16 Brutal Realities of Trial By Combat Fighting Throughout History
16 Brutal Realities of Trial By Combat Fighting Throughout History

16 Brutal Realities of Trial By Combat Fighting Throughout History

Trista - April 9, 2019

16 Brutal Realities of Trial By Combat Fighting Throughout History
A painting of hanged men by Pisanello. Wikimedia.

1. Defeated Defendants Were Maimed or Killed

There were only three ways for a trial by combat to end: 24 hours of survival of both parties, one party saying the word “craven” to admit defeat or one of the participants being killed or rendered unable to fight. In cases where a man yelled craven, he would be labeled “infamous” which was a mark of incredible dishonor that carried with it penalties including the loss of many of the rights of a free man, including property ownership. This concept applied to the accuser as well as the accused.

If a combatant were knocked unconscious or otherwise unable to finish the fight but did not die, the losing combatant would be swiftly punished. In severe cases where a man accused of a serious crime was wounded but did not die, he would typically be hanged immediately after the end of combat. In less serious cases, a hand would be cut off, and their property seized. Indeed, this was a deeply unpleasant system of justice. If you wanted to accuse someone of a crime, you had to be willing to stake your life on it physically. If you were wrongly accused, you similarly had to stake your life on it, and even if you weren’t outright killed you still might end up facing the death penalty for a crime you didn’t commit.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Trial By Combat Was Real – And Way Worse Than ‘Game of Thrones’ Portrayed It” Donn Saylor, Ranker. n.d.

“Trial by combat” Wikipedia contributors. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. December 2019.

“Holmgang”Wikipedia contributors. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. December 2019.

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