Monday, September 8, 2014

Manicipium in Miles

Legal jurisdiction is a complex construct in the Third Empire. In many places, the structure of jurisdiction is more implied than theorized, leaving who has command over whom a patchwork of common law and rulings where people just *know* things. For example, knights in most lands in Arunia have the authority to arrest or detain anyone below the knightly class. However, centuries of scholarship undertaken by emperors and clerics of Haeron have elaborated the system of manicipium to a much more carefully calculated degree. Indeed, it has been codified and written in the great lawbooks of the Lawkeeper's Temple.

So the first question is a simple one, namely: what is mancipium? It's a legal concept that determines who has the authority to arrest, arraign, judge, and detain whom within the Third Empire. In its most anceint and extreme manifestation, manicipium was the authority of a noble householder to dole out death to any of his dependents regardless of the law. The rule of the patrician was literally a rule over life itself.

A compilation of First Empire law known as the Codex Theolinus (supposedly commissioned by the third emperor, Theolon the Priest) set out a rudimentary attempt to curb the power of the great noble tribes under his command. By the reign of Fabarxus (to whom we owe the grand Faberlaine Wall surrounding Pillar Hill) the concept of manicipium had been fully extended to resemble the modern 10th Age notion.

Who has manicipium?
The notion of manicipium has been narrowed from its archaic form to one that is imbued in the imperial class system. Lords have direct manicipium over their demesne; all knights who serve them, all peasants who live in their realm, all merchants who's residences are found within their realm. These lords, the Magnas, Socioari, and Dynasren (Barons, Counts, and Dukes), have the authority to judge anyone who calls their demesne home as well as any peasants from any other realm.

Knights possess this self-same power; they act as direct agents of their lords. However, while a lord has manicipium over his own knights, they cannot judge the knight-agents of other lords.


The Emperor
Lord's knights  ------  knights of other lords (outside manicipium) ------ imperial knights (outside the lord's manicipium, but under the emperor's)
any peasant

...wherein manicipium flows downward from the emperor, through the lord of a demesne. If a knight commits a crime within the realm of someone other than his own lord, the offended lord must plea to the knight's lord for restitution. Thus is established the rule known as Lex Agentia, the Law of Agents, whereby an agent can only be judged by his own master. Of course, this means that the emperor's personal servants are outside everyone's manicipium save the emperor's... and the emperor has manicipium over every subject of the empire (including agents of other lords).

Are there exceptions?
Yes. Many. The most important being the exception of urban communes and the very complex exception of the Special Commune of Miles.

Urban centers, known as communes, are generally governed by a council of merchants. Manicipium here falls under the Lex Mercantis, which was developed by merchants of that ancient Republic. Namely, all people within a city, no matter their origin, are under the manicipium of the municipal law courts... unless they are the agents of a lord from outside the city. Citizens of the communes fall under the manicipium of any lord who's lands they travel through and may be judged as though they were peasantry whenever they leave the city.

The Commune Mileas
The Commune of Miles has rules much like other communes, save knights and foreign agents committing crimes within Miles are subject to the judgement of the cities' courts. Unlike other communal citizens, people born within the circuit of the walls of Miles may only be judged by the law courts of Miles proper. If they are arraigned before a baronial, comital, or ducal court and they can prove they originate from Miles, they must be tried within the city by judges from the Temple.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Witnesses, Seals, and Contracts

Of course, now that I've started law school my mind is turned ever towards the things I'm reading about and talking about pretty much every waking hour of every single day. What's this latest topic? Why, it may be based on the ancient and modern laws of CONTRACT.

Ancient laws of contract (mostly what we would call common law outside of the regions influenced by Justinian's Roman canon) focused on a special, ritual space that separated out the act of signing the contract from the acts of every day life. These were liminal moments, powerful moments, when binding legal documents took force. IN modern contract law, you can make a contract simply by assenting to an offer verbally (as long as its not a sale of goods; Statue of Frauds covers that). Not so in the ancient and medieval world.

Contract as Oath
I. Seriousness of the Undertaking
II. The Seal
III. The Witnesses
IV. The Oath and Punishments

I. Seriousness
Contracts in the ancient, medieval, and particularly the post-Enlightenment world were entered into with a sense of seriousness. Ritual surrounded them. Documents were prepared, witnesses gathered, and oaths sworn. The written instrument was merely the expression of the contractual bargain. This is, perhaps, one of the reasons why medieval abbots felt no shame in producing what we would commonly today call "fake" charters that detail sales of land to the abby. The abby knows the land is theirs—thus, the false contract merely confirms a deeper truth.

