Ordalia: the Judgment of God

(To Riccardo Massaro)

"Ordalia" means: Judgment of God (ordeal, ordalja to the Latin or ordeal, ordeal to the French, from medieval Latin ordalium and the Longobard ordaïl).

Innocence or guilt was determined by subjecting the indicted to a painful trial or duel. If there was no fault in the case of the cruel trial, there would be no suffering and the wounds would be healed soon, in the second case, the duel would have been won. All this clearly thanks to the divine intervention ...

In ancient Rome the magistrate had a juridical preparation, with the search for evidence and testimonies he sought the truth and then issued a fair judgment. 
Among the barbarous peoples, on the other hand, it is innocent who can prove it by facts or witnesses, or even by passing a trial. 
There is clearly a friction between the Roman culture and the Germanic barbarian one, which, although having incorporated much of the Latin culture, still carries on its shoulders a large cultural baggage of old traditions, which will be transformed again during Christianity. 
In Germanic culture it is the oath that accused or accused make on the incident to represent evidence: the Gods are bothered as witnesses, or God in the case of converts to Christianity, thus engaging with his own soul in the oath on the facts. The judge in this case had only to decide if the oath was enough as proof or if the "Judgment of God" was necessary.

The Church found itself in a difficult situation: to ban this practice so as not to disturb God for human and merely earthly causes, or to be a passive witness in seeing people take justice for themselves.

Traces of Ordalia were found in Mesopotamia (code Hammurabi), in ancient Rome (Tarquinio Prisco) and among the Etruscans (in the Etruscan paintings where the character appears Phersu).

In Rome, an individual considered to be a reindeer, tied up and put in a sack and thrown into the Tiber, perhaps in the company of a fierce animal, if he could get rid of the sword contained in the bag was considered innocent ...
As for the weapons used in the Ordalia in which the duel was reached, usually the choice fell on who was the offended party, a place was established, a predetermined day for the clash, for the judges.
Comparison tools will of course change from the late antiquity to about 1929, when the last legal code setting out the rules was drafted.

The weapons were strictly the same for each contender (two), the judge had to ensure the proper conduct of the duel, first checking that the weapons were identical and regular. Weights, measures, effectiveness ...

Sticks, knives, daggers, swords, spears, bats, swords, swords, spades, then florets, sabers, guns ... Even in this area the evolution of the duel will adapt to that of weapons.

Most of the weapons I have quoted and used in dueling are represented along with their use on many ancient codes. The oldest one (at least known to date) is the so-called 'I 33' (catalog number) found in the Tower of London and partly ruined by a fire.
On it are depicted monks, authorized by the Pope to use the weapons to defend themselves from the continuous attacks of the outlaws against their convents to perpetrate thefts. 
The manuscript of 1200 contains numerous depictions of monomachie on the combat with sword and buckler, or a small shield in metal or metal and wood designed to protect especially the armed hand.

There followed, throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a vast production both written and depicted of codes representing duelists in action with the most disparate weapons: from the classic swords, spears, daggers and Messer (Fiore De Liberi, Thaloffer, Wallerstein, Leckuchner, Vadi, Meyer ...) until they reach mair which, with his 'de exotica', shows the use of sickles, scythes, clubs and other improper 'weapons' ... or the use of simple bare hands. All to wash away and preserve honor!

Greeks and Romans (Ettore against Achilles or Horatii against Curiazi) passing from the Lombards until recently have used the duel to settle disputes or disputes. To safeguard one's honor thanks to the "Judgment of God".

(photo: web)