The land of origin of the Winnili, the ancient name of the Lombards (or Longobards or Langobards), is traditionally held to have been Scania, in modern Scandinavia. Long ago the Longobards left this region and migrated to northern Germany, where they were recorded as one of the Germanic tribes between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. This was the start of a long migration lasting more than five centuries, in constant search of new and richer lands
In the early 5th century, in the power vacuum caused by the decline of Roman dominion, armed Germanic tribes consisting of semi-nomadic ethnic groups crossed the border (limes) of the Rhine and settled in the Roman provinces with the status of licensed settlers (foederati). By the 4th century the Longobards had moved south from Germany to Bohemia; they settled in Hungary, ancient Pannonia, and from there in 568 invaded Italy.
During this long journey, the Longobards were joined by members of other groups (Gepids, Sarmatians, Bulgars, Saxons, Thuringians and Heruli) who brought their own culture, traditions and customs; this fusion of different peoples gave rise to a new ethnic and cultural entity.
Upon their arrival in Italy the Longobards came into contact with Roman civilization and experienced a further cultural transformation, in which their Germanic roots were combined with Classical and Roman-Christian traditions. This made them, according to Paul the Deacon, the true heirs of Roman civilization, moreso than the Byzantines.