Tag Archives: Lombard social structure

Pigs and Pledges

The impetus for this post arose from a fruitful discussion the other day, with Dr Jaqueline Bemmer of the Institut für Römisches Recht und Antike Rechtsgeschichte (Institute for Roman Law and Ancient Legal History) of the University of Vienna, Austria. Dr Bemmer, specialises in the early medieval Irish laws and has a particular interest in debts and pledges. She noted that in the Irish laws, the giving of pigs as a pledge for an unpaid debt was considered the worst possible option [a quick update here, I originally wrote the ‘taking’ of pledges, but have just been informed/reminded that this is wrong in the case of medieval Irish law. And that I have incautiously set foot into a hotbed of scholarly dispute. But never fear – a follow up coffee, cake and chat has been scheduled to put this (or at least my knowledge of it) to rights!]. The grounds given in the laws being the damage that pigs to the ground with all that rooting and churning. The Irish laws are beyond the scope of my current research, so I’m delighted to have been given this gem of knowledge; moreover, Dr Bemmer has kindly sent me further details on this, and informs me the law is edited in the Corpus Iuris Hibernici Nos. 471.9-13 (ed. Binchy, 1978), and originates from the Bretha imuillemu Gell (Judgements concerning pledge-interests). It is the 23rd text of the most important surviving early Irish law book, known as the Senchas Már (the texts of which are linguistically dated to c. 650 to 750, so within a century following the promulgation of the first Lombard law-code, the Edictus Rothari), which itself survives in Dublin, Trinity College, MS H 2.15A (cat. 1316), with the clause on pigs as pledges running from fols 33b to 34a.

In the same conversation, Dr Bemmer also asked how things stood in the Lombard laws. This was also beyond my immediate knowledge, as my main focus to date has been on book culture on the one hand, and what might be considered criminal law on the other (injuries, killings, arson and poisoning, in particular). Where I have turned my attention to legal procedure, my focus has been on oaths and pledges, for which I still have a half-written post waiting for me to finalise… Anyway, conveniently I had my copy of Katherine Fischer-Drew’s translation, The Lombard Laws (1973), on me, and over coffee and cake we had a quick flick through and began to see that, while pigs are also not considered suitable pledges in the Lombard laws, there were some notable differences as to why.

Clauses indirectly addressing the taking of pledges occur throughout the Edictus Rothari, but the discussion of the specific legal procedures and circumstances are included in a group of clauses, edited in the modern day as Nos 245-252, following on from some clauses that mostly focus on boundaries (as well as two on forgery and illegal minting of coins interspersed amongst them), and leading in to the collection of clauses on theft.

Rothari No. 245 underscores that a pledge cannot be taken for an unpaid debt until the return of the debt has been demanded three times. Presumably this means on three separate occasions, rather than three times in a single conversation, although here the law is not explicit. Where the clause is explicit is in making clear that the return must be demanded three times. Rather than simply stating the minimum number of times required, the clause emphasises each demand by stating, following Fischer-Drew’s translation, that he ‘shall demand his debt from him once, twice and even three times’ (1973: 101). In the original clause, this stipulation is written in Latin, which contrasts with the specific legal terms written in the proto-Germanic dialect of Langobardic, that crop up throughout the law-code. Nevertheless, the emphatic underscoring seems directed to an audience, ensuring that there are no grounds for a person to claim they had misunderstood. With all due caution, I am tempted to speculate whether this performativity might even reflect an oral mode for the transmission of this segment of the laws, more than it just being a rhetorical device employed in a literate law. I should emphasise that this is not to suggest a strictly (oral) Germanic origin for this facet over a (literate) Roman thread. That oversimplification has, I think, been thoroughly laid to rest with the argument and observation that for more than a century before the Edictus Rothari was penned in 643 CE, the Lombards had been coexisting within a framework of Roman legal literacy, and elements of Roman Law were undoubtedly and indivisibly transmitted as part of the oral culture of law (see Pohl (2000) in particular, and both Everett (2000, 2003) and Petrucci (1995) in general; references given below).

What matters here though, for our consideration of Lombard legal practice (at least how the law-givers imagine and present it), is that the return of a debt had to be demanded three times before a pledge could be taken. The following clause, Rothari No. 246, outlines the response to the pledge being taken prior to that, dictating that the value of the goods taken as a pledge should be returned ninefold. This scale of compensation for the act is identical to that for theft given in a clause that follows soon after, Rothari No. 253. The main differences between the two clauses being that regular theft, when committed by a free man, also includes an eighty solidi punishment for the guilt of the crime, and if the freeman cannot return the goods ninefold then he pays with his life instead. If the thief is an enslaved man or woman, then the price for the guilt (to be paid for by their owner) is forty solidi, although in the case of the enslaved man only he can be killed as part of the settlement instead (Rothari Nos 254 and 258). For the free woman, no additional payment beyond the ninefold return of the goods is demanded for the guilt, but instead shame is imputed to her, as I have previously discussed. Comparatively, then, taking pledges for an unpaid debt that has not been demanded three times per legal norm is set as a crime similar to theft, but not quite identical.

The next clause, Rothari No 247, outlines who can take pledges on behalf of the one who is owed the debt. Essentially this is nobody, unless they are one of their heirs and are claiming their inheritance. The remaining clauses then outline the various types of property which cannot be taken as a pledge, and the compensation that is due in emends should that prohibition be ignored. As you will no doubt have assumed, pigs are included amongst these. However, rather than jumping straight to the swine let us put them in context by first looking at the other things which are excluded from being taken as pledges.

The first property prohibited as a pledge is enslaved men and women, the details given in Rothari No. 248. Where the previous clause, No 245, seemed to go to great lengths to ensure that ignorance or misunderstanding of the law could not occur, this assumes from the outset that an act in which an enslaved person was taken as a pledge must have been by mistake. The clause states that no recompense is due, as long as the person returns the enslaved people taken as pledge immediately upon learning the truth, and swears an oath that they were taken accidentally rather than with evil intent. However, should they not dare to swear the oath, then they must return eight times the value of the enslaved people to the person they took them from. The law does not make explicit why the eightfold value has been given, but I wonder if it can be considered in light of the ninefold value given for both theft and for taking a pledge before three demands for its repayment have been made. Does this value suggest that the relative severity of taking enslaved person as a pledge is noted, but that the law-givers are conscious of emphasising that it is not as severe a crime as first taking the pledge without due legal process? The second point to be observed in the clause is that, should the person who erroneously took the enslaved person as a pledge have injured them in anyway, then he must pay for the wounds per the usual injury tariffs (Rothari Nos 103-126). This, of course, is a subtle reminder that violence against enslaved people by their owner was not compensated: after all, the compensation was paid to their owner, not to them.

