The Northern Way

Commentary To the Germanic Laws and Medieval Documents

Chapter XI


The word alode occurs for the first time in a Frankish document of the year 629-639, (1) and in a confirmation of the year 709 we find alote distinguished from "comparatum" and "adtractum," from what is bought and otherwise acquired. (2) In the Formulae and elsewhere this alote occurs generally in the combination "de alote parentum, paterna, materna" (3) or, especially in the Salic formulae, as in the document of the year 709. (4) The first expression is, no doubt, the original one, even as it is the older, for the clause "heredis meos in alote derelinquere," "to leave the heirs in the paternal estate," (5) like "de alote parentum" precisely corresponds with "ex successione, ex jure parentum" of the Italian and German documents, (6) while the Germanic laws which bear the title "De alodibus" speak in the text, not of alod, but of "hereditas." (7) Not a trace is to be found of alod before the seventh century anywhere, because it is a corruption of allegatum only in Merovingian France, as I shall soon show.

To avoid the possiblility of deception in donations, these had to be written in a conventional and solemn manner and had to be deposited with a judge or in the Curia. Constantine expressed this with the words "actis etiam adnectendis, quae apud judicem vel magistratus conficienda sunt," (8) to which the Interpretatio says "gesta vero donationum aut apud judicem, aut apud curiam alleganda sunt." In that same year it was determined that this allegatio could not take place outside the province of the donor, (9) and a hundred years later a donation without a proper allegatio was declared void, (10) while still later the Lex Burgundionum romana begins with the irrevocability of a gift to children by the father, if it has been "gestis allegata." (11) When Odoacer offered certain possessions in Sicily to Pierius, the latter had them recorded in Ravenna, (12) and two years later the flaw in an unrecorded piece of property, caused by the premature death of the conveyor, is remedied by the allegatio of the surviving wife. (13) The clause of allegation occurs in all the Ravenna donations of the sixth and seventh century, (14) and the French formulae of allegation of the sixth and seventh centuries centuries which are based on the Roman law also use "gestis alligare, adlegare, ligare, obligare." (15) while it is specifically mentioned in an immunity that it took the place of the allegatio. (16)

The Codex Theodosianus speaks of a "hereditas approbata allegationibus," (17) and it becomes in its nature a donation, was recorded as an allegatio, (18) even as this had been specifically provided for by Theodoric for the Ostrogoths. (19) There cannot be the slightest doubt about the derivation of alod from this allegatum, but it is also possible to ascertain how the phonetic change has taken place. In a donation of the year 615 which, in spite of some interpolations, is based on a genuine document, occurs the clause "saepius laudatus tam de fisco quam de comparato," (20) which is identical with the previously mentioned "tam de alote quam de comparato" and means, "the property, consisting of fiscal and purchased land, has been frequently recorded." Here laudare, a much used word for "to confirm," has taken the place of allegare "to record," which is quite natural, since the officers of the curia who confirmed the record bore the title of laudabilitas, (21) laudabilis vir, (22) and the legal record was known as "laudabiliter adlegatum." (23) From a confusion of allegatum and laudatum have arisen, alaudum, alod, alot, etc.

The Anglo-Saxons who frequently made their borrowings unnoticeable by translations into their language,have quite correctly rendered "hereditas allegata" by bocland, i.e., property recorded in a book. Where Alfred wrote bocland, the Quadripartitus used "terra testamentalis," (24) while others employed "libera terra, terra hereditatis" (25) for it, and later Cnut wrote quite correctly "alodium, id est bocland," where the Quadripartitus has "in hereditate sua terram" and the Consiliatio Cnuti circumscribes by "libera terra." (26) As in England the folcland is opposed to the bocland, so, on the continent the fiscal land with personal liberties and stated obligations is opposed to free land, with personal burdens, and the feudal system evolved from the former because circumstances were more favorable for its development.

It now remains to be shown why the Franks, who were not strict in the matter of recording, adopted the word allegatum as an expression for land enjoying immunities. In the law of 316 we find the clause "actis adnectendis," which seems to imply that, although another law of the same year uses the expression "apud acta adlegare," the original form was "apud acta alligare." The change to allegare is, no doubt, due to the fact that the free land of the veterans was held by them lawfully, "a lege habeant," as it says in the law of 364, (27) or "ut legibus convenit," as we have found in the formulae. The immunity of the German soldiers took the place of the allegatio, which was obligatory on the Roman citizens, hence the immunity of 566 correctly states "cartulam immunitatis sine gestorum obligatione manere." It is this a lege which gave way to a laude, because the donation of an immunity was in itself a confirmation of the right to the free land. Nothing but the Roman immunity could have created the Frankish alod.


