The Salic law is the oldest-known code of laws in Europe, and the most unusual. The law is so old, it predates Christianity. It was passed by Clovis I to ensure that only he would be king of all Franks. When Clovis died, his oldest son took over, but only as long as he had male heirs with him or his wife. Ancient frankish civil law code prohibited women from inheriting land and acts of property ownership. Salic law changed all that by granting women equal rights of ownership, and a share of the inheritance, in addition to giving them power and authority over men.
1. Freedom from Tax!
The Salic law was created by a group of wise men (salii) who were elected to rule over the people. This group of men, known as Salian Franks, created a set of laws that set standards for living in their area. They called it the Salic Law because it was first found in the ancient city of Soissons.
Among the laws included in this system are provisions for marriage, divorce and property rights. One unique part is that women are given rights equal to those of men, something most cultures did not do until much later. In the Salic law, women could inherit property and at that time it was unheard of.
2. The Governance of the Kingdom
Once Clovis I died, he left a kingdom where only his oldest son could rule. But this is not something the Franks wanted. They elected from among themselves a group of men to lead them, and ensure stability as well as peace and prosperity for all. Among other things, they created the Salic Law to ensure that only one family (male) would rule all of Frankia- and this lasted for more than 400 years!
3. Women’s Rights
The Salic Law ensured equal rights for women a long time before the Romans. The law makes it illegal for a husband to murder his wife or repudiate her. It also gives her equal rights to property, and lets her administer what she owns independently in cases where there is no male heir. This was unheard of at a time when women were little more than chattel to men! And yet, the Franks accepted this idea and incorporated it into their legal system!
4. The Unwritten Laws of the Salic Law
One interesting thing about this ancient set of laws is that they are somewhat contradictory at times. They are often unclear as to what is right or wrong, and so some of them contradict each other.
One example of this is that the laws stated that any woman could inherit property, but it was also illegal for a woman to sell inherited land. This created a contradiction and scholars disagree as to what the law actually meant here. Other laws were written in words that could be interpreted in different ways, and so the laws often differed from region to another.
5. The King Could Not Be Legally Deposed by His Subjects
The Salic Law states that it is treason to try to overthrow a king or emperor from his throne, even if he does something unpopular or criminal. In other words, the people of Frankia were forbidden to revolt against their monarch. So, even if a king or queen was so bad that they no longer had a right to be in power, they could not be deposed by the people. This was another way to ensure stability and peace in the kingdom which no doubt contributed to its longevity.
6. The Salic Law Supported Religious Tolerance
This law also has clear provisions which show tolerance toward other religions. The Franks are a Celtic people, and they worship many deities, both Celtic and Roman. In their native language they refer to all of these deities as their “deities.” The Franks have always had a lot of respect for other’s sacred beliefs, so even though they also had their own gods and goddesses, they would never intrude on another religion’s territory.
7. Importance in the Middle Ages
The Salic law was very important in the middle ages in France and much of Europe. As one of the earliest laws, it was often copied by later laws throughout Europe. This made it very old when it became one of the most important legal documents to be studied by medieval scholars.