The Roman and the Teuton: The Lombard Laws

September 16, 2020
24 mins read

Editor’s note: This is the tenth of twelve lectures by Charles Kingsley, published as The Roman and the Teuton (1889).

(Go back to Lecture IX: The Monk a Civilizer)

I have tried to show you how the Teutonic nations were Christianized.  I have tried to explain to you why the clergy who converted them were, nevertheless, more or less permanently antagonistic to them.  I shall have, hereafter, to tell you something of one of the most famous instances of that antagonism: of the destruction of the liberties of the Lombards by that Latin clergy.  But at first you ought to know something of the manners of these Lombards; and that you may learn best by studying their Code.

They are valuable to you, as giving you a fair specimen of the laws of an old Teutonic people.  You may profitably compare them with the old Gothic, Franco-Salic, Burgundian, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian laws, all formed on the same primæval model, agreeing often in minute details, and betokening one primæval origin, of awful antiquity.  By studying them, moreover, you may gain some notion of that primæval liberty and self-government, common at first to all the race, but preserved alone by England;—to which the descendants of these very Lombards are at this very moment so manfully working their way back.

These laws were collected and published in writing by king Rothar, A.D. 643, 76 years after Alboin came into Italy.  The cause, he says, was the continual wearying of the poor, and the superfluous exactions, and even violence, of the strong against those who were weak.  They are the ‘laws of our fathers, as far as we have learnt them from ancient men, and are published with the counsel and consent of our princes, judges, and all our most prosperous army,’ i.e. the barons, or freemen capable of bearing arms; ‘and are confirmed according to the custom of our nation by garathinx,’ that is, as far as I can ascertain from Grimm’s German Law, by giving an earnest, garant, or warrant of the bargain.

Among these Lombards, as among our English forefathers, when a man thingavit, i.e. donavit, a gift or bequest to any one, it was necessary, according to law clxxii., to do it before gisiles, witnesses, and to give a garathinx, or earnest, of his bequest—a halm of straw, a turf, a cup of drink, a piece of money—as to this day a drover seals his bargain with a shilling, and a commercial traveller with a glass of liquor.  Whether Rothar gave the garathinx to his barons, or his barons to him, I do not understand: but at least it is clear from the use of this one word that the publication of these laws was a ‘social contract’—a distinct compact between king and people.  From all which you will perceive at once that these Lombards, like all Teutons, were a free people, under a rough kind of constitutional monarchy.  They would have greeted with laughter the modern fable of the divine right of kings, if by that they were expected to understand that the will of the king was law, or that the eldest son of a certain family had any God-given ipso-facto right to succeed his father.  Sixteen kings, says the preface, had reigned from Agilmund to Rothar; and seven times had the royal race been changed.  That the king should belong to one of the families who derived their pedigree from Wodin, and that a son should, as natural, succeed his father, were old rules: but the barons would, as all history shews, make little of crowning a younger son instead of an elder, if the younger were a hero, and the elder an ‘arga’—a lazy loon; and little, also, would they make of setting aside the whole royal family, and crowning the man who would do their business best.  The king was, as this preface and these laws shew, the commander in chief of the exercitus, the militia, and therefore of every free man in the state; (for all were bound to fight when required).  He was also the supreme judge, the head of the executive, dispenser and fountain of law: but with no more power of making the law, of breaking the law, or of arbitrarily depriving a man of his property, than an English sovereign has now; and his power was quamdiu se bene gesserit, and no longer, as history proves in every page.

The doctrine of the divine right of kings as understood in England in the seventeenth century, and still in some continental countries, was, as far as I can ascertain, invented by the early popes, not for the purpose of exalting the kings, but of enslaving them, and through them the nations.  A king and his son’s sons had divine ‘right to govern wrong’ not from God, but from the vicar of God and the successor of St. Peter, to whom God had given the dominion of the whole earth, and who had the right to anoint, or to depose, whomsoever he would.  Even in these old laws, we see that new idea obtruding itself.  ‘The king’s heart,’ says one of them ‘is in the hand of God.’  That is a text of Scripture.  What it was meant to mean, one cannot doubt, or by whom it was inserted.  The ‘Chancellor,’ or whoever else transcribed those laws in Latin, was, of course, a cleric, priest or monk.  From his hand comes the first hint of arbitrary power; the first small blot of a long dark stain of absolutism, which was to darken and deepen through centuries of tyranny and shame.

