The Visigothic Legal Formulas (Formulae Visigothicae) survive as 46 documents discovered in a sixteenth-century copy of a twelfth-century codex written by Pelagius (Pelayo), bishop of Oviedo. The dating of their composition remains uncertain, but there is reason to believe that they were assembled in the city of Cordoba during the reign of the Visigothic king Sisebut (r. 612-621). Most of these texts are related to private law matters – wills, contracts, sales. In a general way they show the ongoing importance of legal regulation in early medieval Iberia. As a category, formulae were composed to serve as templates which could be recopied by notaries, officials, or even private citizens to suit specific transactional circumstances. These would then insert specific information at points I have rendered with a blank space (____), although the original Latin uses the words for “this” and “that” in these spaces. The preservation of the manuscript is such that many of the documents are missing text at the beginning or end, but their sense can generally be reasonably conjectured. This translation includes only those twelve formulae that have some bearing on unfreedom.

Translated from the Latin by Noel Lenski. Ioannes Gil, ed. “Formulae Visigothicae,” in Miscellanea Wisigothica, 2nd ed. (Seville: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universiadad de Sevilla, 1991), 69–112. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Formulae Visigothicae 1 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 71-72).[1]

… and so that no disturbance might repress you later and invalid opposition assail our deed, we have preferred to subjoin an intervening penalty to the present judgment: let him be guilty before God, let him be a stranger to holy communion, let him be outside the community of the just, let him be segregated from the Catholic flock, and when the judgment day of dreadful examination dawns, let him endure the penalties of Judas’s lot amidst the tortures of the impious, and let him be burned by the eternal fires amidst crackling flames[2]; and thus by remaining liable before men, for your sake let him fulfill what the verdict at law proclaims[3] concerning the defilement of freedom (ingenuitas)[4], and may he in no way be able to disrupt our deed. To which matter, debarring all force or fraud, I have made formal stipulation in person before those present, and I have subscribed below with my own hand[5] and handed over the document for confirmation to witnesses called by me for its validation, naturally keeping in mind the Aquilian law, which gives ongoing confirmation to the records of all documents through its force.

This charter of manumission has been made in the city of ____ on the day of the kalends of ____ in the year ____ and the reign of ____, the era[6] ____.

I ____ have read out this manumission charter, conferred by my will, amidst the aforesaid persons, and I acknowledged it and subscribed it below on the day and year and era cited above.

____, having been requested by my lord and brother ____, [have witnessed[7]] this manumission charter made by him… The will was subscribed on the day, year and era which were above…

[1] This first formula of the collection, which gives the form for a last will and testament, is missing much of its beginning. Some verbiage it uses to condemn those who violated its terms was employed in a number of wills still extant in the later medieval documentary record.

[2] Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin and was thought by Christians to have been condemned to Hell. He appears again below at Formula Visigothica 5 and in other legal documents invoking curses on those who go back on their word

[3] Lex Romana Visigothorum, Codex Theodosianus, 4.8.1 Interpretatio, based on a law of Constantine from 322 (Codex Thedosianus, 4.8.5) ordered that a plaintiff who attempted to claim into slavery a defendant who was by rights free should pay to the defendant a slave of the defendant’s own age and sex as compensation.

[4] In Classical Roman law, the Latin ingenuus originally referred to a ‘freeborn’ individual – as opposed to a person free after having been manumitted, who was referred to as a libertus. From Constantine onward, ingenuus came to be applied increasingly to those who were free regardless of whether they had once been a slave. Visigothic law, which is closer to Classical Roman law than most other post-Roman systems, sometimes uses the word in its original sense, but here ingenuitas clearly applies to both freeborn and freed individuals.

[5] Early medieval documents were not simply “signed”, they were “subscribed”, which involved the composition of a brief sentence affirming the basic principles of the signatories affirmation. The many who could not sign validated documents with a “sign” (signum), a personal marking, often simply a cross.

[6] 38 BCE was the beginning of the Spanish era, possibly marking the beginnings of tax impositions in Spain by Caesar Augustus. Many Visigothic documents use this as a dating reference. B.C. / A.D. dating came to be adopted in the West only in the eighth century.

[7] This verb is conjectured to fill a lacuna.

Formulae Visigothicae 2 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 72-73)[1].

