The structure of early medieval Lombard society, as presented in Rothari’s Edictus of 643 CE, was sub-divided into a number of broad strata. Ignoring the king and his officials, there are the freemen (homo libera) at the top, the country slaves (servus rusticanus) at the very bottom and the household slaves (servus menisteriales) and the ‘half-free’ aldius somewhere in between. English translations throughout are from Katherine Fischer-Drew, The Lombard Laws (University of Pennsylvannia Press, 1973), Latin from Edictus Rothari, ed. F. Bluhme, in Legum, IV, (Monumenta Germania Historica, 1868).
Neither free, half-free nor slave are explicitly defined within the Edictus, inferences about the group as a whole must instead be drawn from similarities and differences in the ways in which each is treated in specific circumstances. My focus here is primarily on the men of the lower levels, comparing the ways in which they are equated and differentiated within the laws. This is the first of two intended posts, the second will explore the extent to which these divisions extend to the social position of women in the Lombard society of the mid-seventh century.
The main aspects of the laws which allow for comparison between the social ranks are the compositions due in redress for killing or inflicting injures on a person, or the punishment allotted for the same crime according to the rank of the perpetrator. Perpetrators of different ranks, such as thieves, will be addressed in Part II of this post, and here I will focus on first injuries and then killings.
Redress for injuries (and killings) is made financially – that is composition is paid to the victim, their family or their owner – and with every injury having its (maximum?) price defined. Despite the apparent ease at comparing a value of, say 16 solidi opposed to 4 or 2 solidi for the same injury made against a freeman, an aldius or a slave, respectively, the situation is more complicated. Aldii, like slaves, are considered property, and the crime is against their owner. Likewise, the composition is paid to the owner as recompense for property damage, not to the person for the injury they sustained. In many instances the laws add to the composition due for the crime against an aldius or slave, redress for the work lost and a requirement to pay the doctor’s fee. Appeasing the honour of the slave or aldius, however, is not a concern: conversely, the clause introducing the tariffs for injuries against freemen firmly states that once payment has been made, the faida, that is the ‘feud’, ends, (Rothari No. 45).
With these provisos firmly in mind, there is still much information regarding the Lombard social hierarchy and the relative worth adjudged to different members that can be derived from Rothari’s Edictus. The injury tariffs divide Lombard society into three broad categories: first come those done to freemen (hominem liberum), in Rothari Nos 45 to 74; next addressing the ‘half-free’ ([h]aldius) and household slaves (servus menesteriales), Rothari Nos 77 to 102; finally the laws turn to country slaves (servus rusticiani), Rothari Nos 103 to 126. Immediately preceding the section addressing the aldii and household slaves, a clause outlines the difference between a household and country slave, defining the former as one who has been “taught, nourished and trained in the home” (Rothari No. 76).
Each set of tariffs addresses roughly the same types of injury in order, and lays out the composition due in redress according to the social class of its victim. A quick cross-comparison of the values given across the three levels rapidly reveals two details: 1) despite the similarity across the three tariffs, specific injures are not addressed at all social ranks, and 2) there are more specific injuries for freemen than for aldii and slaves. Choosing a few injury types from the lists (almost) at random, but excluding injuries where the composition due is a proportion of the injured person’s praetium or ‘worth’ which I will come to shortly, a quick comparison of the respective values can be made (EDIT: a tabulated comparison of all the injury tariffs is given in Appendix I, at the bottom of this post) :
- Knocking out one of the front teeth ‘that appears when smiling’ accrues a composition of 16 solidi for a freeman (Rothari No. 51). For the same injury inflicted on an aldius or household slave the composition is only a quarter, 4 solidi (Rothari.No. 85), while the country slave it half this value again, or one eighth that for the freeman, with a composition of only 2 solidi (Rothari No. 109).
- The same proportions by ranks are seen in the case of cutting off a ring-finger (or ‘fourth finger’) has a composition of 8 solidi for a freeman (Rothari No. 66), 2 solidi for an aldius or household slave (Rothari No. 92), and 1 solidus for a country slave (Rothari No. 117).
- The proportions change slightly in the case of chest wounds, with one made against a freeman receiving redress of 20 solidi, (Rothari No. 59) but with 6 solidi for the same injury against an aldius or household slave (Rothari No. 101). This then is slightly more than a quarter of the composition given for a freeman, but the composition due for a chest wound to a country slave remains in the same proportion (half) to that for the aldius and domestic slave with a value of 3 solidi, (Rothari No. 111).
That the laws associate the household slave and the aldius together in the same section suggests that they shared the same economic worth and social value. A more nuanced situation can be seen, however, by examining the redress due for the killings, a sum defined as their ‘worth’ which is praetium or, occasionally, widrigild (the langobardic cognate of the wergeld of the Anglo-Saxons).
