The Statute of Poljica

The Autonomous Principality of Poljica
March / June 1977
Edo Pivcevic

The Statute of the Principality of Poljica ( pronounced Pol’yeetsa) from 1440 published here for the first time in English translation is one of the most interesting documents in the European legal history. It codifies the ancient customs, rules, practices of a small self-governing community inhabiting the 100 odd square miles of mountainous land bordering the sea just south of Split between the rivers Zrnovnica and Cetina (see map on page 3 ). It provides a rare picture of what life was like in a region of medieval Europe which for centuries had been the main meeting ground between East and West, and for this reason alone it is of immense value to social historians.
Administratively Poljica first came into being as a separate county (zupanija) within the medieval Croatian kingdom, probably in – or around -AD 1015. It turned out to be a remarkably durable political structure; for owing to a number of different circumstances, but chiefly to the unfaltering spirit of resistance among the local population who had developed an unusually strong sense of communal identity, Poljica was able to retain a measure of political freedom and continue in existence as a self-governing principality long after the medieval Croatian state collapsed and was united by treaty with the kingdom of Hungary in 1102.
The population of Poljica was never very large. According to a census taken in 1781 in Poljica’s twelve katuni or clusters of tiny hamlets there lived 6813 people. In 1806 the French-appointed civilian governor of Dalmatia Vicenzo Dandolo, in a report on Poljica, recorded an even smaller figure – 6566. Nor has there been a very large increase in population since then, except perhaps in the coastal area. Yet despite its small population Poljica, by virtue of its geographical position, played an important role in the political history of the region. The principality survived with its internal organisation virtually intact until 1807 when it was abolished by the French in a peak of fury following a local rebellion against their rule. Its centuries old autonomy was thus brought abruptly and violently to an end, never to be regained.
In addition to losing its autonomy Poljica was divided among the neighbouring counties and it remained administratively dismembered for over a century. In fact it was not until 1912, and even then only after a long and dedicated campaign by some leading Poljicans, that Poljica was restored as an administrative unit within its historical boundaries. Thus only two years before the outbreak of the First World War and almost exactly nine hundred years after it was first founded Poljica began a second period of its life as a county borough – this time under Austrian rule. The new administrative arrangement remained in force under a succession of different governments -Austrian, Yugoslav and Croatian -until 1945 when it was abolished by the new Yugoslav government who re-drew the administrative boundaries yet again, with the result that Poljica disappeared from the administrative map for a second time, its territory being annexed to the surrounding districts.
By comparison with other small medieval and post-medieval European principalities Poljica was in many ways unique. Throughout its long existence it never developed any urban centres on its territory. Its economy was exclusively rural, based on animal farming and agriculture. What is more, despite the closeness of the sea and the obvious advantages of a reasonably well developed coast-line the Poljica people never seemed to take a great interest in shipping. Nor did fishing play a great part in their economy. This was partly due, no doubt, to the geography of the area, for the mountain ranges run parallel with the coast and the access to the coast from the interior, where the majority of the population lived, was made that much more difficult. But basically there was no great interest in the sea.
But Poljica was also unique in its social structure. For although Poljica’s society had many unmistakably feudal features, its sheer complexity, the disproportionately large number of ‘noble’ families (there were no less than 80 such families in 1799) not a single one of which ever gained the position of complete dominance, the two species of nobility, and especially the intricate relations of ownership, made Poljica unlike any other community in feudal Europe. In Poljica, it seems, there were no serfs in the more extreme sense of this term. There were, instead, bonded tenants who were increasingly allowed to own property of their own and could, under certain conditions, leave their masters. Moreover it seems, it was accepted that they could leave their masters even without the latter’s consent if they were maltreated in any way. (‘A man is free to flee from evil if he can.’ Art. 89c of the Statute. ) There were also independent peasant farmers and free labourers and herdsmen. What is of special interest is that in a number of cases important decisions demanded a consensus of the whole community. The phrase ‘All the men of Poljica are unanimously agreed…’ occurs in several Articles of the Statute. The Prince had to be a nobleman, but his office was not hereditary and both the Prince and the main officers of government were elected on an annual basis in open air assemblies in which all noble families took part.
All this can be better understood in the context of Poljica’s early medieval history which began with the arrival of Croats in this area. In Roman times, it seems, no large settlements existed on the territory of Poljica, although the coastal region did attract a number of Roman war veterans who built their villas there. In addition , the emperor Diocletian, himself a Dalmatian by origin, who after his abdication in 305 lived in retirement nearby, in the palace he built for himself in what later became the town of Split, is alleged to have owned estates in Poljica, including a game reserve near the present day village of Dubrava.
Croats did not arrive in Dalmatia until the third decade of the 7th century. They came from what is in subsequent sources referred to as ‘White’ Croatia’ (‘white’ being the colour symbol for ‘west’ ), a region comprising parts of modern southern Poland and eastern Czechoslovakia. 1 In De Administrando Imperio, the famous political-historical manual which the 10th century Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus (AD 905-959) wrote for his son and prospective successor Romanus, the following account is given of the migration:
…the Croats at that time were dwelling beyond Bavaria, where the Belocroats are now. From them split off a family of five brothers, Kloukas and Lobelos and Kosentzis and Mouchlo and Chrobatos, and two sisters, Touga and Bouga, who came with their folk to Dalmatia and found the Avars in possession of that land. After they had fought one another for some years, the Croats prevailed and killed some of the Avars and the remainder they compelled to be subject to them. ….From the Croats who came to Dalmatia a part split off and possessed themselves of llyricum and Pannonia.2
Of those Croats who stayed in Dalmatia a large number, perhaps the majority , settled close to the old Roman towns between Zadar and Split, which at the time of their arrival were under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine emperor. It was this region that subsequently became the nucleus of the Croatian medieval state. The territory of Poljica, or at any rate its most attractive parts, seem to have been claimed by Croat leaders themselves, for large chunks of the best land in Poljica were in later documents regularly referred to as terra regalis, the crown property. Much of this land, it seems, was made over to the Split Church by various Croat princes and kings in order to facilitate their dealings with the Split Archbishop. This later became a constant source of friction and hostility between the Poljicans and the Split Chapter, especially after repeated attempts by the Church to extend its possessions in Poljica on the basis of forged title deeds. In one tragic incident the Archbishop Rainerius who in August of 1180 came to Poljica to reassert his claim to some disputed land was attacked and killed by the local peasants near the village of Srinjine.
This conflict over land was exacerbated by the fact that the Split Church represented the Latin, and hence to Croats an alien culture which many of them feared as a possible threat to their own identity. They stubbornly resisted the attempts by the Church to replace the Croat vernacular by Latin in church liturgy and rather than use the Latin alphabet they clung to their Glagolitic and Cyrillic script. In Poljica, especially, the resistance to Latin was strong and unyielding, although it was not until 1750 that the Church finally decided to come to terms with the situation and establish a ‘Glagolitic’ Seminary for training of young priests in the Poljica village of Priko at the mouth of the river Cetina, famous for its 8th century church of St. Peter . It should be mentioned at this point that the Poljica Statute itself was written in the Croatian version of the Cyrillic script. This script which is also occasionally referred to as Bosancica was in a fairly wide use in southern Croatia at that time and, in fact, it was not until well into the 19th century that the Cyrillic finally gave way to the Latin alphabet.
The term Bosancica indicates a connection with Bosnia and indeed the ties with Bosnia, especially in Poljica, are deeply rooted in history. The local tradition in Poljica links the origins of the county with the arrival there from Bosnia, probably in AD 949, of the three sons of the Croatian prince Miroslav – Tjesimir, Kresimir and Elem (the last name being probably a corruption of ‘Velimir’ ) – after their father was killed by the Bosnian bonus
(governor) Pribina in the civil war that flared up following the death of king Kresimir 1. It was their descendants -the three ‘tribes’ mentioned in Art. 3 of the Statute -that effectively ruled the county. They were Poljica’s old nobility – the didici as they are called in the Statute ( did grandfather ).
Much later we find in Poljica a second species of nobility, the so-called vlaste/a. Their arrival is connected with the ascendancy of the Hungarian power in the middle of the 14th century. As mentioned earlier, Croatia was formally united with Hungary in 1102. However, owing to the continuing opposition to the union in many Croatian provinces the Hungarian kings were never able to exercise an effective control throughout the country. The opposition was strong in Poljica too and at least on one occasion the Poljicans swallowed their pride and gave active support to their archenemy, Split, when the Split leaders refused to help king Bela IV who fled to Dalmatia during the Mongol invasion of 1242.3 But there were other powers too who competed with the Hungarians for the control of Dalmatia and chief among them was Venice. Whereas in northern Croatia the Hungarians eventually managed to solidify their rule, southern Croatia what with continuing local resistance, the constant incursions by Venice and devious political manouvres by Byzantium ( later to be replaced by the Turks), remained very much a disputed territory.
However in 1358 Ludovic I by an agreement with Venice signed that year managed to gain control over Dalmatia for a short lime and it was then, it seems, that the rirst vlastela arrived in Poljica. They consisted, first, of a single family, later joined by a second; both of them, it would appear, ethnically Croat, but clearly sufficiently trusted by the king to represent his interests in this unruly little principality.
In the event, their arrival made no difference as far as the political situation was concerned, although the vlaste/a and their descendants did succeed in gaining for themselves a leading position in the community, even to the extent of socially outranking the didici-nobles in some respects. During the following 450 years, between 1358-1807, the principality was forced to accept suzerainty of a number of different powers – Hungary, Bosnia, Venice, Turkey -but it always managed to preserve internal autonomy. Several long periods were spent under Venetian overlordship and it seems that of all Poljica’s suzerains the Venetians, who were busy trying to maintain their hold on the Dalmatian towns, interfered least with Poljica’s internal affairs. In January of 1444 the Poljica leaders signed their first formal agreement with Venice, voluntarily placing themselves under Venetian protection, and it is likely that the oldest preserved version of the Statute which is here reproduced in translation was prepared for this occasion. (The date on the original manuscript is now generally taken to be 1440, but the manuscript is slightly damaged in this place and the numerical symbols used are not easy to read.) Be this as it may, the preserved version of the Statute contains a clear reference to an unknown earlier version and there seems little doubt that the origins of the Statute go further back in history, perhaps as far back as the first half of the 13th century.4
There are other Croatian statutes from this period, the best known being the Statute of Vinodol from 1288. Moreover, unlike the pre-1440 versions of the Poljica Statute none of which has survived, the original text of the Statute of Vinodol has been preserved (albeit only in a 16th century copy of the original document) and has been extensively studied by scholars. But the Vinodol statute had a somewhat different function. It was drafted with the explicit purpose of regulating the relations between several small formerly self-governing municipalities and their new liege lords, the princes of Krk. The Poljica Statute, on the other hand, as well as incorporating a civil code set out the constitutional structure of a semi-independent mini-state.
In fact, of all the counties of the medieval Croatia Poljica was the only one to survive as a semi- independant mini-state and preserve its territorial and political integrity for nearly eight hundred years. For the most part, it was a precarious balancing act on the edge of the precipice. The Turks, especially, from the middle of the fifteenth century onward presented a constant threat and the sheer severity of the penalties which according to the Statute awaited all those who might be foolish enough to collaborate with the Turks is a striking reminder of the precariousness of Poljica’s position in this dangerous frontier region.
Yet the constant threat of extinction undoubtedly helped to keep the principality united and to strengthen its sense of identity. It also helped, in a curious sort of way, to keep the harsher aspects of feudalism at bay, for if the principality was to be successfully defended from external enemies it was imperative that, within the community, there should exist a large measure of consensus and willing co-operation from all sides in essential matters.
All this, however, came under severe strain when French troups arrived in Poljica in February of 1806, following Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrians the previous year. For a great many Poljicans, but especially for the ruling nobility the arrival of the French was a traumatic experience. Suddenly they found themselves at the mercy of a new invader who was much more powerful than any of the others they had to contend with in the past. But more worrying still was the fact that the French had brought with them the new revolutionary ideas which the spectacular victories of their armies gave such a powerful impetus throughout Europe. A confrontation at the social as well as the political level seemed inevitable. The French, at first, looked at Poljica with some amusement and then increasingly with disfavour. Their administration set about introducing new rules, showing marked impatience with the local interests and ancient privileges. This caused a great deal of alarm and resentment among the local population. Before long the whole Poljica was astir.
Changes were very necessary, but the habits were centuries old. Unhappily the manner in which the new administration went about implementing the new rules was such that it upset more people than it otherwise might have done. To make things worse Russian warships unexpectedly turned up off the coast of Poljica and the Russian admiral Sinyavin lost no time in trying to induce the local leaders to resist the French, promising help in men and equipment. Eventually, after a stormy meeting in the Glagolitic Seminary in Priko at which most of the leading men of Poljica were present, the decision was taken to attack the French troups. It was a fatal decision and a grave error of judgement.
There were a few dissenters. Marko Kruzicevic, a priest and a teacher at the Seminary, who had travelled through Europe and was able to judge the situation more clearly, w’arned against the foolishness of such an action, but his voice was quickly drowned in the angry shouts of those who thought otherwise. The plan went ahead and, predictably, ended in disaster. The French suppressed rebellion with extreme savagery. The Russians did not fire a single shot to help the rebels and when the inevitable end came they speedily sailed off for home taking with them the last Prince of Poljica, ostensibly to save him from the French. He never came back.
Being myself a native of Poljica I might perhaps be forgiven for closing this introduction with one or two personal reminiscences. Many years ago as a young boy I often used to play near the building of the old Seminary and the medieval church of St. Peter close-by. They both were conveniently tacked away in a secluded corner at the foot of the mountain some short distance from the main village and there were many trees there to climb and plenty of things to explore. The building of the old Seminary was then known as opcina because it housed the offices of the county borough. The Glagolitic Seminary was in fact closed down by the Austrians as long ago as 1820, although some decades later a new theological college was opened there for a short period. In fact, a whole succession of Church and state schools found a home in the building at one time or another and even after the arrival of the county officies the teaching in the building still continued for a few years and it was there that my mother received her first reading lessons.