1. "De alode ma [terna.....]," Ph. Lauer and Ch. Samaran, Les diplômes originaux des mérovingiens, p. 6. Back
2. "Quicquid in suprascriptis mansis, tam de alote quam et de conparatho, seo de qualibet adtractho ibidem tua fuit possessio vel domenacio," ibid., p. 21. Back
3. "Illas porciones meas, quem ex alote parentum meorum aei legibus obvenit vel obvenire debit," MGH., Formulae, p. 4, et passim; "tam de alote parentum quam de conparato vel de qualibet adtractum" (691), Lauer and Samaran, op. cit., p. 14; "tam de alode parentum quam etiam de quolibet adtracto" (798), Wirtembergisches Urkundenbuch, Stuttgart 1849, vol. I, p. 54. Back
4. "Quem de parte parentum tam de alote quam et de conparato, vel qualibet atracto ad me legibus obvenit," MGH., Formulae, p. 229; "quicquid in praedictis locis nostra est possessio, tam de alote quam de conparato, vel qualibet adtracto ad nos noscitur pervenisse," ibid., p. 245, and pp. 143, 160, 164, 204, 207, 208, 267, 268, 283, 475. Back
5. "Dum advivo, per vestro beneficio tenere et usufructuare faciam; in ea vero ratione, ut aliubi ipsa res nec vindere nec donare nec alienare nec ad alias casas Dei delagare nec in naufragium ponere nec ad proprium sacire nec heredis meos in alote derelinquere pontifitium non habeam ad faciendum," ibid., p. 236. Back
6. "Obvenire ex successionem" (539), Marini, I pap. dipl., p. 172; "ex jure et successionem matris suae" (540), ibid., p. 175; "aut de jure parentum aut de concessione regum," Troya, op. cit., vol. II, p. 537; "que ex successione parenti advinet" (740), Brunetti, Cod. dip. toscano, vol. II, p. 499; "de hereditate de pater" (773), PMH., Dipl. et chartae, vol. I, p. 1; "ereditate que auemus de parte de pater" (908), ibid., p. 11; "quantum parentes mei in hereditate dimiserunt" (735), Wirtemb. Urkb., vol. I, p. 3; "omnes res proprietatis meae, quicquid de successione parentum meorum mihi obvenit, vel de dotationibus regum, seu de comparatum, vel commutationes" (731), ibid., p. 20; "cedente paternica hereditate" (799), ibid., p. 55. Back
7. "De alodibus. Si quis absque liberi defunctus fuerit, si pater materqui subrectis fuerint, in hereditate succidant, etc.," Lex rib. LVI, and similarly Lex sal. LIX. Back
8. Cod. Theod. VIII. 12. 1. Back
9. "Ut nulli liceat extra prouinciam laremque suum donationum instrumenta apud acta adlegare, sed in quo domicilium habuerint, adquae possessiones constitutae sunt aput suum ordinarium judicem" (316), VIII. 12. 3. Back
10. "Sed iam allegatas apud curatores donationes, et gesta confecta valere necesse est" (415), VIII. 12. 7. Back
11. "Donationem, quam pater de rebus propriis in filium filiamve conscripserit et gestis fuerit allegata........firmissimam permanere," I. 1 (MGH., Leg. sec. I, vol. II, p. 1). Back
12. "Si jussum sit gestis adlegari his actis aedicere non gravetur" (489), Marini, I pap. dipl., p. 128. Back
13. "Quoniam antea vivo marito meo de ac ipsa casa scribturam feceramus sed quia morte praeventus ut eam minime potuimus allegare nunc necesse mihi fuit ut epistolam nomini meo facerem ubi ei dono casam juris mei" (491), ibid., p. 131. Back
14. "Rogatorum a me nobilissimorum testium vel propriae manus meae subscribtione firmavi quam cum cum gestis nos Actoresque vestros quibuslibet duxeritis allegandam" (523), ibid., p. 132; "simul et testes pariter ut subscriberent conrogavimus alligandi quoque archivalibus gestis" (551), ibid., p. 182; "gestis etiam quibus volueritis allegandi liberum ex nostra permissionae nostrum ulterius minime requirentes consensu sumatis arbitrium" (553), ibid., p. 133; "quam et si gestis municipalibus allegare maluerint........liberam tribuo et concedo ex more licentiam allegandi" (6. or 7. cent.), ibid., p. 142; "testibus a me rogitis optuli subscribendam quam si gestis municipalibus allegare voluerint Actores Ecclesiae liberam tribui ex more licentiam allegandi" (6. cent.), ibid., p. 145; "gestis etiam municipalibus allegandi" (619), ibid., p. 190. Back
