Tag Archives: Portugal

The making of judges in tenth-century Northern Iberia

In 2009 Wendy Davies, of whom I so often write here, gave the annual lecture in memory of the late Timothy Reuter in Southampton. I could not go, but it was published in 2010 and some time in early 2011, Wendy kindly gave me an offprint, and I’d already downloaded it by then, knowing that I very much needed to read it.1 Somehow, it was not till late 2014 that a combination of interest and shame found me resorting my to-read shelves in such a way as to bring it to the top, though, and then of course I found it really interesting. There’s two things in particular I thought made for blog material, and this is the former of them.

A ruined farm in Soutelo, Braga, currently for sale

A farm in Soutelo, near Braga, like the one with which Wendy’s opening case dealt

Wendy’s aim was to explore what people who went to court in northern Iberia in the ninth and tenth centuries were hoping for: a compromise arrangement that settled all parties’ feelings and healed social rifts, or definitive justice based on rules and a judgement of the true situation? As she explains, scholars of the early Middle Ages have got very used to the idea that almost all justice in them was probably more negotiated than determined, and yet the language of the documents from her area (Northern Iberia from Galicia to Aragón and Navarra) is very much of truth and justice, “veritatem et iustitiam”.2 By way of exploring what is up with this, she worked through what we can say about the people who judged these cases and who let them do so, and then what, as far as we can tell, they thought they were supposed to do. This involves pulling together a sample, of course—one of the reasons I love Wendy’s work is that she is someone who can start a section of a paper with the non-sentence, “Firstly numbers.”—and she has 250 records of disputes with 160 people named as judges (iudices), of whom only 15 or so occur more than once.3 Using that, she determines what we usually find judges doing (“… ordering what happens next, making primary investigations, reviewing evidence, and making decisions”) and then, the point I want to pick up here, notes that it is not just people named as judges who do such things in court:

“While the label iudex was attached to some of the judges… it was not applied to all. The group doing the judges, the group of iudices in the plural, might include, or indeed be entirely composed of, indiviudals who carried the label iudex, but it might also include others…. The apparent inconistencies in this usage are quite easily explained: being called a iudex was a marker of status—the label was applied to such people when, for example, they witnessed uncontested sale transactions; to do the judging you did not need to be a iudex, although you might be; in other words, the label iudex and the act of judging are separable. A iudex (in the singular) was a person of special status and skill—a kind of professional; he must usually have been literate (given the number of cases in which a scribe is termed iudex) and he is likely to have known some law. Doing the judging was something in which other leading men of a locality could participate; hence the common references to iudices in the plural, as the people doing the judging….”4

This intrigues me a great deal. As long-term readers will know there are plenty of judges in my evidence, and I am particularly grateful to one or two of them for the amount of detail they would cheerfully go into in explaining the cases they oversaw, but many of the others are complete obscurities, never seen in judgement or only once.5 These latter are trouble for some of the laudatory things that have been said about judges in early medieval Catalonia, who are famous for having been literate, educated, clerical and publicly-appointed disinterested judicial practitioners guided primarily by the written law.6 Jeffrey Bowman, among others, has exposed how carefree they could be about how to use that written law, and I’ve blogged an example here, but the idea that they were educated and publicly appointed has never really been challenged.7 Bowman’s work is especially interesting here because he sees a difference between the educated comital judges of Barcelona and the rather more homespun and independent judges of very southern France, and I have suggested that this is a distinction made over space which should actually be made over time, because plenty of the latter seem to me to exist in Catalonia too.8

London, British Library, MS Royal 6.E.vii,  f. 345 detail, showing a fourteenth-century judge

Judges are never depicted in this period and area as far as I know, and i certainly can’t find one from in-area and in-period. On the other hand, this fourteenth-century depiction from James le Palmer’s Omne Bonum does also illustrate the word iudex, of which this is the historiated initial… It’s from London, British Library, MS Royal 6.E.vii, fo. 345r.

One way to advance this is to ask who appointed judges. In Catalonia it’s almost always assumed to have been the count, but there is really no evidence of this that I know of. Judges appear with the count, receive gifts from the count, hand out judgement in courts over which he presides, and some of the more outstanding ones do this for several counts.9 It’s not even only the educated ones; Borrell II of Barcelona had a castellan called Guifré who was also a iudex, although we have no records of him actually judging, and that is at least a recognition of his title by the count.10 Still, we don’t have anyone who helpfully calls themselves iudex comitis or comitalis and the actual process of nomination is not recorded. Now, Wendy does have some answers to this question, not least because she does have royal judges, iudices regis.11 But that’s the top of the pile, and the bottom is different. The chunk I’ve quoted above goes on as follows:

“… in [a case previously discussed], the additional three judges were selected from the assembled court to probe the witness evidence. Very occasionally there are references to choosing the judges from assembled boni homines, that is ‘worthies’, although that is rare (and the texts do not specify who made the choice).”12