But to plead the divine right of kings, in a country which has thrown off its allegiance to the pope, is to assert the conclusion of a syllogism, the major and minor premiss of which are both denied by the assertor.  The arguments for such a right drawn from the Old Testament, which were common among the high-church party from James I. to James II. and the Nonjurors, are really too inconsequent to require more than a passing smile.  How can you prove that a king has the power to make laws, from the history of the Jewish nation, when that very history represents it all through as bound by a primæval and divinely revealed law, to which kings and people were alike subject?  How can you prove that the eldest son’s eldest son has a divine right to wear the crown as ‘God’s anointed,’ when the very persons to whom that title is given are generally either not eldest sons, or not of royal race at all?  The rule that the eldest son’s eldest son should succeed, has been proved by experience to be in practice a most excellent one: but it rests, as in England, so in Lombardy, or Spain, or Frankreich of old time, simply upon the consent of the barons, and the will of the thing or parliament.

There is a sentimental admiration of ‘Imperialism’ growing up now-a-days, under the pretentious titles of ‘hero-worship,’ and ‘strong government;’ and the British constitution is represented as a clumsy and artificial arrangement of the year 1688.  1688 after Christ?  1688 before Christ would be nearer the mark.  It is as old, in its essentials, as the time when not only all the Teutons formed one tribe, but when Teutons and Scandinavians were still united—and when that was, who dare say?  We at least brought the British constitution with us out of the bogs and moors of Jutland, along with our smock-frocks and leather gaiters, brown bills and stone axes; and it has done us good service, and will do, till we have carried it right round the world.

As for these Lombard kings, they arose on this wise.  After Alboin’s death the Lombards were for ten years under dukes, and evil times came, every man doing what was right in his own eyes; enlarging their frontier by killing the Roman landholders, and making the survivors give them up a portion of their lands, as Odoacer first, and the Ostrogoths next, had done.  At last, tired of lawlessness, dissension and weakness, and seemingly dreading an invasion from Childebert, king of the Franks, they chose a king, Autharis the son of Cleph, and called him Flavius, by which Roman title the Lombard kings were afterwards known.  Moreover, they agreed to give him (I conclude only once for all) the half of all their substance, to support the kingdom.  There were certain tributes afterwards paid into the king’s treasury every three years; and certain fines, and also certain portions of the property of those who died without direct heirs, seem to have made up the revenue.  Whereon, Paul says, perfect peace and justice followed.

Now for the laws, which were reduced into writing about sixty years afterwards.  The first thing that you will remark about these laws, is that duel, wager of battle under shield, ‘diremptio causæ per pugnam sub uno scuto,’ is the earliest form of settling a lawsuit.  If you cannot agree, fight it out fairly, either by yourself or per campionem, a champion or kemper man, and God defend the right.  Then follows ‘faida,’ blood-feud, from generation to generation.  To stop which a man is allowed to purge himself by oath; his own and that of certain neighbours, twelve in general, who will swear their belief in his innocence.  This was common to the northern nations, and was the origin of our trial by jury.  If guilty, the offender has to pay the weregeld, or legal price, set upon the injury he has inflicted.  When the composition is paid, there is an end of the feud; if after taking the composition the plaintiff avenges himself, he has to pay it back.  Hence our system of fines.

This method of composition by fines runs through all the Teutonic laws; and makes the punishment of death, at least among freemen, very rare.

Punishments by stripes, by imprisonment, or by cruel or degrading methods, there are none.  The person of a freeman is sacred, ‘Vincire et verberare nefas,’ as Tacitus said of these Germans 600 years before.

