Vengeance in Medieval Europe: A Reader

Vengeance in Medieval Europe: A Reader

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Edited by Daniel Lord Smail and Kelly Gibson
Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2009
World Rights
496 Pages
ISBN 9781442601260
Published Jun 2009
Online discount: 15%
 $46.95    $39.91
ISBN 9781442601345
Published Jun 2009
Online discount: 25%
 $104.00    $78.00

How did medieval society deal with private justice, with grudges, and with violent emotions? This ground-breaking reader collects for the first time a number of unpublished or difficult-to-find texts that address violence and emotion in the Middle Ages.

The sources collected here illustrate the power and reach of the language of vengeance in medieval European society. They span the early, high, and later middle ages, and capture a range of perspectives including legal sources, learned commentaries, narratives, and documents of practice. Though social elites necessarily figure prominently in all medieval sources, sources concerning relatively low-status individuals and sources pertaining to women are included. The sources range from saints' lives that illustrate the idea of vengeance to later medieval court records concerning vengeful practices. A secondary goal of the collection is to illustrate the prominence of mechanisms for peacemaking in medieval European society.

The introduction traces recent scholarly developments in the study of vengeance and discusses the significance of these concepts for medieval political and social history.

Daniel Lord Smail is Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the co-editor with Thelma Fenster of Fama: The Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval Europe (Cornell University Press, 2003), The Consumption of Justice: Emotions, Publicity, and Legal Culture in Marseille, 1264-1423 (Cornell University Press, 2003), and Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille (Cornell University Press, 1999).
Kelly Gibson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University.


Part I. Prologue: Sources for the Medieval Language of Vengeance

Chapter One: The Old Testament

1. The Pollution of Kin-Slaying
2. The Law of the Talion
3. Vengeance and Emotion
4. The Principle of Sanctuary
5. The Levite's Concubine
6. Humiliation and the Lord's Vengeance
7. Restraining the Vengeful Emotions
8. The Vengeance of the Maccabees

Chapter Two: The New Testament

9. Peacemaking and the Ties of Kinship
10. Humility as Vengeance?

Chapter Three: Roman Laws

11. Criminal Justice and Vengeance in the Theodosian Code and Sirmondian Constitutions
12. Criminal Justice and Vengeance in Justinian's Digest

Part II. The Early Middle Ages (500-1000)

Chapter Four: Codes, Capitularies, and Penitentials

13. The Laws of the Salian Franks
14. The Lombard Laws
15. Carolingian Capitularies
16. Early Medieval English Law
17. Emotion and Sin

Chapter Five: Sermons, Exegesis, and Letters

18. Augustine on the Legitimacy of Fighting Back
19. Augustine on the Need to Await God's Vengeance
20. Jerome on Kindness and Cruelty
21. Law and the "Accursed Custom" of Vengeance in Theoderic's Italy
22. Isidore of Seville on the Law of the Talion
23. Pope Honorius Speaks of Justice as Vengeance
24. Smaragdus of St. Mihiel on Restraining Royal Anger
25. Hrabanus Maurus's Homily on Avoiding Anger and Homicide
26. Einhard on the Fear of Family Vengeance
27. Charles the Bald to Pope Nicholas on Vengeance without Violence
28. Vengeance for the "Hard Man"

Chapter Six: Saints' Lives, Chronicles, and Epics

29. Jordanes on Vengeance and the Vandal Wars of Conquest
30. Gregory of Tours on Feuding and Vengeance
31. Gregory of Tours on God's Vengeance
32. Vengeance As the Devil's Work in the Life of Saint Sadalberga
33. Saint Amandus Rescues a Man from Judicial Vengeance
34. Saint Willibrord Forgoes Vengeance and Anger
35. History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon
36. Einhard on the Peace Inspired by the Relics of Saints Marcellinus and Peter 
37. Saint Gerald of Aurillac Seeks Peace with His Enemies
38. Liutprand of Cremona's Tit-For-Tat
39. Heroic Vengeance