People did not sign contracts in a lighthearted or casual way. Promises were important, and thus swearing promises were often accompanied by involving the Gods (or God in Christian Europe). This illustrates the ease with which contractual agreements and promises are actually put aside (very easily, since there's no supernatural force behind them) in stark contrast to how difficult society wishes it were to put a contract or agreement aside.

II. The Seal
It is no longer true today that the written instrument of a contract really even requires signatures. The paper is something external. However, in the heyday of the Serious Contract it was required for every party bound by it to make their mark with a seal. In the Middle Ages this could take place in the form of a signature, but the entire document was usually sealed with some seal or other. It was very common (for extremely important documents) for the local bishop or perhaps even the regional king to imprint his seal in wax upon your parchment.

The seals (signature + imprint) give the contract validity.

III. The Witnesses
The gathering of and signing of witnesses was extremely important in certain types of charters. The more important your witnesses were, the more important your charter. You want your bishops and high ranking church members to witness for you because that speaks leagues about your own personal authority and respect.

IV. The Oath
Many contracts also included a number of cursing clauses, damning those who break the promise. It wasn't uncommon for charters, for example, to wish horrific punishments on people who alienated the land granted to an abby. Charter-cursing forms an entire subfield of study and is extremely inventive.

This supernatural sword of Damocles exists to lend force and weight to what is otherwise really just a piece of parchment and what, in reality, can be ignored with impunity. This element also bears a strong relationship to the verbal oath given in pre-literate societies.

V. So What?
So nothing, asshole. Why are you so rude? This is all interesting stuff to spice up the world of your D&D game. Contracts in the 10th Age, for example, must be sealed by an "official witness," that is a member of the Temple of Miles, so they are seen by the God of Law and Smithcraft, Haeron the Hammerer. This element of the semi-divine mirrors the ways in which medieval contracts invoked God.

You can do that too, if you want. It helps take your game away from the humdrum world of the mundane everyday and into the fantastic past.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Institutional Stupidity

In our modern world we have frequent recourse to interact with large institutions. Whether you're employed by one or merely have business with one, you've seen the kinds of deep-seated root-level stupidity that plagues them. And this isn't because the institutions are stocked with morons. Far from it, it usually appears that one or two uniquely incapable people reach a bottleneck and clog the arteries of communication, killing all the workers down the line by starving them of necessary information, assistance, or whatever is needed. This institutional stupidity is something that inheres only in strongly redundant organizations. What do I mean by this?

Where institutional power is weak and things are accomplished more by individuals taking initiative than by following the proper channels, individual people have a tendency to communicate more. Failure falls not on the fact that a message slipped through, but on the fact that someone fucked up if a message wasn't delivered. In a well-organized and redundant institution, this missing information is likely not to be fatal to the organization as a whole. This is why it has safety valves, catches, and redundancies. In a smaller or less well organized institutional structure, these safety valves don't exist and failure won't be caught by the net installed to make sure their big kindred can continue lumbering on. Indeed, it is the very inertia of powerful institutions that makes them immune to small-time scandals of this nature.

Why am I even talking about this on a blog about D&D? Because there was far less of what I would qualify as institutional stupidity in the ancient world and the middle ages. Institutional power simply wasn't entrenched well enough to allow petty bureaucrats to gum up the works with no negative results. When the gears began to stick, people noticed, because it could lead to the loss of lives and livelihoods. This is something of an overgeneralization, which I am loathe to make*, but generally institutions were extremely weak if extant at all.

Institutions as we know them require structure, legal backbone, organization, and precedent. Crisis in the pre- and post-Carolignian world (the Carolignian Renaissance, as it is called, saw the emergence of temporary but not particularly robust institutions for administering the will of Charles) was generally dealt with in terms of individual situations. Each problem was a problem for an individual solution. Of course, again, there are cases where this isn't true—the ealdormen and shire reeves of England, the vast canonical courts of Rome, etc. However, the scale of institutions was greatly curtailed, the types of problems they dealt with were extremely specific, and they were generally much more vital (accepting of and capable of reacting to change) than modern institutions are.

The upshot of this is that your PCs are less likely to be "forgotten" by an institution and let slip through the cracks. They are unlikely to weasel their way through loopholes and use the inertia of bureaucracy to escape the eye of those in power. On the other hand, they are more likely to obtain power themselves and be permitted to exercise it. The lack of institutional safeguards cuts both ways.