But then the opcina was never just another office building. It was also a social centre and a place to which the people of Poljica naturally gravitated whenever important issues had to be discussed and decisions taken, as they had done in the past.
There were very good reasons for this. The building of the opcina which first began its life as a monastery several centurries ago had an important place in Poljica’s history. But the Church of St. Peter was more important still. The history of this small church goes back over twelve hundred years and is connected in many ways with the history of medieval Croatia. It was to this church that we were taken as children on all important occasions and I remember seeing a great mass of people, many of them in national costume, crowding the church and the space in front of it, milling around on the common or sitting under the trees.
Then the war came and with it came refugees. There was quite a large number of them in the last stages of the war. They too tended to gather around the opcina and the church. It was a very different crowd from those noisy multitudes that used to come here with their brass bands and flags and banners only a few years earlier. They squatted outside the buildings, clutching their few possessions and staring vacantly into space, waiting for the single daily meal of boiled maize flower that was being cooked in a large cauldron on an open fire a few paces away. But the place where I spent most of my time in those days was an old garage, just behind the opcina where an elderly bookseller called Jakov Tomasovic, himself a refugee from across the river, installed himself with a few dozens of books and some stationary that he was able to salvage after his shop was destroyed by bombs during an air raid, He was a soft-spoken kindly man with a thin face and a pair of pale blue eyes peering a little absent-mindedly through silver-rimmed spectacles. He was not only a book-seller – the only one, in fact, for miles around – but also an expert book-binder and an amateur writer. In the early thirties he earned himself a reputaton for eccentricity by starting a literary periodical in a town of less than two thousand people whose only place of learning was the local elementary school. He sold text-books and pencils to generations of school children. He kept a good supply of story-books too and I often used to stop outside his shop to look at the glossy covers of the hard-back editions displayed in the tiny showcase next to the entrance. One afternoon I walked into the shop and bought myself a copy of the beautifully illustrated Voyage around the World in Eighty Days, the very first book that I decided I could afford to buy with my own pocket money. I can still feel the smell of this book in my nostrils.
Not many customers came to the garage, but he did not seem to mind. Usually he would sit behind a trestle table which was piled up with books, making notes. The garage was damp but pleasantly cool in the summer heat. He would let me browse through the shelves and read from new books for hours, pretending not to notice me. We hardly ever exchanged a word. I knew that years ago he had published a little book called S puta i raspuca in which he described his country walks, for we had a copy at home, and I was itching to know what he was scribbling in his notebook, but all my carefully devised schemes to address him on the subject came to nothing, for each time my courage failed me.
He was gunned down in the mountains for no apparent reason a year before the war ended while walking back to his village. As I write these lines it is the picture of him sitting behind the trestle table in the old garage that comes to my mind most clearly. He was a shy and solitary man, yet immensely resilient in the face of failure and neglect. He had done more good than he ever knew. But for his quiet perseverance many of my generation would have grown up the poorer. I would like to dedicate this English edition of the Poljica Statute to his memory.
1 The memory of this migration though enveloped in legends was still alive centuries after it had happened. It seems that the term ‘White Croats’ was still in occasional use in the 14th century. An unknown historical writer from this period recounts an incident which allegedly took place about three hundred years earlier when in the chaotic situation following the death of the Croatian king Zvonimir a delegation consisting of two Croats came to the Hungarian king to ask for his help in restoring the law and order in their country. They introduced themselves to the king as ‘White Croats’ ( Croates Albi sumus ). See N. Klaic, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku. Zagreb 1971, p. 35. The unknown writer who recorded this story clearly did not think it necessary to explain the term ‘White Croats’ to his readers.
2 See: Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio. Greek and English. Edited by G. Moravcsik and R.J.H. Jenkins. Budapest 1949. P. 143.
3 See: Ivan Pivcevic, Povijest Poljica, Split 1921, p. 9f.
4 Cf. Stipe Kastelan, Povijesni ulomci iz bivse slobodne opcine-republike Poljica, Split 1940. pp. 38-44.
A Legal Commentary on the Poljica Statute
J.H. Farrar and Paul Bowden
In this paper we shall briefly refer to the history of the Poljica Statute and discuss its structure and suggest possible influences on it. In doing so we shall make comparisons where appropriate with early English Law. We are English lawyers with some knowledge of Roman Law but do not claim any expertise in the history of Slavonic legal systems. Our knowledge of the Statute and the literature through the medium of English translation.
The History ond Structure of the Statute

The Statute is said to be one of the most important socio-legal documents of early Croatian history, the other being the Vinodol Law of 1288 which was basically feudal law. The Poljica Statute is really a twofold code, being a collection of old customs and new decrees reached by agreement between the various representatives of Poljica society. The Statute has been studied by various Russian scholars, some of whom derive from the Statute an idealised picture of life in Poljica and it was even claimed on the slenderest evidence that the reports reaching England of the little Principality influenced Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’.1 The structure of the present text of the Statute is somewhat disorganised with a number of additions made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There is no apparent logical cohesion but simply an attempt to record items as they arose. At the time of the drafting of the original statute Poljica was not a standard kind of Slavonic society nor was it a purely feudal one either. It appears to be a primitive feudal system with two species of nobles – the Didici and the Vlastela – arising from an earlier tribal organisation consisting of three tribes. There is, however, a recognition in article 1 of the suzerainty of Venice in that the prince who holds office for a year must at least be loyal to the Doge. At the same time Poljica seems to be moving towards a truly democratic organisation. The entire Poljica male population seems at times to have discussed important matters such as treason, captivity and assault at meetings which represent a pure form of democracy only really feasible in a small community generally free from gross inequalities or at least a sufficiently socially cohesive that certain inequalities of wealth are accepted by those least privileged. Nevertheless all the important offices seem to have usually been in the hands of the nobles. There are two species of ownership of property – common and private. Originally communal property seems to have been widespread and extended to the whole tribe or all relatives; later it is limited to some relatives. It is, however, notoriously difficult to establish the nature of ancient systems of ownership and the concept of family ownership may only be an impression created by various interrelated rules of individual inheritance.2
There are a number of provisions of the statute which are worthy of comment. These reflect three key ideas – a) the recognition of basic human rights, b) the Rule of Law and c) an early development of a concept of community personality and responsibility.
Article 59b deals with the case of inheritance of property with a possibly defective title. The article stipulates that in such a case ‘the fact that each man must live must in some way be taken into consideration. As there is nothing which has existed for all time.’ This is a clear recognition of a basic human right. Similarly in article 89c which deals with a tenant leaving his lord. In .this article although there are traces of feudalism the article states that ‘differing cases must be treated on their merits. A man is free to flee from evil if he can.’
Article 19 contains a recognition of a right of appeal against a decision of the Prince and of Poljica. In other words the state is subject to the Law. This resembles Magna Carta and the famous passages In Bracton and Coke. Thus Bracton, writing in the thirteenth century, stated “lpse autem rex non debet esse sub homine sed sub Deo et sub rege, quia lex tacit regem‘.3 While this was common theory in the Middle Ages it was unusual to find a right of appeal under the Law.
Articles 23b, 26, 29, 37d and 41b recognise some notion of the community as a legal person. It should be noted however that the purpose of recognition of such personality in these articles is to impose duties upon it as opposed to conferring rights . This is an unusual state of affairs in early law. It is more usual to find recognition of legal personality as the subject of legal rights in the first instance. Article 23b does in fact confer rights on Poljica. It refers to property of a traitor going to ‘the district’ which may refer to the community as a legal person or alternatively to an aggregate of individuals or individual families. It is interesting to contrast with these articles F.W. Maitland’s striking description of legal development in Western Europe – ‘…the line of advance is no longer from status to contract, but through contract to something that contract cannot explain, and for which our best, if inade- quate, name is the personality of the organised group.’4 In Poljica the movement seems to be from status to some kind of social ( rather than individualised) contract situation which is leading to the recognition of the community as a legal person with rights and duties under the law. In F. Tonnies’ language Poljica is changing from one form of gemeinschaft – or organic form of society – to another. The process of transition to a gesellschaft type of society, i.e. to a more atomised form of society, was perhaps to come later.5
There are some unusual procedures laid down by the Statute. Thus under article 5a a person who has a case against another must summon him thrice. This is uncommon. It is more usual to give the defendant a period of notice. The formal responses laid down by article 73a are quaint but resemble the formulae of Roman Law and English pleadings in certain respects.
Attempts to codify ancient customary laws were made in many European countries in the Middle Ages probably as a result of Papal influence or at least the availability of a clerical class.
There are in fact a number of points of resemblance with the social and legal organisation of England in the twelfth century. Articles 22 and 66 give a right of appeal to the magistrate and the assembly if the lord refuses to do justice. This resembles some of the earliest Royal writs whereby the King at the petitioner’s request commanded the lord to do justice. However whereas an English lord was entitled to service and the incidents of tenure the rights of a Poljican lord not only to the tenant’s personal service but also his chattels go further and suggest almost a lord / serf relationship (see article 89 but see also article 89c discussed above ). It is difficult to reconcile this with the apparen- tly advanced form of franchise on important legal matters. Perhaps the answer is that the Statute is a ‘patchwork quilt’ containing provisions from different periods. The form of pleading in a real property dispute (article 73a is reminiscent of the English writ of mort d’ancestor and the use of character witnesses upon sworn oath (article 73d is identical to the English procedure of wager of law.
Lastly, despite the claims which have been made by some historians about Poljica’s communal system one wonders whether it was really any more communal than a twelfth century English village with its common land, plough team and uniform peasantry.6
Possible Legal Influences an Poljica Statute
There are four possible influences which will be considered. These are:
(1) Classical Roman Law
(2) Byzantine Law
(3) Venetian Law
(4) Slavonic Law
Any comment hereunder is necessarily tentative and our knowledge of the Slavonic literature is derivative and limited.
(1) a Classical Roman Law
Poljica was part of Dalmatia which was a Roman province and Split was the seat of Diocletian in the fourth century A.D. However any traces of classical Roman Law would be swept away except in the coastal towns in the numerous Slavic and Magyar invasions and there is no clear evidence that we can see in the Statute. The principal system of provincial land holding was latifundia – large private estates worked by servile labour – which does not fit the Poljica pattern as it is emerging in the Statute.
(1) b Later Roman Law
By the fourteenth century there was renewed activity in the Balkan countries producing legislation on the Roman model. The history of Roman Law in this period is complex but it is possible that even isolated Poljica may have been spurred on to codify its customs as a result of this development percolating through Venetian, Byzantine or Papal influences.
(2) Byzantine Law
Croatia was for several centuries within the orbit of the Byzantine Commonwealth. The main later legislation was the Ecloga of Leo III (717-741 ), the Ecloga ad Procheiron Mutata and the Hermanopoulos Hex- abiblos.7 The second was based inter alia on legislation of Basil I, the Ecloga of Leo III and the Farmer’s Law and was composed in Greek and applied to the Greek speaking subjects of the Norman Kings of Sicily although its influence spread further afield. It is titled in the Freshfield edition ‘A Selection of Laws arranged in a brief and compendious form by Leo and Constantine the wise emperors taken from the Institutes, the Digests, the Code and the Novels of the Great Justinian, and from the Martial, Penal and Rhodian Laws, improved in the direction of humanity’. The Farmer’s Law represents the closest parallel to the Poljica Statute although the Statute has more
un-Roman features which are probably attributable to Slavonic influences . The Farmer’s Law provides for many similar contingencies as the Statute, e.g. murder, defamation and straying animals, but the penalties are much harsher than those of the Statute which tends to follow the Slavic practice of fining. The Statute contains a constitution, administrative law and procedure unlike the Farmer’s Law. In scope it almost approximates to the Ecloga ad Procheiron Mutata themselves.8 The first part of the latter (Chapters I – XIX) dealt with Private Law, the second (Chapters XX to XXX) with Criminal Law, the third ( Chapters XXXI to XXXIII ) with Ecclesiastical Law, the fourth (Chapters XXXIV to XXXVI) with Agricultural Law and the last part ( Chapter XXXVII ) dealt with Maritime Law. Compared with this the Statute has more Public Law provisions, a less comprehensive Private and Criminal Law and no Ecclesiastical and Maritime Law.
(3) Venetian Law
The renaissance of Roman Law in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had its impact in Venice and probably this extended to Split and possibly from thence to Poljica. The Charter of Split c. 1300 may have influenced the Statute, at least as regards the desirability of codifying the law.9 Also by the time of the Statute the Italians were becoming increasingly familiar with the Byzantine texts and in fact it was a Venetian nobleman, Antonio, who presented a copy of Basil I’s Ecloga ad Procheiron Mutata to Francis I of France in the sixteenth century. Thus, slightly paradoxically, Venice may have acted as a source of dissemination of Byzantine ideas.
