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Psychonaut
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 02:08 AM
From Wikipedia:


Wergeld (alternative spellings: wergild, wergeld, weregeld, etc.) was a reparational payment usually demanded of a person guilty of homicide or other wrongful death, although it could also be demanded in other cases of serious crime. In early Germanic law, weregeld was a person's value in monetary terms, which was paid by a wrongdoer to the family of the person who had been injured or killed.

The payment of weregild was an important legal mechanism in early Northern European societies, such as those of the Vikings, and Anglo-Saxons; the other common form of legal reparation at this time was blood revenge. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan. If these payments were not made, or refused by the offended party, a blood feud would ensue. The word literally means "man price" (wer meaning man as in werewolf).

The size of the wergeld in cases of murder was largely conditional upon the social rank of the victim. In early Anglo-Saxon Britain, an elaborate tariff was prescribed. An aetheling, or prince, was worth 1500 shillings. A yeoman farmer was worth 100 shillings. A laet, or agricultural serf, was worth between 40 and 80 shillings. Thralls and slaves technically commanded no weregild, but it was commonplace to make a nominal payment in the case of a thrall and the value of the slave in such a case. A shilling was defined as the value of a cow in Kent or elsewhere, a sheep. As the Northern European tribes were a nomadic people, great importance was placed on the survival of women and children, as they were integral to the propagation of the tribe. The killing of both women and children were also dealt with severely, usually bringing on the larger of the fines.

Early Germanic law forms were very specific to differentiate between the wergelds for free people as opposed to bonded servants. Payment of the wergeld was gradually replaced with corporal punishment, starting around the 9th century and almost entirely replaced by as late as the 12th century throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

A classic example of a dispute over the weregeld of a slave is contained in Iceland's Egil's Saga. Weregild was also known to the Celts, who called it ericfine in Ireland and galanas in Wales, and to Slavic peoples, who called it "vira" ("вира") in Russia and główczyzna in Poland.

The word wergeld is composed of were, a word meaning "man" (as in werewolf) and geld, meaning "payment." Etymologically, were is related to the Latin vir. Geld is the root of English gilt and cognate with gold. Geld is still the Dutch, German, and Yiddish word for money. In Danish the word is gęld and means "debt".

In the Story of Grettir the Strong, chapter 27, The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson, Thorgeir conveys to court Thorgils Arison's offer of weregild as atonement for killing Thorgils Makson.

In The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, it is revealed that after the Last Alliance of Elves and Men had defeated the forces of Sauron, that Isildur claimed the One Ring as weregild owed to him for the deaths of Elendil his father and Anįrion his younger brother, in protest to the insistence of Elrond and Cķrdan to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

In the epic poem Beowulf, at lines 456-472, Hrošgar recalls the story of how Ecgžeow (Beowulf's father) once came to him for help, for he had slain Heašolaf, a man from another tribe called the Wulfings, and either couldn't pay the wergild or they refused to accept it. Hrošgar married Wealhžeow who likely belonged to the Wulfing tribe, and was able to use his kinship ties to persuade the Wulfings to accept the wergild and end the feud. Hrošgar sees Beowulf's offer as a son's gratitude for what Hrošgar had done for Beowulf's father.

What do you all think of this idea and practice? I ask because although many of us profess a great deal of admiration for the ways of our ancestors, but at the same time many of us express support for a lex talionis type of punishment for murderers and rapists. I am in this camp myself. I do the best I can to live a life befitting of my ancestors' faith, but the very idea of putting a cash value on the lives of my family members strikes me as abhorrent. I cannot imagine settling the murder of my wife for an exchange of mere money.

Patrioten
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 02:38 AM
I am undoubtedly influenced by my Christian heritage, of which Mosaic law is an important component. Cash settlements in murder trials is something I do not understand the meaning of. In part because the cash figure is used as a substitute for a real punishment, i.e lengthier prison time, in part also because the criminal never has the cash to pay for it. It is in reality a symbolic sum which does the victim no good, the victim's family no good while the criminal loses nothing for he owns nothing. If money is payed to the victim, it is payed for by tax money in the form of a victim fund.