This is practically being made a judge for the day, isn’t it? And it’s a mile away from the idea of such persons as carefully trained and professionally active, even if those chosen would probably have had a lot of relevant knowledge. If we have such cases in Catalonia, I don’t know about them as yet. But the problem is not that we have a different pattern attested there, but that we have no pattern; we have judges with no origin, beyond the fact that we can see that some of the more educated ones were members of the Barcelona chapter.13 Given this absence of evidence, the kind of variety that Wendy attests is as plausible as anything else, and then what does that do to the idea of Catalan justice as a model of early medieval statecraft? Well, she has an answer to that too:

“What is interesting, given that the state was undeveloped, is that there was a public system, from east to west, north to south, which had recognised procedures, experts, written law, officers, scales of penalty, counts with potestas (in these contexts, legitimate capacity to hold a court). There was a strong sense of the public, although differently conceptualised from either ancient or modern notions.”14

It is that difference in conceptualisation I am still struggling with here, I think. But as so often, it is easier if one compares, and Wendy has made that much easier.


1. W. Davies, “Judges and Judging: truth and justice in northern Iberia on the eve of the millennium”, The Reuter Lecture 2009, in Journal of Medieval History Vol. 36 (Amsterdam 2010), pp. 193-203, DOI: 10.1016/j.jmedhist.2010.07.001.

2. Ibid. pp. 194-195, citing inter alia Warren C. Brown and Piotr Górecki (edd.), Conflict in Medieval Europe: changing perspectives on society and culture (Aldershot 2003) and various studies now reprinted in Stephen D. White, Feuding and Peace-Making in Eleventh-Century France, Variorum Collected Studies 817 (London 2005); the quote is from a León charter of 952 printed in Ernesto Sáez (ed.), Colección documental de la Catedral de León (775–1230), I (775–952), Fuentes y estudios de historia leonesa 41 (León 1987), doc. no. 256, which it turns out I have cited here before.

3. Davies, “Judges and Judging”, pp. 195-201, quote on p. 199.

4. Quotes ibid., pp. 201 and 200 respectively, punctuation as in the original.

5. See Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 42, 133, 139 & 152, inter alia.

6. The classic statement of this maximum case is Roger Collins, “‘Sicut lex Gothorum continet’: law and charters in ninth- and tenth-century León and Catalonia” in English Historical Review Vol. 100 (London 1985), pp. 489-512, repr. in idem, Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain, Variorum Collected Studies 356 (Aldershot 1992), V, to which add his “Literacy and the Laity in Early Medieval Spain” in Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe (Cambridge 1990), pp. 109-133, repr. in Collins, Law, Culture and Regionalism, XVI; more nuanced, but still fundamentally affirmative, is Josep María Salrach, Justícia i poder en Catalunya abans de l’any mil, Referències 55 (Vic 2013), pp. 143-178, which does very much the same job as Wendy does in “Judges and Judging” but with different starting questions.

7. Jeffrey A. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000 (Ithaca 2004), pp. 33-55.

8. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, p. 133; I go into more detail in the next book, now under work and about which I shall blog ‘ere long honest.

9. Guifré Ausonensis, despite his byname, seems to turn up first of all judging for Count-Marquis Oliba Cabreta of Cerdanya, and only to move into Borrell II of Barcelona’s territory (mainly Osona and Urgell) later in his career. I give some references for him ibid.

10. Ibid., pp. 152 & 153.

11. Davies, “Judges and Judging”, pp. 199-200.

12. Ibid. p. 201.

13. See Josep M. Font i Rius, “L’escola jurídica de Barcelona” in Jesús Alturo i Perucho, Joan Bellès, Font, Yolanda García & Anscari Mundó (edd.), Liber iudicum popularis. Ordenat pel jutge Bonsom de Barcelona, Textos jurídics catalans 23 (Barcelona 2003), pp. 67-100.

14. Davies, “Judges and Judging”, p. 202.

Viking ransoms in Galicia: you heard it here first (wrong)

Since there was interest here the last time I posted about eleventh-century Viking activity in the Iberian peninsula, this may be of interest to those people. Those with very long memories may recall what was said that last time: I was tracking down a reference in something I was editing and had gone hunting data on Viking attacks on eleventh-century Galicia and Portugal, of which there is quite a lot. I didn’t find very much of it there, but a commentator trading as Cossue gave us an awful lot more references, all gratefully received, and I had meanwhile found one single interesting one which I made part-subject of a separate post, in which a chap called Amarelo Mestaliz had had to beg support from a local noble lady to buy back his daughters after the Vikings captured them, and in which he then later disinherited them for ingratitude, more or less. It’s fun: have a look. Sadly, it is also wrong, at least in detail. How do I now know this? Well, read on.

Cover of the journal Viking and Medieval Scandinavia

That was all in late 2009 and very early 2010. In June 2012 a post appeared at News for Medievalists (as it then was) that made me sit up. It was a notice of the publication, in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia for 2011, of an article by one Helio Pires of the University of Lisbon called “Money for Freedom: Ransom Paying to Vikings in Western Iberia”.1. Obviously this had a bearing on what we’d discussed, but it was this bit that really caught my eye:

`Pires’ article examines the taking of prisoners and collecting of ransoms by Vikings on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula. He was able to uncover two documents, dating from the first half of the 11th century, where people described the payments they made to Vikings to return family members.