(4) Slavonic Law and Custom
We have already noted some specific Slavonic features. The full scope of Slavonic influence on law and administration in Medieval Eastern Europe is difficult to ascertain and the origin of some institutions, traditionally regarded as Slavonic, is not beyond dispute. It has been suggested for example, that the zadruga family group which prevailed in Poljica owes less to Slavonic custom than to Byzantine fiscal policy.10

The Statute depicts a Poljica in a period or social change. Indeed the very production or the Statute itself is evidence of that. Some Roman, Byzantine, Slavonic and Venetian influences may have been at work but the Statute at the end or the day probably represents a codification of local laws in which there are ‘remains or the past, which live only in memory, which are manifestly dying, which sometimes are already dead, and new rules with perspectives for the future’. 11 In Weberan terms, the Statute is the product of a traditional system taking its first tentative step towards legal rationality. 12 In terms of substance as opposed to form the Statute as we have seen has a number of striking features. These are the recognition of basic human rights, the Rule of Law and a sense of community identity which is beginning to assume separate legal personality with rights and duties. The curious patchwork character of the Statute reminds one of the aptness of Mr Justice Holmes’ remark that ‘The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience. The felt necessities of the time, the prevalent moral and political theories, intuitions of public policy, avowed or unconscious…,’ have had a good deal more to do than the syllogism in determining the rules by which man should be govern ed.’ (The Common Law p.l ) The content of the Poljica Statute reflects all of these influences at work in a small community which maintained effective autonomy until the nineteenth century.
1 This idea was put forward by the Russian academician M.P. Alekseev hi book of essays on English Literature, published in 1960.
2 See: Theodore F.T. Plucknett. A Concise History of the Common Law, p.522.
3 De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae, f. 5b.
4 F. W. Maitland, Select Essays, ed. by H. D. Hazeltine, G. Lapsley and P.H. Winfield, p. 233.
5 See: F. Tonnies, Community and Association
6 See E. H. Freshfield, A Manual of Later Roman Law -the Ecloga ad Procheiron Mutata, p. 216-7.
7 See Dimitri Obolensky, The Byzantine Commonwealth, pp. 404 ff.
8 Cf. Chapters I to XXXVI of the Ecloga ad Procheiron Mutata in Freshfield, op. cit. pp. 70 et seq.
9 See: J .H. Wigmore, A Panorama of the World’s Legal Systems, pp. 758.
10 See Norman H. Baynes, The Byzantine Empire, p. 230.
11 Boris Gekov, Politsa, p 87, cited in A. Kadic, The Democratic Spirit of the Poljica Commune in: Communal Families in the Balkans, ed. by R. Bymes, p. 203.
12 See: Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society, ed. by Max Rheinstein
translated by ALAN FERGUSON
Translator’s Foreword
. The orthography of the Statute of Poljica poses considerable problems for the editor and translator. The ‘Bosancica’ in which it is written was a cursive form of the Cyrillic script, a variation widely used in Bosnia and Dalmatia from the 12th century. Although the language of the statute is not altogether dissimilar to the dialect of Croatian spoken in Poljica until modern times, the orthography of the original manuscripts differs from both Serbian Cyrillic and Old Church Slavonic. The statute was first published in 1859 by M. Mesic but appeared in an authoritative edition only in 1890. V. Jagic, who realised the statute’s historical importance and hence devoted much time and energy to preparing this edition, compiled it using the oldest preserved manuscripts, all in ‘Bosancica’, which he calculated to date from between 1567 and 1605. As the basic text was still incomplete he supplemented and, where necessary ,corrected it according to the texts of four later transcripts. Jagic’s edition contains 116 articles, or 206 when these are broken down into their individual paragraphs. To these he appended extracts from eighteenth-century redactions. Its most ancient section he considered to have dated from about 1440. Regrettably the exact year referred to in the statute’s heading was damaged in the oldest manuscript. He based this estimation on the assumption that on the eve of Poljica’s attachment to Venice in January 1444, its inhabitants would have wished to have their laws recorded, so that the county’s ancient rights and autonomy could be confirmed. As can be seen from this translation, various additions were made to the original text during later centuries. The statute remained valid as a whole until Poljica’s autonomy ceased in the early 19th century. A few years ago the statute was rendered into modern Croatian by Zvonimir Junkovic (Poljicki zbornik, Vol I.,.Zagreb 1968) and I have on occasion – though by no means always – found his rendition a useful guide. My impression on the whole was that Junkovic might have done much more to clarify the obscurities in the original text.
Finally 1 wish to express my thanks to Edo Pivcevic with whom I have discussed some of the more opaque terms and passages in the statute and who has suggested a number of minor alterations and improvements all of which have been incorporated in the final version of the translation.


1. The first law of Poljica is to elect from among the nobles a prince who is both loyal to the doge and acceptable to Poljica.l The law demands that he be chosen for one year and administer justice thrice and that on each such occasion he be given 30 rams, so that there be ninety of them in a year. Of these, three rams are to go to the officer of the district court as it is he who is to gather them.
2. Of the fines imposed by the prince and magistrates, one half accrues to the prince, one half to the district and to the officer of the district court one tenth of that.
3. Besides the prince there must be three sworn magistrates, from three tribes: one from the Tisemirs, a second from the Limices and a third from the Kremenicanins. Their term of office ends and they are replaced together with the prince.
4a. Poljica law determines that a man of Poljica may prosecute another initially only before the bench of Poljica -whatever the matter might be. And no other man may prosecute a man of Poljica save before the bench of Poljica when the matter relates to land within the region of Poljica.
4b. If he is dissatisfied with the decision in Poljica, he may go on to appeal, and that until the third term. The appeal of the man who fails to appeal until then is invalid in the term in which sentence is passed.
5a. He who has a case against another must summon him thrice, having taken a court officer from the prince or magistrates. At each session to which the other is summoned, the complainant must also appear. If he fails to appear, then his summons for that appearance is invalid.
5b. If the man summoned fails to respond in the first instance, he must pay 10 balanza. If he fails to respond in the second instance, he must pay one lira. If he is absent from the third session, and the summons was delivered to him at home, he loses the suit, unless it relates to joint estate.
6. When the time of the third summons is complete and the defendant appears, the plaintiff must present the grounds for his complaint. If the respondent’s case is to be put by an advocate and he says ‘He is not present’ , or says: ‘ Let me find an advocate! I can not speak on my own behalf’ – then, he shall be granted a period to find an advocate even after the third summons. If he finds an advocate in that time, he may speak on his behalf. If he does not find one, let him speak in his own defence; the law does not permit a further period being granted for this purpose.
7. If the defendant avers as part of his case ‘God forbid’ and, while in possession, says ‘It is mine, by God!’ -and if the complainant has no creditable evidence against him, he may take an oath to retain his property. If the complainant disputes that ‘God forbid’ and takes the officers of court to the place in question and he who says ‘God forbid’ is in possession – if the litigation concerns land, and if the disputed land is worth more than fifty lira….. (in the original manuscript a page is missing here )
On treason, pledges and assault
8. If a man is found a traitor to our land, that is, when a man surrenders himself and our land to another lord against the will of the other noble men of Poljica, then he is to be pronounced a traitor to our lords and our land, he is to be banished, the district of Poljica is to appropriate his estate and he is no longer to be considered a man of Poljica.
9. If a man binds himself before the prince and magistrates when charged with assault and if he designates anything as a pledge – if his pledge before the prince and magistrates is surrendered, half of the pledge accrues to the prince and the other half to the district of Poljica, having set aside the portion of the district court officer.
10. If during litigation before the prince and magistrates, a man should mention assault, that assault may not remain unpunished. Either he who is said to have committed it or he who mentions it must be punished.
Procurators may lay charges against a criminal and collect the tithe
11. The law demands that the district of Poljica appoint for a year three procurators from three tribes, one from each tribe, similarly magistrates to oversee district affairs.
12. Primarily to take responsibility for the tithe: to collect it in due time and deliver it within the stipulated period. Whoever fails to deliver it in time is to pay a fine of five lira and must still render the tithe.
13. They must seek out and prosecute anyone who commits an offence, namely: whoever sheds blood or plants a new grove without the permission of the prince of Poljica, whoever encloses an old road and creates a new one without the permission of the assembled princes; whoever assaults another and the assaulted person complains of this to a procurator or they see the affray with their own eyes; or if anyone in any way commits an act of violence and a complaint reaches the procurator, they have the right to lay charges and issue a summons on account of those things.
14. If a man is caught thieving in his own village, a noble man or a tenant, they may summon and prosecute him before the prince or the magistrates or the assembly. Of the fine imposed, the three procurators are to receive a quarter of that part which accrues to the district.
15. When a man commits theft in his own village, if he is of noble birth and found guilty by the assembly, three parts of the fine go to the district and the fourth to the procurators. If the thief in his own village is a tenant, three parts go to his lord the fourth to the district and to the procurators their portion.
16. If the thief calls character witnesses, by law no one connected with the theft may call the other party to take the oath. In any other case, anyone who does not call the other party to take the oath at the place of trial, may not by law subsequently do so.
17a. When anything is stolen from a dwelling and character witnesses are called because of that, the accused must swear twelfth. If the theft is out of doors and character witnesses are called, then sixth. If the matter is one of property, then he must also swear sixth.
17b. However if the oath is returned, the plaintiff who is called to take the oath must swear third. If a man summoned on account of property should not appear at the appointed time, then he must swear sixth, after witnesses, on his own property.
18. If anyone acquires movable property through litigation, an equal part accrues to the prince and the district of Poljica.
19. The prince of Poljica resolves with all other men of Poljica as follows: if a man appeals against a decision of the prince and of Poljica, and if the appellant fails to summon the man in whose favour sentence was passed within a month, his appeal is invalid.
Written in the year of Our Lord 1475, the 5th day of August.
20. Whoever is duke of Poljica need pay no tax save the tithe, any fines and head-tax when due to the Turks, He may not be exempt from this, but from all else each duke is exempt.
21. Poljica has resolved that four vlastela-nobles and nine didici-nobles 2 – whatever complaint comes before the magistrates, whether made to the procurators or themselves – that they should investigate everything concerning property. But regarding joint estate (plemenscina) if anyone should make to commit an unlawful act, those magistrates should forestall and consider it. The fine for anyone committing assault is 25 lira.
22. If anyone brings a complaint against a tenant, he must initially complain before the other’s lord during the first session. If that man’s lord should not pass judgement in keeping with the law, he may be summoned before these magistrates and jurors. If that man’s lord should not wish to pronounce sentence, the aggrieved party should appear before the jurors and summon the accused.
On captivity
23a. All men of Poljica are unanimously agreed and command all vlastela-nobles and didici- nobles and tenants and herdsmen 3 : Whoever is found engaging in hostilities with the Turks or their frontiersmen, if he be of the didici or the vlastela, must be caught and hanged, all his movables accrue to the district, but his joint estate to his next-of-kin; a tenant or herdsman found fighting with the Turks or their frontiersmen must be caught and hanged, half of his
property goes to the district and the other half to his lord. By this it is intended that whosoever personally participates in such activity must lose his head, but the rest of his household need not lose theirs.
Vlastela-nobles, didici-nobles and tenants have agreed on the aforesaid: that for everyone committing that offence the penalty should be the same – as written above.
23b. In fine, whichever man of Poljica, no matter what his birth, takes prisoners with the Turks or their frontiersman or surrenders to the Turks or of his own volition joins the Turks, he must needs lose his head, as written above, and his property accrues to the district. If he possesses joint estate, it accrues to his next-of-kin. If he is a tenant, then a half of his property accrues to his lord and the rest to the district.
24. The following was resolved by the men of Poljica at an assembly of all the vlastela-nobles and the entire district of Poljica, thus and in this manner: Four of the vlastela-nobles and four of the didici-nobles are to be appointed for three months, to be replaced after three months by others, so that there should constantly be eight of the above-mentioned. Should an injustice be done against anyone, three days every month he may summon the accused before them. If he does not come at the first summons, he is to pay 10 balanza. If he does not come at the second summons, he is to pay another 10 balanza. If he does not come at the third summons, he loses the suit.
25. This likewise was jointly resolved by the assembled men of Poljica: no man of Poljica may keep a Wallachian in Poljica if he can not keep him on his (property) and at his own (expense) and if they have not made a voluntary agreement to that effect.
26. All men of Poljica have agreed together: Should a man of Poljica kill a man approaching Poljica with the apparent intention of committing a misdeed in Poljica, all Poljica is bound to pay for him. Or, if a man should find a thief on his own property or on the property of some other man of Poljica and kill the thief as he is stealing or removing the stolen goods, all Poljica is bound to pay for him. Or, if a man should kill a brigand who is about to rob him and should kill him in self-defence – Poljica pays for him too. But if a man of Poljica should quarrel, argue with and murder another man of Poljica, Poljica does not pay for him.
27. All men of Poljica are unanimously agreed that no man of Poljica is permitted or able to sustain an alien against another man of Poljica if there is litigation for joint estate. Whoever, notwithstanding, does sustain an alien, is to pay a fine of 50 lira.
If a man is assaulted
28. All men of Poljica are unanimously agreed: any man of Poljica who assaults another man of Poljica, – if the victim of the assault in defending himself should injure the assailant, then the injured man must still be paid for his injury, but the original assailant must pay the district of Poljica as much as is paid to him for the injury.
29. The men of Poljica have agreed among themselves: Should any man of Poljica commit abduction, as written above, and be caught or killed by another man of Poljica, then all Poljica takes this upon itself. Should any other threaten the latter because of this, he is to receive the same punishment as the criminal and is to be treated in like manner to the first.
* In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. In the 1482nd year after His birth, on the fourteenth of February. The noble Duje Papalic arose and made a tour of Poljica for the first time with his magistrates and the entire court, administered justice according to the law and encompassed all Poljica and its borders which are from of old.
Beginning in the West, where the river Zrnovnica flows into the sea, the frontier goes up the first hill Stojni Kamen, beneath Kamin straight towards the sea, up the river Vrelo Zrnovnice towards Pecine, the frontier goes from Oslji ridge. the frontier is the water Srdenik, Pec on Krivice, the frontier is in Kucisca, the frontier is in Konjevod, the frontier is Trnova Kamenica, Hanging Oak, by which is the frontier Vladavic’s Grove, the hill Samolek. Little Konacnik, Cetina by Gardun. The frontier then goes down the Cetina, immediately beneath the village of Caporice, by the village of Ugljani, down the Cetina or midstream to Blato of Radobilja, down the river by Kresevo, by the village of Katuni, continuing downstream to Perucica, to the fortress of Zadvarje, downstream by Slimen to Kucici, downstream by Miric, Visec, Medvija, downstream to before the walls of Omis. The frontier then joins the sea and continues down the coast to Stobrec or into the river Zrnovnica.