Murder as is understood in the text you submitted, would have been a matter between members of wealthy families and not that of thralls or serfs. People who could pay restitution to the victim's family in a form which would greatly benefit them (livestock or money with which to buy more land). They must also have had a different understanding of what justice is, a concept which I could never adopt for myself, I am stuck with my Mosaic Christian concept of justice, and I feel comfortable with it.

Soten
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 02:40 AM
I agree that settling the murder of a family member with a sum of money may seem disrespectful to the murdered person. I couldn't imagine having to try to literally put a price on the life of any of my family members. However, I am sure the system had some very practical reasons for it.

I would say that we have to remember these were probably small tribes and not the large societies of today. This system wouldn't make much sense in today's world. The tribe or clan would not want itself torn apart by constant blood-feuds between families. This would only lead to the entire tribe dissolving. By creating a custom (and I'm sure this custom took a while to develop) where everyone would accept wergeld payment instead of murdering the murderer or murderer's family the tribe could contain much of the ill-will of one part of the clan towards another. At first it might seem that if your father is killed by one of the other men in the tribe you should dole out the same punishment. However, in the long run this would only serve to weaken the tribe or clan and therefore it would have the effect of destroying all and not only the murderer or the families involved.

Murder certainly wasn't taken lightly but the Germanic tribes had enough common sense to know not to let these unfortunate events get out of hand so much as to destroy the entire tribe.

Thrymheim
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 03:13 AM
I don't mind the idea, if the price is high enough that the only effective way of paying it is to enter the service of the victims family or clan

Maelstrom
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 03:53 AM
I would say that we have to remember these were probably small tribes and not the large societies of today. This system wouldn't make much sense in today's world. The tribe or clan would not want itself torn apart by constant blood-feuds between families. This would only lead to the entire tribe dissolving. By creating a custom (and I'm sure this custom took a while to develop) where everyone would accept wergeld payment instead of murdering the murderer or murderer's family the tribe could contain much of the ill-will of one part of the clan towards another. At first it might seem that if your father is killed by one of the other men in the tribe you should dole out the same punishment. However, in the long run this would only serve to weaken the tribe or clan and therefore it would have the effect of destroying all and not only the murderer or the families involved.

Murder certainly wasn't taken lightly but the Germanic tribes had enough common sense to know not to let these unfortunate events get out of hand so much as to destroy the entire tribe.

I agree with this. A redistribution of wealth within the tribe does not diminish the tribes power, obviously a murder does. In that sense it's extremely practical that the murderer is in turn not murdered himself.

After a murder in a tribe/clan I believe one of three things would happen after the Wergild is paid:

1) The person loses much face within the tribe, is shunned by everyone and would rather be dead than living such a life.

2) The person that committed the murder did so for the overall good of the tribe and his status is increased, or at least not diminished. The Wergild would still have to be paid as a sign or respect and with upholding the laws of the tribe.

3) The deceased was a serf or of such lower prestige than the murderer that the gold is not a problem to pay. If the deceased was plotting against his superior his family and friends would most likely be evited from their land too, since blood fueds would exist.

SwordOfTheVistula
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 08:59 PM
It's still in use to some degree in the US in the form of 'wrongful death' lawsuits in which the damages are to the family based on an estimation of the future lifetime earnings of the individual.

It's not really workable in modern times, since most murderers aside from disputes within families are career criminals with no money or source of income.

Also in ancient societies, they couldn't afford to lose skilled fighters, we don't have this issue today.


I don't mind the idea, if the price is high enough that the only effective way of paying it is to enter the service of the victims family or clan

I thought about this, but most murderers are socially dysfunctional with little or no useful skills, and most people are unprepared and have no use for an unruly unskilled laborer. The ancestors of most murderers in the US were slaves 150 years ago, and getting even the most menial work from them was a chore.

Sigurd
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 10:48 PM
First of all - whoever first used the word "restitution" for this? Restitution is a remedy that property or the value thereof be physically given back, and last time I looked, persons - whether living or dead - were incapable of being owned or possessed, unless there was some preparation of the carcass involved. One would reward damages in that type of causa. ;)

It is an interesting idea that I devoted much thought to and I must say it is not too bad an idea per se. Most of the times, especially in harsh circumstances, a murdered person would not only have meant nervous distress for the family/clan involved, but also financial stress because there was one less to work the farms, or because the main bread winner was suddenly no longer amongst the living.

