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Encyclopedia > Brehon Laws

The Brehon Laws were statutes that governed everyday life and politics in Ireland until the Norman invasion of 1171 (the word "Brehon" is an Anglicisation of breitheamh (earlier brithem), the Irish word for a judge). The laws were written in the Old Irish period (ca. 600900 AD) and are assumed to reflect the traditional laws of pre-Christian Ireland. These secular laws existed in parallel with, and occasionally in conflict with, Canon law throughout the early Christian period. Norman conquests in red. ... Events Saladin abolishes the Fatimid caliphate, restoring Sunni rule in Egypt. ... Old Irish is the name given to the oldest form of the Irish language which can be more or less fully reconstructed from extant sources. ... The population of the Earth rises to about 208 million people. ... Events Persian scientist, Rhazes, distinguished smallpox from measles in the course of his writings. ... Canon Law is the ecclesiastical law of the Roman Catholic Church. ...


The laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts: the concept of state-administered punishment for crime was foreign to Ireland's early lawmakers. They show Ireland in the early medieval period to have been a hierarchical society, taking great care to define social status, and the rights and duties that went with it, according to property, and the relationships between lords and their clients and serfs. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Criminal law (also known as penal law) is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. ...

Contents

Women and marriage

Prior to the Brehon Laws and the Cáin Adomnáin, women were essentially subordinate to their husbands and fathers. After the adoption of the Brehon Laws, Irish society continued to be male-dominated, but women had greater freedom, independence and rights to property than in other European societies of the time. Divorce was provided for on a number of grounds (eg. impotence or homosexuality on the husband's part), after which property was divided according to what contribution each spouse had made to the household. A husband was legally permitted to hit his wife to "correct" her, but if the blow left a mark she was entitled to the equivalent of her bride-price in compensation and could, if she wished, divorce him. Property of a household could not be disposed of without the consent of both spouses. However, women were still largely subject to their fathers or husbands and were not normally permitted to act as witnesses, their testimony being considered "biased and dishonest". The Cáin Adomnáin (Law of Adomnán), also known as the Lex Innocentium (Law of Innocents) was promulgated amongst a gathering of Irish, Dal Ríatan and Pictish notables at a location known as Birr in 697. ... Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the ending of a marriage before the death of either spouse. ...


Kingship

The basic unit of political organisation provided for was the tuath (tribal or petty kingdom), headed by a (king). Kingship of a tuath was not inherited by primogeniture: a new king would be elected by the aristocracy of the tribe (the derb-fine or close kinship group up to and including second cousins) from a number of eligible candidates. Any adult male who was the son, grandson or great-grandson of a previous king, in direct male line, was eligible. Often, a king would choose a tánaiste (heir apparent, literally "second") who would be best placed to succeed at his death. Kings were themselves subject to the law and had little power to create laws or issue edicts except in emergencies. Look up monarch in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Tanistry (Irish/Gaeilge Tàinste;Scottish Gaelic: Tànaisteachd) was the office of heir-apparent, or second-in-command, among the royal dynastys of Ireland and her offshoot nations. ...


These tuatha were, by convention, grouped into four over-kingdoms or provinces: Laighin (present day Leinster), Ulaidh (Ulster), Mumhan (Munster), and Connachta (Connacht). Each province had a king, normally chosen from among the kings of the tuatha, who exercised some power over the other kings in the province. The provincial kings were supposedly subject to a High King, who ruled from Tara in the "fifth royal province" of Mide (present day Meath). Statistics Area: 19,774. ... The Ulaid, also known as the Ulaidh and the Ulad, are a people of Early Ireland who gave their name to the Irish Province of Ulster. ... Statistics Area: 24,481 km² Population (2006 estimate) 1,993,918 Ulster (Irish: Cúige Uladh, IPA: ) forms one of the four traditional provinces of Ireland. ... Statistics Area: 24,607. ... Connaught redirects here. ... The High Kingship of Ireland was a pseudohistorical construct of the eighth century AD, a projection into the distant past of a political entity that did not become reality until the ninth century. ... The Hill of Tara (aerial view) The Hill of Tara (Irish Teamhair na Rí, Hill of the Kings), located near the River Boyne, is a long, low limestone ridge that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland. ... County Meath (Contae na Mí in Irish) is the fastest growing county in the Republic of Ireland, often informally called The Royal County. ...