30. In the year of Our Lord 1485, the 30th day of the month of December. In God’s name, amen. By joint agreement Poljica has created and enacted its statute and its laws, having first approved and confirmed the laws and customs contained in the charters and instruments of previous lords and the privileges endorsed by our present illustrious Venetian government.
Table of Contents
First, church matters.
Benefactions, endowments. Anathema. Murders. Killing. Brigandage. Robbery. Assault. Slaughter. Penalties for injuries or bruises. Burglary. Wife-beating. The abuse of woman. Obduracy concerning joint estate and other matters. The penalty for assault. The penalty for brigandage. The penalty for insult or suchlike or for securities. On joint estates and those owning them on the purchase and sale of joint estates; on the pledging of joint estates. On movable property. He who betrays or is untrue to his country. He who is unjustly accused of treason, but found to be innocent. The law on groves and pasture. or on groves already grazed. Old laws deriving from other lords and confirmed in the charters of our lords. The laws on grazing-fees and unharvested vineyards; then on those harvested, but in winter. On fields, kitchen-gardens, mown fields or woods cultivated for acorns.
Church matters
31. Church benefactions and endowments must be safeguarded and should be given priority over all other. No one may take or acquire that which is the church’s or retain it. Tithes must be paid as the holy father has confirmed and as it is written.
On anathema
32. In like manner whoever in his misfortune is publicly anathematized and excommunicated may not communicate or live with other people, save the household where he has his dwelling. Should death overtake him thus anathematized, he may not be interred with other Christians but elsewhere. To whomsoever should be confirmed a public usurer or should not make confession at least once a year, and be thus overtaken by death, and to whomsoever – God forbid! – should take his own life, the same applies.
On severance
33. When there is severance between brothers or cousins, the sons of one father or kinsfolk among whom severance is rightly to be made, it is easy to divide justly if the property is movable. However, if there be payment or reward from the lords, it belongs to the person to whom it is allotted.
If the matter is one of joint estate, it must be divided equally, but the home hearth must pass to the younger. When severance has been made justly, each is bound to retain his own. Should they make subsequent division or allotment, each may divide and re-measure freely whenever he pleases. However, each is free to remain on land drawn his by lot.
For as long as brothers or other fellow estate-holders do not separate, all is common to them, good and evil, gain and loss, debts which are owed by or to them; all is common to them until they separate. But when they separate, then to each belongs his own portion.
Chapter on litigation
34. Before all other, when a man has a dispute with, or case against another, and one party has already summoned the other according to the law – whether the matter concerns joint estate or anything else – then he who is charged first may not lay a complaint against the other or summon him until the first suit is completed. That is, it is forbidden for litigations to run concurrently or for one to interfere with another. This applies when the second party does not wish to respond. If he should begin to respond and enter litigation, that is if the first case is so old as to have passed into oblivion, then it is permitted. Regardless of this right, should the original complainant in the meantime commit some violent, unlawful or self-willed act against the defendant, the latter may then lay charges and speak against him -irrespective of the first case. He may lay charges and institute proceedings against him on account of that violent or unlawful action but he may not answer force with force.
On quarrels and affrays
35a. If a man quarrels with another and they pluck each other’s hair and fight, but this causes no injury or bruising, then he who started the fight pays a fine of 25 lira.
If a man provokes another to fight, then the original provoker must pay a fine of 25 lira.
All else relating to affrays or injuries is dealt with under ‘Hand’.
If bruising is caused, the fine totals 5 lira.
When a wound is caused by a weapon or in some other way and the wound is covered by clothing, 25 lira are paid for each such wound.
If the wound is to the face or arm and not covered by clothing, 50 lira are paid for such a wound.
If it is neither the one nor the other and clothing covers part but not all of it, the case is to be considered on its merits.
If a man maims another’s arm, and one of the latter’s arms, legs or even eyes should be injured, each separate injury totals one half of the fine for murder, which is 120 lira.
On injuries
35b. When two such limbs are lost, then twice as much is to be paid. If three, thrice. If four, four times. If five, five times. If as many as all six and the man does not so die. then the same calculation applies. And it is confirmed by law that there be fines greater than that for murder, as a crippled life is worse and more difficult for a man than immediate death.
Otherwise, when such events occur as are extremely complex, they must be examined by appraisers – in part according to the law, in part according to their own mind and conscience, considering in this why the deed was done and to what purpose.
On injuries to the hand
35c. When a finger is lost, as much is to be paid for a thumb as for half a hand, which is 60 lira. The value of the one must be set so much higher than the other as it is so much more valuable. If a limb is partially lost, the case must be treated on its merits: it must be examined.
Half as much is to be paid for toes as for fingers; for the big toe similarly half, and for all the rest half.
It should be considered where and in what place the event occurred. in what circumstances and for what reason, as by no means all events can be cited, but to an extent one must judge according to one’s conscience.
When a tooth is knocked out in a fight, the fine is 50 lira.
When a nose is severed, the law demands that 50 lira first be paid for the wound, then the same amount for disfigurement of the face, which is 100 lira.
This applies to each limb when there is disfigurement and a wound. When an ear is severed, 50 lira are to be paid.
If an ear be rendered deaf by a blow, 50 lira are to be paid. If it is severed and rendered deaf, then 100 lira are to be paid.
On blood
36a. If a man kills his brother – which God forbid! – he may no longer be considered a man of Poljica, and his share of the inheritance, if there be any, is inherited by his next-of-kin, to whom it accrues as patrimony, as though the other had died. if the man is still to be found in Poljica, all Poljica must pursue and slay him.
36 b. If a man kills his brother or cousin and is subsequently found in Poljica, he must be pursued with a vigour proportionate to the closeness of their kinship.
36 c. If a man kills a relative or other kinsman 4 In order to acquire joint estate accruing to him as patrimony, that part of it may not accrue to the murderer but to whomsoever the tribe may determine.
If the murdered man has one or several daughters, the joint estate passes to them.
36d. If a man of Poljica should by misadventure kill another in Poljica or elsewhere, the same applies.
36e. If a man of Poljica kills an alien in vengeance, Poljica must stand behind him.
36f. If the matter is not one of revenge, it is the affair of the man who spills the blood.
36g. If an alien kills a man of Poljica, he must be pursued by Poljica. unless it was in vengeance. If it is because of previous hostility Poljica need not pursue him.
36h. If an alien kills or injures another alien in Poljica. Poljica is not to. interfere in the matter.
On blood
37a. When mortal blood falls, the old law demands that the penalty for it be 240 lira. This presumes two men quarreling and one of them killing the other.
37b. When a man kills another in a criminal manner or by artifice or from an ambush, or kills him for property or other profit, or robs him once having killed him – the law demands that the penalty in such a case be twice as great. If such a criminal or robber can be caught, whether a man of Poljica or an alien, he must be hanged or quartered.
On blood
37c. If a man kills another in hand-to-hand combat 5, while grappling, and the cause is not previously unavenged blood or suchlike, then for such blood as the victim sheds, fatal or not, Poljica is to pay.
37d. That apart, if a man sheds blood, mortal or not, on his own land or in his own dwelling while another robs him, the same law applies to him. Whether by cattle or elsewhere, the law is the same. If over wheat or in a vineyard or over other fruit, the law also applies that Poljica is to pay for it. If the thief is caught in the act, he must certainly be hanged, as is written below concerning robbery.
37e. Likewise, when a man kills another having broken into his dwelling, he must pay for the blood shed and the burglary.
37f. If he assaults members of the household or commits some other act of violence in the dwelling, this is spoken of below.
On convalescence after an affray
38. When, following an affray, a man convalesces and loses several days, there is no law for that save what might be awarded him by arbiters.
39a. If a man of Poljica seizes a noble man by the hair and casts him to the ground, and that is not an act of vengeance, namely, for no just reason, – if he disgraces him in such a way, he must pay him the injury fine of 120 lira. This applies if the latter does not pluck his hair also; if he does pluck his hair, this is considered retaliation. But the instigator is the culpable party. This applies to noble men.
39b. If a tenant so disgraces a noble man, the penalty is greater.
39c. If a tenant raises his hand against his lord. he loses his right hand.
40. In fine, whatever the injury, one or several. and in whatever place, by law Poljica has determined thus: Inasmuch as there be no other agreement or settlement between those concerned, then, those who estimate damages must see, examine and, after consideration, make their estimation – in part according to the law and custom, in part according to their own mind and conscience. As all cases can not be fully and entirely legislated for, evaluated and foreseen neither can all eventualities be included in the statute, but which injury is more serious or severe or dangerous to life must be established and appraised, namely, which injuries cause more serious illness or hardship, or expense in medicines and damage. Then, when it happens that bones or lungs or brains or any other parts of the body be rendered visible – all this must be investigated and assessed, as not everything can be cited individually as we have already written.
41a. If a man molests or robs another on the highway or elsewhere or sets an ambush for him, and the latter has done him no wrong, then a fine of 100 lira is to be paid; half goes to the other party and the other half to the district of Poljica. The stolen property must first be returned. However, if he strikes or injures him, the law cited above speaks of this. If he kills him on the spot, he pays two death fines, as above-written in connection with crime.
41b. If the victim does anything in self-defence while on the ground, Poljica pays for it, as was said previously.
On beating women
42. If a man beats the wife or sister or daughter of any man without real provocation on their part, he is to pay twice the fine for assault, which is 50 lira.
If he breaks into a dwelling and commits this act in the dwelling or the courtyard, he is to pay twice as much again, which is 100 lira.
On the malediction of men by women
43. If a woman rains curses on another, he is not permitted to strike her, but to make reply. However, if a woman comes upon another to strike or assault, to pluck or fight him, and he has given no real provocation and is innocent – if he drives her to her dwelling with a stick, nothing is to be paid.
44. The fine for assault is 25 lira. The fine for insults 10 lira.
The fine for brlgandage 100 lira.
The pledge-fine -for as much as a man has rightly bound himself by law.
The fine for cursing. Whoever curses his fellow without just cause is to pay 5 lira. If a tenant curses a noble man, twice as much. When a tenant curses his lord, his tongue should be severed or redeemed in the sum of 100 lira.
45. When in litigation a man mentions assault or makes a charge on account of assault, the fine for assault, which totals 25 lira, may not go unpaid by the litigants. If the guilt of the accused is shewn, then he pays. If it is not shewn but confirmed that the accused is innocent, then the fine again falls on the man who mentioned assault and complained without justification.
On burglary
46. In the old times the fine and law for burglary was so very great and serious that no one could pay it with facility. Now Poljica has formulated and enacted a milder law, that is 100 lira. Irrespective of all else that happens during the offence, that fine is to be paid for the burglary alone.
47. In the year of Our Lord 1476, on the 20th day of November, at Vraci when Poljica was
assembled, it determined, enacted and thus recorded in its statute as follows: When any land is pledged, part of the income from it must be given to the lord who pledged it, so that a half of the income from the part to which he has a right be given to him. Which means: when the land is divided in twain, he must be given a quarter of it, when in three, a sixth of it must be given; and when in four, an eighth is given: and when in five, a tenth part of it is given, and so on after the same fashion.
On the notary
48. This year, 1485 since the birth of Christ, on the 18th day of July, Poljica determined that it should maintain a sworn district notary, who should receive annually 20 rams or 39 balanza for each ram, so that three- year rams are reckoned four thirds. For an instrument from the notary’ s ledger he receives 5 balanza, for a judgement sealed on cotton parchment 10 balanza, and for a sentence revised by the bench one lira. He is moreover exempt from all taxes save the head tax.
Chapter on patrimony
49a. The law on patrimony declares thus: He who possesses ancient patrimony which comes down to him from his forbears, must cultivate, enjoy or otherwise draw his livelihood from it. It is not honourable for it to be squandered and wasted without great need, but – as the old law and custom prescribe – let him leave it as he found it.
But whatever a man finds and acquires, or assembles or earns separately or in any other way gains himself and obtains through his own endeavours, – the old law determines that he be allowed freely to do with it whatever he wishes – at the moment of death or during his life, for his body or soul. Which means that what a man finds or wins or acquires for himself – apart from his share of patrimony, be there one or several such parts – he may dispose of freely: just as he acquired, so may he freely arrange it as he sees fit.
49b. Let this be stated moreover: When a man is on his deathbed and has several children or heirs to whom he is bequeathing his property, he is allowed to do with it whatever he wishes. But, even at the point of death, he should not at the expense of one leave all to another, and deprive the first of everything, but should act justly and honourably. That applies to the death-bed. However, while a man is alive and well he may freely dispose of all that he has.
The law on sons and fathers
49c. There are only thirteen reasons for which a father may in conscience deprive his sons of patrimony: 1. when a son raises his hand against his parents; 2. when he personally brings disgrace upon them; 3. when he accuses them of an unworthy deed not directed against the faith or the temporal ruler; 4. when he is a criminal or associates with criminals; 5. when he attempts to take his parents’ lives, either with poison or by some other means; 6. when he profanes his father’s bed; 7. when, by going to law, he causes his parents great expense; 8. when he will not vouch his father in captivity; 9. when he obstructs his parents in taking their last decision; 10. when he engages in a dishonourable or humiliating profession which his parent did not engage in, if for instance he be on the stage, that is an actor, or suchlike; 11. when a daughter or grand-daughter who is not yet 25 and may marry chooses a dishonest life: 12. when he does not nurse a parent who has lost his reason 13. when he does not attempt to redeem him if he is in captivity.
