Scandinavia and the World
Scandinavia and the World

Comments #9441186:

Keep your hands to yourself 5 1, 3:45pm

Just signed up to add a comment on this. While I'm not really sure about the contents of early medieval Scandinavian law, I'll echo the comments that most are post-Viking age (isn't there a law manuscript in the form of an inscribed metal ring in Sweden, dating to the ?ninth century though? does that have anything about touching women?).

An interesting parallel though is found in the laws of the Salian Franks, clause 20 of the Merovignian 'Pactis Legis Salicae' and emedned to clause 22 in the Carolingian update the Lex Salica Karolina both adress the touching of women 's hands. Using Kaththerine Fischer-Drews English translation (which, I accept has many problems, yes), outlines fines of:
* six-hundrd denarii for if a freeman touches the 'hand, arm or finger' of a free woman,
* twelve-hundred denarii for touching her 'below the elbow',
* fourteen-hundred for touching above the elbow.
* eighteen-hundred denarii for touching 'a woman's breast or cutting it so that the blood flows'

Clearly this isn't a perfect parallel to the content of the Viking laws mentioned above, but considering that the nationalism of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries considered these laws as variant manifestations of an underlying, widespread 'Germanic' culture it's possible that it was read across and into the pre/protoliterate Scandinavian legal context.

On the one hand, as the final part of clause 20 of the Pactis makes no distinction between 'touching' and a cut that bleeds, 'touching' may not be the best translation (i've not yet checked the Latin in critical editions or in the manuscripts) and grabbing or grappling may be intended. On the other hand, it's been argued across the 'barbarian laws' (e.g. by Lise Oliver in general and by Alice Rio for the Franks in particular) that the values given most probably represent *maximum* fines that could be awarded, and that judges might reduce the actual amount according to the broader circumstances.

...and I really need to find the time to go and read up more on this :)