Another. ___ greets ___, my freedman.[2] The timespan of a life is uncertain, nor does any of us know the day on which we will be brought to death, for we did not know the origins of our birth, when we came into this life, nor can we know its end, when we will pass from the present world. This fact encourages us to deign to occasion some good deed in the eyes of God.[3] Therefore I establish that you are free (ingenuus) and a Roman citizen[4], and I decree that you should have free authority in God’s name to abide, live, and make your dwelling wherever you wish from this day forward. Furthermore, in order that this manumission (libertas) should have full validity, I give and grant this ____ and that ____ to you along with your entire peculium…[5]

[1] A number of medieval manumission charters survive that employ verbiage from this formula. The opening formula, on the uncertainty of life, is extremely common in variant versions across the medieval Iberian documentary tradition.

[2] This manumission is cast in the form of a letter, which was a common and highly adaptable documentary form going back to Classical Greek and Roman law and lasting through to modernity.

[3] From the fourth century onward, manumission was conceived of by masters as spiritually pleasing to God and thus of benefit to the salvation of the manumitter.

[4] Roman manumission had come in a variety of forms, only some of which endowed the freedman with citizenship. Constantine created a new road to manumission through Christian clergy in churches which automatically granted citizenship. Following this lead, Visigothic law also favored manumission with Roman citizenship, but the precise meaning of this in a legal context that also recognized Gothic citizenship as an equally valid and, indeed, superior form, is unclear.

[5] The peculium was that property which a slave acquired while in servitude which the master treated as the slaves own, even if at law such property technically belonged to the master. This practice traced back to Roman law. Visigothic manumission seems regularly to have entailed the gifting of the peculium to the former slave by the manumitting master, sometimes along with additional grants, especially of plots of land, to ensure the viability of the freed slave’s livelihood.

Formulae Visigothicae 3 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 74)

Another. Since everything that proceeds from human feelings out of good will is proved to be infused with the judgment of God, when the spirit is called to show favor for liberty (fabor libertatis)[1], this in particular is understood to derive from divine urging. Moved, therefore, by contemplation of this, I have determined to quicken any cloud your birth origin has cast over you into the shining light of freedom (ingenuitas) through a display of munificence. Thus from this day forward I establish and decree that you should be free (ingenuus) in the manner of Roman citizens and should be a Roman citizen, nevertheless I reserve this condition, that as long as I shall live, you should be free (ingenuus) but remain under my patronage[2], and that you should always be my adherent, but as a person of reputable status (idoneus)[3]; but after my death, let your service obligation (obsequium) be retained by no one, and wherever you [might wish to] dwell…[4]

[1] Roman law had always upheld the principle of favor libertatis (favoritism for freedom), which dictated that if there were legal or evidentiary grounds for treating a person as free, these should outweigh considerations to the contrary. This underlies the present phraseology, even if there is no evidence that Visigothic law upheld the same general principle.

[2] This formula thus lays out conditions whereby a slave could be “freed” but then abide under an obligation to serve his or her patron until the latter died. This practice, also evident in Greek speaking parts of the Mediterranean since antiquity, appears to have become more common as the Visigothic centuries wore on.

[3] The word idoneus had meant “suitable” in Classical Latin, but in Visigothic contexts it refers to an elevated category of both slaves and freedmen – a sort of elite or protected group within the larger class.

[4] The text breaks off here but was clearly preparing to permit the freedman to travel and dwell wherever s/he wished.

Formulae Visigothicae 4 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 74-75)

Another. The services of faithful slaves, when performed with pure obedience of mind, rightly obtain the rewards of manumission owed to them. Indeed, these transactions are never reproachable, for we are called to repay those who serve us faithfully with well-earned rewards. And thus considering the blameless diligence of your services and desiring to obtain the lot of blessedness before God for ourselves, with an eye to reward, we are driven to release the debt of servitude for you and to confer on you the brilliant and reputable (idoneus) status of freedom. Therefore I establish you to be free (ingenuus) and a Roman citizen, and I decree that every blot of servitude attached to your birth should be wiped from you, and the dregs of slavery should be boiled off by the perfection of your status, and without the retention of any claims to extended service, you should rejoice in dwelling in the most brilliant class of human society and in the palace of freeborn status (aula ingenuitatis), and this should happen in such a way that wherever…[1]

[1] The text breaks off here but was clearly preparing to permit the freedman to travel and dwell wherever s/he wished.