The composition due for killing a freeman is a sum equal to his worth, (Rothari No. 11): 300 solidi for an ordinary, land-holding freeman, or 150 solidi for a lesser one who did not own land (see Fischer-Drew, 29). The value could be even higher, such as if the freeman was an officer of the royal court. Clauses in the Edictus running from Rothari No. 129 to 134 lay out the praetium for a range of individuals in the lower social strata. The aldius has the highest amount, valued at 60 solidi (Rothari No. 129). The following two clauses distinguishes between two types of household slave, the ordinary one having a praetium of 50 solidi (Rothari No. 130), and with slaves subordinate to them being valued at half the worth, or 25 solidi (Rothari No. 131). In this way a hierarchy of value is made in the case of killing, for a group who were treated as broadly homogenous in the case of injuries. As four of the injuries identified in the tariffs, however, set the composition as equal to half the praetium differentiation between these classes was produced here by default (gouging out an eye, cutting of a hand, a foot or crippling without severing a hand, foot or limb Rothari Nos 81, 88, 95 and 126, respectively). The severed ringfinger of a household slave might be worth as much as that of the aldius’ (2 solidi), but the gouged eye ranges from 30 solidi for the aldius, to 25 solidi for the household slave and only 12½ solidi for their subordinate slave.
Turning to the agricultural slaves, a master swineherd (presumably still a slave, although the laws give him the specific title of porcariu[s] without the word servus attached) with at least three underlings ranks highest at 50 solidi, equal to the household slave, while his subordinates are valued at 25 solidi each (Rothari No. 135). Further down the social ladder are the tenant slave (Rothari No. 132), ox ploughman (Rothari No. 133) and cattleherd, goatherd or oxherd (Rothari No. 136) all valued at 20 solidi. Valued lowest of all is the field slave who is subordinate to a tenant slave, given a praetium of 16 solidi (Rothari No. 134). The same four injuries in the tariffs for the country slaves as outlined for the aldius and household slaves previously are given composition equalling half their praetium: gouging out an eye, cutting of a hand, a foot or crippling without severing a hand, foot or limb (Rothari Nos 105, 113, 119 and 126, respectively). A quarter of the praetium is awarded to the owner of a country slave for a broken arm, hip or leg that has not healed within a year (Rothari No. 112). Subdivisions in the ranking of the country slaves, then, can also be clearly seen that would be made manifest in the redress given to their owners in the case of specific, severe injuries as well as if they were killed.
The line between the aldius and the slaves is narrow but nevertheless discernible – a sliver of 10 solidi between their 60 solidi and the uppermost value of 50 solidi for the household slave or the master swineherd. While ostensibly distinct, these values still seem very much as part of a group when compared against the 150 to 300 solidi or higher of value given to the freemen. It is a truism of early medieval studies, however, that one cannot directly compare the wergild of the freeman with the praetium of the slave despite the values being reckoned in the same currency (although it should be noted here that solidi is essentially an accounting convention imported into Lombard Italy from their contact with the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire, rather than reflecting specific coinage in use). Wergeld, or better widrigild, is for appeasing honour and ending the feud, paid to the victim or to their family. Praetium, conversely, is the market value of a commodity, paid to the owner for the damage to or loss of their property. Fischer-Drew’s translation silently corrects the apparent ‘mistake’ found throughout the 1868 Monumenta Germaniae Historica edition and the laws themselves, keeping praetium as ‘worth’ for the salves and aldii but consistently changing it to ‘wergild’ for the free. In the case of freemen the laws occasionally use the langobardic widrigild for ‘worth’, but far more often than not use the Latin praetium instead. I will pose, but not answer the pressing question here: what, then, does it mean that the Lombard laws repeatedly use ‘praetium’ for describing the composition due for free, half-free and un-free? I hope to return to this question in the future, but it is one that requires a close-reading and manuscript-led investigation, and probably one made in comparative study across the surviving ‘barbarian’ laws of Western Europe.
What can be said is that the laws are detailed on the exact relationship of the aldius to the various rankings of slaves. Where the two are treated as a homogenous group, there is still space for distinction – at least when the injuries are at the most severe. Part II of this post will step away from injuries to male aldii and slaves, and will consider the distinction between them when they are the perpetrators of a crime, and when their female counterparts are expressly addressed in the mid-seventh century Lombard society as constructed in Rothari’s Edictus.