The offences absolutely punishable by death seem to be, treason against the king’s life; cowardice in battle; concealment of robbers; mutinies and attempts to escape out of the realm; and therefore (under the then military organization) to escape from the duty of every freeman, to bear arms in defence of the land.

More than a hundred of these laws define the different fines, or ‘weregelds,’ by which each offence is to be compounded for, from 900 solidi aurei, gold pieces, for a murder, downwards to the smallest breach of the peace.  Each limb has its special price.  For the loss of an eye, half the price of the whole man is to be paid.  A front tooth is worth 16s., solidi aurei; their loss being a disfigurement; but a back tooth is worth only 8s.  A slave’s tooth, on the other hand, is worth but 4s.; and in every case, the weregeld of a slave is much less than that of a freeman.

The sacredness of the household, and the strong sense of the individual rights of property, are to be remarked.  One found in a ‘court,’ courtledge (or homestead), by night (as we say in old English), may be killed.  You know, I dare say, that in many Teutonic and Scandinavian nations the principle that a man’s house is his castle was so strongly held that men were not allowed to enter a condemned man’s house to carry him off to execution; but if he would not come out, could only burn the house over his head.  Shooting, or throwing a lance into any man’s homestead, costs 20s.  ‘Oberos,’ or ‘curtis ruptura,’ that is, making violent entry into a man’s homestead, costs 20s. also.  Nay, merely to fetch your own goods out of another man’s house secretly, and without asking leave, was likewise punished as oberos.

So of personal honour.  ‘Schelte’ or insult, for instance, to call a man arga, i.e. a lazy loon, is a serious offence.  If the defendant will confess that he said it in a passion, and will take oath that he never knew the plaintiff to be arga, he must still pay 12s.; but if he will stand to his word, then he must fight it out by duel, sub uno scuto.

The person, for the same reason, was sacred.  If a man had lain in wait for a freeman, ‘cum virtute et solatio,’ with valour and comfort, i.e. with armed men to back him, and had found him standing or walking simply, and had shamefully held him, or ‘battiderit,’ committed assault and battery on him, he must pay half the man’s weregeld; the ‘turpiter et ridiculum’ being considered for a freeman as half as bad as death.  Here you find in private life, as well as in public, the vincire et verberare nefas.

If, again, one had a mind to lose 80 shillings of gold, he need but to commit the offence of ‘meerworphin,’ a word which will puzzle you somewhat, till you find it to signify ‘mare warping,’ to warp, or throw one’s neighbour off his mare or horse.

A blow with the closed fist, again, costs three shillings: but one with the open hand, six.  The latter is an insult as well as an injury.  A freeman is struck with the fist, but a slave with the palm of the hand.  Breaking a man’s head costs six solidi.  But if one had broken his skull, then (as in the Alemannic laws) one must pay twelve shillings, and twelve more for each fracture up to three—after which they are not counted.  But a piece of bone must come out which will make a sound when thrown into a shield twelve feet off; which feet are to be measured by that of a man of middle stature.  From which strange law may be deduced, not only the toughness of the Lombard brain-pan, but the extreme necessity of defining each particular, in order to prevent subsequent disputes, followed up by a blood-feud, which might be handed down from father to son.  For by accepting the legal fine, the injured man expressly renounced his primæval right of feud.

Then follow some curious laws in favour of the masters of Como, Magistri Comacenes, who seem to have been a guild of architects, perhaps the original germ of the great society of free-masons—belonging, no doubt, to the Roman population—who were settled about the lake of Como, and were hired, on contract, (as the laws themselves express,) to build for the Lombards, who of course had no skill to make anything beyond a skin-tent or a log-hall.

Then follow laws against incendiaries; a fine for damage by accidental house-fire, if the offender have carried fire more than nine feet from the hearth; a law against leaving a fire alight on a journey, as in the Australian colonies now.  Then laws to protect mills; important matters in those days, being unknown to the Lombards before their entrance into Italy.