`In the first case, Amarelo Mestaliz writes about how in 1015 a band of “Normans” came up the Douro River, where they looted and took captives for nine months. “There they captured three daughters of mine, Amarelo, and [I] was left poor. The Normans started selling all their captives. Those daughters of Amarelo [were] called Serili, Ermesienda, Faquilo, and I did not have anything to give for them to the Normans.”‘

You have to admit, that sounds a little familiar. Perhaps because this was only a few months after someone had lifted quite a lot of the blog content and I’d had to go after them with threats of legal action, I immediately thought the worst. One of the arguments that’s occasionally raised against blogging one’s research is that people will steal it; though this was hardly my first-line research, all the same I did wonder if this had finally happened. My second, more rational, supposition, was that this was probably our commentator Cossue, in which case I felt that we’d surely deserved a reference, since I’d found the document he was using and he hadn’t. And the original title under which I saved this post as a draft was, “I’m pretty sure we’re due some credit here.”

Picture from the 2008 Viking festival at Catoira, Galicia

Of course, now, they celebrate being attacked and ransomed…

Now, in fact, closer inspection reveals that my suspicions were unfounded, and also that I was probably wrong about some details of the document I blogged. Pires’s article is only short, six pages, and it presents two documents in which Vikings ransoming captives in Galicia are described. The first of them is our one, which he takes from exactly the same source I had used, and the latter is one I’d not found in the Portugaliae Monumenta Historica, the nineteenth-century standard edition of most Portuguese medieval texts.2 Neither of these are exactly unknown, both are printed and cited, but they are cited by Hispanists not Vikings scholars so there was probably still a point in getting this little study out in English. Anyway, it certainly doesn’t borrow anything from the blog that I can detect and it adds a little something to what we were able to put together; someone working on this stuff would profit from it and our discussion both.

Viking hacksilver from the Silverdale Hoard

Less than 15 solidi‘s worth, I’d guess, but the look is maybe about right… Viking hacksilver from the Silverdale Hoard

I also profit from it, mind, as it exposes a misunderstanding. I was startled, you see, by the fact that the News for Medievalists post continues: “The document goes on about how Amarelo received help from a woman named Froila Tructesindiz, who loaned him fifteen silver solidos, which Pires believes was the ransom amount. Two years later, Amarelo repaid Froila after selling some of his goods.” I mean, firstly, Froila a woman’s name? Not in any document I’ve seen. But secondly, you’ll remember that in my reading it was not Froila that had paid Amarelo the money. So I went to the actual article, because News for Medievalists are not always the best reflectors of the state of scholarly knowledge. But Pires is here too:

“As for Amarelo Mestaliz, unable to ransom his daughters for himself, he sought the help of a Lady Lupa, with whom he had agreed several years before to sign over his properties in exchange for assistance, should he need it. Lupa, however, refused to give him the required sum, and so Amarelo turned to another woman for help, a Froila Tructesindiz, who gave him fifteen silver solidos (‘XV solidos argenzdeos’), which can safely be assumed to be the amount of the ransom. The girls were released, and two years later Amarelo sold his goods to the latter lady, a transaction recorded in writing along with the history of the Viking incursion which was its origin.”

This is not how I read it, as you may remember. I saw Amarelo as going to Dona Loba and offering to sell her his land and she refusing to take it and getting Froila to advance him the cash, on the understanding that he would pay her (Loba) back when he could. Now, I excuse myself that the text, which is coming to us via a seventeenth-century cartulary copy of a lost original with all the transcription difficulties that likely entailed for the copyist, is difficult. I mean, make sense of it yourself if you can:

…  quanta est mea tiui eu Amarelo illa integra pagata… per annis plures in de illa domna Lupa prolis Aloiti et Guncine pro non uindere nec donare nisi ad illa et illa mici, rouorauit placitum que sic uenere mici aligo uno male in ipsa ereditate aut de alia causa ajutasse me et sacasse me inde sano stantes firmiter de amborum parte in ista actio et in nostra robore per currigula annis.”

Now, OK, here we do seem to have the reference to the pledge made by Loba that she would help Amarelo if, “coming some evil upon me in that inheritance or from any other cause”, as long as he promised to sell it only to her. I hadn’t caught that. All the same, when Loba next appears, it is hard to be sure that it’s as Pires describes:

“… non aueua que dare pro eas a Leodemanes, pro it producto fuit in Argentini ante illa domna Lupa pro uindere ad illa mea ereditate sicut aueua scritura roborata et prendere ibi que misesse ea a Lotmanes pro ipsas meas filias, et illa non quisit, et mos misericordia abuit super me et prosolbiui me per scriptura pro dare illa ubi potuisse, pro tale actio aueruaui com Froila Tructesindiz que li dedise ea per carta et dedi mici que misi pro filias meas, et sacaui eas de captiuitate.”

