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Lex Innocentium (697 AD): Adomnán of Iona – father of Western jus in bello

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 April 2020

Abstract

This article is concerned with an Irish law dating from 697 AD, called Lex Innocentium or the Law of the Innocents. It is also known as Cáin Adomnáin, being named after Adomnán (d. 704), ninth Abbot of Iona, who was responsible for its drafting and promulgation. The law was designed to offer legislative protection to women, children, clerics and other non-arms-bearing people, primarily, though not exclusively, in times of conflict. Today, the laws of war fall into two categories: those attempting to regulate when it is lawful or just to go to war, now called jus ad bellum, and those attempting to limit the awful effects of war by stipulating how it should be properly conducted (for instance, in providing for non-combatant immunity), now called jus in bello. By proscribing the killing and injuring of non-arms-bearing people, Lex Innocentium is an in bello law, and by virtue of its being the first known such law, Adomnán, its author, is the father of Western jus in bello.

Type
Selected articles on international humanitarian law and humanitarian action
Copyright
Copyright © icrc 2020

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References

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9 R. Kolb, above note 6, p. 2.

10 One notable exception is Strickland, Matthew, “Rules of War or War without Rules? Some Reflections on Conduct and the Treatment of Non-Combatants in Medieval Transcultural Wars”, in Kortüm, Hans-Henning (ed.), Transcultural Wars from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 2006, pp. 114117Google Scholar. Unfortunately Strickland was not aware that the text of Lex Innocentium was available.

11 Fraser, James E., “Adomnán and the Morality of War”, in Wooding, Jonathan M. et al. . (eds), Adomnán of Iona: Theologian, Lawmaker, Peacemaker, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2010, p. 96Google Scholar. See also Charles-Edwards, Thomas M., Early Christian Ireland, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 568CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Márkus, Gilbert (trans.), Adomnán's ‘Law of the Innocents’: Cáin Adomnáin, Kilmartin House Trust, Kilmartin, 2008, p. 8Google Scholar.

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14 C. Etchingham, above note 13, p. 222.

15 T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, pp. 119–121; E. Johnston, above note 13, p. 61.

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17 Cróinín, Dáibhí Ó, Early Medieval Ireland, 400–1200, Longman, Harlow, 1995, pp. 110111Google Scholar; T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, pp. 102–106; E. Johnston, above note 13, p. 72; Bhreathnach, Edel, Ireland in the Medieval World, AD 400–1000: Landscape, Kingship and Religion, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2014, p. 40Google Scholar. See also Wickham, Chris, The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000, Allen Lane, London, 2009, p. 164Google Scholar.

18 E. Johnston, above note 13, p. 72.

19 MacCotter, Paul, Medieval Ireland: Territorial, Political and Economic Divisions, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2008, pp. 22, 4144Google Scholar.

20 E. Bhreathnach, above note 17, p. 40.

21 E. Johnston, above note 13, p. 14. See also Cróinín, Dáibhí Ó, “Hiberno-Latin Literature to 1169”, in Cróinín, D. Ó (ed.), A New History of Ireland, Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005Google Scholar.

22 E. Johnston, above note 13, pp. 11–12; E. Johnston, (above note 12, pp. 23–46. See also T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, pp. 163–176.

23 E. Johnston, above note 13, pp. 14–15.

24 D. Ó Cróinín, above note 17, p. 211.

25 E. Johnston, above note 13, p. 15; Wright, Roger, Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France, Cairns, Liverpool, 1982, pp. 105118Google Scholar.

26 Bede, Histiria Ecclesiastica, Book 3, Chap. 27; D. Ó Cróinín, above note 17, pp. 196–232; T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, pp. 8–9.

27 These tracts are collected in Binchy, Daniel A. (ed.), Corpus Iuris Hibernici, 6 vols., Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1978Google Scholar, and while many are later than the seventh century, it has been argued by Liam Breatnach that the core of the collection of tracts, known as the Senchas Már, had reached written form by the second half of the seventh century: see Breatnach, Liam, The Early Irish Law Text Senchas Már and the Question of its Date, E. G. Quiggin Memorial Lectures, No. 13, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2011Google Scholar. For a list of texts, see Corráin, Donnchadh Ó (ed.), Clavis Litterarum Hibernensium: Medieval Irish Books and Texts (c. 400–c. 1600), Vol. 2, Brepols, Turnhout, 2017, pp. 863924Google Scholar.

28 Roy Flechner (ed.), A Study, Edition and Translation of the Hibernensis, with Commentary, Dublin, forthcoming, Chap. 1.