Formulae Visigothicae 5 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 75)

Another. ___ greets ___, his beloved freedmen. Because cures for the soul should always be sought before God, and the dedication of good deeds should be celebrated with salvific intent, which banishes sins and increase rewards, thus must the condition of servitude be rewarded with a prize in order that it might attain eternal freedom. On which account, mindful of your devoted services, I decree that you (pl.) are to be free (ingenui) and Roman citizens, and that the entire peculium which you have should remain in your authority. And in order to confirm your manumission we grant to you from our own property in the place ____ this ____ and that ____[1] which came into our authority through the generosity of Our Glorious Lord, provided that, as long as I shall live, you as freemen should offer me extended service (obsequium), but after my death, wherever you wish to make your dwelling, you should have free authority to do so. This we also confirm by an oath by the Majesty of the Divine Name and by the kingdom of the most glorious lord, our king ____, for it shall never be permitted for me to contravene my conferral of this gift, nor for it to be disrupted by any person anywhere. But if either I or anyone should perchance attempt to contravene this manumission, which I do not believe will happen, he should from the start incur the judgment of God and be made an excommunicant from the holy altar, and he should descend into Hell while living, just like Dathan and Abiron[2], and should take up company with Judas Isacariot. And in addition he should convey to you ____ pounds of gold, and he should not be permitted to disrupt this manumission in this way. In which matter…

[1] Here named plots of land would have been listed.

[2] Dathan and Abiron were Old Testament figures who rebelled against Moses and were swallowed alive into the earth, Numbers 16:31. They were frequently invoked in late antique and early medieval oaths in this way. 

Formulae Visigothicae 6 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 76-77)

Another. I ____, bishop in Christ’s name, now greet ____, a freedman. Because everyone deserves to receive his palm of victory in the Lord, the fulfillment of this wish is finally ushered in by the Divinity, when the one praying earnestly for himself turns up what he seeks, and others are moved in their hearts to impart the salvation owed to his dutiful servility, so that mercy might spur hearts divinely through fateful intervention in order that old men’s strength may increase and the blocked doorways of the heart’s cloister may be pried open. And since the divine teachings have ordained that, now that you have wiped away the darkness and attained the status of complete trust, you should joyously transcend the threshold of light in such a way that, from the recess of this holy church of ____, who propitiously chose us to ascend the throne of apostolic doctrine by the order of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have chosen to ordain with every hope of fulfillment, that you may understand you have set out on the most flourishing path of brilliant freedom as people divested of any dregs of your [former] condition; nor may any of our successors, whom the venerable Catholic faith might be pleased to elect or to retain as priests, strive to infringe upon these rewards of our humility, which we are known to have offered to you with favorable generosity, for which mercy preserves in heaven the rewards promised at the proper time. Therefore from this day forward may you (pl.) be free (liberi), may you be freeborn (ingenui) and Roman citizens, and with the general cloud [of slavery] wiped away, may you arrive at more brilliant forms of services (ministeria), which are shown to have been granted you by the action of divine mercy. By this I hope that pleasant things may be opened to your ears as both brothers and sons. And in order that the palace of freedom (aula ingenuitatis) may be fully fortified for you, it is necessary for us that the text of this document be entirely fulfilled through the generous payment of this reward. On which account we gift you from the privilege of the holy church of ____, which by God’s bidding we have now left behind, ____, and ____, and your entire peculium and private property (peculio vel peculiare vestro), and whatever you seem now to have or to have expended during the days of our lifetime; all these things, as we stated, we grant to you, which you should have, and hold, and possess[1] through this document of your completed manumission, and you should claim it as property under your authority in perpetuity and defend it; and you should have the power of action over anything from this property granted to you by the will, following the interposition of a fiduciary oath by ____ and ____, that whatever is agreed to have been conceded to you by our favorable generosity shall remain firm and enduring. Nor should anyone attempt to contravene my deed. But if someone rises up in enmity and attempts to contravene the content of this letter, which I do not anticipate will happen, he should be held liable to a charge of sacrilege and should not be able to destroy the foundations of this document in this way. To which matter I have sworn in person and with you (pl.) present, debarring all force or fraud, and I have made the formal promise, and the bond of the Aquilian law has been interwoven, which usually adds full validity to all documents. I have subscribed this charter with my own hand…

[1] This formula “to have, to hold, to possess” comes from the old “Aquilian stipulation” borrowed from Classical Roman law. The same three words also appear below at FV 11, 15 and 20, and the Aquilian stipulation is mentioned at FV 1 and 6.