*And here's where I take it back piece by piece. The Romans, of course, had much stronger institutions, which were necessary for the governance of the empire. Even after the Western collapse, in the east the Romans continued to operate on a much more organized and, indeed, institutional level.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Law School and the Move

I may have to take a brief hiatus for a few weeks while I move into my first house and enter the first semester of law school. If not, then this warning is for nothing (save moving the next date I have a blog post up). If so... you have been warned!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Paying the Penalty

Medieval crime and punishment is different in many ways from modern crime and punishment. I've talked about medieval law before, but this is the first time I've ever set out to catalogue how it could affect your idea of a fantasy society in any kind of definite way.

The most important thing to note is that there were no penalties of imprisonment in the early and high middle ages. You might be reduced to slavery or forced to pay a fine or even executed, but you'd never become a prisoner as a result of lawbreaking—excepting, of course, the period where you were waiting for your trial. Even then, you'd likely just be kept in the undercroft of a local manor, not a special-built jail or prison or even (gasp) dungeon.

The Anglo-Saxon Dooms
Taking a look at the laws of King Alfred, it becomes apparent that there are essentially two types of punishment: paying the geld (or value) of the crime, or death. In some cases the value of the crime was determined by the value of the thing destroyed or stolen. This is descended from the wergeld, or man-value, of early Saxon times, which was a price you paid the family of someone you killed (based on their social status) to legally prevent a feud from developing.

If you're truly seeking to simulate a medieval society, what you should do is draw up a short sample of fines and then determine what constitutes a capital crime. Capital punishment in the English system (the only one I'm really aware of in great detail at the moment, having not refreshed myself on the customs of Frankia in a long time) can only be dealt out by the king. In his absence, it was the job of the royal assizes to roam the countryside and give trial to those being held for capital crimes (usually, as above, being held in the croft of a manner until the time came for the assizes to try them).

The Process of Trial
The old germanic continental custom of trial was for the families of the accused to gather together in a central place. The accused would swear that he didn't commit the crime and his family would swear also. This would prevent "justice" from being done unless the accused's family didn't back him up—which could be the case, if they knew the accused was a dick and he was constantly making life harder for them by, for example, getting involved in court cases.

In England, the situation was similar though not as clearly one-sided. The accused would be asked to assemble oath-takers from amongst the townsfolk where he was charged. If he could assemble five or twelve of them (I don't remember the circumstances surrounding how many were needed and don't feel like looking it up: if anyone is really interested, leave a comment and I'll go back to the books and get you an answer). Essentially, these oath-takers would swear that the man did not commit the crime. If enough could be produced, he would go free. This clearly favors the social fabric above individual justice, but what is the point of justice if not to knit together the social fabric?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis

HERESY. A common word on the internet these days, mostly because its fun to say, and partially because its used commonly in the Warhammer 40k universe. But what exactly are heretics? Do they necessarily even exist in fantasy worlds? How can we better understand the way heretical movements functioned, what made them heretical, and why there were no heretics in diffuse religions? Well, we can examine the topics of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Orthodoxy — Right Belief.
This is a central tenant of the Catholic Church which was pushed to the fore by the co-opting of the previously underground church infrastructure by the Roman Empire. Orthodoxy reflects a necessity that everyone believes the same thing. Heresy (from the Greek root "to choose") cannot exist without a strong strain of ortho doxos, straight (or right, or true) belief. Thus, the presence of an orthodoxy inevitably hereticizes all other forms of belief. While this need not be universal and all-encompassing (There is only the One True God vs. When you worship this god, you must do it with this belief) but it tends to be.

Thus, one of the key elements to forming heresies is orthodoxic requirement in the faith. But orthodoxy requires other things to prop it up and promulgate it. They are (I) Centralized Authority, (II) Systems of Dissemination, and (III) An Orthodox Canon.

(I) Centralized Authority. In order to determine what qualifies as part of the orthodox canon and to administer the faith, some form of central authority is required. If a faith has no governing body, it cannot enforce orthodoxy. This can be a non-permanent assembly of all temple-leaders (such as a synod, convened to discusses matters of canon law and determine what does and does not fall under the rubric of the orthodoxy), a permanent position (such as the one held by the Roman Emperor, who could convene and threaten synods), or a permanent council (such as the rabbinical and Levitical councils which dominated Jewish faith). In any case, the central authority must pick and choose what belongs in the faith and what constitutes "right thought." If a faith is massively decentralized and has no overarching authority, it will be subject to many more permutations and local changes.

