1. DOOMS OF AETHELBERHT (601-04)

These are the dooms that King Aethelberht established in the days of Augustine.[1]

1. [One who steals] the property[2] of God and the church [shall pay] twelvefold compensation;[3] the property of a bishop, elevenfold; the property of a priest, ninefold; the property of a deacon, sixfold; the property of a [lesser] clergyman, threefold. [He who breaks] the peace (frip) of the church [shall pay] double compensation; the peace of a public assembly (maethl), double compensation.

2. If the king summons his people[4] to him, and if any one there does them wrong, he shall pay double compensation [to the injured person] and 50s. to the king.

3. If the king is drinking in a man's house, and if any one commits any kind of misdeed there, he shall pay double compensation [to the householder].

4. If a freeman steals from the king, he shall pay ninefold compensation.

5. If a man slays another in a villa[5] of the king, he shall pay 50s. compensation [to the king]....

8. The king's mundbyrd[6] is 50s.

9. If a freeman steals from a freeman, he shall pay threefold compensation [to the latter], and the king shall have the fine (wite) and all the goods [of the thief]....

13. If a man slays another in a villa of a nobleman (eorl), he shall pay 12s. compensation [to the nobleman]....

15. The mundbyrd of a ceorl[7] is 6s....

17. If a man leads the way in breaking into some one's villa, he shall pay 6s. compensation; the one who next breaks in 3s.; and every one after that 1s....

21. If a man slays another, he shall pay as compensation [to the kindred] the ordinary wergeld (leodgeld) of 100s....

24. If any one binds a freeman, he shall pay [him] 20s. compensation....

27. If a freeman commits hedge-breaking,[8] he shall pay 6s. compensation.

28. If the man takes any property from inside, he shall pay threefold compensation ...[9]

(Anglo-Saxon) Liebermann, Gesetze, I, 3 f.


[1] The famous Roman missionary and archbishop of Canterbury, who secured the conversion of Aethelberht, king of Kent, and presumably inspired him to have the following dooms written down.

[2]Feoh, which originally meant cattle, but eventually came to be used for movable property in general.

[3] Such compensation as is prescribed in these dooms was normally paid to the injured person or his kindred, in contrast to the fine, wite, paid to the king or his agent. The Kentish shilling, like the gold solidus of the Merovingians, was reckoned at twenty times the worth of a silver penny, denarius or sceatt.

[4]Leode, a quite general word, which could refer to any of the king's subjects.

[5]Tun, from which is derived our word town, was the ordinary term for an agricultural village during the later Anglo-Saxon period. Here, as in articles 13 and 17 below, it evidently refers to a house or an estate.

[6] Literally, right of protection; hence the payment for violating it.

[7] The ordinary freeman, often contrasted with the eorl, or nobleman.

[8] That is to say, forcibly enters a man's property surrounded by a hedge. Cf. Alfred, 40 (below, p. 11), and the later hamsocn (below, p. 22, n. 1).

[9] Here follows in the doom an elaborate schedule of compensations for minor injuries: e.g., an ear, 12s.; an eye, 50s.; the chin-bone, 20s.; a front tooth, 6s.; a thumb, 20s.; a forefinger, 9s.; a fingernail, 1s.; a big toe, 10s.


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