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Germanic laws

Important Codes

Probably the oldest Germanic codes is the Codex Euricianus by King Euric, the personal law of the Visigoths; a related code was adopted in 506 under Alaric II, the Lex Romana Visigothorum, or Breviary of Alaric, for the Roman subjects. Both were later superseded (c.654) by the Lex Visigothorum, or Liber iudiciorum, compiled under Chindaswinth and Recceswinth; this for the first time applied to Goths and Romans alike. In the 13th cent. it was translated into Spanish as the Fuero juzgo. The Lex Gundobada ( Loi Gombette ) was adopted (c.501) for Burgundians and for cases involving both Burgundians and Romans, while the Lex Romana Burgundiorum (c.506), also from the reign of Gundobad, applied only to the Romans in the Burgundian kingdom. Because of a mistake in copying, it has come to be known as Papianus, or Papian law; it was gradually replaced by the Breviary of Alaric. The most accomplished Germanic code was the Edictum Rotharis, promulgated in 643. Together with the Italian legislation of the Holy Roman emperors (the Capitulare Langobardicum ), it became the basis for a renaissance of jurisprudence in Italy and maintained itself till the revival in the 13th cent. of Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis, which subsequently spread over all of Western Europe; the latter's influence reached to the threshold of modern times.

As to the Franks and more northerly Germans, their codes were less elaborate and they had none for Romans. Most ancient and also most important was the law of the Salian Franks, Lex Salica, first compiled (c.508–11) under Clovis I, which exerted great influence, for it was the fundamental law of the Merovingian and Carolingian rulers and later of the Holy Roman emperors. The Lex Saxonum and the Lex Angliorum et Verinorum probably owe their compilation to the initiative of Charlemagne; the Lex Ripuaria of the Ripuarian Franks, the Lex Baiuvariorum, and the Lex Alamannorum are distinguished by inclusions of public law. The most important compilation of northern and central German laws was the Sachsenspiegel. This, originally written (c.1230) in Latin, was subsequently translated into the vernacular. It showed an earlier stage of development than contemporary treatises in England and N France.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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