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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 ?
For more on the institution of wergild ("man-price"), see Hill, "Social" and Cultural.
The rise of casualty insurance is in some senses a throwback to the wergild, but it is also an integral part of capitalism, a market-based system of checks and balances on corporations.
There are, for instance, six references in the seventh century Laws o fine (promulgated between AD 688-694), referring both to the wergild values of British slaves and free Britons.
Wallace-Hadrill, working with the bloodfeud of the early medieval Franks, has noted the function of the feud, or fear of it, as the sanction behind other forms of dispute resolution, such as wergild or arbitration.
13) Gif hine mon gilt, ponne mot he gesellan on para hyndenna gehwelcere monnan 7 byrnan 7 sweord on paet wergild, gif he oyrfe.
The court has given the prosecutor a period of 45 days to contact families of the victims and ask them whether they want punishment or wergilds.