Rothari Nos 250 and 251 address taking either horses which have been broken for riding or else oxen that have been trained to the yoke for ploughing. The first of these clauses prohibits taking either, and interestingly sets a ninefold return to the owner. As such, the taking of horses or oxen is set at the same severity as taking a pledge before having (properly) announced it three times. Clearly the earlier speculation about due legal procedure outweighing prohibited items does not count here, or perhaps at all. The second of the clauses outlines a legal procedure for when all the debtor has to their name are broken horses or plough-oxen. In this case the person owed the debt must go to the local legal official, the schultheis, and state his case. Assuming the schultheis performs his duty correctly (or unlikely but possibly perhaps hers, if the contexts of the Carolingian female sculdarissa in northern Italy, identified by Hayley LaVoy (2015), had roots in the Lombard kingdom prior to the Carolingian conquest), then the horse or oxen are placed in the creditor’s possession until the debt is paid off. At which point, they are to be returned to their original owner, emphasising that the pledge does not form part of the repayment. Should the sculdtheis fail to perform their duty, then they are to be fined twelve solidi, to be paid to the king. Neglect of their legal duty here, then, is a crime against the king and, as it were, the state, rather than against the wronged individual. It also ensures that the king and government have a direct interest in seeing that breaches of legal process and duty are addressed.

The final clause on pledges, Rothari No. 252, prohibits the taking of a casa ordinata tributaria [a holding which owes tribute] as a pledge, and concludes with details on the time limits for paying the debt back after the pledge has been paid (twenty days, if they live within a hundred miles of each other, sixty days otherwise), and the responsibility of the former debtor to retrieve his pledge himself, after the debt has been repaid. Between these two things, the clause lists the things which can be taken as pledges, comprising cows or sheep, but also, and to me confusingly, enslaved men and women. The latter part here clearly contradicts the earlier clause on taking enslaved people as pledges, and unless it is an exception based on the specific economic contexts of the tribute-paying holding, then I cannot yet see how to square these two elements. That, however, is something to think about another day – although any suggestions or insights will, of course, be welcome.

Returning to the taking of pigs as pledges, who we skipped over earlier, they are addressed in Rothari No. 249: here, we see a substantially different set of circumstances. The clause prohibits the taking of pigs along with mares as pledges, but rather than setting up an eight or ninefold return per the other prohibited pledges or a legal process through which the normal situation can be circumvented, the punishment is instead death. The sentence is emendable, however, in that the accused can instead pay 900 solidi, should they have such a sum, half to be paid to the person he took the pig(s) or mare(s) from, and the other half to the king. This clause then must be set in light of the crimes in the Lombard Edictus that are punishable by death which I collated in a previous post, although at that time I somehow omitted this one. In that post, I noted that the crimes for which death, emendable or not, is set as a punishment comprised treason, mutiny in the army, leading uprisings of enslaved workers, adultery, destroying boundary markers and theft. In contrast to the death penalty being applied for theft when the ninefold goods cannot be returned, or the ninefold return of goods with no threat of death should a pledge be taken without repayment of the debt having been demanded three times, for taking pigs and mares as pledges, death is the default response. In the manner which it is allowed to be emended, and as with all such emendable death penalties in the Lombard laws, the taking of mares or pigs as pledges is set as a crime against the king and state. This though is in a vastly different way, and at a vastly different scale, to the case of the sculdtheis who avoids their duty and does not give justice. Clearly this is not about prioritising legal procedure over taking things as pledges which are not permitted, and the socio-economic value of pigs and mares in Lombard agriculture are underscored heavily here. This relative weighting can also be seen in the praetium due for killing an enslaved master swineherd, fifty solidi (per Rothari No. 135, in contrast to the twenty solidi for a goatherd, oxherd or cattle herd of similar social class and experience (Rothari No. 136).

There is undoubtedly much more to be said about both pigs and pledges in Lombard law. However, I hope that this overview of the laws and their implications for Lombard legal process has at least piqued some interest and sparked some thoughts. To return to the comparison with the situation in the Irish laws outlined at the outset, we can see that both early medieval Lombards and the Irish were set against taking the taking of pigs as pledges. The later for the damage the swine caused to good land, the former reflecting the social and economic significance of these animals, as hinted at in the inordinately high value set as recompense for taking them as pledges.


References

Binchy, D. A. ed., Corpus iuris Hibernici: ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum, 7 vols (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1978)

Bluhme, Frederick, ed., ‘Edictus langobardorum’, Leges, 4: Leges Langobardorum, ed. by Frederick Bluhme (Hannover: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 1868), pp. 1-234

Everett, Nicholas, ‘Literacy and the law in Lombard government’, Early Medieval Europe, 9 (2000), 93-117

Everett, Nicholas, Literacy in Lombard Italy, c. 568-774 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Fischer-Drew, Katherine, trans., The Lombard Laws (Cinnaminson, NJ: UPenn, 1973)

LaVoy, Hayley, ‘Hirmindrut Sculdarissa: a ninth-century woman’s original letter and its implications’, Journal of Medieval Latin, 25 (2015), 29-50

Petrucci, Armando, ‘The Lombard problem’, in Armando Petrucci, Writers and Readers in Medieval Italy: Studies in the History of Written Culture, ed. and trans. By Charles M. Radding (Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 43-58

Pohl, Walter, ‘Memory, identity and power in Lombard Italy’ in The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages, ed. by Yitzah Hen and Matthew Innes (Cambridge: University Press, 2000), pp. 9-28

Crimes Punishable by Death

Having previously collated the clauses in the Edictus Rothari which set restitution at 900 solidi, and those in proportion to the victim’s praetium or worth, I thought I would next collate those which are punishable by death. Clauses with a death penalty attached are again set at multiple levels, those from which there is no escape from death, and those in which emendation can be made through a monetary payment. The majority of the capital clauses are clustered at the outset of the Edictus, but others can be found throughout the law-code, particularly when the perpetrator is not a freeman.

Rothari No. 1 proscribes capital punishment and, explicitly, the confiscation of all property from anybody who conspires against the life of the king, or even gives council. The difference in value between plotting against royalty and against a freeman, with composition set at 20 solidi (Rothari Nos 10-11), is distinct. Here the crime must be considered unamendable, as no recourse is offered for the person who is found guilty to make good their crime through a monetary payment instead. Indeed, as the clause demands the confiscation of all property as well as the death of the accused, the possibility of buying redemption from the crime is here removed. Confiscating the property of the accused, then, not only serves to disinherit their heirs, but also prevents emendation for the crime being made through other means. This is not to say that an accusation of conspiring against the king was an automatic death penalty, however, as Rothari No. 9 offers grounds for a (free)man accused in front of the king of a crime punishable by death to prove his innocence through oath or camfio – that is judicial duel or trial by combat. I won’t say much on this subject for now, however, as I have a somewhat stalled blog post in the making that I hope to finish up soon.