Chapter Seven: Formularies, Charters, and Judgments

40. Security for Peace after a Murder
41. An Orderly Merovingian Judgment
42. Lombard Notice of Judgment at Pavia

Part III. The High Middle Ages (1000-1250)

Chapter Eight: The Effort to Regulate Violence and Emotion

43. The Peace of God in Charroux
44. Penance for Homicide in the Decretum of Burchard of Worms
45. The Laws of the Family of St. Peter
46. The Penitential of Burchard of Worms
47. Truce of God in Arles
48. A Comital Peace Assembly of Barcelona
49. The Truce of God in Cologne
50. Peace of the Land in Mainz
51. The Laws of Henry I of England
52. The Usatges of Barcelona
53. Rules for Trial by Combat in Brescia
54. The Penitential of Alain of Lille
55. The Penitential of Robert of Flamborough
56. General Constitution Concerning Judgments and Keeping the Peace

Chapter Nine: Sermons and Learned Commentary on Anger and Vengeance

57. Aelfric's Sermon on Anger and Peace
58. Wulfstan's "Sermon of the Wolf" on the Evils of His Day
59. Peter Damian on Restraining Anger
60. A Letter by Peter Damian on the Vengeance of Spiritual Leaders
61. William of Malmesbury on the Consequences of Resisting Peace
62. Pope Urban II Urges Vengeance on the Enemies of Christendom in Robert the Monk's History of Jerusalem
63. An Account of the Speech of Pope Urban II by Fulcher of Chartres
64. A Sermon by Saint Francis on Hatred and Peace
65. The Wolf of Gubbio
66. Albertanus of Brescia on the Cost of Pursing Private War
67. Thomas Aquinas on Homicide, Vengeance, and Anger

Chapter Ten: Saints' Lives, Chronicles, and Epics

68. Rodulphus Glaber on the Truce of God
69. How the Emperor Conrad Pacified His Realm, According to Wipo
70. Adam of Bremen on the Attacks of Bishop Adalbert's Enemies
71. The Cattle-Raid of Cooley
72. Feud between Bishop Gaudry and Baron Gérard in the Autobiography of Guibert of Nogent
73. The Murder of Charles the Good by Galbert of Bruges
74. Peter Abelard's "Story of My Adversities"
75. The Deeds of Louis the Fat by Suger of St. Denis
76. The Vengeance of Kings in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain
77. The Bloodfeud of Meingold and Albric
78. Hariulf on the Sweet Words of Arnulf of Soissons
79. Chronicle of the Slavs by Helmold of Bosau
80. Emotions among the Military Aristocracy in Raoul of Cambrai
81. The Hatred of Kriemhild and Brunhild in The Nibelungenlied
82. Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach
83. Harald's Norway and the Flight to Iceland in the Laxdaela Saga
84. The Story of a Feud in Njal's Saga

Chapter Eleven: Peace Charters and Oaths

85. Peace Oath Proposed by Bishop Warin of Beauvais to King Robert the Pious 
86. Henry II Settles a Feud on Monastic Land
87. Attempted Settlement by Combat
88. Grant to the Norman Bishops of Fines Due from Breaches of the Truce of God 
89. A Catalan Peace Settlement
90. A Forged Immunity of King Dagobert III
91. A Peace Treaty from Avignon

Part IV. The Later Middle Ages (1250-1500)

Chapter Twelve: Municipal, Territorial, and Royal Laws Concerning Vengeance and Murder

92. Homicide in the Laws and Customs of England
93. From the Sachsenspiegel
94. Guarantees of Peace in the Customs of Touraine and Anjou
95. The Law of Homicide in the Fuero Real
96. Procedures for Private War in the Customs of Beauvaisis
97. The Statute of Homicide of Marseille, France
98. From the Statutes of Acqui, Italy
99. From the Statutes of Apricale, Italy
100. From the Statutes of Saone, Italy
101. From the Statutes of Cuneo, Italy
102. From the Statutes of Celle, Italy
103. The Perpetual Peace of the Land Proclaimed by Maximilian I

