Nature and Scope
It is now generally agreed that the laws were substantially Germanic, although the form in which they were cast was a more or less crude imitation of Roman codes. Roman influence was generally strong, since German customs had been thrown into new patterns by Roman contacts when these compilations were drawn up; all except the Anglo-Saxon are in Latin, although interspersed with Germanic legal terms. For the most part, the leges barbarorum deal with penal law and legal procedure; some of the older ones are merely lists of compositions to be paid for specific personal injuries. Private and public law are scantily treated. Much material can, however, be found concerning landholding (one of these provisions became the basis for the Salic law of succession) and the personal relationships that governed public law. A codification was sometimes called a pactus (e.g., Pactus Alamannorum ), because people and ruler cooperated in enactment of the laws.
The Roman population under Germanic rule continued to live under Roman law, for law was regarded as personal, not territorial. Their law was codified (the leges Romanae, or leges Romanorum ) in the Gothic and Burgundian kingdoms and was applied to Roman subjects and to the church. Another type of legislation distinct from these was the Frankish capitulary (see capitularies).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.