The next crimes outlined are Rothari Nos 3 and 4, which are again made unamendable both by the clause explicitly stating that the accused’s property will be confiscated and by having no mention of the payment of a monetary composition being possible. The first of these clauses addresses a (free?)man who tries to flee the country, the latter the (free?)man who invites or introduces enemies into the land. The scope of unamendable crimes thus far, then, concern themselves with the protection of the Lombard regnum itself, the king as its leader and the protection of its borders. The laws do not explicitly state that the confiscated wealth will go to the royal fisc, but it seems to be the most likely outcome. While the laws in the Edictus frequently impart justice at a horizontal level, with composition being given by the accused to the victim (or their heirs, guardians or owners), here the wronged party is the state. Reparation, then, is made vertically, and ensures the protection and unity of the Lombard regnum as a whole – or at least from the royal perspective.

The contents of Rothari No. 5 expand on the clause preceding it, setting a death penalty, emendable with composition of 900 solidi, for anybody who aids a spy already in the land, either by hiding or provisioning the spy. Here the clause is explicit that, should monetary emendation be made, the payment is made to the king. Here, as might be expected, should the punishment be death, no mention is made of the property of the accused being confiscated in the process. Presumably, therefore, the heirs of the accused were still able to inherit, despite the crime.

The next two clauses, Rothari Nos 6 and 7, mark the end of the crimes punishable by death given at the outset of the Edictus. Here the attention turns to preserving discipline in the Lombard army, with the former being the punishment for raising a revolt against king or duke, and the latter for desertion. Neither of these clause includes mention that the property of the accused should also be confiscated, nor that emendation for the crime can be made through monetary payment. Three levels of capital punishment are then observable in the clauses which open the Edictus. In rising order of severity, these are firstly, emendable with a fine of 900 solidi; secondly, apparently unamendable but with no further impact on the personal wealth of the accused and, therefore, the wealth and status of their heirs; and thirdly, unamendable with the complete confiscation of their property. Assuming in the most severe case that their heirs or women whose mundium they held, had some personal wealth of their own already, this situation might not strip them entirely of their position in Lombard society. But, presumably, the more central and powerful the accused was within the social dynamics of a given family group, the more impact on the social status and wealth of that family his accusation of one of the most severe of unemendable crimes would have. Here, penalties of death and confiscation might serve to preserve the Lombard social order as a whole, but the impact on a specific family within that structure might be far more wide-reaching. These consequent implications, however, are not explicitly outlined in the laws.

If the army is considered as a part of the infrastructure of the Lombard regnum as a whole then, again, death as a punishment is being used to preserve its integrity. This may be reading too much into the political and legal structure underlying the laws, however. Instead, it seems to me that it may be as much a matter of enforcing social norms. The accused in the opening clauses are assumed to be both male and free Lombards. The clauses given later in the Edictus in which capital punishment is proscribed broaden the scope to a wider range of Lombard society.

Rothari No. 203 proscribes an unemendable death penalty to the woman, free or enslaved, who kills her husband. Here property, which for the most part would have been held by her husband if they were both free, is not confiscated, and it is not directed to the royal fisc. Instead, any land and wealth goes to her children if she has them (presumably children with her late husband, rather than children by another man, although the clause does not state), or else to the relatives of the dead man. No possibility for emendation is given in the clause. Also, however, no comment is made on whether the killing was deliberate or accidental. Death is used here to regulate the behaviour of women and to enforce Lombard social norms and gender relationships. This can be seen by contrasting Rothari No. 203, with the clauses addressing a freeman who kills his free wife, No. 200. Here, the clause first provides a proviso that it only applies if she was innocent, and if she deserved to die according to the laws then no emendation was required. Otherwise he was to pay 1200 solidi to her family in composition. While this value is immense, indeed the highest given value in the Edictus, it still marks a difference between the two crimes: a husband killing his wife deliberately or accidentally, might be legal, and if not it is theoretically emendable. Conversely, a woman killing her husband is always an unamendable crime.

The next set of crimes discussed in the Edictus for which a (free) person might be put to death in the laws are again related to the regulation of sexuality and the protection of marriage (and therefore inheritance) in Lombard society. Rothari No. 211 sets a death penalty for a free man or slave who marries a woman who is already married to another man. The consent of the woman is, however, addressed here, and she is only to be killed if she was a willing participant to the second marriage. The next two clauses address adultery, with a man being permitted to kill his wife and her lover if they are caught in the act (Rothari No. 212), while the clause following is an unamendable death penalty for the man accused of adultery with another man’s wife (Rothari No. 213). Here, echoing the stipulation of Rothari No. 9, the accused may attempt to prove his innocence through either sworn oath or fighting a judicial duel with his accuser.

Later in the Edictus, the social level on which the clauses focuses changes, to consider enslaved people. Rothari Nos 237 and 239 proscribe the death penalty for any slave who, respectively, digs out a boundary marker or cuts down a tree with a boundary marker on it. The crime here is not unamendable, however, and the slave’s life may be redeemed for a fine of forty solidi. The Edictus does not state to whom the payment would be made, whether to the party who owned the land on the other side of the boundary or to the royal fisc. Interestingly, the clauses preceding each of these situations, address the same two crimes when committed by a freeman (Rothari Nos 236 and 238, respectively). In each of these there is no death penalty for the freeman, but a composition of eighty solidi is due when half to be paid to the person whose boundary marker it was, the other half to the king. The wily-freeman who orders his enslaved worker to move a boundary marker, hoping to evade the higher fine, is anticipated in the law, with both Rothari Nos 236 and 238 stating that the freeman must still pay the eighty solidi in this instance.

Theft also includes a death penalty, for both free and enslaved men. At both social levels the sentence is emendable, Rothari No. 253 stating that the freeman caught in the act of stealing (the crime of fegangi in the Langobardic language) should be killed if he cannot pay restitution equal to nine-times the value of the goods he took plus a further eighty solidi composition for having committed the crime itself. While, the enslaved man who commits a theft must also return nine times the value of the goods taken, Rothari No. 254 states also that either a composition of forty solidi should be paid by his lord or else the enslaved man be killed. In the clause addressing the freeman the implication seems to be that he is only to be killed if he cannot pay, while that addressing the enslaved man makes it a choice placed in the hands of his lord.

Conversely, the death penalty is explicitly removed when the thief is a woman, whether free or enslaved (Rothari Nos 257 and 258, respectively). Here the clauses state that only nine times the values of the goods taken should be returned, and that for the freewoman no further restitution is required, although shame should be imputed on her. However, for the enslaved woman, a fine of forty solidi is still required (at least until that requirement is negated in 668, Grimwald No. 9), but in this instance her lord does not have the option to pay with her life instead. No shame is imputed to the enslaved woman, however, emphasising that the construction of gender in the Lombard laws cannot be understood only in terms of sex, but must equally consider at the least how that then intersects with social class.

Rothari No. 280 uprisings amongst enslaved people, who commit violence or killings in the process. In addition to the composition due for the actual damage, injury and death each participant inflicted, the leader must either redeem their own life with payment equal to their own praetium (worth) or else be killed.