Chapter Thirteen: Ecclesiastical and Secular Commentary on Peace and the Restraint of Emotions

104. The Nature of Wrath According to a Preacher's Manual
105. A Sermon on Peace by Vincent Ferrer
106. Laudable Anger in Leonardo Bruni's Handbook of Moral Philosophy
107. Sermon on the Importance of Peace by Bernardino of Siena

Chapter Fourteen: Saints' Lives, Chronicles, and Epics

108. A vision of peacemaking in the Miracles of Saint Rose of Viterbo
109. Ambrose Sansedonius's Preaching of Peace Arouses Enmity
110. The Vengeful Miracles of Saint Bridget of Sweden
111. Saint Catherine of Siena as Peacemaker
112. Vengeance and Peace in the Life of Cola di Rienzo
113. Dino Compagni on the Florentine Factions
114. Trial by Combat in Froissart's Chronicles
115. The Vengeance of Our Lord
116. A Miracle of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Chapter Fifteen: Court Cases and Notarial Peace Acts

117. The Peace Registers of the City of Tournai
118. Tura Ranerii, of Florence, Creates a Procurator
119. Cases of Homicide in the Calendar of Coroner's Rolls, London
120. Notarized Peace Acts and Related Acts from Marseille
121. A Lawsuit by Nicolau Guilhem, a Cutler of Marseille
122. A Lawsuit against Lois Orlet of Marseille
123. A Lawsuit by Anhellon Faber, a Butcher of Marseille
124. An Inquest into the Murder of Bernart Berengier in Marseille
125. The Marseille City Council Makes a Ruling about Broken Sanctuary
126. Ignoring Due Process during a Feud in the Paston Letters

This rich collection explores one of the most critical and complex aspects of medieval social relations: violence and peacemaking. It goes far beyond most 'readers' to provide large extracts of basic legal and religious texts, chronicles, saints' lives and, most remarkably, extracts from manuscript archival court documents of the Later Middle Ages. It will be an inexhaustible resource for teachers, students, and researchers not just in social and legal history, but in the history of medieval religion and literature. The history of vengeance will never be the same.

Fredric L. Cheyette, Amherst College

The urge to avenge wrongs we think we have suffered is a human constant that is always tough to master. The ideas that helped the men and women of medieval Europe handle their neighbors without destroying their communities retain their relevance in a dangerous world. Vengeance is a very personal matter. Who has not had fleeting thoughts of divorcing his family or of flaying (literally) those who opposed him? To keep those thoughts inchoate, our medieval predecessors often resorted to violence but also crafted personal 'peace treaties.' Maybe we can learn from their own accounts, while we deepen understanding of their lives and culture. Smail and Gibson will delight readers struggling to penetrate medieval culture. We teachers extol to our students the joys and immediacy of primary sources. You should read your history raw, we say, forgetting how hard that is, how long it took us. Students will be thankful for the firm editorial guidance on what they need to know. Instructors will find themselves being introduced to texts they ought to have known themselves. Even the general reader can find instances of bizarre savagery and advice on life skills to shock us into reconsidering some of our modern stances. All will meet a splendidly intelligent selection of the writings that regulated tit-for-tat behavior, and which for the most part are complete and unabridged.

Paul R. Hyams, Cornell University

On the whole, this is the type of thorough and balanced sourcebook academics dream about.

Susanna Throop, The Medieval Review

The editors are to be applauded for their outstanding efforts to make so many relevant texts available. Overall, the entire period of the Middle Ages is well covered, and we can easily grasp the long tradition on vengeance going back to the Old Testament. This proves to be a very useful textbook that will allow new approaches in university seminars.