Lex Salica

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Clovis dictates the Lex Salica. Miniature, 14th century.

The Lex Salica ( Pactus Legis Salicae , dt. Salic law) is a late antique law of the Migration Period , which according to the traditional view was enacted 507-511 by order of the Merovingian king Clovis I with the nobility for the Franks in the Franconian Empire . If so dated, it would be one of the oldest surviving codes of law. The dating is controversial today; Karl Ubl argued that the core of the Lex was already created around the middle of the 5th century , when the Franks were still imperial foederati . Some passages, such as the 47th title, on the other hand, date from the late 6th century .

The Lex Salica is counted among the Germanic rights , but is at the same time strongly influenced by Roman legal traditions . It is named after the Franconian Salfranken tribe . The text is in Latin but contains Germanic fragments. The Salic Law inspired the later time of the Merovingian King Dagobert I. codified Lex Ripuaria .

Legal content

Manuscript of the Lex Salica from 793 by Vandalgarius

In the Lex Salica , oral legal practices were presumably first recorded in writing. Although presumably younger than the Visigoth Codex Euricianus and the Lex Burgundionum of the Burgundians , the Lex Salica, according to researchers like Karl August Eckhardt, preserves more of the Germanic-antiquity, because the degree of Romanization of the Franks was even lower at the relevant time (which also for the Lex Ripuaria applies). This position is also discussed in recent research, which, as mentioned, partly assumes a stronger influence of late ancient Roman popular law.

Legal casuistry

Criminal law aspects

The articles deal with all sorts of legal cases , whereby the guilty party - if he was free - almost always had to pay a fine. The fines were high, for example for theft. In the case of the Franks, they were several to many times greater than other popular rights, such as those of the Frisians , Burgundians or Alemanni . Unfree people, on the other hand, were punished with corporal punishment such as lashes or rod blows and in a few cases even with death.

The penalties differed depending on who was harmed and who the perpetrator was, so that the differences in class of society at that time become clear on the basis of the different penalties. For example, the murder of a "Roman", that is, a Gallo-Roman belonging to the provincial population , was fined 100  solidi (gold coins) , which was roughly the value of 100 cattle, while killing a free franc doubled with 200  solidi was punished. The group of the Gallo-Roman "table companions" of the king was again higher with 300  solidi , while the highest atonement of 600  solidi was to be paid for the killing of warriors of the king's immediate retinue . Fines were also provided for verbal abuse, with the word “ whore ” being the highest punished at 45  solidi . Researchers like Sebastian Scholz suspect that the upper class of the empire, including bishops and Roman landowners, was exempt from the provisions of the Lex Salica .

The wergild received a third of the presiding the court Graf, said it largely passed on to the king. The majority of the remainder of two thirds went to the injured party or, if necessary, his family.

Although there is no mention of this in the Lex Salicia , state criminal law has already been applied alongside it. Murderers could be sentenced to death, traitors beheaded, thieves hanged, and slaves castrated if the latter stole. The sanctions were finally recorded in the Carolingian capitularies (Chapter 10, 23).

Civil law aspects

Civil law was of far less importance. This can be attributed to the fact that non-contractually organized agriculture predominated. This was operated as a manorial estate or independent farming by free farmers, which does not mean that purchase, exchange, loan or loan were unknown. The Lex even held rules ready, so for the purchase contractual legal defects warranty . Stolen things were secured in terms of evidence by means of Anefang and then the process of legal proceedings took place. On the other hand, there is insufficient information on liability for material defects.

Regulations on the abstract promise of debt, on the other hand, are known, primarily in the form of the "oath of loyalty" ( fides facta ). In legal research he is certified as being comparable to the stipulation under Roman law . Most of the time the business was probably used to affirm loans.

Succession regulations

In addition, the Lex Salica - like the Lex Ripuaria - contained provisions on inheritance law and the court system. Based on these inheritance law provisions, the succession to the throne was determined much later in many European ruling houses in such a way that women could not inherit the crown, even if there were no male heirs: In terram salicam mulieres ne succedant. Women were therefore excluded from the line of succession.

This special provision of the Lex Salica is now often understood as the Salic law par excellence. In this form, however, it was used for the first time in the second half of the 14th century - to legitimize that Philip V had come to the French throne in 1317 by bypassing the female succession, so it was not only the daughters of the king who were excluded from the line of succession but also their descendants. This dispute over succession became one of the causes of the outbreak of the Hundred Years War . This provision is still valid today in some monarchies and as domiciliary right in most German noble houses. In 1713 it was overridden with the Pragmatic Sanction for the Habsburg Monarchy . Many monarchies that had applied Salian inheritance law for centuries have opened up to female succession even more recently (e.g. Sweden 1980; Belgium and Norway 1991). In 1837, the fact that Salic law applied in the Kingdom of Hanover led to the end of the personal union between Great Britain and Hanover , which had been in force for over a century , as Victoria could only inherit the British, but not the Hanoverian crown. For the same reason, the personal union between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg ended in 1890 .