To conclude this collation of capital crimes in the Edictus Rothari, it can be seen that the death penalty appears in a number of situations: treason, mutiny in the army, leading uprisings of enslaved workers, adultery, destroying boundary markers and theft. In some instances, the crime is emendable, others not; and in others still it is both unamendable and also involves the removal of all property from the perpetrator. The contrast in punishment and redress established for the same crime between free and enslaved, men and women is significant. While these may at some level reflect the social norms of the Lombards that were condensed into the laws, they also reflect the society that the law-givers imagined and were seeking to foster. At the most extreme level of punishment when the accused might be killed for their crime, the way in which the law-givers both frames this or in certain circumstances negated it is intriguing and will surely reward deeper study.

In proportion to worth

In the course of revising an article and preparing a conference paper, both on different aspects of poisoning in the Lombard laws, I began to think a bit more about crimes in the Edictus Rothari which have composition equal to a proportion of the victim’s praetium, widrigild or ‘worth’. I won’t go in to too much specific detail here on the poisoning clause, that can wait for the article and conference, except to note that Rothari Nos 140 and 142 each award the victim of a failed poisoning attempt redress equal to half their praetium. The former of those clauses addresses the situation where the perpetrator is a freeman or woman, the latter when they are an enslaved man or woman. In the latter case the enslaved perpetrator is also killed, and their own praetium counted towards the composition. Heavy stuff, and informative to the Lombard legal imagination, but as I said mot my focus here. What I want to do instead is gather together the clauses of the Edictus Rothari in which the composition is set in proportion to the victim’s praetium. As with the 900 solidi cases I discussed in a previous post, giving a set of crimes a comparable compensation implies that these crimes were likewise considered to be of comparable severity. Moreover, I wonder, and this is a question that I wish to pose but not necessarily answer at this point, if setting the composition in proportion to the value of the person’s life informs something less tangible, more conceptual about how these specific crimes were imagined?

Or, is setting the composition in proportion to social status simply a convenient means of letting certain crimes be compensated at varying levels within the broader strata into which Lombard society was sub-divided in the injury tariffs? As I have previously discussed, the injury tariffs address three strata as a whole, outlining the composition due for different injuries for, first, a freeman Rothari Nos 43-75, then an aldius (‘half free’ men) or servus ministerialis (‘enslaved domestic worker’), Rothari Nos 76-102, and lastly the servus rustigianus (‘enslaved agricultural worker’), Rothari Nos 103-127. The actual praetium for different individuals within these strata varies, for instance an aldius is set at sixty solidi, a servus ministerialis fifty solidi. Therefore, cutting of the nose of either has composition fixed at eight solidi (Rothari No. 82), but as gouging out an eye is set at half praetium, for this injury Rothari No. 81 awards thirty solidi to the aldius but only twenty-five to the servus ministerialis. The enslaved agricultural worker of any rank similarly gets a pre-established composition should their nose be cut off, this time four solidi (Rothari No. 106). The gouging out of an eye is again awarded as half of the praetium, Rothari No. 105. In this case the higher ranking enslaved agricultural workers, such as the servus massarius (enslaved tenant) or master swineherd would each also be awarded twenty-five solidi for the eye, as both have a praetium of fifty solidi (Rothari Nos 132 and 135, respectively). As an aside, presume the composition would actually go to the owners of the enslaved people, rather than directly to them. While that needs saying, it is outside of my focus here).

At the lowest end of the strata containing enslaved agricultural workers, with a praetium of sixteen solidi each, are the enslaved student of a cattleherd, goatherd or oxherd (Rothari No. 136) and the enslaved field worker subordinate to the servus massarius (Rothari No. 134), for whom the composition for the gouged-out eye is only eight solidi. Despite the overarching system of three layers of Lombard society, which adds greater value to the enslaved domestic workers ‘who have been taught, nourished and trained in the home’ (Rothari No. 76, trans.  Fischer-Drew, The Lombard Laws, p.  65) in comparison to the other enslaved workers out in the field, when it comes to the half praetium crimes the worth of the servus ministerialis and the servus massarius are balanced. An eye for an eye, as it were.

 


I may have missed a few clauses on my quick skim through gathering them, but hopefully I have the majority (if/when I find any more, I’ll emend the post or make a note). I’ve sub-divided these clauses into a number of broader categories, although it should be noted that these are abstract and not specifically mentioned in the text or peritext of the Edictus.

 

Gouged Out and Severed Off Bits

As just discussed, gouging out the eye of a freeman (Rothari No. 48), an aldius or enslaved domestic worker (Rothari No. 81), or an enslaved agricultural worker (Rothari No. 105): half praetium. However, gouging out the remaining eye of an already one-eyed freeman has a relatively higher composition of two-thirds praetium. No specific mention is made for the remaining eye of a one-eyed aldius or enslaved person.

Cutting off the nose of a freeman is similarly valued at half praetium (Rothari No. 49), while cutting off the ear of a freeman is set at a quarter praetium. The severing of ear, nose or thumb for either an aldius or an enslaved person of any rank are each given a set composition, rather than in proportion to their worth.

Cutting of the hand or foot of a freeman is set at half praetium (Rothari Nos 62 and 68, respectively), as are the same injuries for an aldius or enslaved domestic worker (Rothari Nos. 88 and 95, respectively), and again for an enslaved agricultural worker (Rothari Nos. 113 and 119, respectively). Injuries to either hand or foot that do not sever the appendage, but instead cause it to be permanently paralysed are given only for the freeman, and are valued at a quarter praetium, while the severing of a freeman’s thumb is set at one sixth of the praetium. Comparable injuries for the aldius or enslaved person are either not addressed or else are given a fixed composition.

 

Beatings and Bindings

Rothari No. 41 proscribes half praetium in composition for surprising a freeman and beating him (without the king’s consent). The law stresses that the high composition is due to the shameful nature of the act and the derisive treatment of the freeman in question. This emphasis on shameful behaviour was one of the points which got me wondering if compositions in which a proportion of the praetium was awarded reflected something more than just compensating for the wounds and injury. If restitution was being made for the shameful behaviour and assault to honour specifically in proportion and symbolic reference to the entire worth of the victim. Unless the same can be argued for the severed bits and gouged eyes mentioned above can be fit into this model, however, the argument may not be compelling. That said, the fact that only the freeman gets restitution in proportion to their worth for a severed nose or thumb may fall somewhere in the middle. Still much to ponder here.

If the assault on the freeman goes further, and he is captured and bound, without cause and again without the king’s consent (Rothari No. 42), then the proportion of composition due is increased to two-third praetium. In this clause, however, there is no discussion of shame or acting with derision. The binding of freemen could perhaps be considered a continuation of the shameful beating, a second clause augmenting the contexts of the first and assuming the treatment to be shameful taken as written. The clause division of Bluhme’s Leges 4 (1858) edition, does not support that reading, but a detailed look at the mise-en-page of the manuscripts is required before I’d like to really pronounce either way. Nevertheless, if the two clauses are considered together, and the do otherwise follow the usual pattern in the Edictus Rothari of addressing outcomes in increasing order of severity, then the shamefulness of the binding as well as the beating may well be inferred. At the very least, the two clauses form a general preamble on overall acts of violence made against a freeman, before the law-givers launch into the specific injuries to specific body parts as detailed in the tariffs.

