Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  The Privilege of the deditio

The deditio was a privilege for members of the high aristocracy. This privilege allowed reconciliation with the sovereign after a rebellion. It followed a certain ceremony with demonstrative repentence being the first step, that mostly included being barefoot, wearing of a penitential robe and a proper genuflection (on both knees, kissing the foot of the king). The king then could forgive on the spot by raising the dedicant from his kneeling position, or punish the rebel in a serious (long term imprisonment) or more symbolic (f.e. dismantling of a part of the castle walls which could be rebuild thereafter) way. Only one thing the king could not do: put the death sentence upon the repentant rebel. The conditions of the deditio were negotiated beforehand by mediators. After the deditio relations were regarded as before the rebellion with the honour of both parties remaining intact. (At least, officially, sometimes the conditions were too humilitating not to leave negative feelings with the one who had to submit.)

It was one of the ways to establish limits of power and aggression in a society with no legal system as we know today. Therefore, the ceremony had a large component of stage production, of demonstration for a people the majority of which was illiterate. The deditio developed in the time of Charlemagne; the first description of the proper proceedings is to be found for the treatment of Louis the Pious' rebellious son Lothar in 834.

The deditio could only be granted once, if the rebellious vassal continued with his behaviour, no more negotiations about submission were allowed; his life was forfeit. The demonstrative character of the action would have lost its effect had it been repeated by the same person. Though there are exceptions to this, of course.

Gerd Althoff. Das Privileg der deditio. In: Althoff, Gerd. Spielregeln der Politik im Mittelalter - Kommunikation in Frieden und Fehde. Darmstadt, 1997 (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft); pp. 99-125
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels with illustrated essays on Roman and Mediaeval history - with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States. You may also find the odd essay about Geology, Medieaval literature, and some poetry translations.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History which doesn't pay my bills. I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.