Formulae Visigothicae 9 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 82-85)

Another [offering] which the king who builds a church and wishes to create a monastery makes. King ____ [greets] the glorious lordly and triumphant blessed martyr ____[1]. If our devotion is repaid with blessings from the divine, it is of little import what we offer given that we receive from heavenly generosity the fact that we are, that we live, that we are imbued with truth and endowed with power and masters of affairs. But because every offering is weighed according to the amount and sincerity of faith, we do not consider those things small which great faith consecrates to God. Indeed, with the gift granted to us from on high, we take joy that your church, oh glorious martyr ____, should rise from new foundations to new heights. While this is our family offering toward all the saints and we expect the patronly favors of all the martyrs with dutiful solicitations, nevertheless with prayer and intention we have deigned to implore your favor, oh most blessed martyr, through manifest obedience and clear deeds. Therefore in order that the lot of blessedness may be granted to us both in God’s presence and in the presence of your dignity, we have decided that a congregation of monks should reside in this same place where the treasure of your sacrosanct body takes its rest, by whose [i.e. the monks] continuous and worthy service to God and to your memory, and by whose living in communion under the custom of the fathers who have set the rule for monastic life, our vow may be confirmed through the consummation of this gift and maintained in temporal perpetuity. Therefore we offer to your glory from our patrimony for the repair of this same church, and for the ongoing illumination of its lanterns, and for the burning of its holy incense, and for the performance of sacrifices pleasing to God, and for the feeding and clothing of the monks who follow the rule and live in your monastery, and for the reception of pilgrims and the sustenance of the poor, the property (possessio) that is named ____ together with its human chattels (mancipiis), its fields, its vineyards, and all rights and appurtenances[2] appertaining to the aforementioned place, and the place ____ and ____. The rights and use of said properties should be dedicated in your name on behalf of our eternal life and for the ablution of our sins, and no priest should exchange any part of it for ecclesiastical power, and no abbot should transfer it to any person on the basis of any contract; but what we are offering should fulfill only those services and offices which remain listed above. By this divine testament, for all successive ages, we advise future abbots not to dissolve our dedication by their own crafty agreement. But if either abbots or the congregation itself should attempt to deviate from the orthodox rule, let them be chastised by clerical censure and be brought back to the rule of the order.[3] Also, we call as witnesses those to whom rule is given over the realm of the eternal king after our own most fortunate times[4], and thus God may deign to protect the people and kingdom of the Goths till the end of the world, such that they may not presume to take anything away from any of our offerings by which we have striven to please God, nor may they destroy anything, when we quite clearly have wished to please God through our gifts on behalf of our own salvation and that of the Goths. But if our devotion should add any further endowments (auctoritates) to your glorious name in the future, these should be confirmed by the force of this endowment. Receive this gift, oh glorious martyr ____, and offer it with your merits to the Divine Countenance.

[1] This document is cast in the form of a letter from the donor king to the martyr saint to whom he offers this new church and monastery.

[2] This catalog of things belonging to an estate is common in wills and charters, making it clear that the “human chattels” (mancipia) were generally regarded as appurtenances of a functioning estate. In nearly every instance, it is difficult to extrapolate from this formulaic language whether the mancipia listed were closer to “slaves” or “serfs” in their status.

[3] Disputes over the proper governance of monastic communities were common; this statement may also imply a concern that the monks would revert to the Arianism common among the Visigoths before the conversion of Reccared in 589.

[4] I.e. all future Visigothic kings.

Formulae Visigothicae 11 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 86)

Sale of a slave.[1] … aged circa ____, by name ____, who is known to have come into our jurisdiction through purchase from ____. Therefore having set and received the full price from you which appears in our agreement, that is ____ gold solidi, which remain wholly certified as having been paid by you and received by me in full, I promise that nothing whatsoever from said price remains in your possession and that I have handed over to you the above mentioned slave, who is not subject to any suit (causarius), nor a runaway, nor a troublemaker, nor has any vice as to his person, nor is subject to the ownership of any other person. [2] You may from this day forward have him, hold him, possess him, claim him as property in your authority and defend him in perpetuity, and whatever you wish to do with the person of the above mentioned slave, you should have free power to do so in every respect. I also confirm this with an oath…

[1] The opening of the formula, which would have left space for the name of the seller, has dropped out.

