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Vikings Legal System

A system of laws was created in which people were governed by consensus and disputes were resolved through negotiation and compromise. This is not to say that no force was used. Quarrels and violence were in some cases permissible and even necessary to preserve one`s own honor. But respect for the law was highly valued, as Njáll noted in chapter 70 of Brennu-Njál`s saga: “With the law, our country will be resurrected, but it will perish in anarchy.” Like other Scandinavian countries in the Middle Ages, Norway was governed by a system of þings in which the many kings met to settle legal disputes. Medieval Norway developed four ancient regional gatherings: Frostating, Gulating, Eidsivating and Borgarting. There were also smaller þings, such as Haugating, which did not turn into large legislative sessions. A jury was usually composed of twelve members, twenty-four members or thirty-six members, depending on the importance of the issue in question. [6] The legal actions of the Vikings are described in some sagas, but it is true that Scandinavian men never bothered to document their laws. The laws were oral and were first recorded in 1117-1118 after the end of the Viking Age. The Alþing offered men from all over the country a place where they could meet, discuss problems and settle complaints.

Three legal functions were exercised in the Alþing: laws were recited by the president of the law; The laws were promulgated by the Legal Council; and laws were tried by district courts. Only polar bears are native to Iceland, so only they could be kept. The importation of brown bears was illegal, as was the importation of red foxes and wolves, as none of these animals were native to Iceland. So if you already had a brown bear pet and moved to Iceland, then bad luck, you would have to leave or sell the bear before moving, and if you really needed a bear as a pet, then you would only have to tame a polar bear when you get there.. Good luck. Instead, the legislator was the repository of legal knowledge in the period before laws were drafted. He was consulted on all contentious legal issues. He was based in Lögberg and managed the activities there. The Ting was an assembly of free men from a community or province (or in some cases a national assembly if necessary).

The Ting Assemblies were the first system of justice and administration in the Viking Age. Local conflicts were resolved and political decisions were made on regional issues, while local issues were represented at a higher level in a hierarchy.6 The issues also functioned as religious sites and meeting places for trade. They met at regular intervals, passed laws, elected chiefs, and convicted violators in accordance with the law. The law was memorized and mentioned by the Lawspeaker7, who also acted as a judge. The oldest congregation in Gülen, Norway, is believed to have been founded by Harald Fairhair around 900 AD. The Icelandic town of Alting is the longest continuous national assembly, having met since 930 AD. Despite the many characteristics of Tings that can be praised as progressive or in line with contemporary legal practice, it is problematic to assume that Tings represents the first successful implementation of a representative and democratic society in Northern Europe. Until the late twelfth century, the Tings were neither democratic nor republican.36 A particularly uncivil element present in pre-Christian books was the way they recognized and maintained social stratification. The Norse myth The Lay of Rig discusses the mythical origins of social hierarchy. However, unlike other myths about social origin, the story does not describe the binary difference between peasants and kings. On the contrary, the god Heimdall testifies to three classes of humanity: serfs, free men and counts.37 Free men and counts could engage in regional politics (they formed the majority of members of a society or communities), but serfs could not. The consolidation of the laws of strata led to a shift to a strict system closer to the class hierarchy of continental Europe.

These changes, which took place around 1100-1300 AD, further reduced the egalitarian tendencies of the assemblies, but are certainly no less fundamental than other democratic developments of their time. Individual freedoms are always present. These features are so striking that the specificity of this right to vote is recognized in the legal sources and saga of medieval Scandinavia and Iceland.38 In Norway, meanwhile, they tried to discourage people from raising bears and wolves as pets, but recognized that there were indeed people who would ignore this brilliant legal advice. and for these people, both in Norway and Iceland and elsewhere in Scandinavia, the Rule of Law that if their bear caused damage, they were responsible for the damage and had to pay for it. If the bear or wolf broke away, it could be killed freely, but if it was in the custody of the owner, it could not be killed legally. Along with the increasing centralization of government in Scandinavian countries, the old leidang system—a fleet mobilization system in which each skipreide (community of ships) had to maintain a ship and crew—was abolished as a purely military institution, as the obligation to build and outfit a ship was quickly converted into a tax. The Norwegian Leidang was called in 1263 under Haakon Haakonson for his expedition to Scotland during the Anglo-Norwegian War, and the last recorded appointment was in 1603. However, as early as the 11th and 12th centuries, European battleships were built with raised platforms at the bow and stern, from which archers could fire in the relatively low long ships. This led to the defeat of the fleets of long ships in most subsequent naval battles – for example with the Hanseatic League. Cases need not necessarily be decided on the basis of witness statements, but on the basis of the accuracy of the judicial procedure followed. If one party followed the correct procedure and the other did not, the first party won the case, regardless of the facts. The final part of Brennu-Njál`s saga is a virtual trial transcript filled with allegations and counter-allegations about false proceedings.

In addition, external force could be used to influence the court`s decision. The sagas speak of bribes, threats of violence and actual violence in court. The system of power-sharing and legislation can still be seen today. Several things are still active. The Icelandic parliament is still known as the Althing, the Norwegian parliament is called Storting and the Faroese parliament is called Løgting. The Manx Parliament, known as Tynwald, still holds a summer farm on Thing Hill on Tynwald Hill every year. It is believed that the regional nature of these decisions contributed to delaying the introduction of a universal penal code in Scandinavia. Such universal application of punishment was only introduced with the codification of the Gulating Code of Law, compiled in Norway in the 11th century. In this code, all cases were private prosecutions and there were no prosecutors. In the Viking Age, if someone did not want to deal with a case, violations of the law could not be prosecuted. Today, Scandinavian societies operate on the other side of the coin: if an individual cannot afford a defence, it is made available to him on behalf of the state. The rules were complicated, designed to ensure in every way possible that there could be no doubt about the fairness of the outcome.23 The trend towards the presumption of innocence is still important for regional politics today and is a cornerstone of today`s Western justice systems.

Before the expansion of the Roman judicial system, the European continent was home to many different and drastic measures of judicial life and the implementation of justice. However, a common theme, from the Germanic peoples to the Anglo-Saxons, was that disputes were resolved mainly by bloody quarrels. The importance of Roman law was central to a new way of thinking in Europe, as it introduced new concepts into the judicial system.1 In the Nordic countries, the legal system was much more similar to the Roman legal system than many of its contemporaries – also in its consolidation and normalization of legal systems – even in the centuries before the spread of Catholicism in the region. The Viking Ting2 assembly was the predominant legal system of Scandinavia during the Viking Age (800-1066 AD). The legal system in Scandinavia and the attached European Viking settlements was rooted in local norms, resulting in more region-centric features than its contemporaries, which influenced Scandinavian attitudes towards regional politics to this day. In addition to many of the organizational features of his time, some of the characteristics of the Viking assembly were familiar to contemporary audiences, including the community assembly, the swearing-in, the validity of witnesses, and the removal of leaders by vote. The existence of these characteristics in regional assemblies paved the way for the sustainability of regional power and the importance of participatory politics in society. Combined with geographical barriers that have called into question the feasibility of centralizing power, there is a legacy of regional governance in post-Viking Scandinavian societies. In addition, many Icelandic family sagas offer detailed details about laws and legal procedures as central elements of their actions. These too were not written until hundreds of years after the events described, but they provide a valuable, if distorted, picture of the legal procedures of the time.

There was no law against war with others (does it exist today?). Like the Elisabethans in England and others, the Vikings had no law against piracy as long as it was against the “enemy”, so raids outside the “jurisdiction” were not illegal! At the end of the colonization period, Iceland was divided into four administrative regions called neighborhoods (fjórðungar).