Posts Tagged ‘assises d’ariano’

Aux milieu du XIe siècle, des aventuriers normands débarquent dans une Italie territorialement morcelée. Ils en débutent aussitôt la conquête méthodique. Le duché de Naples est sous leur contrôle dès 1049. Dix ans plus tard, la principauté de Capoue ainsi que le double duché d’Apulie & de Calabre – fief comprenant également la Basilicate et la Campanie – s’ajoutent à leur dominium. Poussant leur avantage, ces Normands enlèvent la Sicile aux Sarrasins entre 1061 et 1091. C’est dans ce contexte que Roger II de Hauteville devient comte de Sicile en 1105. Ce roi ambitieux cultive le grand projet d’unir tous les territoires normands d’Italie méridionale sous une même couronne. Il prend deux décennies à le réaliser. En 1128, une assemblée nobiliaire se tenant à Melfi reconnaît son autorité sur le sud de la péninsule. Conséquemment, Roger II est sacré roi de Sicile en 1130. Combinant le professionnalisme de la gestion fiscale byzantine, la précision de la cartographie administrative arabe et la magnificence de l’architecture des pays d’Oïl tout en faisant preuve d’innovation en matière d’exercice de la justice, le Royaume normand d’Italie devient rapidement le plus brillant État européen du milieu du XIIe siècle. La capitale, Palerme, est alors la plus grande cité d’Europe de l’Ouest et possède la plus imposante flotte commerciale du continent. Quant à l’Université de Salerne, elle grouille d’érudits qui traduisent des œuvres grecques de l’Antiquité classique, dont Euclide et Ptolémée.

Les Assises d’Ariano

Doté d’un sens développé du droit, Roger II organise les Assises du royaume à Ariano (Campanie) en 1140 et y promulgue un code juridique connu sous l’appellation d’Assises d’Ariano. Ce document est fondamental dans l’histoire du droit occidental, le dispositif juridique italo-normand ayant servi de prototype à celui subséquemment instauré en Normandie elle-même puis en Angleterre par les jurisconsultes anglo-normands. La philosophie politique des Assises d’Ariano est évidemment imparfaite : la notion d’office royal est amalgamé avec celle de sacerdoce suprême, et le roi est placé au-dessus des lois (c’est une violation de la primauté du droit). On note là une mauvaise influence islamo-byzantine. Cependant, ce bref recueil légal n’est pas sans valeur et contient aussi de multiples principes d’inspiration biblique.


Le directeur de l’Institut d’études médiévales de l’Université de Leeds (Yorkshire) a traduit du latin à l’anglais les Assises d’Ariano. Voici les articles qui peuvent être considérés comme théonomiques (conformes à la Loi de Dieu révélée dans les Écritures Saintes et l’Ancien et du Nouveau Testaments).

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It is right and proper, barons, […] that if we have received anything from the generosity which has resulted from Divine grace, then we should repay these Divine benefits through which we have our strength with humble service […] ‘By me kings reign, and legislators decree justice’ [Proverbs 8:15]. For we consider that nothing is more pleasing to God than if we straightforwardly offer Him that which we have learnt Him to be, namely mercy and justice. […] We therefore desire and order that you should faithfully and enthusiastically receive the provisions which we make public in the present code whether they have been promulgated by us or [simply] re-enacted.

II. About the Privilege of Holy Churches

[…] We shall defend and guard inviolate all the property and possessions of the holy churches which have been entrusted to our custody […] with the temporal sword which has been granted to us by God. […]

III. General Admonition

We advise princes, counts, greater and lesser barons […] and all those who have subject to them citizens, burgesses, peasants […] that they should treat them decently and show themselves merciful, particularly when collecting the tax owed, they should demand this in moderation.

VI. Concerning Flight to a Church

[…] In all parts of our kingdom nobody in flight of whatsoever condition shall be expelled or dragged out of the most holy churches […] Anyone who shall endeavour or do this shall be face capital punishment or the loss of all their property. Meanwhile food shall not be denied to the fugitives. However if a serf or colonist or serf […] shall have fled with stolen property to holy places, he shall be returned to the lord […] if intercession has occurred, restitution shall occur piously and freely.

XI. About the Rape of Virgins

If anyone presumes to rape holy virgins veiled by God, even for the purpose of marriage, he shall suffer capital punishment, or other penalty which royal censure shall decree.

XII. About Jews and Pagans Possessing Christian Servants

No Jew or Pagan shall dare either to buy or sell Christian servants, or to possess them […] If he should presume to do this, all his property will be confiscated to the Fisc, and he shall become the servant of the Court. If he should by some wicked trick or persuasion have the servant […] deny his faith, then he shall be punished by capital penalty.

XIV. About Jesters

Players and those who make jokes by bodily writhing shall not use in public either the habits of virgins dedicated to God or monastic or clerical vestments. If they should do so they shall be publicly flogged.

[Signification : les bouffons ou amuseurs publics coupables de travestissement vestimentaire seront flagellés.]