As such, it would be a good idea that a payment is made to the family of the victim - maybe in addition to serving a sentence? Often enough a person will see all the satisfaction at seeing the murderer of their wife/husband/child locked away for life, but in the long run they suffer again because on a single income they might often be unable to afford the previous matrimonial home, etc. etc. etc. - for most of the times, in those cases where a lump sum to be paid for murder, the deceased did not have much to inherit.

The only trouble with mixing a sentence and a payment to the family is the actual management of litigation: Whilst sentencing is a matter of the criminal courts and their jurisdiction on monetary sums extends only to fines - which are payable to the state, it is only in civil courts that damages can be awarded. And to see murder or any other "capital crime" tried in a civil court is something that shall only happen over my corpse ... call me conservative. ;)

The problem with Wergild however might be, as Patrioten pointed out correctly that in this day and age most criminals tend not to have the money to pay, in which case it would fall back on the taxpayer - and surely it is not my responsibility to pay any cent towards the ill deeds of my neighbour. If I still wish to help the suffering family for their loss as an uninvolved third party, that is my choice, but I shouldn't have to.

I do wonder whether it might work in conjunction with the old practice of outlawing - where anyone could legally kill a criminal that was outlawed without having to fear punishment. A bit martial, but in the end it is sort of fair since the murderer would only live as long as they could protect their guts. :P

Finally, the other huge problem with Wergild in this day and age is again a procedural one. Following the maxim of volenti non fit iniuria, you might have a bit of an issue brewing in cases where we aren't actually talking about murder, but instead manslaughter/culpable homicide by virtue of negligent behaviour.



I thought about this, but most murderers are socially dysfunctional with little or no useful skills, and most people are unprepared and have no use for an unruly unskilled laborer.

Chances are actually, that as far as somewhat "capital crimes" such as murder, rape or paedophilia are concerned, that murderers can be the least "socially dysfunctional" of the three. ;)

Psychonaut
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 11:21 PM
It seems quite apparent that the wergild system did function well within the contexts of the societies it existed in. My question, however, is less pointed in the direction of the wergild's functionality than it is it's ethicality in relation to our current valuations of human life. It would of course be right and proper to monetarily compensate a widow, but the meaning of the wergild was more than that. It was not representative of the money a person would've brought to the home in the future, rather it was their value in gold. I'm wondering if any of you see anything wrong with the idea of saying that a family member's life can be equated to a sum of money. If that is the case, then the payment of the wergild would absolve the murderer of any further guilt. If a member of your family were murdered and you were payed a million dollar wergild, no doubt, you would want for little in material things, but how could you stand the fact that the murderer would be walking free? Something just seems inherently wrong about letting a murderer buy his way out of it.

BeornWulfWer
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 11:28 PM
"...but the very idea of putting a cash value on the lives of my family members strikes me as abhorrent. I cannot imagine settling the murder of my wife for an exchange of mere money..."

I shouldn't say this as I do abhor reprisals and revenge in cold blood, but why not accept the weregild and then kill the man who killed your loved one, and use the money to pay off the debt? ;)

Psychonaut
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 11:32 PM
I shouldn't say this as I do abhor reprisals and revenge in cold blood, but why not accept the weregild and then kill the man who killed your loved one, and use the money to pay off the debt? ;)

So, you would consider the matter settled after the payment? Would you be fine, seeing a murderer wealthy enough to pay the wergild just go back to living his life after committing the crime?

BeornWulfWer
Wednesday, October 1st, 2008, 11:38 PM
So, you would consider the matter settled after the payment? Would you be fine, seeing a murderer wealthy enough to pay the wergild just go back to living his life after committing the crime?

If I never had to meet the man who took away my loved one, I would get on with my life. Life is a c**t at times. I have come to terms with that, but, If I had to meet the man to receive the weregild, I would accept it graciously and perhaps inquire as to how my loved one was when they died by his hand.

I don't think I have to go into detail about what I would do next. :)

Ulf
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 12:12 AM
I think that weregild would produce many framings. People would go through a whole lot of trouble for money. If they could frame a wealthy man they'd stand to gain.

