The survival of Germanic law codes affords us invaluable insight into prefeudal society. The inviolability of custom and the spontaneity of punishment so characteristic of primitive law served to perpetuate a rigid class structure in which the principal crimes were settled by a monetary recompense based on the victim 's social status. The codes reflect the principles of this culture. For example, the murderer of a freeman was required to pay one hundred and sixty solidi to the victim's family, but a slave's life required a payment of only twenty solidi to his owner.
In the Introduction to the first English translation of these early medieval codes of law, the Lex Alamannorum and the Lex Baiuvariorum. Rivers provides a history of the Alamans and Bavarians from their migration into the provinces of the Roman Empire and their settlement in southern Germany to their final assimilation into the Carolingian Empire. He discusses the influence of economic conditions, the Church, and the judicial traditions of the Franks and other tribes upon them. His sensible rendering of texts that are nearly twelve centuries old remains as close as possible to the Latin, allowing the laws to speak for themselves.
In addition to an introduction Rivers' translation is accompanied by extensive notes that supply historical and editorial information: a glossary of Germanic and Latin terms; a bibliography to the scholarship on the laws and to the literature on Germanic kingdoms in general, and an ample index.
About the Author
Theodore John Rivers received his Ph.D. degree in medieval history from Fordham University.