[2] This clause serves as a warranty against defects in the slave, certain proof that the slave was regarded as property. Already Roman law had provided that slave sale contracts should explicitly state or deny the existence of defects such as these.

Formulae Visigothicae 20, lines 48-61 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 90-94)

Formula for a dowry composed in hexameters.[1]

And look, to start ten lads (pueros) and ten more lasses (puellas)[2] we provide,
As well as ten more head of stallion horses just the same;
on top of these we grant you mules in numbers just as high,
along with arms and sundries, Getic style, the Morning Gift (Morgengeba)[3].
Let me pay out farm slaves (rusticos famulos) to work my lands on your behalf,
And granges with their fields and vines and olive groves to boot,
Woods rich in all delights and pastures cooled by liquid springs;
Real property and chattels, and all manner of livestock,
Silver and bronze, fine cloth and pots and most especially gold;
Whatever we are known to have at law inside or out,
And now possess in full by any right as such may be,
Or should the grace of Christ confer on us some other thing,
By any other means unto the last days of our life,
I make you now the owner to the half of all in full, I gift to you, Oh Maiden, and confer for your reward.[4]

[1] This curious document provides a formulaic dowry contract composed in verse (dactylic hexameter). It was clearly intended for the marriage of a high-level aristocrat, and one who claimed ‘Gothic’ status or ethnicity. The entire document is 89 lines long, and most if it has little to do with slavery, but the actual catalog of goods offered to the bride, which is translated here, presents yet another example of the importance of slaves as property in Visigothic society. Note that the word ‘dowry’ (dos) in Roman law meant a gift by a bride’s father to the groom, but this ‘dowry’ (also dos) is given by the groom to his bride. It is, in other words, what we might call ‘bride price’. This form of gift from groom to bride was common in Germanic societies already in the time of Caesar, but by the fourth century CE it had also become normal in Roman law, which used both forms – dowry (dos) and bride price (donatio propter nuptias) – as securities in marriage.

[2] The Latin words for ‘boy’ (puer) and ‘girl’ (puella) are commonly used to mean slave. These ten male and ten female slaves must have been domestic servants given that the contract goes on to specify ‘farm slaves’ as a separate category of bonded laborer at line 52.

[3] ‘Getic’ is a poetic designation for northern ‘barbarians’ used since Herodotus and applied to the Goths from the third century CE onward. This and other clues in the document make it clear that this dowry contract is meant only for those who considered themselves ‘Goths’. The same ethnic inflection is present in the Germanic word Morgengebe (Morning Gift), a specific dowry gift given to a Germanic bride on the morning of her wedding. The same formulaic gift of ten male and ten female slaves and horses is specified as part of the dowry for ‘first officers of our palace or the elders of the Gothic nation’ in a law of Chindaswinth issued in 645 (Leges Visigothorum 3.1.5).

[4] The groom gifts a fifty percent share in his estates to the bride. The law of Chindaswinth mentioned in the previous note, which was issued c. 20 years after the composition of this formula, restricted the maximum size of ‘dowries’ for Gothic aristocrats to ten percent of the groom’s net worth.

Formulae Visigothicae 21 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 94-95)

Will. I ____, of sound mind and sound judgment, but confined to bed through illness, avoiding the fated outcome of death, have chosen to have this epistolary will composed, which I decree is valid according to praetorian and urban right. But if it fails to be be valid according to praetorian and urban right, I wish and order that it should continue to have validity on intestacy in place of codicils.[1] I have ordered you, my son ____, to transcribe it in such a way that you see to it that this epistolary will of mine is incorporated into the public records at the institution of the council house (curia) after my passing on the day established at law.[2] And thus when I shall depart from human affairs and render my demise unto nature, then I wish the property in its entirety, together with its rustic and urban slaves (mancipia rustica et urbana)[3], its fields, its vineyards, its buildings, its woods, its streams and channels, its gardens, its pastures, and its wetlands and every right appertaining to that place, which is located in the territory of ____, to belong to the church of my lord the martyr ____, where I have ordered my body to be buried. I wish for ____ and ____ to be free (liberi), for the confirmation of whose freedom (ingenuitas) I have chosen to gift and do now give ____ and ____, but with the following condition intervening, that as long as omnipotent God permits me to live, whatever I have conferred on churches or whatever I have conceded to any individual, or whatever slaves (mancipia) I have permitted to be free, they should be wholly possessed by me[4]; but after the day of my demise, all [should have the authority] of obtaining, and having, and holding in accordance with the tenor of this my will…[5] I shall restore, then to my sweetest children ____ and ___. I wish to be granted ____ and ____, which they may divide equally among themselves for purposes of obtaining, having…

[1] The opening borrows the language of Roman law but perverts it through misunderstandings of the original formulae. The object is to ensure that failure of the will on technicalities did not prevent its provisions from going into effect.