Obviously it wouldn't always work, but I think it mirrors the moral decadence the majority of society has today. The ancients had more honor.

ĘinvargR
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 02:03 AM
I believe in most cases, a murder wasn't only "corrected" by a weregild; the murderer would at least have been banned too and sometimes also outlawed, i.e. free to kill without consequences, unless there was a good cause for the murder. You'd have the law on your side, but you'd have to do the dirty work yourself.

I'm very much aware of this difference between the ancient society and the modern one. With Christianity came physical abuse (chopping off body parts, drowning slowly) as punishment for crimes — before, there weren't even any punishments. Crimes were made up for. There's an important difference between a punishment for a crime that does no good but pleases sadistic victims (chopping off ears) on one hand, and a compensation (paying fines and weregilds) and safety measures (bans, outlawings) on the other. Nowadays we put people in jail for a few months for some crimes. Not for our own protection, but because they have been naughty and deserve to be tortured by boredom for a while...

Loss of freedom was tremendous to the ancients. There are examples of by Romans captured Germanics who commited suicide rather than lived in captivity. That's another reason to ban rather than lock up. And locked up people are eventually released amongst us, again making as big a threat as they did before incarnation (and until then we must pay for their food and warmth).

The way our societies are today it may be hard to ban people, except for foreigners who can be deported. But you could make the cities gated communities, to which all law abiding citizens have access, but as soon as you commit a serious crime, you are banned from all gated cities; maybe some cities wouldn't be gated, or maybe the criminals living in no man's land would create new cities for themselves.

I would rather have financial compensation and the permission to kill the murderer than the murderer locked up for a while.

Patrioten
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 02:23 AM
I would rather have financial compensation and the permission to kill the murderer than the murderer locked up for a while.

The way our societies are today it may be hard to ban people, except for foreigners who can be deported. But you could make the cities gated communities, to which all law abiding citizens have access, but as soon as you commit a serious crime, you are banned from all gated cities; maybe some cities wouldn't be gated, or maybe the criminals living in no man's land would create new cities for themselves.Why would we want to transform our socities in order to "punish" a minority of criminals? Turn cities into gated communities? Can you imagine Stockholm as a gated community? Or some other medium sized city, or even a village? The costs for upholding such a system would be immense. And all this for what purpose? Keeping murderers out of big cities? Do you suppose they will simply live a wandering life out in the woods and not seek out civilization wherever they can find it, in small villages, remote houses? Noone is safe if you allow murderers out onto the streets. Once they have committed their heinous crime, they need to be removed from society, permanently.

When Swedish law was guided by the bible we had death as a punishment for murder and other serious crimes. We do not have to choose between ancient law or modern law, we can go back to traditional law, the law of civilization, the law of the Bible.

Psychonaut
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 03:44 AM
I believe in most cases, a murder wasn't only "corrected" by a weregild; the murderer would at least have been banned too and sometimes also outlawed, i.e. free to kill without consequences, unless there was a good cause for the murder.

Well, here are what two ancient sources have to say regarding murder:




Title XLI Concerning the Murder of Freemen

1. If any one shall have killed a free Frank, or a barbarian living under the Salic law, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 8000 denars.

2. But if he shall have thrown him into a well or into the water, or shall have covered him with branches or anything else, to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.

3. But if any one has slain a man who is in the service of the king, he shall be sentenced to 24000 denars, which make 600 shillings.

4. But if he have put him in the water or in a well, and covered him with anything to conceal him, he shall be sentenced to 72000 denars, which make 1800 shillings.

5. If any one have slain a Roman who eats in the king's palace, and it have been proved on him, he shall be sentenced to 12000 denars, which make 300 shillings.

6. But if the Roman shall not have been a landed proprietor and table companion of the king, he who killed him shall be sentenced to 4000 denars, which make 100 shillings.