Clientship

A member of the property-owning classes could advance himself by becoming a "free client" of a more powerful lord. The lord would make his client a grant of property (sometimes land, but more usually livestock) for a fixed period of time. The client would owe service to his lord, and at the end of the grant period would return the grant with interest. Any increase beyond the agreed interest was his to keep. This allowed for a certain degree of social mobility as an astute free client could increase his wealth until he could afford to have clients of his own, thus becoming a lord in his own right.


A poorer man could become a "base client" by selling a share in his honour-price, making his lord entitled to part of any compensation due him. The lord would make him a smaller grant of land or livestock, for which the client would pay rent in produce and manual labour. A man could be a base client to several lords simultaneously.


Decline of the Brehon Laws

The laws fell into disuse after Ireland was progressively divided over the years into Norman-controlled zones, one English-controlled zone (The Pale), and some native Irish kingdoms. Although the Norman barons eventually adopted Irish culture and language and married in with the native Irish, Ireland remained divided between Norman-Irish kingdoms and Gaelic-Irish kingdoms. Due to this, the Brehon Laws would never be readopted on an official basis, although some modernized concepts survive in the laws of the Republic of Ireland. Interestingly, one of the reasons the Brehon Laws were condemned as 'barbaric' by Norman or English commentators, was that the penalties they laid down for various crimes (with a tendency towards compensation for injury rather than punishment), were not sufficiently harsh. This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Pale refers to at least two geographic areas: The Pale of Settlement in which imperial Russia allowed Jews to live. ...


In one exceptional case, as pointed out by Wylie, vestigial rights have been recognised in recent Irish case law in reference to the survival of Brehon law-governed fishery rights in Tyrconnell, once the last bastion of Gaelic sovereignty until 1601. The rights survived the end of Tyrconnell's independence, and also survived the Elizabethen conquest. Tyrconnell can refer to: a territory in Ireland, now more commonly referred to as County Donegal (see Tír Conaill), although the Kingdom and later Principality of Tyrconnell was broader than that, including parts of Sligo, Leitrim (Republic of Ireland), and Fermanagh (United Kingdom). ...


Trivia

The Brehon Laws and associated themes from Celtic Ireland have been fictionalised in the Sister Fidelma novels by Peter Tremayne. Sister Fidelma is a fictional amateur detective, the eponymous heroine of a series by Irish author Peter Tremayne (pseudonym of Peter Berresford Ellis). ... Peter Tremayne is the pseudonym of historian Peter Berresford Ellis, as whom he has written several novels and short stories set in the middle of the 7th century, mainly in Ireland, and starring the dalaigh, Sister Fidelma. ...


References

  • Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (1995), Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200, Longman
  • Fergus Kelly (1988), A Guide to early Irish Law, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, ISBN 0-901282-95-2.
  • Professor J.C.W. Wylie, Irish Land Law, Butterworths.
  • Patrick C.Power (1976), "Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland", Mercier

External links

  • The Brehon Law
  • The Law of the Couple: translation of an Irish legal text on marriage
  • The Brehon Law Project
  • Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies - School of Celtic Studies Catalogue of relevant publications
  • Solarguard Brehon Precis of Fergus Kelly's A Guide to Early Irish Law

  Results from FactBites:
 
The Brehon Laws (3320 words)
Brehon law is the usual term for Irish native law, as administered in Ireland down to almost the middle of the seventeenth century, and in fact amongst the native Irish until the final consummation of the English conquest.
The law of primogeniture did not obtain in Ireland, and the selection was made of the man who being of the chieftain's near blood could best defend the tribe and lead it in both war and peace.
It is also likely that much of the law relating to the alienation of land, all the land belonging originally to the tribe, was influenced by the Church, and indeed the Church seems to have been the grantee primarily contemplated in these regulations.
Brehon Laws - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (982 words)
The Brehon Laws were statutes that governed everyday life and politics in Ireland until the Norman invasion of 1171 (the word "Brehon" is an Anglicisation of breitheamh (earlier brithem), the Irish word for a judge).
The laws were a civil rather than a criminal code, concerned with the payment of compensation for harm done and the regulation of property, inheritance and contracts: the concept of state-administered punishment for crime was foreign to Ireland's early lawmakers.
Due to this, the Brehon Laws would never be readopted on an official basis, although some modernized concepts survive in the laws of the Republic of Ireland.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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