I will translate this again, as far as I can, without looking at my last attempt:

… I did not have what I should have given for them [the daughters] to the Leodemen, wherefore this was brought up in Argentino before that lady Loba, for [me] to sell to her my inheritance just as I had confirmed in the charter and to acquire there what might be thus sent to the Leodemen for my selfsame daughters, and she did not require this, and she had the custom of mercy upon me and enjoined me by charter to give it where I could, by which reason I agreed with Froila Tructesindiz that I gave it to him by charter and s/he gave to me what I sent for my daughters, and I redeemed them from captivity.

I have to admit that the second time, I come out with Pires’s version, but it’s desperately ambiguous, because word order is more important than inflection in this text and that makes the agents quite unclear. Who actually gives Amarelo the money for the ransom, Loba or Froila? If the former, why is Froila involved? If the latter, what’s Froila’s connection to all this? It might all make sense, and be as Pires suggests, if what’s going on here is that Loba said that in the circumstances Amarelo could sell his land wherever he wanted, and he then did so to Froila and Froila paid him the ransom. That would in turn then make a bit more sense of the subsequent part of the document, where Amarelo disposes of his property to whomever lent him the money—the actual recipient of the property is not named formally, we just have this garbled story—to pay him (or her) back and also in exchange for a pension. Before this happens an assembly goes through his documents, and, “do uobis illa pro dimisione qui mici feci illa domna Lupa”, ‘I give it to you by the demittance that that lady Loba made to me’, could indeed be that he is seeking to establish his freedom from the original pledge, so that he can in fact dispose of the land to Loba. But I can’t help feeling that it would fit equally well if Froila was Lopa’s heir and had now inherited her claim, and a new deal had been cut to get Amarelo his pension. Not very likely, and Pires almost certainly has it right, but it really isn’t easy to tell.

None of this takes away the basic interests of the document, of course, which is that Viking raiding parties here hung about for months while ransoms were negotiated and they apparently conversed enough with the locals while doing that their own name for themselves passed into local language, but I could wish I’d got it right even so. Still: never mind. Here is more work on this interesting subject, but I think there is still something for Jpg or Cossue to write on it if they like. Remember to credit the blog, folks…


1. H. Pires, “Money for Freedom: Ransom Paying to Vikings in Western Iberia” in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia Vol. 7 (Turnhout 2011), pp. 125-130.

2. That source was, in case you don’t want to click through, Rui Pinto de Azevedo (ed.), “A expediçâo de Almançor a Santiago de Compostela em 997, e a de piratas normandos à Galiza em 1015–16” in Revista Portuguesa de História Vol. 14 (Coimbra 1973), pp. 73–93.

From the sources IV: following up the simonists and Vikings

Right! The year has started and it’s time to take up many screens with tight discussion of medieval Latin sources again! Two of the posts in this series have occasioned or involved questions and shortly before Christmas I finally found time, with all the essays marked and no further preparation to do for the last class of last semester, to get into a library and look up the answers. So without further ado here they are.

What’s the Latin for simony?

Theo asked, apropos of the Catalan simony agreement I posted, for the Latin text because the journal in which it’s published is hard to get hold of. Well, it will be out before long in the Catalunya Carolíngia, but since it is, I suppose, unlikely that you will all be racing down the IEC to get your copy on that day, perhaps there’s still an argument for this, and in any case, I’d quite like a digital text of the Latin too, so if I’m typing it up anyway