Title LVII. Conceming the "Chrenecruda "

1. If any one have killed a man, and, having given up all his property, has not enough to comply with the full terms of the law, he shall present 12 sworn witnesses to the effect that, neither above the earth nor under it, has he any more property than he has already given, And he shall afterwards go into his house, and shall collect in his hand dust from the four corners of it, and shall afterwards stand upon the threshold, looking inwards into the house. And then, with his left hand, he shall throw over his shoulder some of that dust on the nearest relative that he has. But if his father and (his father's) brothers have already paid, he shall then throw that dust on their (the brothers') children-that is, over three (relatives) who are nearest on the fathcr's and three on the mother's side. And after that, in his shirt, without girdle and without shoes, a staff in his hand, he shall spring over the hedge. And then those three shall pay half of what is lacking of the compounding money or the legal fine; that is, those others who are descended in the paternal line shall do this.

2. But if there be one of those relatives who has not enough to pay his whole indebtedness, he, the poorer one, shall in turn throw the "chrenecruda" on him of them who has the most, so that he shall pay the whole fine.

3. But if he also have not enough to pay the whole, then he who has charge of the murderer shall bring him before the "Thing," and afterwards to 4 Things, in order that they (his friends) may take him under their protection. And if no one have taken him under his protection-that is, so as to redeem him for what he can not pay-then he shall have to atone with his life.

Title LXII. Concerning Wergeld

1 . If any one's father have been killed, the sons shall have half the compounding money (wergeld); and the other half the nearest relatives, as well on the mother's as on the father's side, shall divide among themselves.

2. But if there are no relatives, paternal or maternal, that portion shall go to the fisc.






Book VI, Title V, Section XII

Where a freeborn person has been convicted of having killed anyone by treachery, and for the purpose of robbery, while the latter was either on a journey or at home, he shall be at once punished for homicide; and as anyone who by counsel, or by order, instigates another to commit murder, is to be regarded as more infamous than he who perpetrated the deed, it is hereby especially provided that, except in the case of slaves, as hereinbefore set forth, if either a master or a mistress should order a freeborn person, of either sex, to be killed by a slave, and, after a severe, public investigation by torture, confession of the crime is made by said slaves, implicating their master or mistress, their testimony concerning the latter shall not be received, unless they are able to confirm it by the evidence of reputable witnesses. The master who is thus accused, must, at once, in the presence of the court, purge himself of all guilt by oath. Those who confess that they committed the homicide, shall either be punished for the crime, or shall be surrendered to the parents or the relatives of him who was killed, that they may do with them whatever they desire. Where the master is unable to make oath, as aforesaid, the male or female servant who has perpetrated such an infamous act, shall receive two hundred lashes, and shall be scalped as a mark of infamy. The master, by whose order such wickedness has been committed, shall suffer the punishment of death.

If several freeborn persons, by common agreement, should plan the perpetration of a homicide, he who struck the blow, or actually committed the deed, shall be put to death. The others, however, who are convicted of having plotted the crime, although they did not take an active part in its perpetration, shall nevertheless, on account of their wicked counsel, each receive two hundred lashes in public, and undergo the ignominy of being scalped. And, in addition, each shall be compelled to pay fifty solidi to the nearest relatives of the deceased, and should any of them not be possessed of such a sum, he shall be delivered over to them to be their slave forever.


Judging from these examples it appears that, at least on the Continental side, wergild and execution were practiced by disparate groups. The law code of the Salian Franks does not appear to have provisions other than payment of wergild for murder, whereas the Visigothic Code only provides wergild in cases of non-murderous homicides and punishes murder with the lex talionis. I've not seen any references to banishment or outlawry in the Continental Germanic penal codes, so I can only infer that it was a Scandinavian idiosyncrasy. I've been trying to find examples from Anglo-Saxon texts, but haven't come up with anything yet.

SwordOfTheVistula
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 04:59 AM
The only trouble with mixing a sentence and a payment to the family is the actual management of litigation: Whilst sentencing is a matter of the criminal courts and their jurisdiction on monetary sums extends only to fines - which are payable to the state, it is only in civil courts that damages can be awarded. And to see murder or any other "capital crime" tried in a civil court is something that shall only happen over my corpse ... call me conservative. ;)

In the US, we have both, but in seperate court procedures. There is a criminal trial, and then a lawsuit for wrongful death. It is possible to be not convicted in the criminal trial for murder and then forced to pay out for wrongful death or denied an inheritance, the most famous example being OJ Simpson who was acquitted of murder but in the civil trial found responsible for the wrongful death of his wife and forced to pay her family.