29 See Kelly, Fergus, A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1988, pp. 711Google Scholar, for a concise summary of rank and honour price in cumals in early Irish society, including citation of the original sources.

30 D. A. Binchy, above note 27, 923.3–4.

31 F. Kelly, above note 29, p. 207.

32 D. Ó Cróinín, above note 17, pp. 78–84; T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, pp. 559–569; Charles-Edwards, Thomas M., “Early Irish Law”, in Cróinín, Dáibhí Ó (ed.), A New History of Ireland, Vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, pp. 334337Google Scholar.

33 Lex Innocentium, para. 28.

34 E. Bhreathnach, above note 17, p. 122.

35 This figure is extracted from Charles-Edwards, Thomas M. (ed. and trans.), The Chronicle of Ireland, Vol. 1, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2006Google Scholar.

36 Fouracre, Paul, “Attitudes towards Violence in Seventh- and Eighth-Century Francia”, in Halsall, Guy (ed.), Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West, Boydell, Woodbridge, 1998, p. 71Google Scholar; T. M. Charles-Edwards, “Early Irish Law”, above note 32, p. 368.

37 P. Fouracre, above note 36, p. 71; Brown, Warren C., Violence in Medieval Europe, Pearson, Harlow, 2011, pp. 1617, 57–58Google Scholar.

38 T. M. Charles-Edwards, “Early Irish Law”, above note 32, p. 341. See also Charles-Edwards, Thomas M., Early Irish and Welsh Kinship, Clarendon, Oxford, 1993, pp. 259261, 265, 272–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

39 Dhonnchadha, Máirín Ní, “The Lex Innocentium: Adomnán's Law for Women, Clerics and Youths, 697 AD”, in O'Dowd, Mary and Wichert, Sabine (eds), Chattel, Servant or Citizen: Women's Status in Church, State and Society, Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast, 1995, p. 59Google Scholar.

40 J. E. Fraser, above note 11, p. 95. See also Charles-Edwards, Thomas M., “Irish Warfare before 1100”, in Bartlett, Thomas and Jeffery, Keith (eds), A Military History of Ireland, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 26Google Scholar.

41 See J. M. Wooding et al. (eds), above note 11, for a modern assessment.

42 Vita Columbae, Chaps II.22–25. See Sharpe, Richard, Adomnán of Iona: Life of St Columba, Penguin, London, 1995Google Scholar.

43 Vita Columbae, Chap. II.25.

44 J. E. Fraser, above note 11, p. 98.

45 Donnchadha, Máirín Ní, “Birr and the Law of the Innocents”, in O'Loughlin, Thomas (ed.), Adomnán at Birr AD 697: Essays in Commemoration of the Law of the Innocents, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2001, p. 17Google Scholar.

46 See Flechner, Roy, “The Chronicle of Ireland: Then and Now”, Early Medieval Europe, Vol. 21, No. 4, 2003, p. 432Google Scholar.

47 J. W. Houlihan, above note 5, Chap. 3.

48 Hughes, Kathleen, Early Christian Ireland: Introduction to the Sources, The Sources of History: Studies in the Uses of Historical Evidence, Sources of History Ltd, London, 1972, p. 118Google Scholar.

49 Airt, Seán Mac and Niocaill, Gearóid Mac (eds and trans.), The Annals of Ulster, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1983 (s.a. 697)Google Scholar.

50 For copies of the texts, see Meyer, Kuno (ed. and trans.), Cáin Adamnáin: An Old Irish Treatise on the Law of Adamnán, Clarendon, Oxford, 1905Google Scholar; Dhonnchadha, Máirín Ní (trans.), “The Law of Adomnán: A Translation”, in O'Loughlin, Thomas (ed.), Adomnán at Birr AD 697: Essays in Commemoration of the Law of the Innocents, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2001, pp. 5368Google Scholar; Néill, Pádraig P. Ó and Dumville, David N. (eds and trans.), Cáin Adomnáin and Canones Adomnani II, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 2003Google Scholar; G. Márkus (trans.), above note 11, pp. 10–25.