Iuro ego Ermengaude comes, filius [quod fuit] Borrello comite et filio quod fuit Letg[gardis] con[iuge], ut de ista ora in antea infra [proximos .X.m] dies quod Sallane episcopo, filius quod fuit Isarnus et filius quod fuit Rranlane, me Ermengaude supra scripto commonuerit, per nomine de isto sacramento, quod ipso episcopato de comitatum Urgello Sedis Vicco donare faciam ad Ermengaude, filio Bernardo vicecomite et filio Wisila vicecomitissa, ego Ermengaude comite donare faciam ad isto Ermengaude, filius Bernardus, et vesticione ad illum faciam. Et de ista ora in antea ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto non decebre isto Ermengaude, filio Bernardus vicecomite supra scripto, de ipso episcopato de Sancta Maria Sedis Vico quod est in Urgello. Et si Sallane episcopo ordinare voluerit suo nopoto [sic] Ermengaude supra scripto in sua vita, ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto adiutor illi ero ad ordinare ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, sine sua decepcione de ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto et filio Wisila, si Sallane episcopo aut Bernardus fratri sup aut aliquis ex parentibus vel amicis de isto Ermengaude clericus supra scripto donare mihi faciant pessas .C., aut pessatas valibiles, aut pigdus valibiles de pessas .CC. pro ipsas pessas .C., quod donare mihi faciant infra dies .LX. quod isto Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, fuerit ordinatus, et mihi donaverunt pigdus valibiles de pessas .CC. pro alias pessas .CL. quod mihi donent post obitum Sallane episcopo supra scripto, infra medium annum ipsa medietate et ad alium medium in alia medietate. Et si Sallane episcopo non fecerit ordinare ipso Ermengaude suo nepoto upra scripto in sua vita de Sallana episcopo, et ego Ermengaudes comite vivus fuerit, et ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, vivus fuerit, ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto ordinare illum faciam, si facere potuero, si Ermengaude clerico supra scripto donare mihi voluerit aut aliquis ex parentibus vel amicis suis donare mihi voluerint et donaverint ipsas pessas aut pessatas aut ipso pigdus supra scriptus. Et ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto non faciam nullam disturbio ad ipso Ermengaude clerico supra scripto de ipsa sua ordinacione de ipso episcopato de Urgello, neque nullum malum ingenium, nec ego nec ullus omines nec nullas feminas per meum consilium neque per nulla mea absencione. Et ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto adiutor ero ad isto Ermengaude, filio Wisila supra scripta, ipso episcopato de Urgello a tenere et abere sicut Sallane odie tenet, contra omnes omines aut feminas quod eum tollere voluerint aut tulerint, sine sua deceptione de Ermengaude clerico supra scripto post obitum Sallane episcopo supra scripto aut in diebus suis, si Sallane episcopo ad illum dimiserit aut quantum ad ille donaverit de ipso episcopato, si Ermengaude, filio Bernardus vicecomite, frater Sallane, et filio Wisila vicecomitissa, filia quod fuit de Seniofredus de Luciano, mihi voluerit facere fidantias et fidelitatem super altare dedicatum, vel super reliquias, et fecerit unde ego Ermengaude comite firmiter fidare possem in illum.

(Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell, pergamins no. 163, as ed. by Cebrià Baraut in ““Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 7-166, doc. no. 276 at pp. 106-107.)

I’ve already talked enough about this but I do like (i) the way the vernacular nearly makes it through at ‘decebre’, which would be just there in later vernacular promises of the same sort (see the Kosto reference from before), (ii) the way the scribe doesn’t give a damn about the case of his nouns but conjugates the future perfect with scrupulous care and (iii) the fact that when Count Ermengol stresses that he needs a pledge of faith from the future bishop all the future bishop’s family connections are listed, presumably to illustrate the sort of family involved and explain why the count needs this person sworn to him.

OK, that’s one.

Vikings in Portugal

The second follow-up is apropos of the post in which I included a chunk of Sampiro’s Chronicum that failed to document Viking attacks on the north of Iberia in the eleventh century. Since I posted that, a learned commentator has supplied many more such references than I realised existed, but not the one that was in the Richard Fletcher reference I was originally following up. He cited “R. Pinto de Azevedo, ‘A expedição de Almanzor a Santiago de Compostela em 997, e a de piratas normandos a Galiza em 1015-16′, Revista Portuguesa da História 14 (1974), 73-93”, and this I have now gone and got. It turns out to be a short piece presenting two documents from the seventeenth-century cartulary of a monastery called San Salvador de Moreira, documents which appear to have been made there but whose originals are lost and which somehow didn’t get edited in the Portugaliae Monumenta Historica when that was done. One refers to an attack by al-Mansur on the area concerned, which is probably to be pinned to 997, and the other to, well you’ll see. (Of course, that’s not what the transactors thought was important about the record, but you know, times change.) This document was not known to any of the other people who’d worked on these raids at the time that Pinto wrote, but he gives references to them and since that was the original point of query, so shall I: they are L. Saavedra Machado, “Expedições Normandas no Ocidente da Hispania” in Boletim do Instituto Alemão Vol. 3 (Coimbra 1930), pp. 44-65, and Reinhard Dozy, Recherches sur l’histoire et la littérature en Espagne pendant le Moyen Âge (probably the 2nd edn. of Leiden 1849, though it doesn’t say), II p. 302 where there starts a chapter called “Les Normands en Espagne”. Dozy was using a source called the Chronica Gothorum but that would be another post (if anyone wants).

The charter that Pinto adds to this mix starts like this:

Non est enim duuio sed pleris manet in ueritate eo quod ego Amarcio Mestalis sedente fuit in coniungio eum uxore sua Adileoua sine quoliue escritura dedit ipso Amarelo precio de suo peguliar que solo abuit, et ganauit ereditates et miscuit eas ad illa sua que abuit de suo aboligo ubi ipsa Adileoua aligo nom dedit et as comparamus alias ereditates nos ambos et misquimis illas ad eriditate de Adioleoua et separauimus illas unas de alias per firmitates factas que abea Adileoua illas que mesturamus ad illa sua sicut comparamus ea de suo tribu et aber, Amarelo illas que solo comparauit et illas que comparauit cum sua mulier, et sunt ipsas comparationes de tribu de Amarelo, isto abuisse Amarelo, sicut et fecemus usque ad obitum de Adileoua. Post sua morte per anis plures tenuerunt suos filios sua ereditate quanta superius resona, et quanta est mea tiui eu Amarelo illa integra pagata sine calumnia de filius de Adileoua, per annis plures in de illa domna Lupa prolis Aloiti et Guncine pro non uindere nec donare nisi ad illa et illa mici, rouorauit placitum que sic uenere mici aligo uno male in ipsa ereditate aut de alia causa ajutasse me et sacasse me inde sano stantes firmiter de amborum parte in ista actio et in nostra robore per currigula annis.