A lot of the posts seem to be inspired by the thought of one's wife being killed, in ancient times I believe those killed were nearly always male, and often killed in fits of rage or contests of 'honor', which was considered socially acceptable at the time. In modern times, killing someone for making a 'yo mamma' type insult is no longer socially acceptable or common practice except for those at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

I can see why they did it in the dark ages, now it just simply won't work. If I had to guess, I would say the most homicides are, in this order:

1. Street criminals killing eachother over money/territory/perceived insults. No need for the state to referee here, and few of these people have recorded assets or income.

2. In the process of robberies and rapes. Most of these people don't have any assets or income.

3. Inter-family disputes. Maybe a payment from the killer to the victim's family in the case of marital killings.

Vingolf
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 10:44 AM
Can you imagine Stockholm as a gated community? Or some other medium sized city, or even a village? The costs for upholding such a system would be immense. And all this for what purpose? Keeping murderers out of big cities?
This is already a matter of fact: the militarization of public space, extreme security measures, security guards everywhere, endemic high-tech surveillance etc.

As for Wergeld (*man-money*, literally), this system of compensatory payments was developed to avoid blood feuds and infighting. Wergeld was not as primitive as it sounds; our modern personal-injury insurance policies are based on exactly the same idea.

ĘinvargR
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 03:42 PM
Noone is safe if you allow murderers out onto the streets. Once they have committed their heinous crime, they need to be removed from society, permanently.
Murderers ought to be outlawed like among the ancients so that they can be killed by anyone without consequences, or simply put to sleep by the state.

You are right about the costs — this wasn't necessary back then, as "everyone knew everyone" like in many villages of today, and all the people of a greater area would gather at the thing and everyone would know who was banned or outlawed. So a man wouldn't be able to show up on a place where he was banned. This isn't possible in today's society. Locking people up is however only a temporary "solution", unless they're locked up for the rest of their lives, and then it would be better to just have them executed/outlawed.

Maybe the best and most Germanic solution would be economical compensation for occasional, non-lethal crimes, outlawry/death for serious, repeated crimes.


the Visigothic Code only provides wergild in cases of non-murderous homicides and punishes murder with the lex talionis. I've not seen any references to banishment or outlawry in the Continental Germanic penal codes, so I can only infer that it was a Scandinavian idiosyncrasy.
Maybe these laws are affected by Romans/Christianity. I don't know how old they are, but the younger the liklier. Especially regarding the laws of the visigoths considering their whereabouts. Lex talionis (physical and non-lethal) is utterly ungermanic.

Ulf
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 04:18 PM
Maybe a form of facial branding and outlawry would be useful. It would be hard to hide a mark of shame on the face, and if a person were inclined they could kill the murdering outlaw if they felt it necessary. Otherwise, people would know the outlaw to be someone to stay away from.

Psychonaut
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 05:26 PM
Maybe these laws are affected by Romans/Christianity. I don't know how old they are, but the younger the liklier. Especially regarding the laws of the visigoths considering their whereabouts. Lex talionis (physical and non-lethal) is utterly ungermanic.

You are probably correct here, I found a reference to wergild in Tacituc's Germania:


It is a duty among them to adopt the feuds as well as the friendships of a father or a kinsman. These feuds are not implacable; even homicide is expiated by the payment of a certain number of cattle and of sheep, and the satisfaction is accepted by the entire family, greatly to the advantage of the state, since feuds are dangerous in proportion to the people's freedom.

While the lex talionis may be inherently un-Germanic, I feel that this is one area where our people were positively influenced by the Romans. Even if a murderer or rapist is wealthy enough to pay the wergild, I don't think he has any business living among those he wronged. At the very least, such a man should be banished, but as this is all but impossible nowadays, I think execution to be infinitely superior.

ĘinvargR
Thursday, October 2nd, 2008, 10:43 PM
Even if a murderer or rapist is wealthy enough to pay the wergild, I don't think he has any business living among those he wronged. At the very least, such a man should be banished, but as this is all but impossible nowadays, I think execution to be infinitely superior.
Yes and execution and bans are fully Germanic measures. I meant torture and physical abuse etc are not.