[2] Visigothic law had elaborate requirements for the public registration of wills within three days after the death of the testator. This was designed to minimize the chances that a will would be forged or tampered with.

[3] The language here, with the classical distinction between rustic and urban mancipia, very much implies slave rather than serf status.

[4] Testamentary manumissions of slaves, such as those listed here, were very common in wills.

[5] The end of this sentence and beginning of the next have fallen out.

Formulae Visigothicae 32 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 101-2)

Charter of Obligation[1]. I ____ [greet] ____, my lord forever. Although it may be established by sanction of the laws, nevertheless no one should worsen his own status of his own free will. [2] But whenever someone, while holding control of his own status, seems to suffer necessity or some misery because of a legal case, and is compelled by his case to render judgment concerning how he wishes his status to be, whether to improve it or worsen it, he should have free authority to do so. Therefore having properly considered this on my own, I have proposed to sell my status. And your lordship has heard this, and your consent has acceded to my prayer, and now it is evident that _____ number of solidi have been paid by your lordship and that you have received me on account of ____ and ____. And thus from today onward you may have, and hold, and own my above mentioned status, and you may claim it as property and defend it by your right and ownership in perpetuity, and whatever you wish to do to or with my person, this power shall belong to you with immediacy and full certainty. Which also by oath…[3]

[1] Rather than obiurgationis (condemnation), as transmitted in the manuscripts, one should read obiugationis (linking) or obligationis (obligation).

[2] The opening of this law references a passage of the Lex Romana Visigothorum Paul. 2.19.1 which states that “A free man who holds his own status in his power can either improve or deteriorate that status,” even while it also notes the classical principle that no free person could voluntarily sell himself into slavery. Visigothic law also forbade self-sale, Code of Euric 300; Leges Visigothorum 5.4.10. This formula is designed as a workaround. Using it the parties could agree to a contractually based self-sale.

[3] The extant document breaks off here.

Formulae Visigothicae 43 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 100)

Another injunction. I ____ [greet] my lord and brother in Christ ____. Next I enjoin upon your charity that, in place of me personally, you should pursue the slave (servus) under my jurisdiction by the name of ____, who has removed himself from servitude to me. And when you find him, you should strive to bring him back as a person registered under my ownership. Whatever you do or perform…[1]

[1] The document breaks off but is likely to have listed reimbursement for expenses incurred by the slave-catcher while pursuing the fugitive. Book 9 of the Leges Visigothorum has many laws on the pursuit and return of fugitive slaves, indicating this was a major problem.

Formulae Visigothicae 44 (Gil, Miscellanea Wisigothica, 110)

Agreement. By the Lord’s direction to you, you have deigned to assist me in my entreaties, such that you would loan me five solidi for my needs. In exchange for these solidi I have chosen to turn over to you the slave (servus) in my jurisdiction named ____ for employment in all manner of service to you; but this condition has been imposed, that when the Lord grants me the wherewithal to pay those solidi back to you along with my formal thanks, at that point I shall see to it that the above mentioned slave reverts from your lordship back into my service. To this agreement a stipulation has been subjoined, I made my mark (signum) on it at the bottom with my own hand, and it has been confirmed by witnesses summoned by me.

Discussion Questions

  1. How might we distinguish between the various manumission documents? Are they redundant, or does each serve a distinct purpose or audience?
  2. What are the motivations given for freeing these individuals?
  3. How free are the individuals being manumitted? What means do their former masters (patrons) have to prevail over their legal and physical personhood?
  4. To what extent is the Visigothic slave considered a piece of property owned by the master? To what extent does the law recognize their personhood, if at all?

Related Primary Sources


Flight, Law, Life After Manumission, Manumission, Property, Religion, Rental, Self-Sale, Trade