 

Unseen/Internal Injuries

The final injuries that are compensated for in proportion to the worth of the victim are the non-lethal, failed attempts at poisoning which I mentioned at the outset (Rothari Nos 140 and 142, depending on whether the perpetrator is free or enslaved) and the case when injuries made to a freewoman cause her to miscarry (Rothari No. 75). In this latter instance, the baby is valued in relation to the mother’s preatium. The poisoning and miscarriage clauses appear on the surface to be substantially different, save for both being awarded the same composition. But I think cross-overs can be inferred, both directly and indirectly, which need to be considered. Firstly, both crimes affect the insides of the victim. The injury tariffs of the Lombards make no mention of internal organs (this is likewise true for nearly all of the early medieval ‘Germanic’ injury tariffs, with the exception of those in the Frisian laws, as discussed by Lise Oliver, and even then it is wounds to the belly that cause the intestines to spill out, and is therefore arguably internal organ as external wound: The Body Legal Legal in Barbarian Law (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), p. 130). My reading, in the case of poisoning, is that a Lombard legal practitioner assessing the damage done to a victim of poisoning would be unable to determine the specific injuries to the victim without causing them further bodily harm. It seems to me that Rothari No. 75 in part presents a similar difficulty in assessing the specific damage done to the mother and unborn child.

These poisoning and miscarriage clauses differ, however, in their attitude to intent. The poisoning clauses, and likewise those on severing or gouging bits, do not address the intent of the perpetrator. Whether the injury was deliberate or accidental is not discussed, although in the case when a person is accidentally killed, by whatever means, is addressed in the penultimate clause of the Edictus, with the note that, if the killing was accidental, then only financial restitution is needed, and that no further faida [feud] is required (Rothari No. 387). The clauses on poisoning make no mention of intent or accident (e.g. if the wrong mushrooms are added to the soup), but the miscarriage law stresses that no faida is required as the injury was accidental. In fact, the reader of the laws can almost hear the words ‘must have been’ in the tone of the laws, and it seems that the Lombard law-givers had great difficulty imagining that a pregnant woman might be deliberately assaulted so as to abort her unborn child. This, probably, reflects another facet of the (painfully misogynistic) gender binary the law-givers were presenting and trying to legislate for, in which it was deemed absurd that a woman might take up arms and commit acts of physical violence. It seems to me that there is a desperate tone in this clause on miscarriage, the law-givers desperately begging that no woman’s miscarriage could have been deliberately inflicted.

But this brings me to another connection between the clauses on poisoning and miscarriage, and the research of Dr. Marianne Elsakkers. In her doctoral research she examines the intersection of poisons and abortives in the early medieval Anglo-Saxon and Salic law-codes and I cannot help but wonder if a related reading should be seen in the Edictus Rothari’s clause on miscarriage.

As I mentioned at the outset, I will not answer here the question regarding the symbolic implications of awarding composition in proportion to the praetium, widrigild/wergeld or worth of the victim as outlined in the Lombard laws. Having collated the main clauses and sub-divided them into speculative categories, my conclusion for now is that the Lombard law-givers’ approach to compensation here is multi-facetted at the least. At this moment, I severely doubt that a unifying interpretation of proportional restitution can be hypothesised, even within the scope of a single law-code, but I’m going to keep picking at it and will let the ideas ferment.

900 Solidi Clauses (in the Edictus Rothari)

A composition of 900 solidi marks one of the highest levels of fine given in the Lombard laws. It is exceeded only by the 1200 solidi fine for killing a free woman or girl (Rothari Nos 200 – 201), and perhaps by crimes which outline the death penalty as punishment. However, Rothari No. 5, which addresses a person who provisions or hides a spy within the land, gives a punishment of either death or a 900 solidi fine, suggesting that the two may have been understand as being broadly comparable. Likewise, Rothari No. 249 proscribes death unless a 900 solidi fine is paid, this time for taking mares or pigs as a pledge without the king’s consent. Certainly 900 solidi is a prohibitively high amount of money, and it must be assumed that only a thin sliver in the upper echelons of Lombard society would have had the wealth to pay off such a fine. As such, it is interesting to collate together all the crimes in Rothari’s Edictus of 643 CE that are reckoned at such a value, to see in what other ways they may be connected.

The first clause in the Edictus valued at 900 solidi, is the provisioning or hiding of a spy (scamaras in langobardic), mentioned previously with the death penalty stated as an alternative (Rothari, No. 5). From the outset, then, the high value of fine is associated with treachery and crimes against the Lombard state and government. The next instance does not appear so treacherous, as the fine is allotted for causing a disturbance in a council meeting or other assembly (Rothari No. 8). These councils and assemblies do not appear to be exclusively royal ones, although arguably it still encompasses protection, albeit of a different sort, of the Lombard administrative structure.

A little further into the Edictus, three consecutive clauses again have a 900 solidi composition ascribed to them, and each seems to have an element of treachery and nefariousness attached to it However, Only the first, defending a person who has killed his lord (Rothari No. 13), seems to be embedded in protecting the Lombard social hierarchy and order directly. In this clause the killer himself is to be killed, with no opportunity for relief through paying a fine, suggesting that the severity of aiding a spy mentioned previously instead overlaps two distinct levels, rather than implying a comparison. The other two crimes, are murder (or morth), which is to say secretly killing somebody and making some attempt by the killer to hide their identity or evidence of their crime (Rothari No. 14), and crapworfin or ‘grave breaking’ (Rothari No. 15). In the case of breaking into a grave, the law specifically mentions despoiling the body and throwing it out, suggesting that crapworfin was a specific plundering of the dead, more than just opening up a grave. As the composition for grave-robbing would be paid to the near relatives of the dead, this may suggest therefore that the family could open their own graves after the burial and retrieve any treasures buried along with the corpse if they so wished. While this may seem a strange behaviour to speculate on, it is a possible practice I have heard being considered, in which it is suggested that many of the robbed graves discovered by archaeologists may have been emptied by family relatively soon after the funeral ceremony was concluded. The conspicuous consumption and lavish wealth of the funerary rites, then, would be returned to the family and continue to circulate. I find such a notion intriguing, and have a long-standing note in my ‘to do’ list to follow up any scholarship on this practice, and flesh out what is otherwise (for me) an anecdote gleaned from a chance comment at a conference. While any information from readers on this subject would be appreciated, however, I digress from the point of this post.

The next clause with a 900 solidi composition comes soon after, with Rothari No. 18 prohibiting attacks on people on their way to or from visiting the king. Royal power and Lombard administration, therefore, is protected, as the cost of personal vengeance against somebody engaged in royal business is set to a prohibitive price.