SwordOfTheVistula
Tuesday, October 7th, 2008, 06:45 AM
I wouldn't say executions, torture, etc are un-Germanic or entirely from Roman or other non-Germanic sources. It appears to have come into vogue in Germanic societies starting in the early middle ages, I would theorize that life came to be 'cheapened' at this point due to improvements in agriculture and centralization of power around feudal lords and religious authorities. A tribe or clan in the dark ages or before couldn't afford to lose a valuable warrior, however a feudal lord could afford to lose peasant #376. Also, with power being more centralized in the hands of a few versus a large peasant class, a higher degree of terror was necessary to maintain control over the populace.

Psychonaut
Tuesday, October 7th, 2008, 06:59 AM
I would theorize that life came to be 'cheapened' at this point due to improvements in agriculture and centralization of power around feudal lords and religious authorities. A tribe or clan in the dark ages or before couldn't afford to lose a valuable warrior, however a feudal lord could afford to lose peasant #376.

There is something that troubles me about this line of thought. In a small tribal setting, while the strength of the tribe would depend more on each person than in a larger society, the same small size would have made the actions of a murderer or rapist that much more personal and vile, which makes it seem that much stranger to me that these crimes could be 'atoned' for by the exchange of currency. After all, a murderer that is freed in the midst of a city is much less of a problem to the victim's family than one who is released into the confines of a small, close-knit town. In the latter's case it seems to me like the natural inclination of the tribe would be to, at the very least, expel anyone who was willing to take the lives of his kinsmen.

Jäger
Tuesday, October 7th, 2008, 07:50 AM
ash settlements in murder trials is something I do not understand the meaning of. In part because the cash figure is used as a substitute for a real punishment, i.e lengthier prison time, in part also because the criminal never has the cash to pay for it. It is in reality a symbolic sum which does the victim no good, the victim's family no good while the criminal loses nothing for he owns nothing.


It's not really workable in modern times, since most murderers aside from disputes within families are career criminals with no money or source of income.
Wergeld does not exclude other forms of punishment or revenge, in such cases the criminal simply has to be killed.
Wergeld is a chance for the murderer to avoid revenge, if he is rich enough this mostly means he is worthy enough to be kept alive anyways (in a financial healthy society were money is not debt that is), and thus Wergeld is very practical.
Furthermore, as the family of the victim, you can simply decline Wergeld, and simply take your revenge if you want to.


By creating a custom (and I'm sure this custom took a while to develop) where everyone would accept wergeld payment instead of murdering the murderer or murderer's family the tribe could contain much of the ill-will of one part of the clan towards another.
There never was such a "custom" to always accept Wergeld.
This is already projecting Roman universal law on Germanic custom law which is a pardox, something most seem to do here.


Also in ancient societies, they couldn't afford to lose skilled fighters, we don't have this issue today.
We don't?


I'm wondering if any of you see anything wrong with the idea of saying that a family member's life can be equated to a sum of money.
Certainly, if it is for the well being of the family it was a sacrifice to the good of the family, nothing else than all those men who risk their lifes to provide for their families or protect their tribe. This is a question of an individual or collective point of view. As it seems, the collective must have been more important for Germanics, rightly so, I may add.


If a member of your family were murdered and you were payed a million dollar wergild, no doubt, you would want for little in material things, but how could you stand the fact that the murderer would be walking free? Something just seems inherently wrong about letting a murderer buy his way out of it.
If you feel it wrong, simply don't take the money. Excercise your justice.

ĘinvargR
Tuesday, October 7th, 2008, 11:52 AM
It appears to have come into vogue in Germanic societies starting in the early middle ages
= at the time of conversion.


Also, with power being more centralized in the hands of a few versus a large peasant class, a higher degree of terror was necessary to maintain control over the populace.
= Christian culture.

Christianity was on many counts formed to be used to subdue people and raise kings high above them.

wittwer
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 01:01 AM
Wergeld? The practice still exists in a modified form in Anglo-American Tort Law. This is where the "Harm" that one suffers (the plaintiff) can receive compensation for that "Harm" from the one who caused the "Harm" (the defendant). As to how this compensation (monetary payment) is derived, is an extremely complicated issue as well as the requirements of proving causation, and would require much much more time than I have to try to explain it.