Visigothic Code

The cover of an edition of the Liber Judiciorum from 1600.

The Visigothic Code (Latin, Forum Iudicum or Liber Iudiciorum; Spanish, Libro de los Juicios, Book of the Judges) comprises a set of laws first promulgated by the king Chindasuinth (642-653)of Visigothic Kingdom in his second year of rule(642/643). His law code survives only in fragments. In 654 his son, king Recceswinth (649-672) published the enlarged law code and it was the first law code that applied equally to the conquering Goths and majority population which had Roman roots and had been ruled by the Roman laws. While the code is often called the Lex Visigothorum, law of the Visigoths, this code finally abolished the old tradition of having different laws for Romans (leges romanae) and for Visigoths (leges barbarorum); all the subjects of the kingdom would stop being romani and gothi to become hispani. In this way, all the subjects of the kingdom were gathered under the same jurisdiction, eliminating social and legal differences, and allowing greater assimilation of the populations.[1] As such, the Code marks transition from the Roman law to Germanic law and is one of the best surviving examples of leges barbarorum. It combines elements of the Roman law, Catholic church law and Germanic tribal customary law.

The first law codes

During the first centuries of Visogothic rule, Romans and Goths were ruled by separate laws. The earliest Code of Euric was compiled at some time around 480. The first written laws of the Visigothic kingdom were compiled during the rule of king Alaric II and were meant to regulate lives of Romans, who made up the majority of the kingdom. These early laws were based on the existing Roman imperial laws and their interpretations. The Breviarium (Breviary of Alaric) was promulgated during the meeting of Visigothic nobles in Tolouse on February 2, 506.[2]

During the reign of king Leovigild an attempt was made to unite laws regulating lives of Goths and Romans and a revised law code (Codex Revisus) was issued. In 589, at the Third Council of Toledo the ruling Visigoths and Sueves, who had been Arians, accepted Catholicism. From now on the former Roman population and Goths shared the same faith. King Reccared issued laws that equally applied to the both populations.[3]

Visigothic code

The code of 654 was enlarged by the novel legislation of Recceswinth (for which reason it is sometimes called the Code of Recceswinth) and later kings Wamba, Erwig, Egica, and perhaps Wittiza. Recceswinth's code was edited by Braulio of Zaragoza, since Chindasuinth's original code had been hastily written and promulgated.[4]

During the Twelfth Council of Toledo in 681, king Erwig asked for the law code to be clarified and revised. Some new laws were added, out of which 28 dealt with Jews.[5]

The laws were far-reaching and long in effect: in 10th century Galicia, monastic charters make reference to the Code.[6] The laws govern and sanction family life and by extension political lifethe marrying and the giving in marriage, the transmission of property to heirs, the safeguarding of the rights of widows and orphans. Particularly with the Visigoth Law Codes, women could inherit land and title and manage it independently from their husbands or male relations, dispose of their property in legal wills if they had no heirs, and women could represent themselves and bear witness in court by age 14 and arrange for their own marriages by age 20 .[7]

The laws combine the Catholic Church's Canon law, and have a strongly theocratic tone.

The code is known to have been preserved by the Moors, as Christians were permitted the use of their own laws, where they did not conflict with those of the conquerors, upon the regular payment of Jizya tribute; thus it may be presumed that it was the recognized legal authority of Christian magistrates while the Iberian Peninsula remained under Muslim control. When Ferdinand III of Castile took Córdoba in the thirteenth century, he ordered the code to be adopted and observed by its citizens, and caused it to be translated, albeit inaccurately, into Castilian language, as the Fuero Juzgo. The Catalan translation of this document, "Llibre Jutge", is among the oldest literary texts found in that language (c. 1050).


The following list has the book and titles from the Visigothic Code.

See also


  1. O'Callaghan, Joseph (1975). A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 49. ISBN 9780801492648.
  2. Visigothic Spain 409 - 711
  3. Law and Society in the Visigothic Kingdom
  4. King, 148149.
  5. Law and Society in the Visigothic Kingdom
  6. Fletcher 1984, ch. 1, note 56
  7. Klapisch-Zuber, Christine; A History of Women: Book II Silences of the Middle Ages, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England. 1992, 2000 (5th printing). Chapter 6, "Women in the Fifth to the Tenth Century" by Suzanne Fonay Wemple, pg 74. According to Wemple, Visigothic women of the Iberian Peninsula and the Aquitaine could inherit land and title and manage it independently of their husbands, and dispose of it as they saw fit if they had no heirs, and represent themselves in court, appear as witnesses (by the age of 14), and arrange their own marriages by the age of twenty


External links

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