(II) Systems of Dissemination. Cathedral Schools, Rabbinical Schools, training centers, and public masses serve as systems of dissemination to the masses and the priesthood. Most pagan ceremonies of the ancient world took place in private, hidden from the regular laity, and training of priests was a secretive task that was performed in the sanctum sanctorum. But for a strict orthodoxy of correct beliefs to thrive, these training methods must be made open to scrutiny so they can be corrected. These channels are also required to transmit the central authorities version of the faith so they can be reproduced in the lower orders.

(III) A Canon. This isn't as strict a requirement as the others (though it is possible any or all of the three could be circumvented by processes I'm not thinking of at the moment) but it serves to cement orthodox practice. The canon doesn't just include holy writings or teachings, but also usually many crusted-on exegetical practices and treatises which help explain the original holy work. The Catholic example of this is the writing of the Church Fathers like Origen, Augustine, and Jerome, which explicates biblical writing and cemented it as a single strain of orthodoxy in the Late Antique Church, which chose certain interpretations over others.

Orthopraxy — Right Action.
Polytheistic Classical Antique religions are much more likely to be interested not in what their worshippers believe (because who cares?) but rather what they do. If you burn an offering to a god because you want something, you are participating in an exchange. The god may literally "eat" the incense and smoke of the offering as a form of sustenance (perhaps why more prayers make gods stronger) or it may be symbolic. However, the control of belief is much less important than the control of actions. Temples want sacrifices, they want loyal worshippers who will make the right choices, and they rarely care if someone believes something outside their faith. You think Mars can fix your house? Fine, we don't think so and we won't make the sacrifice to him on your behalf, but that's your business.

Thus, it is clear that without the trappings of Orthodoxy, heresy cannot exist. Extremely variant views may be relatable to heresy within even an orthopratical view (for example, eating the dead in honor of Mars would be disgusting, unthinkable, and awful and a practice to stamp out) but even then, it's not so much the errant belief that is responsible as it is the errant action.

So look carefully over your setting and ask yourself again: can heretics exist?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Scepter by Any Other Name

One of the most consistently viewed pages on this blog is the Symbology of Scepters, which gets looked at a few times each month without pause or interruption in its popularity. Recently, I've been reading a lot of Mesopotamian history and literature and I've come upon something I felt I should make public—

Scepters don't go back to Greece. Those long king-tall rods are even older.

The scepter is one of the meh handed down by Enki in the very dawn of time to the people of Eridu. The list of the meh includes:

  1. Enship
  2. Godship
  3. The exalted and enduring crown
  4. The throne of kingship
  5. The exalted sceptre
  6. The royal insignia
  7. The exalted shrine
  8. Shepherdship
  9. Kingship
  10. Lasting ladyship
  11. "Divine lady" (a priestly office)
  12. Ishib (a priestly office)
  13. Lumah (a priestly office)
  14. Guda (a priestly office)
  15. Truth
  16. Descent into the nether world
  17. Ascent from the nether world
  18. Kurgarra (a eunuch, or, possibly, ancient equivalent to modern concepts of androgyne or transsexual [6])
  19. Girbadara (a eunuch)
  20. Sagursag (a eunuch, entertainers related to the cult of Inanna [7])
  21. The battle-standard
  22. The flood
  23. Weapons (?)
  24. Sexual intercourse
  25. Prostitution
  26. Law (?)
  27. Libel (?)
  28. Art
  29. The cult chamber
  30. "hierodule of heaven"
  31. Guslim (a musical instrument)
  32. Music
  33. Eldership
  34. Heroship
  35. Power
  36. Enmity
  37. Straightforwardness
  38. The destruction of cities
  39. Lamentation
  40. Rejoicing of the heart
  41. Falsehood
  42. Art of metalworking
  43. Scribeship
  44. Craft of the smith
  45. Craft of the leatherworker
  46. Craft of the builder
  47. Craft of the basket weaver
  48. Wisdom
  49. Attention
  50. Holy purification
  51. Fear
  52. Terror
  53. Strife
  54. Peace
  55. Weariness
  56. Victory
  57. Counsel
  58. The troubled heart
  59. Judgment
  60. Decision
  61. Lilis (a musical instrument)
  62. Ub (a musical instrument)
  63. Mesi (a musical instrument)
  64. Ala (a musical instrument)

So we can see that the scepter springs from ostensibly the oldest civilized times when it was wielded by sacred kings of Sumerian city-states. The Greeks must have picked it up from the Mesopotamians; whether before or after the Anabasis is hard to say, but I'd wager they got it some time during the Archaic Period, because Homer talks about the rods of kings. Whether Agamemnon really had a rod of rulership is impossible to know, but Homer or roughly contemporary poets must have had the idea about the rods (scepters) by their time.