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4.: The Salic Law. - Oliver J. Thatcher, A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age 
A Source Book for Mediaeval History. Selected Documents Illustrating the History of Europe in the Middle Age, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher and Edgar Holmes McNeal (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905).
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The Salic Law.
In the period before the migrations, each of the German tribes had its primitive code of laws. This law was not put in writing, but was held in memory; it was not based on abstract reasons of right and justice, but grew up out of practice and custom. The migrations and the development of tribal kingdoms on Roman soil brought about important changes in the public and private life of the Germans, partly the result of changed conditions, partly the direct influence of Roman manners and institutions. One result was that the old unwritten customary laws were codified and published in written form. These codes, called the Leges Barbarorum, or laws of the barbarians, form an important historical source, for of course they reflect the new conditions in which the Germans found themselves after their settlement. Some of them show the influence of Roman law and institutions in a marked degree; others are more purely Germanic. They were in most cases written in Latin, although the Angles and Saxons in England published their early codes in Old English or Anglo-Saxon. One of the oldest and at the same time one of the most purely German in character is the law of the Salic Franks, called in Latin, Lex Salica; it was probably written about the year 500, in the reign of Chlodovech (481-511). In the most authentic form it contains sixty-five chapters, or “titles,” most of which are composed of several sections. The title usually has a heading, as: XVII. De vulneribus (Concerning wounds).
The parts translated are intended to illustrate: (1) the character of the tribal laws in general, and (2) certain important institutions and customs of the Franks. Certain features of the Salic law are common to nearly all of the German laws; these are suggested here for the convenience of the reader.
1. The code contains mainly private law. Most of the law is taken up with a scale of fines and compensations for injury, damage, and theft, as in the case of injuries, titles XVII and XXII. This is characteristic of most of the German codes; they are concerned with private and not with public or administrative law.
2. The law makes minute specification of injuries. Note that the different injuries are carefully described and particular fines given for each, as in titles XVII and XXIX. This feature is found in most of the codes and is characteristic of a primitive stage of legal conception and a barbarous state of society. The important function of primitive law is the settlement of differences between individuals to prevent personal reprisals, so the various injuries that are apt to occur are specified and provided with special fines.
3. A large part of the procedure takes place out of court, and is conducted by the individuals concerned. So in title I, 3, the plaintiff summons the defendant in person; in title L, 2, the creditor tries to collect the amount fixed by the court; in title XLVII the whole process of tracing and recovering stolen property, except the last stage, is conducted out of court. This also is a common feature of Germanic law; the objection, common among uncivilized peoples, to the state’s interference with private affairs of the individual operates here to restrict the function of the law to the simple decision of the case.
4. All the German laws provide for the payment of the wergeld. The origin of this is doubtless to be found in the underlying conception of primitive law referred to in paragraph 2. The purpose being to put an end to private revenge, which would mean continual private war, the law prescribes the amount to be paid to the kindred of the slain man, and they must on receipt of that give up the blood-feud. (See no. 1, ch. 21, and note.) In many of the codes different values are assigned to different classes of people, as here in title XLI.
The public institutions of the Franks are referred to in the law only incidentally, the law being concerned, as has been said, mainly with private matters, and taking for granted a knowledge of public law. Following is a brief statement of the form of government, administration of justice, etc. The state ruled by the king of the Salic Franks was composed of several small tribes, originally independent (see no. 1, notes 1 and 9), but now incorporated into a single state. The kingdom was divided into counties, some of which correspond to the former independent tribes, and some to old Roman political divisions. The county was governed by a representative of the king, an official who is called in the Salic law by the German title grafio (modern German “Graf”), and in later documents by the Latin title comes (count). The judicial system was based on the division of the county known as the hundred (see no. 1, note 1), the assembly of the freemen of the hundred being the regular public court. It was presided over by the “hundred-man,” in the Salic law called either centenarius, which means simply hundred-man, or thunginus, a word of uncertain meaning. The function of the grafio, the representative of the king in the county, was mainly executive; he was appealed to only when every other means of forcing the delinquent to obey the law or the decision of the court had failed, but he has no part in the trial of cases. See title L, 3, for an instance of the function of the grafio.
