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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 ?
But what needs to be made even is not the amount of pain felt or some idea of cosmic justice, but rather affirmation of a person's value with respect to a cultural measure of value, such as wergeld, or the worth of a person determined by a value such as honor.
Por eso, una vez roto el compromiso entre Closuintha y el, Gontran volvio a reclamar el wergeld por las muertes de sus tres familiares de las que responsabilizaba a Leovigildo, y que, al haber fallecido, heredaba su hijo (88).
Most offenses under the early Normans were still defined by Anglo-Saxon customary law, but elimination of the wergeld system meant that those offenses considered to be violations of the king's peace were significantly expanded, and the Normans continually added offenses of this kind.
The severity of this violation was extended to the husband the bereaved wife married, since he must forfeit his wergeld to the king.
30) regarding honest wergeld (Gif man mannan ofslea, unfaecne feo gehwilce gelde).
By locating the origin of innovations such as prize money, thief catching, informing, and vagrancy legislation within ancient practice of wergelds, Valenze shows how monetary factors helped create and reinforce social stability and hierarchy.
For example, gone are the days of wergelds (paying a price to the family for killing a family member).