Salic Law

   Legal code traditionally thought to have been compiled under the great Merovingian king Clovis (r. 481-511), the Salic law (Lex Salica) is one of the most important of early medieval legal compilations. The importance of the code is the result, in part, of the preeminence of the Franks in the post-Roman world. It remained an important legal source throughout the Merovingian period and was compiled again by the Carolingians. Sections of the law dealing with the right to succession were of great importance in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The code in its earliest version contains sixty-five titles that address a wide variety of legal and social matters, making it a valuable source for early Merovingian history.
   The code was, according to the prologue of a later version, originally compiled during the reign of the first Merovingian king. Known as the Pactus Lex Salicae to distinguish it from the many later revisions, it is traditionally thought to have been compiled late in the reign of Clovis, possibly between 507 and 511. Although attribution to Clovis comes from a later version, it is likely that the law appeared early in Merovingian history, surely before the death of Clovis, and it was probably commissioned by him. It is a collection of the laws of the Salian Franks, although it does not include all the laws of the Franks. The Pactus is the written version of the traditional customs of the Franks, and the codification of these laws in Latin reflects the growing sophistication and stability of the Franks under Clovis and important Frankish contacts with late Roman culture and government. Indeed, this collection of custom and royal edict was most likely codified by a team of Frankish officials and Roman lawyers. Originally compiled before 511, the Salic law was revised and expanded by later Merovingian kings in the later sixth and seventh centuries, and a prologue and epilogue were added in later versions. It was also revised by the Carolingians and was much studied in the eighth and ninth centuries.
   The Salic law is not an orderly codification of the law, but a collection of important laws and customs that provide important insights into Merovingian society. One of the most important concerns of the Salic law is the preservation of peace in the Merovingian kingdom, and a number of chapters address social relations. One section addresses the inheritance of private property, and an earlier section specifies the fines to be paid for the theft of a bull. Penalties are imposed for wrongly calling a woman a "harlot" and for calling someone a "hare" or "fox." Another important section concerns the payment of the wergeld (payment made in compensation for taking a life) to the family of deceased. Other parts of the code deal with lesser offences and injuries and routinely impose a fine for these crimes. The penalties are often quite specific, such as a fine of 2500 denars for attempting to poison someone with an arrow, or 1200 denars for striking someone so hard on the head that the brain appears. Rape, murder of women and children, assault and robbery, and housebreaking are other crimes regulated in the Salic law. The law also concerns royal rights and prerogatives and imposes higher fines for crimes against the king, his property, and his agents.
   The Salic law also provides insight into the social structures of Merovingian society. One of the most notable things revealed in the code is the social stratification of Frankish society in the sixth and seventh centuries. The penalties vary according to the social rank of the perpetrator and victim, with harsher fines imposed on the lower orders. The code reveals the continued practice of slavery, and a class of freemen and peasants, as well as one of nobles and kings. Moreover, although designed to cover all those living in the Merovingian kingdom, the Salic law originally observed the principle of personality, according to which each person was bound by the laws of his own group. Thus it imposed different penalties for crimes by Franks and crimes by Romans and provided a legal distinction between Romans and barbarians. Under the Carolingians the law came to apply to all the people of the realm equally, bearing witness to the integration of Franks and Romans into one society.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Geary, Patrick J. Before France and Germany: The Creation and Transformation of the Merovingian World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.
 ♦ Rivers, Theodore John, trans. The Laws of the Salian and Ripuarian Franks. New York: AMS, 1986.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Long-Haired Kings. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1982.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994.
 ♦ Wormald, Patrick. "Lex Scripta and Verbum Regis: Legislation and Early Germanic Kingship from Euric to Cnut." In Early Medieval Kingship, ed. Peter H. Sawyer and Ian N. Wood. Leeds, UK: School of History, University of Leeds 1977, pp. 105-138.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Salic law — (Lat. Lex Salica ) was an important body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century. Although Salic Law reflects very ancient usage and practices, the… …   Wikipedia

  • Salic law — Salic Sal ic (s[a^]l [i^]k), a. [F. salique, fr. the Salian Franks, who, in the fifth century, formed a body of laws called in Latin leges Salic[ae].] Of or pertaining to the Salian Franks, or to the Salic law so called. [Also {salique}.] [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Salic law — n. 1. a code of laws of Germanic tribes, including the Salian Franks; esp., the provision of this code excluding women from inheriting land 2. the law excluding women from succeeding to the throne in the French and Spanish monarchies …   English World dictionary

  • Salic law — 1. a code of laws of the Salian Franks and other Germanic tribes, esp. a provision in this code excluding females from the inheritance of land. 2. the alleged fundamental law of the French monarchy by which females were excluded from succession… …   Universalium

  • Salic law — noun Date: 1599 1. a rule held to derive from the legal code of the Salic Franks excluding females from the line of succession to a throne 2. the legal code of the Salic Franks …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Salic law — noun historical 1》 a law excluding females from dynastic succession, especially as the alleged fundamental law of the French monarchy. 2》 a Frankish law book extant in Merovingian and Carolingian times …   English new terms dictionary

  • Salic law — /ˈsælɪk lɔ/ (say salik law), /ˈseɪlɪk/ (say saylik) noun 1. a code of laws of the Salian Franks, a tribe who dwelt in the regions of the Rhine near the North Sea, and of other Germanic tribes, especially a provision in this code excluding females …   Australian English dictionary

  • Salic law — noun /ˈseɪlɪk.lɒ/ A law or rule that excludes women from the line of succession to a throne or other public office …   Wiktionary

  • SALIC LAW —    a law which obtained among the Salian Franks, as also in certain German States, which excluded females from succession to the throne …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Salic Law — The earliest barbarian code, in use by a Teutonic tribe in the fifth century. The law of the Franks …   Ballentine's law dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.