1. If anyone is summoned to the court and does not come, he shall pay 600 denarii, which make 15 solidi.2
3. When anyone summons another to court, he shall go with witnesses to the house of that person, and if he is not present the summoner shall serve notice on his wife or his family that he is legally summoned.
1. If anyone is convicted of trying to kill another, even though he fails, he shall pay 2,500 denarii, which make 63 (62½) solidi.
2. If anyone is convicted of shooting a poisoned arrow at another, even though he misses him, he shall pay 2,500 denarii, which make 63 solidi.
3. If anyone wounds another in the head, so that the brain appears and the three bones which lie above the brain are uncovered, he shall pay 1,200 denarii, which make 30 solidi.
4. If anyone wounds another between the ribs or in the abdomen, so that the wound can be seen and extends to the vitals, he shall pay 1,200 denarii, which make 30 solidi, besides 5 solidi for the healing.
5. If anyone wounds another so that the blood falls to the ground, he shall pay 600 denarii, which make 15 solidi.
6. If a freeman strikes another freeman with a club, so that the blood does not flow, he shall pay 120 denarii, which make 3 solidi, for each blow, up to three.
7. If the blood does flow, he shall pay as much for each blow as if he had wounded him with a sword.
8. If anyone strikes another with the closed fist, he shall pay 360 denarii, which make 9 solidi; that is, 3 solidi for each blow up to three.
9. If anyone is convicted of trying to rob another on the highroad, even though he fails, he shall pay 2,500 denarii, which make 63 solidi.
1. If anyone destroys the hand or the foot of another, or cuts out his eye, or cuts off his nose, he shall pay 4,000 denarii, which make 100 solidi.
2. If the injured hand hangs loose and useless, he shall pay 2,500 denarii, which make 63 (62½) solidi.
3. If anyone cuts off the thumb or the great toe of another, he shall pay 2,000 denarii, which make 50 solidi.
4. If the thumb or the toe hangs useless, he shall pay 1,200 denarii, which make 30 solidi.
5. If he cuts off the second finger, by which the bowstring is drawn, he shall pay 1,400 denarii, which make 35 solidi.
6. If he cuts off the rest of the fingers (that is, the other three) at one blow, he shall pay 50 solidi.
7. If he cuts off two of them, he shall pay 35 solidi.
8. If he cuts off one of them, he shall pay 30 solidi.
1. If anyone is convicted of killing a free Frank or a barbarian living by the Salic law, he shall pay 8,000 denarii, which make 200 solidi.
2. If he has put the body in a well, or under water, or has covered it with branches or other things for the purpose of hiding it, he shall pay 24,000 denarii, which make 600 solidi.2
3. If anyone kills a man in the king’s trust, or a free woman, he shall pay 24,000 denarii, which make 600 solidi.
4. If he kills a Roman who was a table-companion of the king, he shall pay 12,000 denarii, which make 300 solidi.
6. If the slain man was a Roman landowner, and not a table-companion of the king, he who slew him shall pay 4,000 denarii, which make 100 solidi.
7. If anyone kills a Roman tributarius, he shall pay 63 solidi.
The Man who Removes from One Village to Another.1
1. If anyone desires to enter a village, with the consent of one or more of the inhabitants of that village, and a single one objects, he shall not be allowed to settle there.
3. But if anyone settles in another village and remains there twelve months without any one of the inhabitants objecting, he shall be allowed to remain in peace like his neighbors.
The Tracing of Stolen Goods.