These are the reasons for which parents may deprive children of their patrimony or dowry .
What are immovables and what movables
50a. Whatever can be easily moved is called movables. What can not be moved from its position is stable or immovables, that is: land or a dwelling, a stone building or two-storey building, or a village hut which is sturdy, or a church, tower or cave.
50b. These are immovable or stable things, and all else is called movables: a loosely-built thatched hut could not be called other than a movable object. But a mill or watercourse is an immovable object.
All else in the world is called movable, as it can easily be moved from its position.
50c. A spring which never runs dry is said to be stable and immovable.
But a well dug by hand is a movable object.
And all else in the world is movable, as it is moved easily: that is why it is called movable.
On the sale of joint estate
51a. Before all other, the old law prescribes that joint estate may not be sold or pledged secretly, that is covertly, especially without the knowledge cf one’s kinsmen, but must be sold openly, in the light of day, and be first offered to one’s kinsmen. The old law of Poljica prescribes that he who would sell must first declare this at three assemblies or in the prince’s presence for three terms, saying: ‘I intend to sell this; if one of my kinsmen wishes to purchase it, let him approach me; if he will not, I shall sell to whom I can:
51b. He who sells joint estate may not again redeem it, Poljica, however, has now established that a kinsman may redeem it within one year.
51c. If there is a member of one’s tribe more closely related than the man who redeemed the joint estate, he may redeem it from him.
51d. If both are equally related to the original vendor or there are several who are equally related to him, they must redeem it in such proportion and in the same way as they divide their own joint estate.
51e. In fine, if it is desired that the sale be valid and lawful, just appraisers must make an evaluation and, according to their conscience, assess and determine the value of that joint estate.
On exchange
52a. When two men exchange an animal, for instance a horse or an ox or some other animal, for either clothing or some other movable object, when they exchange, with or without supplement, and both are satisfied and each of them goes home and sleeps one night thereafter, – they may not revoke the exchange or re-exchange unless it is the wish of them both or unless some fraud is involved. The exception is when there is some contract or agreement concerning a trial period, or some other understanding or fixed term.
52b. If a man should exchange with another one or several parts of his joint estate, reciprocally, without supplement, the exchange must be made publicly, in the light of day, and he is permitted to exchange with whomsoever he pleases. However, if before the exchange is made and confirmed, one of any of the parties’ kinsmen should appear and declare: ‘Brother, I shall give thee in exchange the same amount of such land, do though exchange with me!’ – he may not then be refused.
52c. However, once they have exchanged and measured each other’s land and confirmed it in writing or through court officers, if both are satisfied with the exchange and if there has been no artifice or concealment or deception, and if supplementary payment in money or in kind has been made, then according to Poljica law a kinsman may redeem it at the price for which it was sold, for one year.
Law on chickens
53. A chicken in a vineyard must lose its head; it should be slaughtered and eaten. And if it scratches around a dwelling, it may be slaughtered.
Law on kitchen-gardens
54a. The same law applies for a garden as for a vineyard. If any animal does damage in it at a time when vegetables are being cultivated, then a small animal may be slaughtered. But a garden should first be well and completely enclosed, and then the owner of the garden is to declare the damage being caused to it. Thereafter he may slaughter a small animal and catch a greater one.
54b. A pig may be slaughtered, as may also a goat or sheep. If the damage done to the garden be great, a goat, sheep and pig may be slaughtered and eaten, as also they may be in a vineyard.
54c. When chickens do damage in a garden or vineyard, then the owner, having made it known, may slaughter and eat one, even if there be several of them, If there is a cockerel in their number, then he may slaughter another hen, but not the cockerel.
54d. If this happens in wheat which chickens may otherwise peck, the owner of the wheat must make it known and then slaughter. If the owner of the wheat is willing to give one quarter of his bran to the owner of the chickens, he may whenever he happens upon a chicken slaughter and eat it.
When a man betrays his lords
55a. In the name of God, amen. Let this be known. At an assembly of Poljica at Ma(j)cin 6, there did all of one mind and unanimously, both vlastela-nobles and didici-nobles, all as one determine and enact thus: If it be established of any man – be he of the vlastela or didici, or a friar or any other man no matter what his estate – that he personally or through some other in writing or in speech did slander or revoke obedience to our most illustrious Venetian lords or their governors and against our land, of whom this be established, he may in no way – with no mercy and irrespective of the appeals of any other man on this earth – receive any other punishment but must be burned with fire; thus and in no other way.
55b. All unanimously determined and enacted and cleaved with faith and soul that no one may be pardoned this, once it has been established. That apart, if another should assist him in this or sustain his cause because of kinship or any other attachment, he is to share his fate.
55c. If a man betrays the council of Poljica. he is a treacherous person and a traitor to Poljica.
55d. If a man refutes or opposes what the assembly of Poljica does and determines, he must be sentenced to pay 25 lira to the district of Poljica, and, notwithstanding, it is to be as the assembly resolves.
On groves and pastures
56a. Villages which have their own particular pastures, separated from other villages by boundaries, and which have their own ancient and lawful groves which are customarily tended for a given period and protected from both neighbouring villages and among themselves by fellow-peasants for a given period, according to the arrangement and law which applies in that village, the neighbouring and any other village – every such village must tend its groves and impound cattle as the law which applies everywhere determines: that each village may tend its groves and protect them from each other until they be grazed by oxen and until barren cattle be driven in; and once the grass has been grazed and other cattle let in, it is then to be considered pasture where there is no grove.
On such grazed land and where there is pasture and no grove, no one may deny a neighbouring village the right to graze it – unless it be more than three villages removed – but it must be free, as the law prescribes everywhere.
On groves and land given over to grazing
56b. When a man from the other side of another pasture wishes to graze his cattle, it can be forbidden and his cattle impounded, as is customary. This refers to groves which are ancient and lawful, and applies to peasants of both the one village and the other. Or, when a man possesses a particular part of a grove, either set apart or separated from the other village, or when an entire grove is divided into greater or lesser parts, then clearly no peasant of the one village or the other may commit a mischief or an unlawful act.
56c. No individual person or village may create a new grove or plant what has not been a grove since ancient times, save if the prince, magistrates and whole court have consented to it in the proper manner.
On pastures
57. Neighbour may not deny neighbour pasturage, as has been said. Notwithstanding, neither should dwellings be constructed deliberately near another boundary so as to be able the more easily to exploit the other pasture. There should be no acts of lawlessness or mischief in this connection.
58. No one may found a new village; except when the entire village belongs to one man, in which case he may settle more people on his own estate.
Or unless all the members of a village assemble and are jointly and unanimously agreed, when they may erect in their village whatever they please – except a fortress, or new customs house, or store, or some other new object directed against the district.
The law on the partition of groves and pastures among villagers
59a. When it happens that some village wishes to partition a grove or pasture among its inhabitants, that is when they are unable or unwilling to graze or hold them communally, that is where one or several of them from that village seek the part which may belong to them, or even should the entire village decide to be partitioned and see what is whose:
First, that which is pasture, where there is no grove, may not be partitioned among the fellow – villagers, as a peasant may not in this way be denied the right to graze, and not only a peasant of the same village moreover, but a neighbouring village may not be denied the right to graze the pasture if it is not more than three pastures removed, as was said earlier.
That which is grove must be partitioned thus and in this way: If tribal relationships and the proportions of joint estate which belong to the peasants according to tribal relationships and their individual portion of the patrimony be known, then, no other method of partitioning the groves need be sought save according to correct tribal relationships, how many individuals, and how much land around the dwellings and joint estate there are: as much of the patrimony as belongs to each according to tribal relationships, a corresponding portion of the grove must belong to him. However, if the tribal relationship among the partakers of the joint estate is not known and can not be ascertained, which happens when in a village there are several partakers, then, the grove must be partitioned as follows: the first and basic principle from time immemorial has been that they should receive a portion of the grove corresponding to the amount of plantations and land around dwellings belonging to them according to old and lawful partitions.
On pasture
59b. Notwithstanding, if it is established in the correct and proper manner that some land on which a dwelling or courtyard stands was properly inherited, correctly and honourably, even if this does not go back a long time, in such a case the fact that each man must live must in some way be taken into consideration. As there is nothing that has existed for all time.
On plough-lands
59c. If a man has plough-land or several strips of it in some village or on the territory of that village, but has no plantations or land around his dwelling, then, while he ploughs and cultivates those lands, he may graze oxen in the grove, until the peasant is re-shod 7, and that in the grove of the village, where the nearest village grove is.
59d. Following all that is written above: the law and custom are to be employed but, to an extent. good reason also, which depends on those who are appointed for that purpose.
Chapter on stray cattle
60a. The law determines thus: animals may not be let onto the tilled fields of another where they might do damage. If an animal is found doing damage to tilled ground, the law determines thus: especially large cattle, that is oxen, horses and donkeys, when found in a vineyard in winter or while there are no grapes, then for each head one dinar is to be paid; for lesser cattle, one balanza is to be paid for each head.
60b. That apart, Poljica has decreed that a man who deliberately drives heavy cattle into a vineyard by night is to pay double. If he will not be corrected, then let a piece be cut from the tail of one of his animals. If even then he does not refrain, let it be slaughtered.
When grapes appear – from as soon as the shoots appear until the grape harvest goats and sheep are to lose their head. That apart, If a goat eats of fruit trees, even in winter it is to lose its head. Heavy cattle must be driven off and the damage assessed. If this happens to wheat, the law demands that heavy cattle be caught and the damage assessed, but small cattle are to be kept until the damage is assessed.
The law on swine
60c. The law determines that swine may be killed. When a pig is found in wheat which has not yet sprouted, then the wheat farmer may kill it and take it to the place where it has dug and leave it there. If the wheat is in the ear, he may kill and eat it. The pig, thus, has a double weapon: scythe and mattock. If it is found in a vineyard during the grape-season, then as has been said, he may kill and eat it.
60d. If it is a sow with young or a herd of swine, a man is not permitted to kill the best pig or sow, but another leaner or smaller one, and that, each time he finds them, one only. If it is a fattened pig, and there are other smaller ones, he may not kill it, but another one, If he finds only a fattened pig and no others, he must first make it known before witnesses, and then if he catches it again, he may kill and eat it – whether in a wheat-field or a vineyard. If he whose the pig is has a lord to whom he must show the head of that pig, then its head must be left for him, but the other may use the rest of the pig for himself. But it must first be proved that traces of grapes or of wheat, if it has been in wheat, have actually been found in its stomach.
60e. This applies until the wheat has begun to be carted along the highway, or until the unthreshed wheat is carried in sheaves by some other method. Once the wheat has begun to be carted along the highway, such a trace means nothing until the wheat has been treated.
On guarantees
61. A man may vouch for another in matters of joint estate, movables, blood or any other thing – there may be guarantee. But the old law stipulates that a guarantee may not be revoked.
Which means: a guarantee may be of such a kind and in such a place that the other party may justly press the guarantor. This is why it is said that a guarantee may not be revoked. As no one is bound to do the impossible.
On joint estates
62. He who holds joint estate may not be deprived of possession without litigation. If he has held the property peaceably without complaint for 30 years, he may not be disquieted and charged concerning it. But if brethren, closely related or not, or kinsmen are involved, it can never be honourable. But among fellow tribesmen, tribal kinship may always be established, and – should anyone consider himself aggrieved – assessment based on tribal kinship can be made and in any case litigation instituted, when it relates to joint estate belonging to fellow tribesmen.
63a. When a man lawfully charges another concerning joint estate, great or small, he must first summon him according to the law and custom of Poljica when the prince is making his circuit of the district. For, unless both parties so wish, none other than the prince and magistrates may be involved in matters of joint estate. Then, as the prince is making his circuit, the accused must be summoned at his abode in the presence of a court officer, as has been said, with the words: ‘I do summon thee to the session (then mentioned), to respond to what I shall speak against thee.’ If the other responds to the summons, then it is in order. But if he says. ‘Summon me according to the law!’ -then he must be summoned in three sessions.
63b. If, when all three summonses have been issued, he seeks time to find an advocate, this must be allowed him according to the law until the third session. Once he has begun to make reply, he who is in possession, or the advocate in his stead, freely says: ‘What and where is the matter with which thou dost charge me?’ Then they must go according to the law with the court officer to the place in question, make a tour of the boundaries and explain to him what he is charged with. When they come before the court again and either party testifies saying: ‘I have proofs’, -according to the law a period apart from the session must be determined for the evidence. According to the law such periods may be requested and no one may be denied the right to them. However, apart from the law, there may appear and arise such reasons as would justify a period rightly being sought, – in which case it stands to the reason and conscience of those who decide, to assess whether such a period is being sought with just cause or whether he who is requesting it is merely procrastinating to prevent justice, which must be meted out equally to all, being done.
On appeals
64. If a man disagrees with a decision taken by the Poljica communal assembly, he may take the matter further and appeal before the prince of Poljica when he is making his circuit. It depends on his will whether he wishes to grant appeal before the next assembly.
If this happens during the prince’s tour, while the prince is making his circuit, he may appeal before the lord prince of Split. Until the third session it depends on his will whether appeal is to be granted.
65. When the district procurator is bringing charges, no one may appeal in matters concerning violence or depravity, but according to the law he must take the oath sixth; only if the matter is one of fraud or deceit must it be investigated. Appeal is not allowed concerning theft, and when character witnesses have for any reason been accepted, appeal may not then be permitted either.