Then laws of inheritance; on which I shall remark, that natural sons, if free, are to have a portion of their father’s inheritance; but less than the legitimate sons: but that a natural son born of a slave remains a slave, ‘nisi pater liberum thingaverit.’  This cruel law was the law of Rome and of the Church; our Anglo-Saxon forefathers, to their honour, held the reverse rule.  ‘Semper a patre, non a matre, generationis ordo texitur.’  Next, it is to be remarked, that no free woman can live in Lombardy, or, I believe, in any Teutonic state, save under the ‘mundium’ of some one.  You should understand this word ‘mund.’  Among most of the Teutonic races, women, slaves, and youths, at least not of age to carry arms, were under the mund of some one.  Of course, primarily the father, head of the family, and if he died, an uncle, elder brother, &c.  The married woman was, of course, under the mund of her husband.  He was answerable for the good conduct of all under his mund; he had to pay their fines if they offended; and he was bound, on the other hand, to protect them by all lawful means.

This system still lingers in the legal status of women in England, for good and evil; the husband is more or less answerable for the wife’s debts; the wife, till lately, was unable to gain property apart from her husband’s control; the wife is supposed, in certain cases of law, to act under the husband’s compulsion.  All these, and many others, are relics of the old system of mund for women; and that system has, I verily believe, succeeded.  It has called out, as no other system could have done, chivalry in the man.  It has made him feel it a duty and an honour to protect the physically weaker sex.  It has made the woman feel that her influence, whether in the state or in the family, is to be not physical and legal, but moral and spiritual; and that it therefore rests on a ground really nobler and deeper than that of the man.  The modern experiments for emancipating women from all mund, and placing them on a physical and legal equality with the man, may be right, and may be ultimately successful.  We must not hastily prejudge them.  But of this we may be almost certain; that if they succeed, they will cause a wide-spread revolution in society, of which the patent danger will be, the destruction of the feeling of chivalry, and the consequent brutalization of the male sex.

Then follow laws relating to marriage and women, of which I may remark, that (as in Tacitus’ time), the woman brings her dowry, or ‘fader fee,’ to her husband; and that the morning after the wedding she receives from him, if he be content with her, her morgen gap, or morning gift; which remains her own private property, unless she misbehaves.

The honour of women, whether in fact or merely in fame, is protected by many severe laws, among which I shall only notice, that the calling a free woman ‘striga’ (witch) is severely punishable.  If any one does so who has the mund of her, except her father or brother, he loses his mund.

On the whole, woman’s condition seems inferior to man’s on some points: but superior on others.  e.g. A woman’s weregeld—the price of her life—is 1200 solidi; while the man’s is only 900.  For he can defend himself, but she cannot.  On the other hand, if a man kill his wife, he pays only the 1200 solidi, and loses her dowry: but if she kill him, she dies.

Again.  If a free man be caught thieving, up to the amount of 20 siliquæ, beans, i.e. one gold piece—though Pope Gregory makes the solidus (aureus) 24 siliquæ—he replaces the theft, and pays 80 solidi, or dies; and a slave one half, or dies.

But if a free woman is taken in theft, she only replaces it; for she has suffered for her wrong-doing, and must lay it to her own shame, that she has tried to do ‘operam indecentem,’ a foul deed.  And if an aldia or slave-woman steals, her master replaces the theft, and pays 40 solidi, minus the value of the stolen goods—and beats her afterwards, I presume, if he chooses.

And now concerning slaves, who seem to have been divided into three classes.

The Aldius and Aldia, masculine and feminine, who were of a higher rank than other slaves.

The Aldius could marry a free woman, while the slave marrying a free woman is punishable by death; and, as experimentum crucis, if an Aldius married an Aldia or a free woman, the children followed the father.  If he married a slave, the children followed the mother, and became slaves of his lord.

The Aldius, again, may not sell his lord’s land or slaves, which indicates that he held land and slaves under his lord.

What the word means, Grimm does not seem to know.  He thinks it synonymous with ‘litus,’ of whom we hear as early as Tacitus’ time, as one of the four classes, nobles, freemen, liti, slaves; and therefore libertus, a freedman.  But the word does not merely mean, it appears, a slave half freed by his master; but one rather hereditarily half free, and holding a farm under his lord.