If one has recognized a slave, or a horse, or an ox, or anything of his own in the possession of another, he is to “send him to the third hand.”1 And he in whose hands the thing was recognized is to swear [to his own innocence]; and if both parties [i.e., the rightful owner and the man in whose possession it was found] dwell on this side of the Loire and the Carbonaria,2 a term of forty days shall be set within which all are to be summoned who have had any part in the affair, who have sold or exchanged or perhaps given in payment the article. That is, each one is to summon the man from whom he got it. And if anyone of these has been summoned and legal hindrance has not kept him away, and he does not come within the appointed term, then the one who had dealings with this delinquent is to bring three witnesses to the fact that he had summoned him and three more to the fact that he had obtained the property from him legally and in good faith; if he does this he is clear of suspicion of theft. But he who would not come and against whom the witnesses have borne testimony, shall be held to be the thief of the man who recognized his own, and he [the thief] shall return the price to the man who dealt with him and shall pay the lawful compensation to the man who recognized his own.3 All these things are to be done in that court to which he is answerable in whose hands the stolen thing was first recognized and with whom the process started. But if he in whose hands it was recognized dwells beyond the Loire or the Carbonaria the time allowed shall be eighty days.
The Given Pledge.
1. If a free man or a letus1 has given pledge [that is, made a solemn promise at the court] to another, then he to whom the pledge was given shall go to the house of the other within forty nights,2 or whatever period was set, with witnesses or with such as can estimate the price.3 And if the delinquent will not redeem the pledge given, he shall be held liable for 15 solidi above the amount for which he had given pledge.
2. If still he will not pay, the complainant shall summon him to the mallus, and thus he shall proceed to have him constrained by law: “I ask thee, thunginus, to constrain by law this my debtor who has given me a pledge and is in my debt.” And he shall state how much the debt is. Then the thunginus shall say: “I constrain this man by law, in accordance with the Salic law.” Then he to whom the pledge was given shall give notice that the delinquent can neither pay nor give pledge of payment to any other until he has fulfilled what he promised him [the creditor]. And straightway on that day before the sun sets he shall go with witnesses to the house of the debtor and ask him to pay the debt. If he will not, let the sun set upon him.4 Then when the sun has set, 120 denarii, which make 3 solidi, are added to the amount owed. And this thing is to be done three times in three weeks, and if on the third summons he will not pay all this, then 360 denarii, which make 9 solidi, are to be added to the debt, that is, 3 solidi for every summons and setting of the sun.
The next two sections are now generally regarded as a later addition—i.e., the first two are supposed to belong to an early period, while the last two belong to the period when the grafio, the royal representative, had acquired executive functions within the county. If this is so, then sections 3 and 4 have replaced certain older sections which must have completed the process described in sections 1 and 2; there must have been a further stage in which the delinquent was finally forced to pay, perhaps the process described in title LVI, by which a delinquent can be outlawed if he is still contumacious.
3. If anyone refuses to redeem his promise within the lawful term, then he to whom he gave the pledge shall go to the grafio of the county within which the debtor lives, and shall lay hold on the staff and say: “Grafio, this man has given pledge to me and I have given lawful notice of his indebtedness and have sued him before the mallus in accordance with the Salic law. I pledge myself and my fortune that you may safely and lawfully lay hands on his property.” And he declares for what cause and to what amount the pledge had been given. Then the grafio shall take with him seven suitable rachinburgii,5 and go to the house of him who gave the pledge and say: “You, who are here present, pay this man of your own free will that for which you gave him pledge. Choose two men, whomsoever you will, who together with these rachinburgii shall assess from your goods the amount you ought to pay. And so shall you make good what you owe according to legal value.” But if he, being present, will not heed, or if he is absent, then the rachinburgii shall take from his goods a value equal to the amount which he owes, and of that amount two parts shall go to him who brought suit, and the third part the grafio shall take for himself as fredus,6 if the fredus for this case has not already been paid.
4. If the grafio has been appealed to and legal hindrance or his master’s [the king’s] business has not detained him, and he neither goes himself nor sends a representative, he shall be punished with death or he may redeem himself with his possessions.
Property that has been Loaned.