66. What has been said of appeals applies to the noble men of Poljica; that is, if a man conducts a law-suit against a noble man of Poljica, what has been said is still valid. But if anyone has a case against a tenant who has his own lords and whose competent judge is his lord, he must be charged before his lord, and if the latter passes sentence on him, it is good. But if he will not pass sentence on him, he must then charge the lord who will not pass sentence, before the assembly. If even then he will not, he may take the matter further to have his right honoured. If the lord to whom the man belongs does pass sentence in the dispute between them, that is between his own man and the complainant – if then the man who belongs to that lord is not satisfied with it, he may not appeal against it anywhere for as long as he remains his man and subject to him, but the lord’s judgement must be completely executed and fulfilled. However, if he ever leaves him, he may take legal action inasfar as anything incorrect and unjust has been done against him. But, if the original complainant is dissatisfied. he who is taking action against the man who has a lord and is displeased at the decision and judgement passed by that man’s lord, may take the matter further and appeal before the magistrates and other nobles and the Poljica communal assembly, if the matter relates to movables. If it relates to joint estate, then before the prince of Poljica, and after that, if it should be necessary, before the lord
prince of Split. Which means: if he appeals in this way, he must make a complaint against that mans lord who did not pass judgement to the other’s complete satisfaction against his own man, However, if the complainant again wins his case, the lord does not pay of his own, but of the means of his own man who has been found guilty.
On court officers
67a. Court officers are those through whom according to the law summonses are issued and justice sought and who conduct all other matters and business between people concerning character witnesses, sales, contracts and witnesses. The word of court officers who are just and trustworthy, particularly sworn officers, is as valid as a written deed, they are dependable when there are several of them and they agree in their testimony. If there is a sworn court
officer among them, so much the better, and if they fulfil their officers’ duty in harmony and concord, then it is dependable, unless any deceit or fraud is discovered.
67b. When a court officer performs his duty when called to do so by one party and the other party is present, says nothing and does not rebut his testimony, it means that he accepts it, whether it concerns joint estate or any other matter. If the other party wishes to find fault with and rebut it, he may do so only while the other is performing his duty and still on his feet. But, if the court officer, once having fulfilled his duty, retakes his seat in court, he may not be called to rise again and be rebutted.
67c. If a man rebuts a court officer, particularly a sworn officer, and proves that he has given false testimony, the old law decrees that three of his ribs be cut out and that he be no longer trustworthy in anything. If the man who rebutted him does not substantiate it and it is found that the officer was in the right, the penalty then falls on the man who accused him falsely.
However, Poljica has now carried and enacted a milder law. If the officer is rebutted and proved guilty, he is to pay the death tax; one half goes to the other party and the second half to the district of Poljica. If it is not proved but he is confirmed to have been in the right, then it falls on the man who rebutted him unjustly; one half goes to the other party and the second half to the district of Poljica.
On court officers
68a. For a court officer the law is: of everything on account of which a charge is brought through a court officer, whichever type of officer he may be, of that which is judged upon by the court and proved, whether joint estate or any other thing, one tenth accrues to the court officer. If several court officers participate in a case, then one tenth accrues to all of them jointly. If the court officer is a sworn one, and there are several other court officers beside him, then the sworn officer receives one half of the tenth, and all the rest the other half.
68b. Still concerning penalties. One tenth of every penalty, as of other property involved, accrues to the court officer. If there are several of them, then as has been said.
In like manner, the court officer is to receive one tenth of the investigation fee, of any penalty for obstructing him, of the penalty when anyone is banished for such a reason. And of any levy-fee if a man does not pay a fine willingly , one tenth goes to the court officer. And of betrothals which are made and acknowledged through the court officer, one tenth accrues to him. And of all other matters and affairs in which he participates one tenth belongs to him, unless there is another contract for the execution of his duties.
In like manner, when the matter is one of joint estate, from the party which wins the suit and part of such estate, the court officer is to receive a tenth part. The court officer must be re-imbursed by the successful party. If the matter concerns other, movable property, then he who complains and wins the suit – whether it concerns a debt or some other matter – then the successful party must obtain everything intact, and he who was unwilling to pay without litigation, must re-imburse the court officer from his own means.
68c. What has been said of the court officer and the execution of his duties applies as much during the prince’s circuit as otherwise, both for the prince’s officer and for any other court officer.
68d. What has been entered here concerning the officer’s duties and the tenth part which accrues to the court officer, applies primarily to suits among men of Poljica. But if the suit is one between an alien and a man of Poljica, in any event an alien who wins a suit is to pay the officer of court one tenth. If the suit is between two aliens in Poljica, the duties of the officer of court are executed the same as in one between men of Poljica.
68. The foregoing relates to an officer of court’s duties when justice is sought by way of law; one tenth then accrues to the officer of court. However, if the case is one of arbitration and is conducted before arbitrating magistrates, the officer of court’s duties must also be arbitrary, which means that a half of one tenth is to be given, and paid by the party which gains more and is awarded more than it formerly had or possessed.
On debts and summonses
69a. If a man owes another property, great or small, no one may of his own will force another to pay if the matter does not concern his man. As no one may administer justice himself. However, if he finds his debtor at an assembly or during the prince’s circuit, he may then bring charges against him, and the other must there reply. If the other’s guilt is then proved, he may request the court officer to collect his debt if the debtor does not himself pay willingly.
69b. If a man is summoned from his home, he must be summoned through a sworn court officer or through another court officer when this has been sought from the prince or magistrates, or in the same way from a magistrate during the prince’s circuit. And then any man may at any time take an officer of court from the magistrate, or, if there are several magistrates, so much the better may a man be summoned concerning a debt.
70a. That apart, when anyone takes an officer of court, he may say: ‘Allow the court officer to collect my debt from the man who has acknowledged that he is in my debt.’ If the other does not acknowledge the debt, the officer of court must then go also. If the other has admitted his debt to him, he collects the debt. If he does not admit to being in his debt, he must be summoned to be judged.
70b. If he is not to be found at home, the court officer may, having gone to his dwelling, summon him if there is anyone at his home who can explain it to the lord when he comes, But he must be summoned in advance to enable him to appear at the hearing, If he is somewhere distant on a journey and could not appear on time, he may not be held responsible for that, If the debtor is truly sick but not close to death, he must send and advocate in his stead, However, if the debtor is not sick or on a journey but does not care to respond to the summons, then for the first such absence he must pay 10 balanza. If he does not come to the second session he must be fined one lira. If neither he nor his advocate comes when summoned a third time, he loses the suit, unless it concerns joint estate, that is, unless there exists some good reason.
71a. When a man proves another to be in his debt, he is to bring charges against the debtor and the court officer is authorized to retrieve the debt. He must go and collect it in movables if there are sufficient. If there is insufficient or no movable property, then in joint estate if there is any.
71b. The creditor may not refuse any article of equivalent value, save a man’s weapons or a woman’s clothing. As it is unbecoming for a warrior to have to ungirdle his weapons and to take clothes off a woman. But if there are weapons or clothing remaining which the debtor is willing to give, then, that may not be rejected either. A period must then be allotted for its redemption.
72a. If the debtor turns the court officer away and is proved to have done so, he is then to be fined for his refusal. The duke and the guard should then be sent.
72b. If a noble man has his own tenants, the court officer may not then disturb his house, but the tenant’s.
72c. If the court officer does not find the tenant at home, there can not then be a fine for refusal.
72d. If a tenant is indebted to another, his lord must then pass judgement on him and levy the debt. If he does not do so, the creditor must then go before Poljica against that lord so that he can be ordered to satisfy justice. If even then he will not, then against Poljica.
On law-suits
73a. When all these things have been done and the parties enter litigation and begin to reply one to the other, and each defends and supports his evidence, the complainant says: ‘Thou hast mine own or mine ancestors’ property. I would by way of justice that mine estate belong to me’ – and he who is in possession replies: ‘On the contrary, I possess mine own and mine ancestors’ estate, which I have always had and possessed’ – or says: I ,have purchased or earned it for all time, and what I hold and possess is not thine nor thine ancestors’, God forbid!’ – the court, that is witnesses under oath, may take a decision concerning the property. He who has been in possession, particularly if since long previous, has great evidence, the more so if he has held it peaceably and no one has disturbed him.
If there are bench or capital deeds or deeds from any lords, or any other trustworthy deeds, that is even greater proof and against them no one may lightly institute proceedings inasmuch as the other party has no sort of deeds or trustworthy court officer or other valid proofs.
73b. When a man holds possession and good and correct deeds moreover, no one is permitted to swear against them, unless it has previously been shewn that the deeds are incorrect and worthless. However, there may be testimony apart from the deeds but not against correct deeds. If, however, the other party also has good deeds, it should then be considered and established which deeds are better and more valid, older and written in better order and whether the owner took possession on their basis.
73c. If both parties have valid deeds, the oath must then nevertheless resolve the question of possession, unless both parties offer the oath and one of the parties says to the other during the hearing: ‘Take the oath to thyself or leave it to me, choose whatever thou wilt!’ – which is a great proof and can not easily be reproached, unless the other party produces such evidence as would be sufficient without the oath of both parties.
73d. If one party has been allowed to bring 9 character witnesses according to the law concerning joint estate and the witnesses have been chosen, he may while he stands there return the oath to the other party with a half of those same witnesses. If the latter party again returns the oath to the first, then he must also swear with a half, which is third. If he again returns it, then second. However, if returned to him again, he then swears alone. If returned again, then he gives his word of honour. If again, he gives his common word.
73e. If either party is allowed to bring character witnesses and they consent to judgement being passed, no matter how many character witnesses are called, both parties must meet at the stipulated place. One party takes his witnesses, and the other with the court officers bears the authorities and a sworn formula. If either side does not appear in correct numbers with his proofs, he may thus lose the suit, unless there is a good reason which, inasfar as there has been no deceit or dishonesty, serves as justification, The parties may postpone the appointed times, and the character witnesses may also postpone it once.
73f. If the final time arrives, and one party appears in correct numbers with his proofs, and the other party does not, the first party must wait until nightfall, light a fire and call the other party. If the other does not come, he may thus lose the suit, unless there are good reasons for his not coming. If a party comes, but not in correct numbers, he may also then lose the suit.
73g. If both parties appear in correct numbers at the stated time, then he who bears the authorities must deliver them to the court officer who reads the sworn formula. If it comes to the oath being taken – if they have not otherwise agreed, but it comes to the oath being taken – then, if one of them buys himself off or begs leave and the other party relieves him in the correct manner, it is as though he had sworn, If all swear, both the litigant and his witnesses, and by swearing confirm the right, the suit is then won. If any witness does not swear, it is as though no one had sworn, unless there has been some other agreement.
73h. This applies both to a suit concerning joint estate and to one concerning movables, blood, debt or any other matter, that is when character witnesses are called – this law applies to all, There must be no deliberate dishonesty, artifice or deceit in such proceedings.
On penalties
74a. A half of every fine accrues to the other party, the second half to the district, and one tenth, according to the law, accrues to the court officer. If the matter concerns a tenant who has a lord, then the first half accrues to the lord and the second to the other party.
74b. As has been said in the law on pledges, as much as a man vouches honourably and lawfully according to the law, so much is he bound to pay who breaks his obligation.
74c. So of that penalty and of any other penalty, a half accrues to the other party and the second half to the magistrates participating in the case: if it is during the prince’s circuit, then to the prince and the magistrates: if they are sworn magistrates, then to them; if the hearing is before an assembly, then to the district. In any case to that magistrate and authority before which the obligation was made and ratified,
75a. That apart, Poljica has determined and enacted this also: when a man curses another at an assembly or a fair, or during a hearing before the prince, he is fined 10 lira.
75b, When a man assaults another – with hand, stick or club – whether at a fair, an assembly or during the prince’s circuit, he is fined 50 lira.
75c. When a man strikes another, he is fined 100 lira.
75d. When a man unsheaths his weapon at an assembly or fair or during the prince’s circuit, he loses his hand.
75e. Any man who begs remission of these penalties is to receive the same penalty.
On theft
76. When a man is accused of theft and enters litigation to prove his innocence, he must be allowed to bring character witnesses. If the theft has been from a dwelling, only 12 testify, If anywhere else, then only 6. If he does not justify himself and is found guilty, he is then to suffer the aforesaid penalty, The sworn formula must be that he neither participated in the theft nor knew of it, If he refutes the allegation and is found innocent, then he who slandered him in his innocence and accused him of the crime, is to receive the same sentence and fine as would have been paid by the other had he been found guilty. However, if the guilt is so great that he would have to lose his head, and he refutes the charge and is found innocent, the other must then redeem himself by paying the full death-fine.
The oath may not be returned concerning theft.
When stolen property is recovered
77. Whoever recovers stolen property , if it be some animal, must mark it by severing a piece of its ear and go to the court. If it is other property, he must then mark and distinguish it in some other way and go to the court. If it concerns a man who has a lord, litigation is for the latter. A man may not, however, collect payment or recover property himself; only if he personally catches and apprehends the thief may he take what is his own.
On thieves
78a. When a man of Poljica is confirmed a thief and is shewn to have stolen in Poljica: If he steals a chicken, he must pay a goat; If he steals a goat or other small creature, he pays an ox, or the equivalent value. If a man steals property worth more than 100 lira he must be hanged.
78b. If a man of Poljica steals elsewhere, and it is not a matter of enmity, he must pay double. When an alien is caught stealing in Poljica, he must certainly be hanged.
78c. However, if a man is found to be a thief in his own village, he pays not only by being hanged but with everything he has. If he holds joint estate, it passes to his next-of-kin and his remaining property to the district. If it concerns a tenant. then a half of his property accrues to his lord, and the other half to the district. Whoever steals from his lord pays with both his head and his property. Whoever steals from a lord who has hired him pays double.