Dió, however, is said to be an old German word for a slave; and it is possible that aldius (a word only known, seemingly, in Lombardy) may have signified originally an old slave, an old Roman colonus, or peasant of some sort, found by the conquerors in possession of land, and allowed to retain, and till it, from father to son.  We, in England, had the same distinction between ‘Læt,’ or ‘villains’ settled on the land, glebæ adscripti, and mere thralls or theows, slaves pure and simple.  No doubt such would have better terms than the mere mancipia—slaves taken in war, or bought—for the simple reason, that they would be agriculturists, practised in the Roman tillage, understanding the mysteries of irrigation, artificial grasses, and rotation of crops, as well as the culture of vines, fruit, and olives.

Next to them you have different sorts of slaves; Servus massarius, who seems to be also rusticanus, one who takes care of his lord’s ‘massa’ or farm, and is allowed a peculium, it seems, some animals of his own, which he may not sell, though he may give them away.  And again, servus doctus, an educated household slave, whose weregeld is higher than that of others.

The laws relating to fugitive slaves seem as merciful as such things can be; and the Lombards have always had the credit of being kind and easy masters.

Connected with fugitive slaves are laws about portunarii, ferrymen, who appear, as you know, in the old ballads as very important, and generally formidable men.  The fight between Von Troneg Hagen and the old ferryman in the Nibelungen Lied, is a famous instance of the ancient ferrymen’s prowess.  One can easily understand how necessary strict laws were, to prevent these ferrymen carrying over fugitive slaves, outlaws, and indeed any one without due caution; for each man was bound to remain in his own province, that he might be ready when called on for military service; and a traveller to foreign parts was looked on as a deserter from his liege-lord and country.

Then follow a great number of laws, to me both amusing and instructive, as giving us some glimpse of the country life of those Lombards in the 8th century.

Scattered in the vast woodlands and marshes lie small farms, enclosed by ditches and posts and rails, from which if you steal a rail, you are fined 1s., if you steal a post, 3s.  There were stake fences, which you must be careful in making, for if a horse stakes himself by leaping in, you pay nothing; but if he does so by leaping out, you pay the price of the horse.  Moreover, you must leave no sharp stakes standing out of the hedge; for if a man or beast wounds himself thereby in passing, you have to pay full weregeld.

Walking over sown land, or sending a woman of your mundium to do so, in accordance with an ancient superstition, is a severe offence; so is injuring a vineyard, or taking more than tres uvæ (bunches of grapes, I presume) from the vine.  Injuring landmarks cut on the trees (theclaturas and signaturas) or any other boundary mark, is severely punishable either in a slave, or in a freeman.

In the vast woods range herds of swine, and in the pastures, horses, cared for by law; for to take a herd of swine or brood mares as pledge, without the king’s leave, is punishable by death, or a fine of 900s.  Oxen or horses used to the yoke can be taken as pledge; but only by leave of the king, or of the schuldhais (local magistrate), on proof that the debtor has no other property; for by them he gets his living.  If, however, you find pigs routing in your enclosure, you may kill one, under certain restrictions, but not the ‘sornpair,’ sounder boar, who ‘battit et vincit’ all the other boars in the sounder (old English for herd).

Rival swineherds, as is to be supposed, ‘battidunt inter se,’ and ‘scandalum faciunt,’ often enough.  Whereon the law advises them to fight it out, and then settle the damage between them.

Horses are cared for.  To ride another man’s horse costs 2s.; to dock or crop him, eight-fold the damage; and so on of hurting another man’s horse.  Moreover, if your neighbour’s dog flies at you, you may hit him with a stick or little sword, and kill him, but if you throw a stone after him and kill him, you being then out of danger, you must give the master a new dog.

Then there are quaint laws about hunting; and damage caused by wild beasts caught in snares or brought to bay.  A wounded stag belongs to the man who has wounded it for twenty-four hours: but after that to anyone.  Tame deer, it is observable, are kept; and to kill a doe or fawn costs 6s., to kill a buck, 12s.  Tame hawks, cranes, and swans, if taken in snares, cost 6s.  But any man may take flying hawks out of his neighbour’s wood, but not out of the Gaias Regis, the king’s gehage, haies, hedges, or enclosed parks.