If one has loaned anything of his goods to another, and that person will not restore it to him, he shall sue for it in this way: He shall go with witnesses to the house of him to whom he loaned his property and serve this notice on him: “Since you will not restore to me my goods which I have loaned to you, you may keep them until the following night, in accordance with the Salic law.”1 And if still he will not restore them, let the sun set on him.2 If he still will not restore them, the owner is to give him a space of seven nights, and at the end of these seven nights he shall serve notice as before that he may keep them till the following night, in accordance with the Salic law. If then he will not restore them, at the end of another seven nights he is to go with witnesses again and ask him to pay what he owes. If he will not pay, let the sun set on him. But when the sun has set on him three times, for each time 120 denarii (which make 3 solidi) are to be added to the original amount of the debt. And if still he will neither pay nor give pledge of payment, he is to be held liable to him who loaned him the goods for 600 denarii (which make 15 solidi) above the original debt and above the 9 solidi which accrued through the three summons.
The Slain Grafio.
1. If anyone kills a grafio1 he shall pay 24,000 denarii, which make 600 solidi.
2. If anyone kills a sacebaro,2 or an obgrafio who is a king’s slave, he shall pay 12,000 denarii, which make 300 solidi.
He who refuses to come to Court.
If anyone refuses to come to court or to do what the rachinburgii have commanded, that is, to give pledge for payment, or for the ordeal, or for anything which the law requires, then the complainant is to summon him to the presence of the king. And twelve witnesses, being sworn in turn by threes, shall say: [the first three] that they were present when the rachinburgius condemned him to undergo ordeal or to give pledge for payment, and that he had not obeyed. The second three are to swear that they were present on the day when the rachinburgii [again] condemned him to clear himself by ordeal or by paying the fine; that is, that, forty nights from the first day, the sun set on him in the mallberg1 again, and that he would in no way obey the law. Then the complainant is to summon him before the king, in fourteen nights [after the last mallus], and three witnesses are to swear that they were present when he summoned him and the sun set on him. If he will not come, then these nine witnesses, having sworn, are to say what we have said above. Likewise, if he will not come [to the king’s court] on that day, let the sun set on him, and there shall be three witnesses who were present when the sun set.2 If the complainant has done all these things, and he who was summoned refuses to come to any court, the king shall put him outside of his protection [i.e., outlaw him]. Then the criminal and all his goods are liable. And whoever shall feed him or give him hospitality, even if it be his own wife, shall be held liable for 600 denarii, which make 15 solidi, until he shall have paid all that has been imposed on him.
[1 ] This title illustrates what is said in the introduction about the process out of court. The person who has a cause for legal action against another, goes himself to the house of his antagonist and summons him before witnesses. The law steps in, however, and forces the one who is summoned to come to court under penalty. See also title LVI.
[2 ] The monetary system of the Salic law was taken from the Romans. The basis was the gold solidus of Constantine, 1/72 of a pound of gold. The small coin was the silver denarius, forty of which made a solidus. This system was adopted as a monetary reform by Chlodovech, and the statement of the sum in terms of both coins is probably due to the newness of the system at the time of the appearance of the law.
[1 ] The fine for slaying a man is the wergeld referred to in the introduction. It was paid to the kin of the slain man by the slayer or his kin. The wergeld has different values for different classes; note the classes in the Salic law, particularly the position of the persons in the royal service, the importance of which must have been of comparatively recent origin, and the position of the Roman population. The freeman of the Frankish tribe has a wergeld of 200 solidi, the free woman three times that, 600 solidi; the Roman possessor, or free landowner, 100 solidi; the Roman tributarius, who cultivated the land of another at a fixed rent, and was regarded as less than a freeman, 62½ solidi. If the freeman was in the king’s trust, that is, in the service of the king and probably bound to him by a special oath (these men are also called antrustiones; see nos. 180 and 189), his wergeld was three times that of the ordinary freeman, 600 solidi; that of the Roman who was a table-companion of the king, a relation similar to that of the man in the king’s trust, was also tripled, 300 solidi.
[2 ] The fact of concealment is the distinguishing mark between murder and manslaughter.
[1 ] This title throws some light on the original character of the village community. The village was in origin probably a group of kindred, and new-comers were admitted only by the consent of all the householders. Moreover, as much of the land was still held in common by the village—the wood, pasture, and meadow—the admission of a new member concerned all the householders.
