At the start of last month somebody found my earlier post, in which I tabulated the fines for various injuries in the Lombard laws, by asking “why is the big toe worth two solidi, while the smallest toe is only worth half a solidus?” Two months prior to that, I got discovered with the terms “cut off fourth toe”. A theme seems to be appearing in the way that this blog gets discovered, and it presents a subject for this month’s discussion.
So, toes. To the latter enquirer I can only recommend seeking medical assistance, so it is to the former query I turn my attention to and the details given in the Lombard injury tariffs in the Edictus Rothari (643 CE).
The values identified by my visitor, two solidi for the big toe, half a solidus for the smallest actually mark the (probably maximum) values awarded for an enslaved person. The fine awarded would be paid to their owner, rather than to the person whose toe it was that got chopped. Moreover, the values searched for are only for the two ends, as it were. The second and third toe, for an enslaved person, are one solidus a piece, while the fourth toe is valued the same as the little toe, at half a solidus (Rothari, Nos 120-24).
For the aldius or aldia, the somewhat mysterious rank of the ‘half-free’, the values are double that of the enslaved person. Four solidi for the big two, two solidi for the second and third toes and one solidus each for the fourth and little toe (Rothari, Nos 96-100). The big toe of the aldius, as well as being valued more highly in terms of the actual composition, has two other parts included. Firstly, whoever cuts the aldius’ big toe off has to pay for the doctor’s fee and secondly has to cover the costs for the work lost while they were recuperating (Rothari, No. 96). As such, it can be seen that the payment for the de-toed aldius or aldia is again going to the one who owns them. ‘Half free’ seems still very close to enslaved.
The freeman (or woman) whose toes are severed has a similar progression of descending value from largest to smallest toe. The big toe is worth sixteen solidi, the second toe six solidi, the third and fourth toes three solidi each, and the little toe three solidi (Rothari, Nos 69-73). The step between half-free and free, therefore, is far greater than that between enslaved and half free people.
The value allotted to toes in the Lombard laws, aside from the differentiation by social class, is structured simply to descend by size, from largest to smallest. The real question, of course, is how do these values compare to the functionality of the respective toes? Conveniently, this is a subject that has already been addressed by the late and dearly-missed Lise Oliver in her The Body Legal in Barbarian Law. In Chapter Five she discusses to hands and feet across the early medieval, ‘barbarian’ laws has, and dedicates a section to toes in particular (Oliver, 2011: 159-62).
Lise notes that the most important toe is the big one, which carries half the weight carried by the front part of the foot; a lost big toe, then, would cause the person to limp for the rest of their life (Oliver, 2011: 159-60). This significance is clearly acknowledged in the Lombard laws, with the highest values of sixteen, four and two solidi are given according to social class.
From here, however, functionality and the Lombard injury tariffs diverge. Lise states that second most important are the two smallest toes at the outer side of the foot. She then adds, perhaps a little confusingly, that the three toes in the middle are the least important, and losing any one of them would have little effect on balance, walking, working, and so forth (Oliver, 2011: 160-61). Now, Lise seems here to have accounted for six toes on each foot there. In practice, the fourth toe is reckoned twice; for ranking the importance of the toes, it should perhaps be put halfway between the third and little toes.
The order of priority given to toes can be ranked according to the physiological importance and the relative value of fines.
Lise’s reckoning of the relative priorities of the toes in the Lombard laws, gives only the rankings for the freeman or free woman (although she does not make this explicit), but the descending order from inner to outer given for the aldius and enslaved people corresponds enough with the pattern she identified (Oliver, 2011: 159, figure 5.5). She contrasts this approach to the value of toes with those given in others of the Barbarian laws, and argues that only the laws of the Alamans and Saxons come closer to functionality. Even then a descending order can be noted. The Alamans give the big toe priority and rank the other four equally, while the Saxons also give the big toe priority, then treat the three interior toes equally, but treat the little toe as being the least significant (Oliver, 2011: 159, figure 5.5).
When the Lombard values for the toes of an aldius or enslaved person are considered, the gap in attitudes between Lombard and Saxon becomes even smaller. However, even without this there is some wiggle room for interpretation of the relationship of the different law-codes to physiological functionality. What seems most clear, though, is that with the possible exception of the big toe, the Lombard’s were not ranking the worth of toes by their functionality, but instead it would seem on size.
Lise Oliver, The Body Legal in Barbarian Law (Toronto, 2011)