And now, I have but one more law to mention—would God that it had been in force in later centuries—

‘Let no one presume to kill another man’s aldia or ancilla, as a striga, witch, which is called masca; because it is not to be believed by Christian minds, that a woman can eat up a live man from within; and if any one does so he shall pay 60s. as her price, and for his fault, half to her master, and half to the king.’

This last strange law forces on us a serious question, one which may have been suggesting itself to you throughout my lecture.  If these were the old Teutonic laws, this the old Teutonic liberty, the respect for man as man, for woman as woman, whence came the opposite element?  How is it that these liberties have been lost throughout almost all Europe?  How is it that a system of law prevailed over the whole continent, up to the French revolution, and prevails still in too many countries, the very opposite of all this?

I am afraid that I must answer, Mainly through the influence of the Roman clergy during the middle age.

The original difference of race between the clergy and the Teutonic conquerors, which I have already pointed out to you, had a curious effect, which lingers to this day.  It placed the Church in antagonism, more or less open, to the civil administration of justice.  The criminal was looked on by the priest rather as a sufferer to be delivered, than an offender to be punished.  All who are conversant with the lives of saints must recollect cases in which the saint performs even miracles on behalf of the condemned.  Mediæval tales are full of instances of the same feeling which prompted the Italian brigands, even in our own times, to carry a leaden saint’s image in his hat as a safeguard.  In an old French fabliau, for instance, we read how a certain highway-robber was always careful to address his prayers to the Blessed Virgin, before going out to murder and steal; and found the practice pay him well.  For when he was taken and hanged, our Lady put her ‘mains blanches’ under his feet, and supported him invisibly for a whole day, till the executioner, finding it impossible to kill him, was forced to let him retire peaceably into a monastery, where he lived and died devoutly.  We may laugh at such fancies; or express, if we will, our abhorrence of their immorality: but it will be more useful to examine into the causes which produced them.  They seem to have been twofold.  In the first place, the Church did not look on the Teutonic laws, whether Frank, Burgund, Goth or Lombard, as law at all.  Her law, whether ecclesiastical or civil, was formed on the Roman model; and by it alone she wished herself, and those who were under her protection, to be judged.  Next—and this count is altogether to her honour—law, such as it was, was too often administered, especially by the Franks, capriciously and brutally; while the servile population, always the great majority, can hardly be said to have been under the protection of law at all.  No one can read the pages of Fredegarius, or Gregory of Tours, without seeing that there must have been cases weekly, even daily, which called on the clergy, in the name of justice and humanity, to deliver if possible, the poor from him that spoiled him; which excused fully the rise of the right of sanctuary, and of benefit of clergy, afterwards so much abused; which made it a pious duty in prelates to work themselves into power at court, and there, as the ‘Chancellors’ of princes, try to get something like regular justice done; and naturally enough, to remodel the laws of each nation on the time-honoured and scientific Roman form.  Nevertheless, the antagonism of the Church to the national and secular law remained for centuries.  It died out first perhaps, in England, after the signature of Magna Charta.  For then the English prelates began to take up that truly Protestant and national attitude which issued in the great Reformation: but it lingers still in Ireland and in Italy.  It lingered in France up to the French revolution, as may be seen notably in the account of the execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers, by the priest who attended her.  Horror at her atrocious crimes is quite swallowed up, in the mind of the good father, by sympathy with her suffering; and the mob snatch her bones from the funeral pile, and keep them as the relics of a saint.

But more.  While the Roman clergy did real good to Europe, in preserving the scientific elements of Roman law, they did harm by preserving therewith other elements—Roman chicane, and Roman cruelty.  In that respect, as in others, ‘Rome conquered her conquerors;’ and the descendants of those Roman lawyers, whom the honest Teutons called adders, and as adders killed them down, destroyed, in course of time, Teutonic freedom.