XV. About Wards and Orphans

[…] In addition we settle the equity of the laws on women, who are not less disadvantaged by the fragility of their sex. We order that they should be aided from the depths of piety both by us and by our officials, as is right and proper.

XXI. About Coining Money

We impose capital punishment on and confiscate the property of those coining adulterine money or knowingly receiving it ; we inflict this penalty [also] on those conspiring [in this]. We deprive those who shave gold or silver coins, dye them, or in anyway diminish them of their property […]

XXV. About Corrupt Public Officials

[…] Officials of the state or judges who have, during their period in office, stolen public revenues [are guilty of] the grave crime of embezzlement and shall be punished capitally, unless royal piety spares them.

XXVII. About the Legitimate Celebration of Marriages

[…] It is contrary to custom, inconsistent with what is laid down by the holy canons, and unheard of to Christian ears to desire to contract matrimony, to procreate legitimate progeny and bind oneself indissolubly to a consort […]

XXVIII. About Adulteresses

[…] We will not allow a crime of this sort to go unpunished, and we order her to be publicly flogged. Whoever allows his wife to be wanton with debauched men while he looks on or by his arrangement cannot easily accuse her in court, since he who consents to what he could forbid opens the way to fraud. We shall not condemn everyone who has a suspect wife as a pimp […] But if we learn clearly that someone has a lascivious wife, we shall immediately from this time hold her worthy of strict punishment, and we condemn him to the penalty of infamy.

XXIX. About Prostitution

[…] An adulterer and an adulteress cannot be charged together. Each should be charged separately and the outcome of the matter awaited ; for if the adulterer is able to clear himself, the woman is free and need make no further defence. If however he shall be found guilty then let the woman in turn be accused.
The law does not make a choice of who should be first tried, but if both are present then the man shall be tried first. Repudiation must always be permitted in this accusation […]

XXX. About Pimping
We decree by the present law that that madams, namely those who solicit the chastity of another, which is the worst type of crime, should be punished as adulteresses. We punish mothers who prostitute their virgin daughters and abandon the bonds of marriage as madams, thus their noses should be slit. For it is cruel and inhuman for them to sell the chastity of their own offspring. […]

XXXI. About the Violation of Marriage

[…] If a husband catches his wife in the very act of adultery, then he shall be allowed to kill both the wife and the adulterer, provided that it is done without any further delay.

XXXII. About Adultery

The legal penalty for pimping [Cf. art. 30] binds a husband who shall seize his wife caught in the act of adultery but has allowed the adulterer to get away, unless however the latter escaped through no fault of his own.

XXXVII. About Kidnappers

Whoever knowingly sells a free man shall be subject to this legitimate penalty, that the person sold shall be redeemed from his property and that the criminal himself shall become a slave of our court, and the rest of his property shall be confiscated. […]

XXXVIII. About Robbers

He who, thinking his life to be in danger, shall kill an attacker or robber, ought not to fear blame for his action.

XL. About Theft

He who shall kill a nocturnal thief shall remain unpunished, if the latter could not be arrested, while the hue and cry was raised.

XLIV. If a Judge Neglects His Duty

If a judge receives money and then declares someone guilty of a crime and of death, then he shall be subject to capital punishment. If a judge fraudulently and deceitfully hands down a sentence contrary to the laws, then he shall lost his judicial authority without hope of recovery, be branded with infamy and all his property shall be confiscated. However, if he makes a mistake in sentencing through ignorance of the law, he shall be punished for his simplicity of mind and be subject to our royal mercy and foresight.

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Les Constitutions de Melfi

En 1231, le petit-fils de Roger II de Sicile, Frédéric II de Hohenstaufen, empereur du Saint-Empire romain germanique, reprit et étaya les Assises d’Ariano dans le premier ouvrage systématique et synthétique de droit italien, les Constitutions de Melfi (aussi appelées  Liber Augustalis en latin). Publiées en 1231 et comprenant 253 articles répartis en trois volumes, c’était alors le recueil de lois le plus avancé d’Europe continentale. Dans les articles 41 et 44 du premier tome, des importantes protections juridiques sont garanties aux femmes qui pourraient être préjudiciées en procès par leur méconnaissance du droit, incluant le privilège de recevoir une assistance des avocats publics. En vertu de l’article 73 du livre 1, les juges étaient rémunérés par la Magna Curia (tribunal royal) et ne devaient pas prendre d’argent des litigants pendant les procédures. Les juges étaient tenus d’être assermentés « devant Dieu » selon l’article 62 (toujours du premier volume). Les gens qui vendaient des potions érotiques ou de la nourriture nocive ayant provoqué décès étaient soumis à la peine capitale, et si les consommateurs de ces potions n’étaient pas blessés, les vendeurs voyaient leurs biens confisqués (article 73 du tome 3).

Frédéric II du Saint-Empire proclamant les Constitutions de Melfi en l’an 1231

Référence : Harold Berman, Law and Revolution – The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1983, pages 410-416 et 425-434 sur 657.

Traduction française ↑ : Droit et Révolution – La formation de la tradition juridique occidentale, Aix-en-Provence, Librairie de l’Université d’Aix-en-Provence, 2002, 684 pages.

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