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Research Project B10 - Law, Security and Order in Early Medieval Kingdoms

Forschungsregion B10

Area of Research
Image Credit: DANNHEIMER/DOPSCH 1988: 133

Focusing on the transition from ancient to medieval statehood the project investigates early medieval institutions and modes of governance in the areas of law, security and order within the successor kingdoms of the Roman Empire. Following the 5th century decline of Roman imperial rule in the West, the foederati of old, Barbarians in Roman military service, seized power in the former Roman provinces, most notably the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy and the Frankish Kingdom in Gaul.

These successor states were erected on the remains of Roman statehood but had to cope with political and social disintegration on a large scale. Ethnic, religious, cultural and lingual fragmentation soon caused problems of legitimacy. Moreover legal uncertainty, propensity towards violence, self-justice and feud added up to limited capacities of governmental intervention. The project aims at an analysis of the measures that were taken to introduce norms, legal action and discourse that would contribute to the stabilization and consolidation of political order in the long term.

Particular fields of research are:

1. Oaths of promise as mechanisms of self-commitment (Esders): Mechanisms of self-commitment were adapted from the barbarians’ military background and transferred to the res publica, thereby shaping statehood in a contractual manner.

2. Shifting notions of loyalty in the political discourse of Ostrogothic Italy (Grundmann): The issue of treason indicates highly dynamic perceptions of ‘loyalty’. An analysis focused on the use and meaning of key terms like fides in public discourse explains some of these dynamics, when set against the legal and political background.

3. The function of monetary fines in early medieval law codes (Bothe): Analyzing the logic of monetary compensation in the barbarian laws sheds light on the commercialization of legal procedure and judicial rights, interpreting this process as withdrawal of statehood and deliberate delegation of prerogatives to local elites.  


!! This content refers to a research project in funding period 2010-2013 !!