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5 - The Children He Never Had; The Husband She Never Served: Castration and Genital Mutilation in Medieval Frisian Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2013

Rolf H. Bremmer Jr
Affiliation:
University of Leiden
Larissa Tracy
Affiliation:
Longwood University
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Summary

For most of the Middle Ages, the Frisians were a people who saw their lives dominated by violence. At least, this is the impression gained by studying their laws. Stretched out along the North Sea coast of present-day Netherlands and Germany, their homeland was threatened by land-hungry powers from without and by feuding from within. The first detailed view of the Frisians' legal traditions is the result of foreign occupation. In the second half of the eighth century, the Franks had gradually managed to expand their territory to the north at the expense of the Frisians, culminating in their complete subjection by Charlemagne, around ad 785. As he had done for other conquered peoples in his empire, Charlemagne required the Frisians to record their laws in writing. The result of this policy is the Lex Frisionum, which, in all likelihood, was presented at the Diet of Aachen in 802 where the laws of the recently subdued Saxons and Thuringians were also formulated and imposed. The Lex Frisionum is counted among the Leges barbarorum, the early medieval laws drafted in Latin by or for the various Germanic peoples. Yet, the name of this Frisian legal record is somewhat of a misnomer, coined as it was by the first editor of the text, the Basel scholar-printer Joannes Herold in 1557. Unfortunately, the manuscript on which he based his edition has since disappeared, so that we cannot confirm the correctness of Herold's title.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2013

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