Last Updated 25 Mar 2020

Lombard conception of justice

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Though it is very little known of the specific details of Lombard life, the Lombard legal codes have been preserved for a modern generation in a Latin document known as the Lombard Laws. The group of editors has arranged a wide collection of readings, related to the progress of Western civilization, from various historical epochs and all regions of Europe under the title Perspectives from the Past: Primary Sources in Western Civilizations. In this book in Chapter 8 called Rome’s Three Heirs: The Byzantine, Islamic, and Early Medieval Worlds we can find a reliable source of information on Lombard legislation concept.

The Lombard Laws were presented in a codification of the prevailing German customs relating to family, kingship, marriage, social obligation, possessions, and resolving conflicts. These Laws were written down between the middle of the seventh and the middle of the eighth centuries under the direction of several Lombard kings. The earlier laws were issued by King Rothair in 643.

The Lombard Laws partially were aimed at avoiding the blood feud or vendetta. This was a kind of traditional form of redress in society at that time. If a member of the clan was wronged, his family would often injure or kill the offending party, launching a blood feud that could last for generations. However, during the transformation to farming life and living in fixed communities, traditional methods of violence and retribution could have disturbed the population too much.

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Thus the Lombard Kings sought to replace violent blood feuds with a monetary penalty called composition that was paid directly to the person harmed by a crime (or their family). These penalties were expressed in solidi (a monetary unit), and they were closely related to the wergeld (personal worth) of an individual in society. Also the laws served for strict protection of the property and produce of a family.

For example crime of selling another man's property without permission entailed very serious consequences for the infringer - the guilty party is required to return the stolen property eightfold, unless they can proclaim their innocence in front of witnesses. The use of witnesses testifies the increasing sophistication of the Lombard society.

These laws are important from historical point of view as far as they present the description of the values and beliefs of early medieval Italians and give the picture of how a new empire is founded (that is a Germanic, illiterate culture merges with a Roman, literate one).

Brophy, James, et al. Perspectives from the Past: Primary Sources in Western Civilizations. 2nd ed. 2 vols. W.W. Norton and Company, 2002.

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