Most Undeservedly Overlooked Person in the Database competition: Gaudentius, a murdered unfree Lombard with too many lords

Posted: Dec. 16, 2014, 6:33 p.m. by Alice Rio

by Gianmarco de Angelis

ChLA 28:856, dated 10 July 789, is really a peculiar document. It comes from one of the very few lay archives of the early middle ages (the particularly rich one of Toto from Campione), and contains, almost in passing, the unique and garbled mention of the man who is perhaps the most obscure and neglected Italian individual in the late eighth-century record. Gaudentius, that's his name, was unfree – a murdered unfree, and we even don't know his lord: “fuaet servus Dominiguni aut Autrotcaossi de Balerna”, the text says, in the typically ill-formed Latin of Lombard scribes, apparently completely unable to specify the ownership of that poor man. Some obscure agents are definitely more obscure than others...

The victim will forgive me, but I find his case really funny.

In an unspecified year prior to 789, a certain Peresendo sold a portion of a house with the above-mentioned Dominigunus and Autrotcaossus, two aldiones of his, to his cousin, Toto from Campione. Nevertheless, Toto never came into possession of all those properties, because, when the charter of sale was issued, Gaudentius, transferred together with his (unknown) lord... had already been killed. Could Peresendo really have been ignorant of this fact? We don't know for sure, but let's read what he would later say on 10 July 789: "Menime in ipsa cartola de ipso homicidio commemoravimus" (to paraphrase: “I'm so sorry, my dear cousin, but I completely forgot to inform you about that murder when you bought my goods”). He looks like he's trying to get out of a mess.
Indeed, the only thing he could do now was to give Toto the right to collect monetary compensation for his loss, according to Lombard law (Rothari, Leges c. 134). And knowing Toto, his political power, and his socio-economic influence, we can bet our life he had no difficulties in being refunded, or in obtaining justice – whatever that word might mean in Lombard Italy at the end of eighth century.