But those descendants were, alas! the clergy.  Weak, they began early to adopt those arms of quibbling and craft, which religious men too often fancy are the proper arms of ‘the saints’ against ‘the world.’  Holding human nature in suspicion and contempt, they early gave way to the maxim of the savage, that every one is likely to be guilty till proved innocent, and therefore licensed the stupid brutalities of torture to extract confession.  Holding self-degradation to be a virtue, and independence as a carnal vice; glorying in being slaves themselves, till to become, under the name of holy obedience, ‘perinde ac cadaver,’ was the ideal of a good monk; and accustomed, themselves, to degrading corporal punishment; they did not shrink from inflicting, even on boys and women, tortures as dastardly as indecent.  Looking on the world, and on the future of the human race, through a medium compared with which the darkest fancies of a modern fanatic are bright and clear, they did not shrink from inflicting penalties, the very mention of which makes the blood run cold.  Suspecting, if not alternately envying and despising, all women who were not nuns; writing openly of the whole sex (until unsexed) as the snare and curse of mankind; and possessed by a Manichæan belief in the power and presence of innumerable demons, whose especial victims were women; they erected witch-hunting into a science; they pandered to, and actually formalized, and justified on scientific grounds, the most cruel and cowardly superstitions of the mob; and again and again raised literal crusades against women, torturing, exposing, burning, young and old, not merely in the witch-mania of the 17th century, but through the whole middle age.  It is a detestable page of history.  I ask those who may think my statement exaggerated, to consult the original authorities.  Let them contrast Rothar’s law about the impossibility of witchcraft, with the pages of the Malleus Maleficarum, Nider’s Fornicarium, or Delrio the Jesuit, and see for themselves who were the false teachers.  And if they be told, that the cruelties of the Inquisition were only those in vogue according to the secular law of the day, let them recollect that the formulizers of that law were none other than the celibate Roman clergy.

I do not deny that there was in all this a just, though a terrible, Nemesis.  What was the essential fault of these Lombard laws—indeed of all the Teutonic codes?  This — that there was one law for the free man, another for the slave.  Ecclesiastical dominion was necessary, to make one law for all classes, even though it were a law of common slavery.  As the free had done to the slave, even so, and far worse, would the Roman clergy do to them.  The Albigense persecutors, burning sixty ladies in one day; Conrad of Marpurg scourging his own sovereign, St. Elizabeth; shaving the Count of Saiym’s head; and burning noble ladies almost without trial; Sprenger and his compeers, offering up female hecatombs of the highest blood thoughout Germany; English bishops burning in Smithfield Anne Askew, the hapless court-beauty, and her fellow-courtier Mr. Lascelles, just as if they had been Essex or Berkshire peasants;—all these evildoers were welding the different classes of the European nations, by a community of suffering, into nations; into the belief that free and slave had one blood, one humanity, one conscience, one capacity of suffering; and at last, one capacity of rebelling, and making common cause, high and low alike, against him who reigned in Italy under the ‘Romani nominis umbram.’

And if our English law, our English ideas of justice and mercy, have retained, more than most European codes, the freedom, the truthfulness, the kindliness, of the old Teutonic laws, we owe it to the fact, that England escaped, more than any other land, the taint of effete Roman civilization; that she therefore first of the lands, in the 12th century, rebelled against, and first of them, in the 16th century, threw off, the Ultramontane yoke.

And surely it will be so, in due time, with the descendants of these very Lombards.  We have seen them in these very years arise out of the dust and shame of centuries, and determine to be Lombards once again.  We have seen a hero arise among them of the true old Teuton stamp, bearing worthily the name which his forefathers brought over the Alps with Alboin — Garibald, the ‘bold in war.’  May they succeed in the same noble struggle as that in which we succeeded, and returning, not in letter, but in spirit, to the old laws of Rothar and their free forefathers, become the leading race of a free and united Italy!

Continue to Lecture XI: The Popes and the Lombards

Raised in a home filled with books on Western civilization, P.G. Mantel became a lover of history at an early age. An amateur writer of verse, he makes himself useful as an editor for Men of the West.

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