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in ancient and medieval law, a sum of money paid by a guilty party as satisfaction to the family of the person who was injured or killed. Failure to make the payment might justify retaliation in kind against the offender or his family.
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(in Russian, vira’;, in Polish, gtowa), in the Leges Germanorum, money compensation for the murder of a freeman. It arose as an alternative to the blood feud, gradually replacing it. The amount of the wergild was established by an agreement between the two parties with consideration of the sex and age of the person murdered. The Leges Germanorum of the Germanic tribes provided special protection for women and children and also set a higher amount of wergild for the murder of aristocrats, officials, and clergymen. The wergild was established as a fixed sum of money (in solidi) and paid by the murderer or his kinsfolk in definite shares to the family of the murder victim, to his kinsfolk, and to the king. According to the Salic Law, the wergild for the murder of a free Frank was 200 solidi, for the murder of a royal retainer 600 solidi. Failure to pay the wergild on time returned to the victimized party his right to use direct violence against the murderer.

With the development of feudal relations in Western Europe, the wergild gradually lost its importance, but it was retained in various forms until the 12th or 13th century.

The vira of Russkaia Pravda, which corresponds to the Germanic wergild, reflects a later phase in the evolution of this institution.


Chernilovskii, Z. M. Istoriia rabovladel’ cheskogo gosudarstva i prava, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
Khrestomatiia pamiatnikov feodal’nogo gosudarstva i prava stran Evropy. Moscow, 1961.
References in periodicals archive ?
15) The institution of wergild is of course one product of these typifications.
The "Finnsburg episode" envelopes us in a society that is at once honour-bound and bloodstained, presided over by the laws of the blood-feud, where the kin of a person slain are bound to exact a price for the death, either by slaying the killer or by receiving satisfaction in the form of wergild (the "man-price"), a legally fixed compensation.
The seventh-century laws of King Ine, for example, specifically deal with questions of who is entitled to the wergild of an illegitimate child abandoned by its father, and also provide for a system of fees for those who look after foundlings for the first three years of their lives.