(Archivo Universitaria da Coimbra, do maç 194 of the Convento de Santa Cruz de Coimbra, fo. 200r & v., ed. Pinto, “A expedição de Almanzor”, pp. 91-93.)

The story really starts in the next bit but I think I ought to try and set it up. It’s not easy to understand, at least for me, this is very much on the way to being Galician or Portuguese already and it might in many cases be easier to read it that way. As far as I can work out, a chap called Amarelo Mestaliz who had a wife called Adileuva with whom he bought lands from both their families that they amalgamated and then redivided and of which he passed some onto their heirs after Adlieuva died, now promises his entire remaining share to a noblewoman called Loba Aloitiz, on condition that they can only sell or give it to each other thereafter, because of the help and succour she gave him or for other reasons I can’t make out in the Latin. OK, so what was this help? Here’s where the story really starts.

In Era M L iija mense Iulio ingressi fuerunt filius et neptis Lotnimis multis in Doiro, predans et captiuans de Doiro in Aue per viiije menses. Ibi captiuarunt tres filias de me ipso Amarelo et remansi mesquino, pasarunt Leodemanes illos catiuos a uindere totos, ipsas filias de Amarelo nomine Serili Ermesenda Faquilo, et non aueua que dare pro eas a Leodemanes, pro it [for proinde?] producto fuit in Argentini ante illa domna Lupa pro uindere ad illa mea ereditate sicut aueua scritura roborata et prendere ibi que misesse ea a Lotmanes pro ipsas meas filias, et illa non quisit, et mos misericordia abuit super me et prosolbiui me per scriptura pro dare illa ubi potuisse, pro tale actio aueruaui com Froila Tructesindiz que li dedise ea per carta et dedi mici que misi pro filias meas, et sacaui eas de captiuitate.

This is worth at least trying to translate:

In the Era 1053 [1015 AD] in the month of July there arrived many sons and grandsons of Leudeman on the Douro, preying and capturing from the Douro to the Ave for nine months. There they captured three daughters of me Amarelo and I remained behind weakened, the Leudemen carried off all those captives for to sell, those daughters of Amarelo by name Serila, Ermesenda and Faquilo, and I had nothing to give the Leudemen for them, so then this was brought up in Argentino before the lady Loba, to sell to her my heredity just as I had it by confirmed scripture and to take there what might be given by her to the Leudemen for my selfsame daughters, and that woman did not accept it, and behaved mercifully towards me and I promised by scripture to pay her for it when I was able, for which action I agreed with Froila Tructesindiz that I would give her by charter what he gave [it must be, even though that isn’t what it says] to me that I sent for my daughters, and I ransomed them from captivity.

This is marvellous isn’t it? The Vikings (for whom I’d never seen this name before, though the extracts supplied by Cossue all use it; anyone know its origin?) are there for a while, and while they’re there they’re open for business. It’s apparently possible to approach the Viking camp and broker a price for three young Galician girls on behalf of their father. Who do you suppose are the go-betweens? And it’s just such a marvellous picture of Loba, too, gently refusing to take his living off him for an errand of mercy. She deserves to be remembered. Exactly what the position of Froila is, other than Loba’s agent for some reason, isn’t clear to me, but he will come back.

Because, unfortunately, Amarelo’s troubles didn’t end there. At the end of the same year, he became too ill and infirm to look after himself, “per malos annos” as the scribe has him put it, ‘through bad times’, and so he sold his remaining lands to his daughters instead, divided between them to be taken when he died, on condition that they would look after him, clothe him and feed him till then. But they treated him badly, he felt, so, he called a big meeting, and there presumably browbeat his slack daughters out of their entitlement. Instead, he now gives everything he has left, including what he has loaned out to others, to Dona Loba again in settlement of the debt he owes her, which is only now quantified as 15 solidi, getting in return a bed, some bedclothes and an ox, and upkeep for life. The daughters were at the meeting and confirmed this so presumably the rest of the meeting or their own guilty consciences were enough to persuade them to settle for their own inheritances. And once again, Dona Loba is being much nicer than she needs to be; the lands might easily be worth 15 solidi, though they equally might not, but the ox and the goods take a chunk out of that and even if he doesn’t look like living much longer, another dependent is a further drain on any gain she might get from an estate which must be pretty much all sold anyway.

And that’s what we have. Which is, if you ask me, a pretty good story, albeit of a life we can all be glad we didn’t have, showing a community patron might work in the best of ways, and it’s also interesting evidence for Vikings and what effect they can have on a community, these raiders who then sell what they’ve looted back to you. (I don’t suppose the daughters’ lives were exactly full of joy at this time either, I should point out.)