[1 ] The expression mittat eum in tertia manu has been interpreted in various ways; it means apparently either that the possessor is to place the article in question in the hands of a third disinterested party who is to hold it until the case has been tried, or that he is to refer the claimant to the “third party”; that is, the man from whom he obtained it.
[2 ] A much-discussed phrase, which has been used to show that the Salic law belongs to a period after the Frankish control had extended beyond the Loire. The word in the text (ligere) has also been taken to mean the river Leye, but this is not generally accepted. The Carbonaria (German, Kohlenwald) was a large forest in what is now Belgium.
[3 ] The form of statement is rather confusing, but the process is fairly clear. The burden of proof lies on the man in whose possession the stolen article is found, and he must clear himself by producing the man from whom he got it. This shifts the responsibility to the latter, who in turn must produce the man from whom he obtained it, and so on back until the person is reached who obtained the article illegally, and so is not likely to obey the summons to appear in court. Then the last man in the chain before the thief proves his innocence of bad faith by showing that he bought the article publicly and so obtained it in good faith, and that he had served notice on the delinquent in the present process. Inasmuch as legal sales were held publicly before witnesses, it is fairly certain in this way that the guilt will be located. The man in whose possession it was found then restores the article to its owner, and receives back the price he paid for it from the man from whom he got it; and this repayment is repeated in each case until the thief is reached; the man who dealt with him has a legal action for recovery of the price against the thief, while the owner has also an action for the recovery of damages.
[1 ] The term letus is used of a class of population whose position was between that of the free man and that of the slave; a similar class is found among nearly all the Germanic tribes. They were perhaps descendants of conquered peoples that had been incorporated into the tribe; they did not own land, but cultivated the land of others on terms of a fixed rental in produce and services. Thus while not free, their position was above that of the slaves, since they might acquire possessions and profits above the rent paid, while the earnings of the slave belonged in theory entirely to the master.
[2 ] The regular interval between the meetings of the hundred-court or mallus.
[3 ] The use of appraisers, referred to here and elsewhere, indicates that fines and debts were paid regularly in kind, and that money was still an unfamiliar convenience.
[4 ] That is, the delinquent is to be given the full legal day, and when that has passed with the setting of the sun, the penalty is incurred. It is interesting to notice the same feature in the law of the XII Tables, which was apparently merely the primitive tribal law of the early Romans reduced to written form. There, in the first table, the description of a public court process ends with the sentence: “Sol occasus suprema tempestas esto”—sunset is to be the latest hour [of the legal day].
[5 ]Rachinburgii is the name generally used in the law for the board of judges, seven in number, who are chosen at every hundred-court to render the judgment (see title LVI). Here, however, the term is used for appraisers who apparently are not connected with the rachinburgii of the hundred-court.
[6 ] The fredus is that portion of the fine which goes to the state, apparently as compensation for executing the sentence. It furnished a part at once of the royal revenues and of the salary of the grafio, since half went to him and half to the royal treasury.
[1 ] This is to give the man legal and public notice and to allow him a full day’s time in which to obey. The guilt is incurred, therefore, at sunset of the following day.
[2 ] See title L, note 4.
[1 ] For the position of the grafio, see introduction. His wergeld is seen to be the same as that of the freeman in the king’s service, and may indeed be regarded as a special instance of the general case of a man employed in the royal service.
[2 ] The sacebaro and the obgrafio are apparently subordinate officials of the grafio. They were probably not infrequently unfree persons, as they are here.
[1 ]Mallberg or malloberg is the place where the mallus or public court is held, and is here used as equivalent to the court.
[2 ] The process described from the end of the first sentence to this point is supposed to have taken place before the summons to the king’s court mentioned in that first sentence; this is shown by the statement that there are to be twelve witnesses at the king’s court, these twelve witnesses appearing in the passage as follows: three each for the two public trials in the mallus, three for the summons to the king’s court fourteen days after the second trial, and three for the first session of the king’s court; these delays having been granted and the delinquent not appearing at the second session of the royal court, he is there finally outlawed.