ransom


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ransom,

price of redemption demanded by the captor of a person, vessel, or city. In ancient times cities frequently paid ransom to prevent their plundering by captors. The custom of ransoming was formerly sanctioned by law. Soldiers, given the right to kill or enslave their prisoners, frequently preferred to free them after receiving payment. This mitigated bloodshed, for it was more profitable to hold enemies for ransom than to massacre them. One of the rights of a feudal lord was to call upon his tenants to ransom him if he were captured in battle. The amount of ransom varied with the rank of the captive; a king or a noted warrior brought a great sum. For the payment of the ransom of Richard IRichard I,
 Richard Cœur de Lion
, or Richard Lion-Heart,
1157–99, king of England (1189–99); third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
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 (Richard Cœur de Lion) a special tax was levied in England; the French sovereign paid heavy ransoms for Bertrand Du GuesclinDu Guesclin, Bertrand
, c.1320–80, constable of France (1370–80), greatest French soldier of his time. A Breton, he initially served Charles of Blois in the War of the Breton Succession.
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; and Scotland was impoverished in paying for James IJames I,
1394–1437, king of Scotland (1406–37), son and successor of Robert III. King Robert feared for the safety of James because the king's brother, Robert Stuart, 1st duke of Albany, who was virtual ruler of the realm, stood next in line of succession after the
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. Merchant vessels captured in privateeringprivateering,
former usage of war permitting privately owned and operated war vessels (privateers) under commission of a belligerent government to capture enemy shipping.
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 were sometimes ransomed by their owners. After receiving the ransom, the privateer sometimes furnished a ransom bill, which allowed safe conduct for the ship to one of her native ports. Today the term generally refers to the sum paid to a kidnapper for the release of an individual or to an airplane hijacker for the release of passengers, crew, and plane.

Ransom

John Crowe. 1888--1974, US poet and critic
References in classic literature ?
With it ransom yourself and your friends, and let one of you go to the land of the Christians, and there buy a vessel and come back for the others; and he will find me in my father's garden, which is at the Babazon gate near the seashore, where I shall be all this summer with my father and my servants.
We at once gave the renegade five hundred crowns to buy the vessel, and with eight hundred I ransomed myself, giving the money to a Valencian merchant who happened to be in Algiers at the time, and who had me released on his word, pledging it that on the arrival of the first ship from Valencia he would pay my ransom; for if he had given the money at once it would have made the king suspect that my ransom money had been for a long time in Algiers, and that the merchant had for his own advantage kept it secret.
Some authorities think different, but mostly it's considered best to kill them -- except some that you bring to the cave here, and keep them till they're ransomed."
But per'aps if we keep them till they're ransomed, it means that we keep them till they're dead.
This violent resolution was not lasting; his zeal gave way to his avarice, and he could not think of losing so large a sum as he knew he might expect for our ransom: he therefore sent us word that it was in our choice either to die, or to pay him thirty thousand crowns, and demanded to know our determination.
"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."
I would I could here end my message to these gallant knights; but being, as I term myself, in truth and earnest, the Disinherited, I must be thus far bound to your masters, that they will, of their courtesy, be pleased to ransom their steeds and armour, since that which I wear I can hardly term mine own.''
"She is very small and very beautiful; I had hoped that they would hold her for ransom."
The third item is that of ransom. I am asking from the friends of the Harrogate family a ransom of three thousand pounds, which I am sure is almost insulting to that family in its moderate estimate of their importance.
"Without doubt, duke, since you are not yet ransomed, but have no care of that; it was I who took you out of M.
"And if I ride north with you," he asked, "half the jewels and half the ransom of the woman shall be mine?"
He would have promised a sum far beyond his resources just as readily, for he had no intention of paying anything--his one reason for seeming to comply with The Sheik's demands was that the wait for the coming of the ransom money would give him the time and the opportunity to free Meriem if he found that she wished to be freed.