There is the little question of whether we can believe it. It is only found in a seventeenth-century cartulary copy, but they clearly didn’t make it as they’ve mangled its Latin so badly, so it must at least have been older than that. Nonetheless, the fact that it actually uses Portugal as a place-name this early is a bit worrying. Pinto however pointed out that it fits with other notices of Viking activity, more or less, specifically a 1014 raid led, Scandinavian sources apparently tell us, by Olaf Haraldsson, that must presumably have hung around a while. The transactor, poor Amarelo, appears in other earlier documents, so that he should be an old and infirm man by 1015-6 is about right; and on the whole it seems to be plausible, if not necessarily exact in every word. However, you may remember that when I first introduced this it was to try and work out what the evidence was that Tuy was sacked by Vikings at this time. Pinto sheds a little light on this too, while comparing Viking raids that this one might have been, because he notes that Dozy reckons that the 1014 raid was responsible for that, so that’s presumably where the idea comes from (and before that from episcopal lists with gaps, if I understand Fletcher right). Here, I think we should let Pinto have the last word:

Confesso-me, porém, insuficientemente documentado para emitir opinião segura sobre a invasão normanda deste territorio.


The rest of the charter’s Latin, since I’ve copied everything but this, may as well go in here too:

Dum uenimus ad anno pleno integro cadiuit ego Amarelo in mesquinitate et in infirmitate per annos malos et non aueua in meo iure pan nec aligo genere causa que aprestamo ominis est per que uiuere fecissime a meas filias carta que partissent mea ereditate in tercios post mea morte pro que eram de singulos matres et pro it dedissent mici uictum et uestitum et seruissent in mea uita, et non abuerunt unde, et deleisciarunt me mal in me infirmitate. Dum tale uidi, feci concilio ante Tructesindo Guimiriz, Gardalia Branderiz, Ordonio Brandiliz, Guntigio, Salamiro, Cendon, Ascaldo, Gaudila, Amarelo Cendoniz, Queta, Rodorigo Gardaliz, ipsa Sesili, ipsa Ermesenda, ipsa Faquilo, Elduira et Petro Aderiquiz et crepantauit ad illas cartas et scripturas. Obinde nomine ego Amarelo Mostalis placui mici pacis uoluntas nullo para meto ditate, de duas partes de ipsa ereditate do uobis inde duas partes integras, tam de parentela quam etiam de comparentela per terminos uigus et locis antiguis omni rem que a prestamo ominis est et ibi potueris inuenire, et do uobis illa pro dimisione qui mici feci illa domna Lupa, est ipsa hereditate in uilla Vilabredi subtus Castro de Boue urbio Portugal pro que accepi de uos uno lenzo et camisa antimana uno boue et in uita mea abeatis de me cura quantum potueritis. Isto mici placuit et illos XV solidos argenzdeos que iam de uos pressi pro in illa captiuitate et inde contra uos non remansi, ita deodie de iure meo sede abrasa et in uestro tradita. Aueatis uos et posteritas uestras in seculum seculi. Siquis tamen minime quod fieri non credo aliquis omo uenerit uel uenero contra anc cartula inrumpendo et tiui illa deuindigare uel octorgare noluero paie a uobis ipsa ereditate dublata et perenne auituro. Notum die iij nonas Aprile Era M L VI. Amarelo mano mea rouoraui +. Ic presentes Gardalia, Queta, Petro, Pelagio, Ordonio, Guntigio, Aluito, Salamiro, Ermesenda, Sesili, Faquilo, Elduira confirmo +. Petro Gardalis, Godisareo presbiter, Froila, Vermudo, Gundila notuit.

Seminary XXVIII: settling disputes across three countries

A monk in the stocks being berated by a bishop

Promised for a few days now, here is a report on the last seminar of the term in the Institute of Historical Research’s Earlier Middle Ages series, at which Wendy Davies was speaking to the title “Disputes and disputing in early medieval Spain: some comparisons with Wales and Brittany”. Wendy is perhaps the only person who could speak to this title, having spent considerable and intense scholarly hours acquiring a knowledge of the relevant charter corpora second to few and in combination, none. I’m not sure I got very much out of the effort of comparison, though, as it distracted me from the fascinating, and sometimes horrifying, dispute stories. However, because Wendy is a scholar, it behoves me to point out that she did make some serious points of comparison, considering the evidence from the point of view of:

  • kinds of dispute: Spain leaves us many more cases that don’t involve land in dispute, though this is usually because land is what is given instead of the financially-impossible compensation
  • procedure: Spain shows up officers of the court, mainly the ambiguous saiones, and makes much more of producing documents in evidence, even if they can as shown elsewhere on this blog be oversworn fairly easily, and Brittany has a lot of cases but only ever one sworn statement, which suggests that it’s something they really don’t usually do
  • modes of proof: Spain likes documents and sworn statements, as said, inquests, walking bounds (this last probably also occurring in Wales and Brittany) and even the ordeal, though I emphasised what Jeffrey Bowman has said, that you only go to ordeal when everything else has failed, so it’s always a breach of procedure even if it is itself done ritually; in all areas, however, the verdict and opinion of the local ‘good men’ can be crucial or even overcome an otherwise procedural judgement
  • outcomes: for major crimes, as well as compensation for the victims or their kindred, Spanish courts take a fine themselves, and sometimes this is land that is then donated to the Church which is the only reason we know about this
  • and