The next clause outlines a 900 solidi fine for either falling on another person with arms to avenge some grievance, or else leading a band of up to four armed men into a village for similar reasons (Rothari No. 19). To me the first part of this is somewhat confusing, as it seems to contradict the more general fines outlined for killing a person by physical violence, in which composition equals to their praetium (that is, ‘worth’) or widrigild (cognate to the English ‘wergild’), according to their social class.

Rothari No. 26 gives a 900 solidi fine for the crime of wegworin, or blocking the road, against a free woman or girl. Here the payment goes half to the royal fisc and half to the man who holds her legal guardianship (her mundwald). The extent of fine here should be contrasted with the same crime against a free man, who is awarded 20 solidi, plus the composition for any injuries he may have suffered (per the following clause, Rothari No 27).

Two further clauses relating to women with fines of 900 solidi appear around the middle of the Edictus, with Rothari No. 186 being the fine for abducting a woman and taking her unwillingly to wife, and No. 191 for abducting a woman already betrothed to another. In both cases the composition is again divided equally between the king and the woman or girl in question’s mundwald. In the case of No. 186, the clause provides that if she has no relatives, then the king receives all the composition. It then goes on to state that the woman can then choose who should her mundium, naming father first, then brothers or an uncle, before concluding with the king. As with the exception of the king, the men named are all relatives, it seems unlikely that this final part of the clause is following on directly from the preceding point regarding the king receiving the entire composition when the abducted woman has no relatives. Instead, then, it may imply that, as her original mundwald had not been able to prevent her from being abducted in the first place, she may wish to transfer her guardianship to somebody with whom she feels more secure. This, however,is speculation beyond the scope of the clause’s stated content. The other clause, Rothari No. 191, seems far less in the abducted woman’s favour, stating that once the composition is paid, it may be arranged for the abductor of the already betrothed woman to become her mundwald.

The next clause to include a 900 solidi fine, Rothari No. 249, specifically outlines death if the fine is not paid. As with the provisioning of spies in Rothari No. 5, mentioned previously, the severity of this crime may then have been considered relatively more serious than the other 900 solidi clauses discussed here. In this clause, it is the taking of mares or pigs as pledges, without the king’s permission, that is the offence. I will throw my hands up here and admit that the underlying details for this currently escape me, as my research to date has focused on neither the functioning of pledges in Lombard society, nor the economic, social and agricultural structures revolving around various livestock. This is something I hope to return to with time, however.

Rothari No. 279 loosely echoes the previously discussed clause Rothari No. 19, in that 900 solidi is given as the composition due from a freeman who leads a band of enslaved people into a village for the purpose of committing a crime. The composition is split equally between the king and the injured party, and again a death penalty is outlined if the composition cannot be paid.

The last two clauses of relevance in the Edictus Rothari both address exceptions to the clauses outlining 900 solidi fines. Rothari No. 371, first confirms that if the crime is committed by an enslaved person, then the fine must still be paid (presumably by the one who owns them). It then emends the law to state that, however, should the enslaved person be owned by the king, then they are to be killed and no composition is to be paid. The second clause, Rothari No. 378, states that if a woman actively participates in a brawl, then she should be compensated for any wounds as if they were committed against one of her brothers, but because she joined the fight, she looses the 900 solidi composition outlined for certain crimes committed against her. From the crimes outlined above specifically addressing women, that would seem to imply that if a (free) woman’s passage along a road is blocked, or if she is abducted. As a consequence, Rothari No. 378, then, seems to argue that she only receives the full 900 solidi composition if she takes a passive role when these acts of violence are committed against her. Should she actively resist her attackers with force, then she looses the legal protection granted to her in Lombard law by her sex. Frequently throughout the laws, female resistance, activity and agency is implied, often even discussed directly. The laws, however, imagine a society in which femininity is passive and non-physical, and seek repeatedly to enforce that. The 900 solidi fine is just one means amongst many through which that was attempted.

This initial outlining of the 900 solidi fines is, I think, informative as to the main concerns of Rothari and his advisors, their legislative mentalities and the social structure which they were trying to enforce or create. In many of these cases the 900 solidi fine is split between the injured party (or the person who owns them or holds their legal protection) and the king. Royalty and the Lombard state, therefore, benefited directly from these crimes being pursued and punished, which contrasts distinctly with the vast majority of other crimes in which only the injured person (or their relatives, owner or guardian) profited. As such, at least some of the 900 solidi crimes show the interests of the Lombard state in maintaining and enforcing certain behaviours through multiple means, not only in the prohibitive value of the fine that is outlined. The main areas that can be seen to have been addressed in these laws comprise the protection of women, the restriction of nefarious crimes and the upholding of state and administrative structures. The clauses, then are both overt and subtle in their imagination, creation and enforcement of socio-legal norms. Further analysis and close-study of these will be both informative as to the concerns and structures of Lombard society and will provide a useful benchmark for comparative study when considering the relative severity attached to other crimes and clauses.

Barbarian Laws and Role-Play Games

A short conversation arose on my twitter-feed the other day, about the potential to use a table-top Role-Play Game (henceforth, ‘RPG’) as a medium for teaching medieval history. My contribution at the time was simply to mention as an aside that my girlfriend has been trying to convince me to write a historical fiction murder mystery based around the Lombard laws. The response, from Melissa Julian-Jones (@MedievalMJJ) the starter of the thread bordered between positive and imperative, and I spent the weekend just gone musing about it seriously. While the writing of a story ran into a major stumbling block,1 I did start thinking about how I would turn a selection of the laws into an RPG.

A table-top RPG, for those not in the know, is essentially an act of interactive theatre in which the players are themselves (usually) the audience. The group of players normally comprises between three and six people in all, although more is possible. One player narrates and arbitrates the story, and depending on the game may variously be referred to as the ‘Storyteller’, ‘Chair’, ‘Host’, ‘Dungeon-Master’ (or, ‘DM’) or, perhaps most commonly the ‘Games-Master’ (‘GM’). I’m going to use ‘Host’ as it’s my preferred term, and will return to their role shortly.

Each of the other players portrays a single, major character within the story: one of its protagonists. Rather than being a fully improvisational form of theatre, in which the players can act out the role of their respective characters without restraint, each character is defined as a series of traits defining who they are, what they know and their relative chances of success or failure when attempting to perform any given action. Many of these traits are qualitative – a character might be, for example, ‘female’, named ‘Rosamunda’, ‘free born’, ‘Catholic’, ‘well-dressed’, ‘pretty’, ‘out-spoken’ and so forth. These traits act as hooks to direct the player’s imagination and shape the way in which they role-play the character.

