Reply To: Armed citizens in medieval Europe

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#1620
Philologus
Participant

Yes, and it was the city which over and over bans the carrying of arms. When people live scattered across the land and there are few recognized authorities, its often customary for men to carry arms, partially because they usually have weapons in reach for hunting or field work anyways, and partially to assert their claim to be free men who can enforce their rights in an uncertain world. These societies usually present the keeping of arms in individualistic terms, like honour, or as a way to enforce hierarchies within society: rich over poor, men over women, free over unfree, and community members over resident foreigners.

When large numbers of people start living together in close quarters and seeing many strangers come and go, they usually notice that carrying arms leads to many woundings, robberies, and bullyings and start to restrict it and push other means of settling disputes. These are the societies which usually present the keeping of arms in civic terms: the community against its neighbours, against wannabe one-man rulers, or against kings. That is the logic behind the Athenian customs which Thucydides describes and the Roman customs which Cicero, the canonical gospels, and Petronius take for granted.

It sounds like in the 16th century some of the German towns had a hybrid of the individualistic and the civic approaches that depended on special customs around violence.

  • This reply was modified 6 months ago by Philologus.
  • This reply was modified 6 months ago by Philologus.