  • enforcement, usually done with sureties in all areas (though I couldn’t find you this in Catalonia), and in Spain the documentary forms may be hiding private settlements that are much more obvious in the Breton documents

Wendy emphasised that all these areas had formal courts, though the Breton ones could be no more than village assemblies: she suggested that such courts probably existed in all areas, but either only Brittany bothers to document them because there is almost no higher structure there, or else, the documents in Spain from them have not been preserved because there is no ecclesiastical interest in doing so. I think that last one shouldn’t be overstated: there are judgements from Catalonia that, I’m sure, exist only because the judge was a donor to the church of entirely unconnected properties (I should blog that one, just to have it somewhere), and though arguing from silence is always dodgy there could be an argument in this one. We kept coming up against the problem of what each society might have considered worth recording, and what that meant that we couldn’t see; in this, whatever Wendy pulls out of this (and she was speaking of another book), she may well reset our previous understanding which hasn’t really changed since two articles of Roger Collins’s in the mid-eighties.1

But always the best bit of disputes studies is the stories, because this is where we see medieval people in extraordinary circumstances, where we know emotions ran high and where any supposed grip of ritual or social control slipped looser than usual. It’s where the humanity of our subjects comes out strongest. So it seems best to close this with one of the more surprising stories that Wendy handed out, from northern Portugal in 943. The parts that I have emphasised are where the Latin, which is, er, unusual, most threatens to evade translation, and if anyone wants the original to compare, I’ll happily transcribe in comments.2

There is no doubt, but it remains known by many: I, Adulf, a priest, for my sin and by the schemings of the Devil who deceived me, I committed homicide upon a man by the name of Leo. And I compensated that homicide to his kin and there remained of that payment a portion due from me that I could not supply. And they led me for to die and I came before my lord Ansuri Gudesteiz and his wife Eilewa. And I asked the worthy men that they would make up stories to that man, so that he might put forth his protection for me since I did not have [the wherewithal] to supply that and so that I might liberate myself of that homicide and I would give to that lord Ansuri all my heredity so that I might be free of that same homicide for all the days of my life, and just so did he. On account of which I Adulf the priest, it pleases me through good peace and free will that I should give or concede my church to you the lord Ansuri and your wife Eilewa, my own church called Sao João, whose basilica is founded below Mt Petrosselo, the river Tamega running to the villa that they call Luzim in the aforesaid place in the homestead which was my father Prudentius’s, which I built from the grass up…

And from there on much more normal, but it’s quite scary stuff, isn’t it? The agonies of remorse but at the same time the hope of somehow escaping the ultimate punishment, and the whole doing the best he could but ultimately needing more help than he could get without basically subjecting himself. On a macro scale this is how peasants are supposed to become serfs, or at least one way, but firstly this is a professional who presumably lives on tithes as well as what used to be his estate revenue, and secondly he’s no ordinary peasant, if his father had this homestead and he could raise his own church on it. Makes me wonder who Leo’s kin were, and how powerful. And from there the whole question of how and why the murder took place! The Devil deceived him: is that just empty metaphor, or did he have some plan to achieve something by the murder that didn’t come off? Dammit, Adulf, you could have told us more…


1. I say `another book’, because of course she only just published Acts of Giving: Individual, Community, and Church in Tenth-Century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007). The two Collins articles, meanwhile, are R. Collins, “‘Sicut lex Gothorum continet’: law and charters in ninth- and tenth-century León and Catalonia” in English Historical Review Vol. 100 (London 1985), pp. 489-512, & idem, “Visigothic Law and Regional Diversity in Disputes in Early Medieval Spain” in Wendy Davies & Paul Fouracre (eds), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1986), pp. 85-104, both of which are reprinted in R. Collins, Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain, Variorum Collected Studies 356 (Aldershot 1992), V & VI respectively. Collins argues that the Visigothic legal forms that generated Spanish dispute documents required an initial statement of the case, a record of any oath sworn, and a final quitclaim by the losing party, so that every case should generate at least three documents, but that these later combine into two or even one. The Leonese stuff that Wendy was showing us just doesn’t fit this: it comes from all points in the process, and those processes often had many stages, all of which generated some documentation of which we rarely if ever have more than one piece. Pity, because the Catalan stuff might almost fit the scheme…

2. Alexandre Herculano (ed.), Portugaliae monumenta historica a sæculo octavo post Christum usque ad quintumdecimum. Diplomata et chartae, vol. I (Lisbon 1867), doc. no. LIII, p. 31.