Appendix I: Comparison of Injury Tariffs in Rothari’s Edictus
|Crime||Freemen||Aldius / Household Slave||Agricultural Slave|
|Strikes so a wound is apparent||–||1 solidus(Rothari No. 77)||1/2 solidus(Rothari No. 125)|
|— two blows||–||2 solidi(Rothari No. 77)||–|
|— three blows||–||3 solidi(Rothari No. 77)||–|
|— four or more blows||–||–||Up to 2 solidi(Rothari No. 125)|
|Hits another man on head, bone broken||12 solidi(Rothari No. 47)||–||–|
|–two bones broken||24 solidi(Rothari No. 47)||–||–|
|— three or more bones broken||36 solidi(Rothari No. 47)||–||–|
|Gouging out an eye||Half praetium(Rothari No. 48)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 81)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 105)|
|Cutting off nose||Half praetium(Rothari No. 49)||8 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 82)||4 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 106)|
|Cutting off lips||16 solidi(Rothari No. 50)||–||–|
|— if 1, 2 or 3 teeth exposed||20 solidi(Rothari No. 50)||4 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 84)||3 solidi(Rothari No. 109)|
|Knocking out a front tooth||16 solidi(Rothari No. 51)||4 solidi(Rothari No. 85)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 109)|
|— two or three teeth (or several: aldius / household slave;or more: agricultural slave)||16 solidi per tooth(Rothari No. 51)||4 solidi per tooth(Rothari No. 85)||2 solidi per tooth(Rothari No. 109)|
|Knocking out jaw teeth (molars)||8 solidi per tooth(Rothari No. 52)||2 solidi per tooth(Rothari No. 86)||1 solidus per tooth(Rothari No. 109)|
|Cutting off ear||Quarter praetium(Rothari No. 53)||2 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 83)||2 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 107)|
|Wound to the face||16 solidi(Rothari No. 54)||–||1 solidus(Rothari No. 104)|
|Wound to the noseif heals leaving only a scar||16 solidi(Rothari No. 55)||–||–|
|Injury to the earif heals||16 solidi(Rothari No. 56)||–||–|
|Arm woundpierced||16 solidi(Rothari No. 57)||–||–|
|Arm woundnot pierced||8 solidi(Rothari No. 58)||–||–|
|Punctures arm or leg||–||3 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 102)||2 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 110)|
|Strikes arm or legdoesn’t puncture||–||1 solidus+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 102)||1 solidus+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 110)|
|Strikes on chestwounds||20 solidi(Rothari No. 59)||6 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 101)||3 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 111)|
|Strike on hippierced||16 solidi(Rothari No. 60)||–||–|
|Strike on hipnot pierced||8 solidi(Rothari No. 60)||–||–|
|Broken hip or shin||–||3 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 94)||–|
|Breaking arm, hip or shin||–||–||3 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 112)|
|— if not healed within a year||–||–||Quarter praetium(Rothari No. 112)|
|Cut off hand||Half praetium(Rothari No. 62)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 88)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 113)|
|— hand paralysed but not severed||Quarter praetium(Rothari No. 62)||–||–|
|Hand, foot or limb crippled but not severed||–||Same value as if entirely cut off(Rothari No. 126)||Same value as if entirely cut off(Rothari No. 126)|
|Cuts off thumb||sixth praetium(Rothari No. 63)||8 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 89)||4 solidi(Rothari No. 114)|
|Cuts off index finger||16 solidi(Rothari No. 64)||6 solidi(Rothari No. 90)||3 solidi(Rothari No. 115)|
|Cuts off middle finger||5 solidi(Rothari No. 65)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 91)||1 solidus(Rothari No. 116)|
|Cuts off ringfinger||8 solidi(Rothari No. 66)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 92)||1 solidus(Rothari No. 117)|
|Cuts off little finger||16 solidi(Rothari No. 67)||4 solidi(Rothari No. 93)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 118)|
|Cuts off foot||Half praetium(Rothari No. 68)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 95)||Half praetium(Rothari No. 119)|
|— foot paralysed but not severed||Quarter praetium(Rothari No. 68)||–||–|
|Cut off big toe||16 solidi(Rothari No. 69)||4 solidi+ lost work, + doctor’s fee(Rothari No. 96)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 120)|
|Cut off second toe||6 solidi(Rothari No. 70)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 97)||1 solidi(Rothari No. 121)|
|Cut off third toe||3 solidi(Rothari No. 71)||2 solidi(Rothari No. 98)||1 solidus(Rothari No. 122)|
|Cut off fourth toe||3 solidi(Rothari No. 72)||1 solidus(Rothari No. 99)||1/2 solidus(Rothari No. 123)|
|Cut off little toe||2 solidi(Rothari No. 73)||1 solidus(Rothari No. 100)||1/2 solidus(Rothari No. 124)|