51 M. Ní Donnchadha, above note 45, p. 16; G. Márkus (trans.), above note 11, p. 2.

52 J. W. Houlihan, above note 5, Chap. 5.

53 Dhonnchadha, Máirín Ní, “The Guarantor-List of Cáin Adomnáin, 697”, Peritia, Vol. 1, 1982, p. 212CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

54 Ibid., p. 214.

Ibid

55 See Ibid., pp. 178–221.

Ibid

56 T. M. Charles-Edwards, “Early Irish Law”, above note 32, p. 337.

57 Paragraphs 34, 36, 39, 41 and 48. See T. M. Charles-Edwards, above note 11, p. 562, n. 134.

58 It is thought that the ruined church in Church Lane, Birr, is the location of the early monastery. See Caimin O'Brien, Stories from a Sacred Landscape: Croghan Hill to Clonmacnoise, Offaly County Council, Offaly, 2006, p. 73.

59 T. M. Charles-Edwards, “Early Irish Law”, above note 32, p. 336, n. 28.

60 A beautifully scripted and decorated manuscript, bound in leather and written on vellum, containing the terms of the law, is housed in Birr public library and is available for public viewing. It was made by a local artist, Margaret Maher, under the tutelage of calligrapher, Timothy O'Neill, on the occasion of the 1,300th anniversary of the promulgation of Cáin Adomnáin in 1997 and was intended to replicate, as far as possible, how a written manuscript of the law would have looked in 697.

61 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (trans.), above note 50, p. 62.

62 “For-tá forus inna Cána-sae Adomnáin bithcáin for clérchu ocus banscála ocus maccu encu co-mbat ingníma fri guin duine ocus co-mbat inbuithi fri tuaith ocus con-festar a n-immérgi.” See P. P. Ó Néill and D. N. Dumville (eds and trans.), above note 50, p. 37.

63 For Adomnán's inclusion of penitents among his innocents, see J. E. Fraser, above note 11, p. 98.

64 Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha (ed. and trans.), “An Edition of Cáin Adomnáin”, unpublished PhD thesis, University College, Cork, 1992, p. 24.

65 See Richter, Michael, Ireland and Her Neighbours in the Seventh Century, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1999, pp. 48108Google Scholar; M. Ní Dhonnchadha, above note 39, p. 58.

66 K. Meyer (ed. and trans.), above note 50, p. 25.

67 G. Márkus (trans.), above note 11, p. 20.

68 P. P. Ó Néill and D. N. Dumville (eds and trans.), above note 50, p. 36.

69 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (trans.), above note 50, pp. 62–63.

70 It should be noted that Ní Dhonnchadha's translation reads “wounds and kills”, whereas Meyer, Márkus and Ó Néill/Dumville all read “wounds or slays (kills)”. Ní Dhonnchadha explains her wording by pointing out that the penalties refer to death, not to injury (above note 64, p. 214). The text in Old Irish reads “Nech gonus ocus marbus…”. It is easier to make sense of the provision following Ní Dhonnchadha.

71 See Halsall, Guy, Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450–900, Routledge, Abingdon, 2003, pp. 119133Google Scholar, for a discussion on the size of armies in this period.

72 F. Kelly, above note 29, p. 353.

73 For a detailed discussion of the relevant vernacular Irish text, see J. W. Houlihan, above note 5, Chap. 3.

74 See Ibid., Chap. 5, for further details.

Ibid

75 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (trans.), above note 50, pp. 64–65, for both paragraphs 41 and 42.

76 There may be some question about this. While eDIL (the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language) would suggest that the word used in the text, ro-marbthar, would translate as “has been slain”, and this is followed by both Meyer and Ó Néill/Dumville, Ní Dhonnchadha prefers “has been killed” (above note 64, p. 230), as does Márkus, thus enabling a distinction to be made between paragraphs 41 and 42.

77 F. Kelly, above note 29, p. 126.

78 M. Ní Dhonnchadha, above note 45, p. 22. Payment of the éraic for the killing of women is mentioned in the law tracts: see, for instance, F. Kelly, above note 29, pp. 78, n. 79, 134, n. 71.

79 If it was already payable, this new fine would be in addition.

80 Paragraphs 16–27. For an English translation of these paragraphs, see G. Markús (trans.), above note 11, pp. 12–16.

81 J. E. Fraser, above note 11, p. 95.

82 Up to the enactment of the Control of Dogs Act in 1986, common law provided no compensation for a person injured by a dog unless the animal had demonstrated a propensity for viciousness on some prior occasion. See Vere Heuston, Robert Francis, Salmond on the Law of Torts, 13th ed., Sweet and Maxwell, London, 1961, pp. 607608Google Scholar.

83 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (ed. and trans.), above note 64, p. 230.

84 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (trans.), above note 50, p. 65.