The law on mills and presses
80a. Mills and presses, when they are ancient and belong to someone, may not be taken from him without litigation. If they are worn out from long usage or have remained long since unrepaired, it must be seen whose they were and who owned them: so must it remain to his descendants. If a man wishes to build a new mill where there was none previous, if it is on his own separate land, then he may build on it, However, if he lives with his brothers or other kinsfolk. and wishes to build a mill, and his co-inheritors obstruct it or declare that the portion of land belongs to others, he may not then do it himself without the other to whom the land there belongs.
80b. If a man thus builds on jointly held property and no one opposes him, obstructs him or makes objection, but he builds in peace without objection and completes the mill, and the mill or other press is already working, such a man may not have it taken from him, but it may be granted him as his share in the inheritance. It is thus determined as a mill may not be built in secret, nor may it be easily and quickly built.
80c. According to the old law a mill consists of five parts: the first part pertains to the land on which it is built; the second pertains to the water which leads to the place where the mill will be; the third part to the buildings, the structure and walls and wood and whatever in the mill is of wood; the fourth part to millstones and iron, and the fifth part to the craftsman who builds, owns, repairs and attends to it. Whoever owns the land on the bank or besides the river or stream, for as far as his property stretches upstream, one half of the river belongs to him, That is the old law.
81a. The mill must be used in strict sequence. Whoever arrived at the mill first and brought his corn, must have first use of it. No one may use it out of sequence, no one, unless the other is willing. Only the lord of the mill may grind the mill-fee of those who are in the mill. Only when the lord brings or sends a sack to the mill, thereafter he must take his turn.
81b. That apart, if an occasion requiring funeral meal or flour for a war should arise, or some other similar event, the mill may be used out of sequence, as necessity knows no law.
81c. That apart, the old law is: a blacksmith may have the use of the mill before his turn, as in the smithy also, iron from the mill is attended to upon its arrival.
The law on prisoners
82. Among the other laws of Poljica is that which speaks of prisoners: when it happens that a prisoner flees from the lord by whom he was taken captive, and, having fled, is recaptured by another, – when one night has passed, the prisoner belongs to the master who last took him captive, should that be his will. If the prisoner has taken goods from the man who previously took him captive, he must return those things to him. This applies to men of Poljica: if an alien is involved, It is much more severe,
83…. otherwise he must certainly pay, as has been written above: but if it is a case of prostitution, and the woman is raped, he is to pay the fine for assault – 25 lira.8
On sodomy
84a. Whoever is found to have committed sodomy, whether a man or a woman is found in that heinous sin, must be burned mercilessly. Concerning their property, none other may take it save the person to whom it accrues.
84b. If a woman is found in her misfortune to have strangled her child in any manner or way by any method, she must certainly be burned with fire if she is found. If such a woman is found, any person, man or woman alike, must seize her when she is found, under threat of a fine of 25 lira.
84c. And in each village there should be two officers who will act publicly if someone is unwilling to seize and bind such women and bring them before the district.
84d. If anyone on their behalf resists such intervention, he is considered an accessary of the culprit.
84e. If those officers do not charge them, they are to pay 50 lira to the district of Poljica.
On damage
85. In fine, if a man in any way or manner, knowingly or inadvertently causes damage to another – to property or estate, an animal, movables or immovables, wheat or anything whatsoever, every law demands that he pay and re-imburse him in full.
Notwithstanding, if a man causes damage inadvertently, it must be taken into consideration. If he does so knowingly or boasts of it, he must suffer a heavier penalty.
The law on dogs
86a. If a man has a dog, large or small, in summer when St. James’ day is passed, he must tie a large dog to prevent it eating the grapes – or must shackle a large dog to a fetterlock, the hook of which must be as long as a man’s forearm. If the dog is smaller, then to a proportionately smaller hook, as is appropriate.
If he does not do this and a dog is found loose, then the village in question may kill a two year old sheep or goat of the dog’s owner or collect the same value in money and use it for the village, each time one is found, but not more than once in a day.
That apart, if a man happens upon it in his vineyard, he may kill it. If he happens upon it in his vineyard and it is shackled, he may beat but not kill it, This is to continue until the must is ready.
86b. If a dog frees itself, chews through its shackles or escapes in some other way, and the lord pursues it or orders it to be caught – be it the lord himself or the man whom he sent – he need not then pay the aforementioned penalty.
The law on fish
87. In a place which is a man’s hunting or fishing ground or cove, according to the law no one may hunt or fish freely without his permission: to do so is as to steal from his house.
Jesus. 1476, the 6th day of August
88. Besides its other laws, Poljica has determined and enacted thus and in this way, as certain and various disagreements and disputes have arisen among the men of Poljica – partly because of certain matters, partly because of feuds, disputed questions and scandals, and because certain leagues and parties have appeared among many folk -therefore, on the above – mentioned day at an assembly, Poljica has unanimously determined and enacted thus and in this way: they have firmly and steadfastly accepted and agreed that there should be concord, peace, fraternity and unity, as has always been, and this means – when a general matter is in question, everyone’s right should be respected, let each person seek his own according to the law, as is the custom and the law; if some scandal or any other disturbance is in question, let each resolve his own affairs with peace and in peace according to justice and the law: no one may commit unlawful acts and cause discord in Poljica, or found any leagues or parties which might provoke any scandal, lawlessness or quarrels, nor may anyone spread any indecent slanders or commit acts of violence or lawlessness under threat of the penalty for betraying his lord or Poljica and under threat of losing all his goods – his movables being divided among the district his joint estate passing to his next-of-kin, his dwelling being razed and the man himself being banished under threat of death.
When a tenant leaves his lord
89a. When a tenant intends to leaves his lord, he must first assemble in his yard and dwelling all his belongings and livestock, or all his other movables, and also all the patrimony, if there be any, which he has acquired under him – then he must summon his lord and say to him: ‘My lord, this is all God’s and thine, things both subject to thy will and not subject to thy will.’ Having so done, if his lord takes any of it from him, he may do so freely – either all or part of it. However, if he makes him a gift of anything there, he may then no more thereafter take back anything once given.
89b. If he steals secretly from his lord, his lord may, should he ever catch him, take everything from him and bind him as a traitor .
89c. In fine, it must be seen and ascertained whether the lord is expelling the tenant, whether he is fleeing from the lord without cause: differing cases must be treated on their merits. A man is free to flee from evil if he can.
On the measure of grain
90. In Poljica there must always be the old measure which is a fifth greater than the Venetian measure, so that five Venetian quarters equal for of Poljica’s, unless Poljlca determines otherwise and does unanimously what might seem better.
17 June 1623
91. This year all Poljica. the vlastela-nobles and the didici-nobles did meet together at an assembly at Blessed Saint Cyprian’s and all did resolve thus and decree unanimously and of one mind:
In Poljica, in all twelve Katuni 9, wheat is to be given and taken using the Split quarter,
and such quarters are to be marked with the regional stamp. The Omis quarter may be worth one half of the Spilt quarter, the new one which the region now employs.
It was agreed moreover to retain the correct Split or stone quarters.
On the sale of wine
92a. When the time comes for the sale of wine, in all twelve pastures of Poljlca, no one may go from his own village to merchants in another or in his own village engage the merchants of another, but it must be as has been previously agreed. Any person who breaks this law, any man who engages merchants or goes from his own village to merchants in another, any man who does so, may have his wine seized or consumed by anyone who pleases, from within Poljica or without. Without fear of the lord’s fine, each person may freely indicate our responsibility.
92b. Wine may not be sold dearer than its price in Split and other than according to the Spilt measure, except at a fair, and there as the prince and duke with the other headmen shall order. Whoever violates this law or fears not justice, his wine is first to be seized and he is then to suffer financial or corporal punishment, as the powers of justice shall decide.
On hired labourers
93. Whoever takes a hired labourer of any kind, for any payment or for any job of work, for a year or less, or more, the old law demands that the lord pays the hired labourer nothing if he leaves the lord without fulfilling his time and without some good reason. However, if the lord dismisses him without good reason before the period is complete, he must pay him his full hire.
That was the old law. But Poljica has now enacted a milder law: if a hired labourer remains for some time, but does no damage or misdeed, he may request of the lord a part of his hire corresponding to the time he has stayed, and part with the lord amicably. But if, in the same way, a lord should wish at any time to settle accounts with the hired labourer, he may dismiss him, having paid him for the time he stayed. This is so that each man may be free.
However, the time of year must be taken into account: as winter is more difficult for food than summer, but in summer work is more valuable than in winter.
On borders and boundaries
94. Poljica enacts as follows: whoever is shewn to have secretly broken another’s border or to have secretly erased another’s border without the court’s permission, or even, in the same way, if a man secretly cuts or makes new boundaries of his own will, without the court’s permission, – whoever commits such a misdeed, pays by losing his hand and as much joint estate as he seized of another’s.
The law on wolves
95a. Whoever rescues an animal, be it living or dead, from a wolf, if he retrieves it whole, to the man who retrieves it go the fur and head. If it is decapitated, its roast meat goes to him; if it is alive and not bitten, drink is to be given him.
95b. Whoever rescues prey from a bird, the law applies as for a wolf. Whoever retrieves anything borne by water – if borne by water, one half goes to the man retrieving it, and the other half to the lord. If it lies on the bottom and can not be reached on loot, it belongs to the man who, diving, pulls it out.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen
96. In the 1482nd year since His birth, on the fourteenth day of February, when Dujam Papalic was prince of Poljica and making his first circuit of Poljica with his magistrates and the entire court, administering justice according to the laws of Poljica, when he was in Donje Polje by St. Martin’s, then did the noble men of Poljica called Limic accept into their ranks and neighbourhood all those among them who paid the tithe but had so far had no part in the judiciary and any other honour in Poljica; although some of them rejected it, a majority did communally accept it. And the prince and magistrates and the rest of the district of Poljica did allow and confirm it and resolve to record In the statute that the judiciary of Trvizi is theirs. And their names are recorded below: first don David Krickovic, Jurko Budacic and brethren, the Bogavcices, Slidinices, Tolenovices, Radinovices, Elovcic, Borovina, Zecices, Dabizivovices and the children of Pavle Tomasovic.
He who seizes from a robber
97. If it is a matter of robberies by night, it is treated the same as theft in a village. But if they are in public, as for example the army, in such a case the law applies as concerning the army. It is right that pursuers be subject to their law, if they seize anything.
Whoever seizes anything from an army
98. If a man seized anything from an army, me old law required that, if it was taken by an army, the plunder then belonged to me man who took it, except when it was a matter of captives. But if it was anything else, it was the property of those who took it. If it was taken before he came to the camp, then a reward had to be given to him, but not the goods themselves.
However, Poljica has now carried a milder law. As the aforesaid can not be applied to what transpires between the brethren of Poljica. But it is still good that there should exist a thine such as credit to those who have shewn endeavour. It is right that all endeavour be rewarded. Therefore, what should be considered is what sort of endeavour has been shewn and how great or small the risk.
What we have said applies among men of Poljica. And for what a man of Poljica takes for an alien – for his endeavour and the risk he takes for another and not for a fellow man of Poljica, more may be paid, and especially if he is not subject to the lord.
On orphans
99. When it happens that a male child is left an orphan after his parents, be there one or several of them, no one may then lay charges against the child or institute a new lawsuit against the orphaned child, even in matters of joint estate. If he does not wish to respond, he is free not to do so until he completes his 18th year. But neither is he allowed to commit, himself or through others, violent or unlawful acts against another joint estate, pleading he is a minor.
100a. That apart, our law of Poljica wills that there be no quarrel among us men of Poljica and that everyone know the law, hence have we written in this statute: a widow surviving with her children and living honestly with her children on her husband’s holding, must maintain her children until her death.
100b. If she re-marries, we will that nothing of her first husband’s accrue to her, but that she should take only the dowry which she brought to him and is not yet spent, even if her husband might himself have bequeathed her some trinket.
100c. If a widow’s son dies, nothing of his accrues to the mother, but to the brothers; if there are no brothers, then to the sisters; if there are no sisters, then to their kinsfolk, but not to the mother. This applies to a woman who marries. To the woman who lives honestly with her children, the aforesaid applies.
101. District roads must be free for everyone, as the law demands, but the great district road through the parish must be one rozga10 wide. And a village cattle – track must be wide enough to allow a pair of yoked oxen to pass along it.
No one may narrow or re-route a road or track without the permission of the district or the court.
When a man seizes anything from a thief
102. When a man seizes anything from a thief, it is right that he be given a suitable reward, according to what was stolen and how. For, what is stolen by night is one thing, and what is stolen by day another. What is taken when a man has been summoned from his home deserves a greater reward than when it happens to him by chance. Or, if a man pursues a thief further, or to his home, then even more, or, if a struggle ensues, more still. Thus have said: according to how it was seized; as it is right that everyone should be repaid for their endeavour.
On a vineyard on another’s land
103. When a man has a vineyard on the land of another, to whom he must give the revenue, and he goes to harvest the vineyard secretly, like a thief, without informing the landlord, and if the owner catches him committing the offence, he may take both his summer crop and h is vineyard from him, as he would from a thief.
On waters
104. Spring water must be communal, wherever it is found and on whoever’s land. Well-water is the property of the man who dug on his own land.
Rainwater. Whoever channels it onto his own land when it is slight, to utilise and derive benefit from it, must also then take heavy rainfall when it comes; he may not flee from it or divert it to another, unless he can protect himself without damaging another. If he will not take heavy rainfall, he may not then take slight either.
When an animal kills
105. When is happens that someone’s dog bites a man who dies in his misfortune as a result, or loses any limb of his body, if then the man whose dog it is, takes it and delivers it to the victim or his descendants if he should have died, saying: ‘This is thy culprit’ – he may thus acquit and save himself. If he does not do this, the other may then charge the dog’s owner with bloodshed, saying: ‘the creature thou feedest hath done me this harm’ .
The same applies to both a horse and any other creature which is guilty of bloodshed in this way, unless there are other circumstances.
