The Laws of the Longobards

Research Project

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, codifications of the laws of non-Roman gentes were made in various barbarian successor realms between the late 5th and early 9th centuries. Most of these Leges Barbarorum were dead letters or even completely forgotten long before the turn of the millennium. A remarkable exception to this were the laws of the Longobards, which were recorded between 643 and 755 in the upper Italian Longobard realm. Since the first half of the 8th century, there was increasing evidence of the use of the Leges Langobardorum. Moreover, the Longobard laws, together with Carolingian capitularies and Ottonian constitutions, were the subject of teaching and literary treatment in the school of Pavia from the late 10th century onwards, leading to the "renaissance of jurisprudence" in the 12th century.

The question of why this extraordinary success occurred can be answered differently depending on one’s perspective. In this project, the focus will be especially on intrinsic factors present in the lex scripta that contributed to the development of a tradition of written Longobard law, which was to a considerable degree independent of other forms of normativity. These factors include, for example, text-immanent statements about the origin and quality of the recorded law, consensus formulas and instructions of the legislator, which aimed at the authority of the lex scripta. At least as important as such normative instruments, however, were technical tools that enabled the reader to better understand the lex scripta and to answer his legal questions based on the legal text.  Such tools could be of a formal nature (e.g. structuring of the text). However, they could also start at a more discursive-content level, if one thinks of justifications within individual provisions, for example.

Publication related to the research project

Meyer, C. H. F.: König Rothari begründet seine Gesetze. Zum Verhältnis von Konsens und Argumentation in den ›Leges Langobardorum‹. In: Recht und Konsens im frühen Mittelalter, pp. 151 - 234 (Eds. Epp, V.; Meyer, C. H. F.). Thorbecke, Ostfildern (2017)
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