An RPG, however, is also a game, and the storytelling is set in an arbitration system that combines quantitative values for traits identifying the characters chances of success or failure at a given task, with randomly generated numbers. By having the same categories of quantitative traits shared across each character, but at varying levels to represent their personal abilities, the character’s potential for success or failure are defined. Assuming a system in which the chances of succeeding are given as percentages, Rosamunda, from our example before, might have the following skills: knife-fighting (10%), climbing (20%), running (25%), weaving cloth (40%), leadership (50%). The higher the value on a skill the more experience she has in that area, and from this we can deduce something about her background before the story began. In the Lombard laws, women are not imagined as using weapons, most notably in Rothari No. 278 where it is stated that a woman cannot be accused of breaching another’s courtyard in anger (the crime called hoberos in the Langobardic language) as, ‘it is foolish to think that a woman, free or slave, could commit a forceful act with arms as if she were a man’ [The Lombard Laws, trans. by Katherine Fischer-Drew, p. 108]. This is not to say it didn’t happen, of course, but that is another story – and one which I’ve outlined in another blog-post, regarding the imputation of shame on women by the Lombard legislators. Conversely, ‘weaving’ is a skill that a free woman might be expected to be better at, and as such Rosamunda has been given a greater number of percentage points in that area to represent this. In role-play gaming a standardised proforma is used, a ‘character sheet’ on which the respective traits and values are organised and recorded. As the story progresses the character will use their skills, and may therefore improve them. These developments are also recorded on the character sheet.

The Host of the story, then, is surrounded by a group of players, each portraying a single protagonist of the story. The Host’s duty is to narrate that story, and arbitrate the outcome of events either with quick judgement calls or by identifying which of the quantitative traits should be rolled against, as the situation demands. For instance, imagine the following scene set out by the Host:

Rosamunda is out walking in the nearby woodlands, a basket in hand as she gathers berries. Suddenly, she hears a rustling from the undergrowth a few yards away. With a grunt and a crash, an enraged boar bursts suddenly out and charges across the mud towards her, its tusks glinting in the dappled sunlight that filters through the leaves. Frozen for a moment in fear, she notes a patch of dark blood sticky around the broken shaft of an arrow that protrudes from its flank.

How does she react? Despite the infinite range of things the player might say, the character has a limited set of actual options available to them. If the player says that Rosamunda should fly up into the trees, summon lightning form the heavens to strike the beast, or else use the power of her mind to cause a tree to fall on it then the Host can simply dismiss these options out of hand. Rosamunda possesses none of these abilities, so any attempt at them would automatically fail. Looking at Rosamunda’s other skills, some are equally useless here. A 40% chance of successfully weaving cloth will be of no avail, and there’s no one else present for her to use her vaunted leadership skills (50%) on. She has a knife, she could draw it and try and stab the creature, but at 10% the chances are slim. Her best options seem to be either running or climbing a nearby tree. The player opts for running first, but when rolling a die with a 100 sides gets a result of 26. One point higher than her skill value of 25% – and meaning that she has failed the attempt. The Host decides this means she gets five feet before tripping on a protruding root. She manages to catch her balance before she falls, her hand grabbing on to a low branch that hangs nearby. Meanwhile, the boar has closed nearly all the distance between them. Rosamunda opts to change course and swing herself up into the tree. The Host, deeming the first branch to be low and easy to climb decides she has an extra 20% chance of success on top of her innate skill, requiring a value of 40% or less. She rolls a 13. Well below the number she needs, and equating to a success for her:

Before the beast’s tusks are cutting through the air where she had stood moments before, Rosamunda is already three branches up the tree and still going. Looking down below her the injured beast paws the ground and circles the trunk, frustrated and furious. But she’s safe for now, at least, and has time to think up a plan of escape.

The Host, then, is framing the story; outlining and arbitrating events while letting the players explore their material. The parallels between this and a small group seminar, are hopefully obvious, with the Host being the tutor and the players students. The examples given here have already been positioned within a setting of early medieval Lombardy. Prior to the game session itself, the Host may set background reading for the players, just for any seminar: a chapter or two from an introductory textbook (Neil Christi’s The Lombards, or Chris Wickham’s Early Medieval Italy spring instantly to mind). More specifically, the Host will have sketched out some plot ideas they wish to explore within the story, perhaps revolving the main events in the coming session of the story (a chapter, as it were) on specific clauses from the Edictus of Rothari alongside scholarly articles on the subject matter. The players may have been instructed to read these first, or else the Host introduces them in the story itself, using the voice and actions of one of the ‘non-player characters’ (or ‘NPCs’ – that is all the antagonists, bystanders, allies, passing faces in the market and who knows what else who are present in the story but whose actions are portrayed by the Host rather than one of the circle of main players).

While such an approach may not replace a more formal seminar completely, it certainly offers opportunities for integration into a broader teaching framework. The greatest concern that a person might have when contemplating introducing materials this way (aside perhaps from stage fright!) is the gnawing worry that the students might take their fictionalised constructions as being fully historical. This, I would argue, is doing the hypothetical student a disservice. Just as small children learning through role-play know what is real and what is make believe, so can the role-player easily differentiate between game and reality.

At the end of the RPG chapter itself, I would suggest that the Host round up the subjects that have been covered, much as they would do for any other seminar. Any points that turned out in play to be glaringly at odds with the scholarship can of course be discussed, likewise where plurality of interpretations exist. When planning the session before the Host/tutor may plan a division of time that is, say two thirds gaming, one third review. Keeping an eye on the clock and the ongoing discussion, I suspect (although I have not tested this in the field, as it were) that the Host may well notice that the academic discussion has crept into the story itself. Any session of a role-play game divides itself between story, discussion and tangential asides. In addition to the fictionalised portrayal of them materials in the framework of the story, a parallel discussion will inevitably occur, and reflecting on the materials and its possible interpretations in moments that appear very much like the discussions held in any other seminar.

 

UPDATE: In April 2016 I began a second blog dedicated to expanding this project – under the name of Langobard: a role-play game set in the early medieval Lombard laws. The intention has been the gamification of the laws (focusing mostly on the Edictus Rothari) in the public eye. That project is now well underway. I announce updates on twitter under the hashtag #LangobardRPG,  and the blog itself can be found here. I hope you’ll come and take a look around, and look forward to any feedback you might have!

 

Notes

1. I now have a strong plot and collection of characters sketched out for a small Italian settlement in the early 730s CE. But I’m not comfortable with it. The theme is definitely worthy of a trigger warning, revolving in part around two clauses by Liutprand – No. 12 (717 CE) equating the marriage of girls under the age of twelve with abduction, and setting a 900 solidi fine, and, No. 112 (729 CE) which clarifies that the girls should be older than twelve years before being married, as ‘there have been many controversies over this matter and it appears to us that girls are not mature before they have completed twelve years’ [The Lombard Laws, trans. by Katherine Fischer-Drew, p. 192].

There are two ways of writing this story that I can see. The first option is lightly without engaging with the psychological implications beyond what is needed to reveal the motive for the murder and to explore the law-code. This, I feel, would be doing a discredit to any potential readers who have suffered equivalent abuse. I can’t see any way of writing in a light tone that would not turn the crux of the story into titillation so trivialising that any pedagogical value of the rest of the text would be drowned out. The alternative is to engage with the psychological subject matter fully as a text for a modern audience in conjunction with its historical role. I honestly do not think I am qualified to do that, and any attempt I made to do so would be both hurtful and insulting to the very audience I was trying not to dismiss or offend. So – back to the drawing board to find a less unsettling clause in the laws on which to base the story.