15. "Et ut hec donatio a nobis pro divina retributione plenius fac........robur manus nostre subterfirmavimus, et fratrum nostrorum venerablium vel magnificorum civium Pictavensium supscriptionibus firmare curavimus, atque gestis municipalibus inserendum juxta consuetudinem Romane legis......ligare decrevimus" (657), Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des chartes, vol. LIX, p. 243; "apud laudabilitatem vestram gestis municipalibus inligarem" (657), ibid., p. 244; see also MGH., Formulae, in the Vocabulary. Back
16. "Decrevi etiam per hanc cartulam immunitatis et cessionis meam, basilicam superius nuncupatam, sine gestorum obligatione manere" (566), R. de Lasteyrie, Cartulaire général de Paris, p. 6. Back
17. II. 9. 3. Back
18. "Post transitum meum die legitimo hanc voluntatis meae epistolam apud curiae ordinem gestis publicis facias adcorporare," MGH., Formulae, p. 585. Back
19. "Testamenta, sicut leges praecipiunt, allegentur: hoc modo fides voluntatis alienae titubare non poterit," Edictum Theoderici 72 (MGH., Leg., vol. V). Back
20. "Mihi placuit delegare ut villa Minione, sita in territorio Parisiaco, cum vineis quae fundi ratione aptae ad plastarias et vinitores esse noscuntur, quas mihi domnus Clotarius rex dedit, dum laicus fui, fundumque quem dedit saepius laudatus tam de fisco quam de comparato possidendum, sanctae ecclesiae Parisiacae, sub cujus gratia nutritus sum, ad integrum volo esse donatum," Cartulaire général de Paris, p. 8. Back
21. "Laudabilitas vestra.....ut publica momenta suscipiat et, paterfactis codicibus, gesta, cum a vobis fuerit subscripta, mihi nobilitas vestra, ut mos est, tradi precipiat," MGH., Formulae, p. 137; "ut ipsam donationem apud laudabilitatem gestis monecepalibus debiam adlegari," ibid., p. 170; "epistolam illam, quem in dilecta sponsam tuam de rebus propriis tui conscribere vel adfirmare rogasti, sicut mos et lex est, gestis municipalibus apud laudabilitatem honorati ipsius civitatis alegarae adque adfirmare decrevi," ibid., p. 176; "ad laudabilitatem vestra adcrescere deberem et haec epistola......ut ipsos secundum lege Romana in ipsa civitate ante curia publica debeat in legitima totius hereditatis sue instituere hereditate......ut predicta epistola iuxta morem et consuetudinem gestis monicipalibus alegare atque firmare debeant," ibid., p. 209. Back
22. "Unde ego te vir laudabilis illum defensore necnon et vos honerati, que curas puplicas agite adsidue.......ut, quando volueritis et malueritis, vel mihi necessarium fuerit, ut mos est, gestis municipalibus eam faciatis ablegare cum petitiones nostras," ibid., p. 28; "Arvernis aput vir laudabile ipso defensore......abeo, que gestarum alegatio cupio roborare," ibid., p. 29; "peto obtime defensor, vosque, laudabiles curialis atque municepis, ut mihi codices publicus patere iubeatis, quia habeo aliquid, que gestis prosequere debeam," ibid., p. 97, and pp. 98, 170, 176, 202, 209. Back
23. "Hoc consultum est, ut, quicumque liberta persona de rebus propriis facultatis suae aliquid conferrae voluerit, hoc per seriem scripturarum laudabiliter debeat esse adlegatum adque subter firmatum, qui hac condicione et iurae postulat praeturium et gestis requirit municipalibus," ibid., p. 175. Back
24. "Se mon se ðe bocland haebbe, & him his maegas laefden, de eo qui terram testamentalem habet, quam ei parentes sui demiserunt," F. Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, p. 74 f. Back
25. Ibid., vol. II, p. 26. Back
26. Ibid., vol. I, pp. 294, 317, 365. Back
27. "Habeant ex vagantibus, sive ex diversis, ubi elegerint agros, et a lege habeant, ut sibi soli eorundem fructos cessuros esse cognoscant: nullum ex his agris stipendium, nullam annuam praestationem postulavimus," Cod. Theod., VII. 20. 8. [Back]

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