Bavarian historiography traces the origins of the medieval duchy to the late sixth century with the arrival there of the Frankish dux Garibald, who established an ethnically based duchy over the Bavarians and founded the hereditary ducal line of the Agilolfings. This paper contextualizes Garibald and his immediate successors in the early seventh century within important developments taking place in late antique northern Italy: the attempt to reassert direct Roman authority there; Frankish invasions aimed at some form of annexation; and the establishment of the Langobard regime. It argues that Garibald headed a Frankish frontier duchy in southern Raetia II and Noricum Mediterraneanum that secured Frankish access to Italy. When he attempted to convert his command into an independent realm in cooperation with the Langobards, he was overthrown by the Franks, who subsequently relinquished control of the area along with their Italian ambitions. Although some people known to contemporaries as “Bavarians” and located in northern Raetia II may have been under Garibald’s nominal authority, there is no good evidence to link his rule to any particular ethnic group. Thus, it is anachronistic to speak of a “Duke of the Bavarians” or a “Duchy of Bavaria” in this early period.