked as if it would collapse as speedily as had its Vandal neighbour, but in fact Roman forces did not subdue the last Gothic stronghold until 561. Roman control of the whole of Italy proved short-lived, because in 568 the Lombards invaded from the Hungarian plain and rapidly occupied much of the Po valley in northern Italy, and the districts around Spoleto and Benevento in the centre and south respectively. By 600 it was probably clear that the Lombards were in Italy to stay, but the greater part of the peninsula was still in Roman hands. The Lombards had been ejected from much of the rich Po valley by a combined Roman-Frankish offensive in 590, and the key fortress city and former capital of the western Roman empire in the fifth century, Ravenna, was still Roman too. Further south, a block of imperial territory linked Ravenna to Rome, and extended south of the city to include Naples, Calabria, much of Apulia and the wealthy island of Sicily.
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