The Pathos of Politics (99-2) Salic Law

Salic Law

The transition in Europe during the Migration Period (376–800) was when the western Roman Empire crumbled, and European social order collapsed from waves of tribal migrations. The first migrants were Germanic tribes, undefeated by the Romans. They were later pushed westward by tribes from the east.

Along with keeping earlier tribal customs, Latin law codes were adopted by these Germanic peoples. This became known at Salic Law during the rule of the Franks in Francia.

The original edition of Salic Law was commissioned in the late 5th century by Clovis I, the 1st king of all of the Frankish tribes. The laws were maintained in written form – in Latin – by succeeding Frankish kings in the early Middle Ages.

Locally, Salic Law was administered via a Teutonic institution known as the Court of the Hundred, consisting of assembles of local villagers, known as moots (from which the term moot court derived). The Court of the Hundred was essentially an arbitration court. Meting out a decided justice was left to the litigant.

A man who did not abide by the Court’s sentence was outside the law. If he were killed, his kinsmen were forbidden from taking the vengeance that otherwise would have been their right and duty.

The weakness of tribal jurisdiction under Salic law was apparent, as practical enforcement of a legal decision was not from sovereign authority, but little more than tribally sanctioned self-help.