85 M. Ní Dhonnchadha, above note 45, p. 27. It should be noted that Ní Dhonnchadha's translation reads “for the wounding” and she is followed by Ó Néill/Dumville (above note 50, p. 44), whereas Meyer translates as “slaying” (above note 50, p. 29), as does Márkus (above note 11, p. 22). The sentence in the text reads “Ochtmath caich bicc ocus caich móir do muntir Adomnán di guin clérech ocus mac n-ennac” (P. P. Ó Néill and D. N. Dumville (eds and trans.), above note 50, p. 45). From the point of view of making sense of the paragraph, “slaying” seems correct on the basis that “wounding” is covered for women, clerics and children in the second sentence and it is already clear that the entire fine and not one eighth is payable to Adomnán (paragraphs 41 and 42) for the killing of women, hence their exclusion from the first sentence. See F. Kelly, above note 29, pp. 131–133, for wounding generally.

86 On the penalty of three séts, see McLeod, Neil, “Di Ércib Fola”, Ériu, Vol. 52, 2002, p. 127Google Scholar.

87 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (trans.), above note 50, p. 66.

88 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (ed. and trans.), above note 64, pp. 239–240.

89 Ibid., pp. 240–241; G. Márkus (trans.), above note 11, p. 23, n. 45.

Ibid

90 This is inadvertently omitted from Ní Dhonnchadha's translation. It is included in G. Márkus (trans.), above note 11, p. 23; and P. P. Ó Néill and D. N. Dumville (eds and trans.), above note 50, p. 44.

91 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (ed. and trans.), above note 64, p. 243; and see F. Kelly, above note 29, pp. 219–221, on setting adrift generally.

92 See M. Ní Dhonnchadha, above note 45, pp. 28–31, for a discussion of Adomnán's attitude to women. For women-specific provisions in IHL, see Krill, Françoise, “The Protection of Women in International Humanitarian Law”, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 25, No. 249, 1985CrossRefGoogle Scholar, available at: https://international-review.icrc.org/articles/protection-women-international-humanitarian-law.

93 See J. W. Houlihan, above note 5, Chap. 7, for a detailed analysis.

94 W. C. Brown, above note 37, p. 20; C. Wickham, above note 17, p. 43.

95 C. Wickham, above note 17, pp. 139–149.

96 T. Head and R. Landes, above note 3, p. 10.

97 Sharpe, Richard, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil's Men”, Ériu, Vol. 30, 1979, p. 86Google Scholar.

98 R. Kolb, above note 6, p. 2.

99 See, for instance, Warren C. Brown, “Charlemagne, God, and the License to Kill”, in W. C. Brown, above note 37, pp. 69–96.

100 Ibid., p. 71. Brown argues that Charlemagne “made new claims about the power of central authority to regulate the use of violence” which countered the “far older norms that were still well entrenched among the Franks, namely the norms surrounding the personal right to violence and violent vengeance”.

Ibid

101 Óengus of Tallaght, Félire Óengusso, ed. and trans. Stokes, Whitley, in Félire Óengusso Céli Dé: The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee, London, 1905Google Scholar; Stokes, Whitley and Strachan, John (eds), Thesaurus Paleohibernicus: A Collection of Old-Glosses, Scholia, Prose and Verse, Vol. 2, Cambridge, 1901–03, p. 306Google Scholar.

102 For an English translation of these paragraphs, see G. Markús (trans.), above note 11, pp. 11–13.

103 Ibid., p. 11.

Ibid

104 M. Ní Dhonnchadha (ed. and trans.), above note 64, p. 33.

105 See Smith, Colin and Gallen, James, “Cáin Adomnáin and the Laws of War”, Journal of the History of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 16, 2014, pp. 7172Google Scholar.

106 See Loyn, H. R. and Percival, John (eds and trans.), The Reign of Charlemagne: Documents on Carolingian Government and Administration, Edward Arnold, London, 1975Google Scholar, where Charlemagne did take widows, orphans and “humble folk” or “less powerful people” under his protection. See, for example, the following capitularies: Mantua 1, 781, p. 50; Concerning the Saxons 1, 797, p. 54; General Capitulary for the Missi 5, 30 and 40, Spring 802, pp. 54, 76–77, 79; Special Capitularies for the Missi 15, 802, p. 81; Aix 2, 802–03, p. 82.

107 A quick glance through P. P. Ó Néill and D. N. Dumville (eds and trans.), above note 50, where attention is drawn to the differences in the two surviving texts, the omissions and mistakes, makes this clear.

108 F. Kelly, above note 29, pp. 1–2.

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