  • JB Herold: Originum ac germanicarum antiquitatum libri . Basel 1557, 1-37. (reprinted in Eckhardt 1954)
  • Johannes Merkel: Lex salica . Berlin 1850 with a preface by Jacob Grimm.
  • Knut Jungbohn Clement : Research on the law of the Salian Franks before and in the royal era . Berlin 1876. (Edition with explanations and first attempt at a High German translation)
  • Jan Hendrik Hessels: Lex salica. The ten texts with the glosses, and the Lex emendata. London 1880.
  • J. Fr. Behrend: Lex salica . 2nd Edition. Weimar 1897.
  • Heinrich Geffcken: Lex Salica. Edited and explained for academic use by… Leipzig 1898.
  • Karl August Eckhardt : The laws of the Merovingian Empire 481–714 . Böhlau, Weimar 1935. (Germanic rights. Texts and translations, 1), 1–153.
    • 2. Editing: Karl August Eckhardt: The laws of the Merovingian Empire. I. Pactus legis salicae. Recensiones Merovingicae. Witzenhausen 1955, (Germanic rights. Texts and translations, 1).
    • 3. Editing: Karl August Eckhardt: The laws of the Merovingian Empire. I. Pactus legis salicae. Witzenhausen 1963, (Germanic rights. Texts and translations, 1).
  • Karl August Eckhardt: The laws of the Carolingian Empire 714–911. I. Salian and Ribuarian Franks . Böhlau, Weimar 1934, (Germanic rights. Texts and translations, 2, 1).
    • 2. Editing: Karl August Eckhardt: Lex Salica: Recensio Pippina . Böhlau, Weimar 1953, (Germanic rights. Texts and translations, 2, 1).
  • Karl August Eckhardt: Pactus legis Salicae . (Germanic Rights New Series, West Germanic Law).
    • 1, 1: Introduction and 80 title text . Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1954.
    • 1, 2: systematic text . Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1957.
    • 2, 1:65 title text . Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1955.
    • 2, 2: capitularies and 70 title text . Musterschmidt, Göttingen 1956.
    • 3: Lex Salica. 100 title text. Böhlau, Weimar 1953.
  • Karl August Eckhardt: Pactus legis Salicae . Hahn, Hanover 1962, ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica ; Leges; Leges nationum Germanicarum; 4, 1).
  • Karl August Eckhardt: Lex salica . Hahn, Hannover 1969, (Monumenta Germaniae Historica; Leges; Leges nationum Germanicarum; 4, 2) ISBN 3-7752-5054-9 .


  • Heinrich Brunner , Claudius von Schwerin : German legal history (= systematic manual of German jurisprudence) . 2nd Edition. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1906, DNB 450655083 (two volumes).
  • Hans-Achim Roll: On the history of Lex Salica research . Scientia, Aalen 1972, ISBN 3-511-02837-X .
  • Elisabeth Magnou-Nortier: Remarques sur la genèse du Pactus Legis Salicae et sur le privilège d'immunité (IVe – VIIe siècles) . In: Clovis. Histoire et mémoire. Sous la direction de Michel Rouche . Volume 1: Le baptême de Clovis, l'événement . Presses de l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris 1997, 495-537, ISBN 2-84050-079-5 .
  • Leges - Gentes - Regna. On the role of Germanic legal customs and the Latin writing tradition in the formation of the early medieval legal culture. Edited by Gerhard Dilcher, Eva-Marie Distler; Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-503-07973-4 ; in this:
    • Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand : Language, law, legal language in Franconia and Alemanni from 6. – 8. Century. Pp. 141-158.
    • Hans-Werner Goetz : Gens-Regnum-Lex: the example of the Franks. Pp. 537-542.
  • Bernard Barbiche: Les institutions de la monarchie française à l'époque moderne, XVI e- XVIII e siècle . PUF , Paris 1999, 2nd éd. 2001.
  • Jean Barbey, Frédéric Bluche, Stéphane Rials: Les lois fondamentales et succession de France . DUC, 1984.
  • Marc Ferro: Histoire de France . Poches Odile Jacob, 2001.
  • Éliane Viennot: La France, les femmes et le pouvoir, Volume 1, L'invention de la loi salique (Ve-XVIe siècle) . Perrin, 2006.
  • Sylvain Soleil: Introduction historique aux institutions - du IVe au XVIIIe siècle . ChampsUniversité, Flammarion 2002.
  • Karl Ubl: Foundations of meaning in a legal book: The Lex Salica in the Franconian Empire . Jan Thorbecke Verlag, Ostfildern 2017.

Web links

Commons : Lex Salica  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Lex Salica  - Sources and full texts (Latin)

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Uwe Wesel : History of the law. From the early forms to the present. 3rd, revised and expanded edition. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-47543-4 , p. 294.
  2. So the simplified version in Shakespeare , Henry V. , I 2. In the original it says ( Pactus legis Salicae 59, § 6): “De terra autem Salica nulla in muliere hereditas est, sed ad virilem sexum, qui fratres fuerint, tota terra pertineat. "(compare MGH, Legum Sectio I, Volume 4/1 (= Eckhardt 1962), p. 223)