Hatred as a Social Institution in Late-Medieval Society

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Hatred as a Social Institution in Late-Medieval Society

By Daniel Lord Smail

Speculum, Vol. 76, No. 1 (2001)

Introduction: At some point early in 1355, the laborer Pons Gasin of Marseilles killed a woman named Alazais Borgona. The peace act that arose from this killing does not tell us why. What it does tell us is that the killing marked the birth of a great hatred between Alazais’s kinfolk and Pons. The notary who wrote the act, Peire Aycart, had no word comparable to the German word faida and its cognates or the Italian vendetta to describe a structural relationship of animosity of this kind. Instead, he used the classical Latin word inimicitia, meaning “enmity” or “hatred,” quite literally, “unfriendship” or “unkinship.” By late March or so, fellow laborers were actively involved in settling the affair. On 4 April 1355 the hostile parties met in the convent of the Augustinians of Marseilles in the presence of several leading citizens of Marseilles, and unfriendship turned to friendship as the two parties exchanged the kiss of peace and sealed the contract with a marriage. The marriage linked Alazais’s son, Johan Borgon, to a female cousin of Pons Gasin named Bertomieua Bohiera. Pons paid his cousin’s dowry of fifty royal pounds. In this as in many cases of homicide in fourteenth-century Marseilles, the authorities pru- dently kept to the wings, preferring not to meddle overmuch in deep enmity.




The word inimicitia and its cognate enmitas occur frequently in the judicial records and notarial peace acts of late-medieval Marseilles, somewhat more often but in essentially the same context as two other words used to describe hatred, the classical Latin odium and the late Latin rancor. Although the semantic field covered by this quartet overlaps with another moral sentiment, namely, anger or wrath, conveyed by the words ira and furor, the two sentiments were often used in distinct ways, both in Marseilles and in other sources from the Latin Middle Ages. “Hatred,” as Robert Bartlett has pointed out, was a conventional term of medieval secular jurisprudence used to describe an enduring public relationship between two adversaries. “Anger,” in contrast, was generally used to describe a short-term and hence repairable rage, something that could break out between members of a kin group, real or fictive, who normally love one another-brothers and sisters, parents and children, lords and vassals, or God and his people. In moral literature, hatred was typically paired with love, whereas anger was paired with patience.

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See also Daniel Lord Small on Violence and Predation in Medieval Europe

Sharan Newman