Theft, Aldia and Ancilla: Slaves and the ‘Half-Free’ in Lombard Law, Part II

This is the second of two posts, discussing slaves and the ‘half free’, in Rothari’s Edictus, focusing in this part on female slaves and half-free in particular. The first post can be found here. The main points made previously were that the praetium, or ‘worth’ owed to their owner should they be killed, were highly differentiated for different types of slave depending on their duties. The lowest being a field slave subordinate to another slave valued at 16 solidi, the highest 50 solidi for either a trained household slave or a master swineherd with three or more underlings. The aldius, or ‘half-free’ was valued somewhat higher, at 60 solidi. Conversely, in the case of injuries, these are merged into two broad groups: aldii and household slaves in the first group, and agricultural slaves in the second.

While these tariffs for death and injury appear to refer only to men, sometimes explicitly, a clause close to the end of the Edictus elaborates on specific instance in which women are killed. Rothari No. 376 addresses the killing of another man’s aldia or woman slave, on the grounds that she was a vampire ‘striga’ or witch ‘masca’. True to early medieval style, it is the perpetrator of this attack who is punished, on the grounds that it is illegal, impious and that ‘it is in no wise to be believed by Christian minds that it is possible that a woman can eat a living man from within’ [trans. Katherine Fischer Drew, The Lombard Laws, pp. 126-27]. For killing an aldia the perpetrator paid a fine of 100 solidi ‘for the guilt’ as well as 60 solidi for her life. The same praetium as for her male counterpart. In the case of a female slave the killer pays 60 solidi for the crime and composition according to her status as a household slave or field slave, and here a cross-reference is made to the values outlined previously in the Edictus. While the values laid out are often explicitly male in their terminology, women appear to be implicitly included within them. Women are only discussed directly in the cases where the nature of the crime is such that the victim or perpetrator is explicitly female. The most notable instances are rape (The potential for men to also be victims of rape not being recognised in the Lombard laws) and injuries leading to the death of an unborn child (Rothari No. 75, set at half the praetium of the mother according to whether she is free, unfree or half-free).

The focus of discussion here, though, is on crimes committed by female slaves and aldia to see how the distinction between these ranks is addressed. The main instance in the Edictus is theft, which at the very least reflects the stereotypical behaviour which the Lombard law-makers expected from unfree and half-free women. Theft is addressed directly in four of the clauses: Rothari No. 253 addressing theft by a freeman, No. 254 by a slave, No. 257 by a folkfree woman, and No. 258 by a female slave or aldia. In all cases the basic reparation is for the thief (or the one who owns them) to return the value of the goods nine-fold, with further details according to status and gender. Theft by freemen, for example, are only considered if the value taken is over 10 seliquae (twenty-four seliquae being equal in value to one solidus). In addition to the nine-fold return of the goods, the freeman must also pay 80 solidi in composition for the guilt, but if he is unable to do so then he is to be killed. A similar situation is true for the slave, except that the composition due is 40 solidi.

In the case of the ‘folkfree’ woman who commits theft (Rothari No. 257), that is a woman who has been freed rather than one who was born free, no additional composition is due, but, as discussed in this post, the law states that ‘shame [should] be reflected on her who did this disgraceful deed’ [Trans. Fischer-Drew, The Lombard Laws, p. 257]. As it is the ‘folk-free’ woman who is specifically addressed her, it may perhaps be assumed that the ordinary freewoman is subject to the same punishment as for the freeman. The imputation of shame for having committed theft, then, may be a statement reflecting on one who has previously managed to increase their station on the social ladder, but has kept the stereotypical behaviour from their previous position. I would still argue, however, that as this law only address folk-free women, not freedmen, the moralising on behaviour by the Lombard lawmakers is still fundamentally about gender, rather than exclusively social mobility. Or rather, that it relates specifically to female social mobility.

Thefts committed by either an aldia or ancilla are addressed together in Rothari No. 258. No distinction whatsoever is made for the various distinctions in rank and position as identified for injuries and praetium discussed earlier. Instead, all are subject to the same punishment: return of the goods nine-fold by her lord and a payment of 40 solidi for the guilt. No mention is made here of imputing shame, which strengthens the argument made before that the moralising in the previous clause was explicitly about female social mobility. The question that rises, however, is what purpose exactly does this clause serve? If woman are being implicitly addressed in the explicitly male clauses, then how does this clause differ? Both proscribe a nine-fold return of the goods stolen, and both proscribe a 40 solidi composition for the guilt itself.

Conversely, these two clauses differ in a number of small but significant ways: firstly, the aldius is not mentioned at any point in relation to theft, only the aldia. Secondly, theft by male slaves is only addressed if the value of the property taken is up to ten seliquae (therefore opposite to the freeman, where theft is only considered for property above that value), while for the ancilla and aldia no maximum or minimum limit to the value is discussed. Thirdly, where restitution cannot be made by men (free or unfree), they are put to death, no capital punishment is outlined for women. Finally, it is explicitly stated that the lord of the ancilla or aldia makes the payment, while it is not made clear in the case of the male slave. If anything, then, the law seems to take responsibility and consequence away from the female perpetrator, making it explicit that it is the lord who pays and removing the threat of death from them. For the male slaves, however, the situation is reversed, and the laws appear to lessen the responsibility of their lord, apparently burdening the slave with a composition they most probably will not be able to afford to pay, and facing therefore death.

The laws, therefore, hint at the role of women in the lower social strata of Lombard society, and many inferences both wild and cautious could be drawn from the evidence. The implications of these laws for the distinction in social hierarchy between aldia and ancilla are less clear; the clause makes no distinction between the two. Taken alongside the injury tariffs and the praetium for the different social ranks, it becomes increasingly clear that no distinct line can be drawn in Lombard society between the aldius or aldia and the slave or ancilla. On the one hand, fine distinctions are sometimes made within these groupings, to the extent that the aldius or ancilla appear as simply one more gradation of value, positioned just one small step higher than the most valued of slaves. On the other hand, aldius and slave, aldia and ancilla can be grouped together without need for distinction: honour does not appear to be at stake and half free seems still to be, to a great extent, property.

Slaves and the ‘Half-Free’ in Lombard Law, Part I

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 nose
if heals leaving only a scar
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 55)
Injury to the ear
if heals
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 56)
Arm wound
pierced
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 57)
Arm wound
not 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 leg
doesn’t puncture
1 solidus
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 102)
1 solidus
+ lost work,
+ doctor’s fee
(Rothari No. 110)
Strikes on chest
wounds
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 hip
pierced
16 solidi
(Rothari No. 60)
Strike on hip
not 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)