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The Body Legal in Barbarian Law

The Body Legal in Barbarian Law

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  • Book Info
    The Body Legal in Barbarian Law
    Book Description:

    By applying the techniques of linguistic anthropology to the pre-history of medicine, anatomical knowledge, and law, Lisi Oliver has produced a remarkable study that sheds new light on early Germanic conceptions of the body in terms of medical value, physiological function, psychological worth, and social significance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6192-9
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations, Maps, and Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    This is a book about laws, bones, and related stories emanating from western europe in the sixth to early ninth centuries. The primary focus is on the personal injury tariffs included in the legal codes established for the various continental kingdoms and dukedoms ranging from visigothic spain in the west to Bavaria in the east, from italic Lombardy in the south to saxony in the north, and incorporating the anglo-saxon island regions of Britain.¹ The discussions which follow present a wide variety of pictures: the causes and results of injuries inflicted in private altercation; the evidence for methods and successes...

  7. 1 Barbarian Laws in Context
    (pp. 8-25)

    As the Roman Empire spread north from the Italian peninsula, it subjugated or affected most of the widely spread Germanic peoples of central Europe, bringing literacy to cultures that had previously transmitted their literary, religious, and legal traditions orally. Because of this, the sixth to ninth centuries saw a flowering of written laws by and for the early Germanic peoples.¹ A salient feature of all these collocations is the table of fines for personal injury, which provide insight into the anatomical and physiological knowledge of early Germanic peoples. Despite the fact that literacy increasingly replaced oral transmission for the preservation...

  8. 2 Process and Procedure
    (pp. 26-71)

    In order to provide a context for the specifics of bodily injury presented in the chapters which follow, I will attempt to address the issue of how written rulings on personal injury played out in practice. four reasons dictate why this question is almost impossible to answer for the early Middle Ages.

    (1) Overwhelmingly the extant legal records concern property transactions. This is not surprising, due to the difference in prospectivity between injury and property disagreements. If a cuts off the hand of B, the two parties should – by any one of a variety of possible routes discussed below – come...

  9. 3 The Head
    (pp. 72-111)

    In hisEcclesiastical History, Bede repeats several stories told by Abbot Berhthun, deacon to Bishop John of Hexham, about miracle cures that John achieved primarily by prayer and blessing. Help from above did not always suffice, however, as evidenced in the following story (from Bede V.6) told by Abbot Herebald, formerly a clergyman under John. Young men of John’s clergy are racing their horses, but Bishop John denies Herebald’s request to be allowed to join them. Herebald, however, cannot resist: ‘overcome by a spirit of wantonness,’ he joins in the racing.

    Immediately, as my fiery horse took a great leap...

  10. 4 Torso, Arms, and Legs
    (pp. 112-136)

    This chapter addresses wounds to the torso and the extending limbs of arms and legs. The details of hands and feet will be addressed in chapter 5, as the specific anatomical functions of individual fingers (and less so, toes) influence the value placed upon these digits. Curiously, regulation of wounds to the torso in barbarian law generally do not receive the detailed attention given to the head or the fingers. The breakdown of how damage to the trunk is assessed divides the barbarian territories into what I will term the ‘major four’ and ‘the rest.’ The major four – consisting of...

  11. 5 Hands and Feet
    (pp. 137-164)

    This chapter begins with a look at what I have elsewhere called the ‘Matthew limbs.’² The Gospel of Matthew 18:8–9 quotes Christ as saying:

    If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes...

  12. 6 Insult and Injury
    (pp. 165-179)

    The preceding three chapters have examined how individual body parts are regulated in barbarian personal injury tariffs. These analyses have concentrated on the value assigned according to function, but have occasionally noted instances in which the fine is higher than might be expected on a purely physiological basis. The discussion in this chapter recapitulates and expands on how wounds with greater visibility may be fined higher than those which are less immediately apparent. In legal terms, these excessive fines represent punitive reparation – either overt or covert – added to the compensatory charges assigned for actual injury. Overt rulings clearly differentiate between...

  13. 7 Assaults against Women
    (pp. 180-202)

    One of my friends in graduate school complained about her in-laws that ‘they regard me only as the receptacle of my husband’s sperm.’ This view of woman as primarily the incubator of future humans is hardly unique to present times, and is repeatedly addressed in Germanic legal regulations. However, these laws also consider the inherent physical weakness of the female sex compared to the male, with the concomitant lesser ability for self-protection.

    The previous chapters have considered laws concerning injury inflicted on those of the rank of freeman, as this is the focus of most of the injury schedules. (A...

  14. 8 Assaults According to Rank (Nobles and King’s Servants, Freedmen, Slaves, Clerics, Foreigners)
    (pp. 203-226)

    Like gender, rank and status are of secondary interest in the personal injury schedules, which concentrate on establishing injury payments to free men and women. some regional laws, such as those of the Bavarians and the Lombards, intersperse among the injury clauses varying values for nobles, freedmen, or slaves, but this is the exception rather than the rule. There are many problems inherent in determining fines for injury to various ranks, not the least of which is the fact that the determination of status differed greatly across territories. For example, while most regions only define one rank of manumitted slave,...

  15. 9 Summary: A Review of What Personal Injury Tariffs Have Told Us about Transmission of Law
    (pp. 227-237)

    This discussion gathers the evidence from the preceding chapters to summarize what these examinations have demonstrated about how law was transmitted throughout the Germanic regions. The personal injury tariffs were chosen as the focus of this investigation precisely because they are new within the written legal collocations. Retention of clauses from previous Roman legislation tells us nothing about transmission, as the incorporation of any such rulings could be independently borrowed from existing Roman law. Conversely, personal injury clauses are specific to the Germanic laws. They are free from the historical authority of Rome, and are the best indicators of geographical,...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 238-246)

    My brother Bim suggested that this conclusion follow the pattern of many modern movies, which examine what the lives of the various characters were like ten years later. Unfortunately, this is not an option for the individuals we have met in the preceding pages: they remain to us only in the brief snapshots that literature provides of crucial moments in their lives, or in artistic representations in visual or plastic arts, or in the enduring record their bones have left in archaeological records.¹ Adding to these the evidence of legal rulings allows us to extend our picture of early medieval...

  17. Appendix: Tables of Injury Laws by Territory
    (pp. 247-262)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-284)
  19. Index
    (pp. 285-304)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)