On animals between themselves
106. When it happens that one animal kills another, or mutilates it, the reckoning then may be head for head, unless the one is much more valuable than the other.
The law on meat sold in a butcher’s shop
107a. Whoever sells meat in a butcher’s shop, wherever he will in the district of Poljica, in the absence of any other agreement such as a contract or any other compact, but sells it by weight, must sell it thus and for no greater price.
The meat of a young gelded ram may be sold for one soldin per pound.
The meat of a young gelded kid may be sold for ten pence.
Similarly, veal of less than two years may be sold for ten pence,
And the meat of a sheep of less than one year which has not yet lambed may be sold at the ram’s price.
Similarly, kid of less than one year may be sold at the price of young gelded goat.
And no other meat may be sold at more than eight pence.
This is the law of Poljica. If anyone is found attempting to sell meat for more than the law of Poljica permits, whenever caught, he must be fined 5 lira and lose the meat he is selling.
Of this – first, one half of the impounded meat accrues to the person reporting the offence and the other half to the officials who impound it; of the fine, one half to the district and the other half to the magistrates and officials who collect the fine.
If the man is a tenant, then a half to his lord and the rest to the district, magistrates and officials.
There is no different law for pork, but according to the circumstances of the offence and the quality of the meat.
That apart, those who sell meat, for three days at Christmans and three days at Shrove-tide, may sell meat by its approximate weight, without scales, but not otherwise. Likewise, no one may sell tainted meat or carrion or in any way suspiciously at a market, under threat of the aforementioned fine of five lira.
The trader
107b. A trader in any village must first supply his own village with the merchandise which is for sale, and having supplied his own village, those without; if he does otherwise, his merchandise may then be taken communally.
On the sale of meat
107c. The meat of oxen or goats if fatty may not be sold for more than one eagle. Those who work as butchers may not cut out the kidneys. Whoever sells the said meat for a greater price or removes the kidneys, against him may any man who finds him so doing raise his hand and take his meat freely, indicating our authority.
Kid must be sold for five bezzo, and not otherwise. For three days at Christmas and Shrove- tide, at whatever price can be obtained.
107d. The summer price of wheat, rye and barley must be maintained in sale and purchase until Christmas. If the price of grain rises after Christmas, then other agreements should be made.
107e. Bread baked in Poljica must be of the same weight as in Omis. If two men testify before the grand prince that the measure is short, the bread may be freely taken on our authority.
108. A village or parish which will not try a common criminal, may free itself of him without granting pardon by delivering him to the lords. If the lords do nought, we leave it to the district to raise its hand against him, as against a thief.
On a thief in a village
109. If a thief is found stealing from kitchen-gardens in a village, or cattle from their pens, vineyards or corn in the field, the village may impose and collect a penalty with which it will be satisfied: according to what damage he is found to have done, so may damages be collected and so may the lords collect what fine they will.
Whoever speaks for a thief is considered an accessary, and he who assists a thief in word or deed must pay the lord’s fine.
On traders
A trader in any village should first supply that village with the merchandise which is for sale, that each village may be satisfied. If he does otherwise, his merchandise may be freely taken by the community.
On the abuse of women
110. If a man abuses and rapes a woman, the law demands that he is by all means to pay the death due. But it must nevertheless be considered how and in what manner and for what reason and who the man is and what his position; and the woman’s situation also, what, reputation she enjoys and what her business. This should all be considered and assessed, how it is and why, as not all cases can be enumerated.
First, if it concerns any woman in general, the man who rapes and abuses her without her consent, is to pay her the mortal blood due.
If the woman is married or a bethrothed maiden, the rapist then pays the mortal blood due to her, and the same to her husband.
If the girl is single, and he also is unmarried, and it is fit that they be married, then, according to church law, he must take her for his wife, or so equip and endow her that she may find such a home as befits her situation, so that no disgrace or reproach is attached to her.
The law on the hunting of game
111. The old law wills that all game belongs to the beater who flushed it out, unless the beater called for assistance from another, when he must be given a part.
As has been said, all game belongs to the person who flushes it out; however, only for a bear and fox is it the law that they belong to those who kill them. But to those who respond to a call for assistance, a reward, which is called the pursuer’s fee, must in some way be given.
When game is killed on another’s land, then by law a quarter must be given to the owner of the land.
The pursuer’s fee must vary according to the effort; if a hunter has expended great effort or risked more, as for example in water or similar circumstances, he must receive a proportionately better part; if a beater, greater compensation.
On witches and sorceresses
112. If a witch or sorceress or fortune-teller is truly found, she has, when first discovered, to be whipped; if she is found again. she must be burned.
On the abduction of maidens
113. In Jesus’ name, amen. In the 1605th year after His birth, the 4th day of September, let it be known that the entire district of Poljica in unison and concord, during the princehood of Stipan Nikulic and dukedom of Ivan Sicic, did resolve that no man of Poljica may abduct a maiden. If any man does so, in spite of the honourable district, that is, if any man abducts a maiden, the honourable district may fail upon his home and raze his dwelling, and everything that is his is to be taken by the district of Poljica, everything of the abductor and of any man who aids him. This has been resolved, as Stipan Kacunic abducted for his son a maiden who was promised to another, engaged and betrothed according to the law of this world. Hence the honourable district fined Kacunic fifty thalers, don Ivan’s nephew twenty thalers and every guest at the wedding ten thalers. If they do not bring this sum to the assembly of the honourable district, the district should fall upon their dwellings and take from them double, all of which accrues to the district of Poljica.
I, Dom Ivanisevic, notary of the honourable district of Poljica, did write this as commanded.
15 August 1637
114. Under threat of a fine of 10 thalers, Frane Kovacic undertook to deliver to the honourable parish court any thief from his tribe who is ever discovered.
Likewise Tadija Matijev, as above.
Petar Sirotkovic, as above.
The Dragisic tribe did not so undertake: they did not wish to guarantee that there would be no thieves in their tribe. They would so undertake for others, but nobody would for Ivan Lipopivovic and Jivan Miscic.
Matij Ugrinovic for his tribe, but would not for Matij Kordic.
Under threat of a fine of 40 thalers, the 2 Pericices undertook not to resist arbiters sent by the parish, namely prince Frane Sucic and prince Matij Vidatovic, with those arbiters who had previously made agreements concerning them.
In the year 1655
115. When I, Jura Sinovcic, was prince of the hon. parish of Poljica and Pava Braticevic the hon. duke, on the 1st of October I did receive 70 pages less one from Dom Marko.
Later, in 1660, when the same Dom Marko relinquished this hon. statute, 2 pages were missing – witnesses to this are all the young members of the brotherhood of Our Lady of Tugare at Zastinje.
In 1668, on St. George’s day, I, Jura Sinovcic, with duke Ivan Behojvic did, according to the law, deliver all intact to the hon. parish.
116. Each village together with its headmen is to bind two good and trustworthy sons under oath to see that this ordinance is maintained and executed, and two court officers are at the end of every two months throughout the year, to call upon these sworn persons throughout the parish; if they have not ensured that these ordinances are executed, they are to be reported to the parish.
All that we have done in unison, we do jointly dispatch for each chaplain on the given holyday to read to the people and inquire whether each village agrees with this ordinance. And let them sign on this book how they receive it. The book having been read and signed, it is to be returned to us again, and we, having received those ordinances, will place them in the statute of Poljica.
I, Dom Barisa Kunjacic did declare these hon. ordinances before the people on St. James’ day, and it was acceptable to all, and they did say that it is good and to be executed.
I, Dom Matij, did declare this epistle before the men of Sitno and they were satisfied each of them with this ordinance.
I, Dom Matij Vukicevic, did declare this hon. epistle before the people, and they did all accept it willingly and all did say that it is good and right if it be executed.
I, Dom Tadija Zuljevic, did declare this epistle before the people, and all did accept and willingly say that it be executed.
SUPPLEMENT 1. Assembly leaf
In God’s name, amen. In the year of Our Lord 1662, the 20th of March.
Let this be known at every place of judgement and court, that all we men of Poljica, gathered at a general assembly at Gajine, and all the hon. vlastela and hon. didici having agreed together with all the people, did, according to the law and our privileges, confirm faithfully and unanimously our statute, as of old.
If it be established of any man of Poljica that he has in any way betrayed his brethren, or that he is a thief or criminal, or joined the Turks or brigands, or if he is discovered helping to sell and buy slaves, or doing any such thing as might harm the people or the lords, who resists the hon. justice of Poljica which has been since olden times -whoever so offends, shall suffer the death penalty, the district is to raze his dwelling, his movables accrue to the district and his joint estate to his next-of-kin, hence let each man be forewarned of disobedience to the brethren and the poor, exactly as has already been said. And what has been hitherto, the illustrious lords and honourable parish of Poljica do pardon each man everything.
This is signed by all the below-mentioned, who pledge and answer for their villages:
From Donji Dolac prince Ivan Susic. Matija Radicic, Mikula Braojevic, prince Pava Stazic, these pledge and answer for all men of Donji Dolac.
From Gornji Dolac prince Miovijo Marcelja, Ivan Cule.
For the Trimbusanins Ivan Juric, for the Srijanins prince Marko Pavic and Mikula Atmaca, for the Putisicanins Matij Roguljic; these pledge for all the people above.
From Kostanje prince Frane Gojsalic, Jura Mandalinic, Stipan Mandalinic, Petar Marasovic. From Smolonje Ivan Milavic; these pledge for the Katun of Kostanje.
From Zvecanje the hon. prince Pava Sicic, Ivan Bozic, Luka Stanic, Andrija Alfirevic, Mihovijo Banjakusic; these pledge as the others.
Cicla: prince Ivan Dragicevic and Jura Dragicevic, Ivan Lelanovic, Luka Domljancic, Ivan Kragujevic; these pledge for their village of Cicla.
From Gata the hon. duke Ivan Beojevic. prince Pava Barticevic, Matija Kuhacevic, Marko Jakovicic from Naklice: these pledge for Gata and Naklice as the others.
Dubrova: the hon. prince Jura Sinovcic, duke Stipan Basic, Tadija Cotic; these pledge for their village of Dubrova as the others.
The hon. prince Jura Mijanovic from Sitno promised with all the peasants that if anyone be found disobedient, they will seize the offender with their own hands and deliver him to the hon. parish.
From Srinjine the hon. Prince Ivanis Novakovic and headman Ivanis Delisina, Pava Haljinovic, Petar Muzinic, Mikula Bulic, Ivan Radilovic; these pledge for the Katun of Srinjine.
Duce and Truse: Stipan Katicic, Pava Vojinovic, prince Simun Franicevic Baricic: the last named signed that he would give all his property to the district, and all the other pledge for the katun of Duce.
From Jesenice I, Grgur Tomin, surrender all my goods to the parish district if I should become a brigand. I too, Grgur Hercegovic, as also the two Stipisices and Matija Aljinovic, Mikula Jercic and Pava Matijasev, Stipan Remetic and Stipan Zoljevic; all the aforementioned, as Grgur Tomin, sign themselves thus for all their property should they become brigands.
Tadija jercic pledged for his nephew and Petar Stipisic for his brother-in-law Matija Haljinovic. And all we peasants of the katun of jesenice shall, if a man commits an offence, call for the assistance of all the parish against the miscreants.
For Postrana prince Pava Milunovic, Jure Banjic, Matij Bagatinovic, smith Reljic; these pledge and answer for the viilage of Postrana, as the others.
This was witnessed by grand prince the hon. lord Jura Sinovcic, the hon. duke Ivan Beojevic, the procurators hon. prince Ivanis Novakovic and hon. Stipan Basic; the headmen: from Donji Dolac prince Ivan Susic, from Gornji ( Dolac ) prince Mihovija Marcelic, from Kostanje prince Frane Gojsalic, from Zvecanje prince Pava Sicic, from Cicla prince jura Dragicevic, from Gata prince Pava Barticevic, from Dubrova hon. prince Jura Sinovcic, from Sitno prince Jura Mijanovic, from Srinjine prince Ivanis Delisina, from Duce prince Stipan Katicic, from jesenice prince Frane Sucic, from Postrana Pava Milunovic.
I, Marko Zuljevic, sworn notary, did write this as commanded.
2. 15 January 1664
At a communal general assembly at Gata with the chieftains and chaplains, we did all unanimously conclude and agree: since the lords have confirmed all the laws and resolutions in our statute, we too do undertake to uphold them in all places and at all times, as has been sinceolden times.
We reiterate: whichever headman fails to come to an assembly, having been summoned, is to pay two thalers each time; whoever is not content, is to pay double.
That apart, we have accepted and written into our statute: if a man possesses anything in peace and without suit for 30 years, then it is firm and good for all time – unless any good reason be found.
3. The fronti er with Hercegovina 1 February 1665
Let it here be known how far the frontiers of Hercegovina reach according to the memory and testimony of the aged. And they are Matij Ugrinovic, who has ninety years and five. and likewise prince Jura Mijanovic who has ninety. They have declared on their faith and soul that the old frontier are truly as here set forth.
The old frontiers
Stojni Kamen by Kamen straight toward the sea, up the river Vrelo Zrnovnice toward Pecice, the frontier goes to Oslji Ridge, the frontier is the water Sedrenik, Pec in Krivice, Kucisca is on the frontier, the frontier is in Konjevod, the frontier is Trnova kamenica, the frontier is Tartarica kamenica, the frontier is Hanging Oak, by it is the frontier Vladavic Grove, toward Barakovic Tower, eastward through Samoleci to Little Konacnik, into the Cetina by Nucak, down the Cetina the frontier is Takala, Mostine, Perucica, Gubavica, then down the Cetina which flows below Omis into the sea,
Let this be known, that we have faithfully and precisely transcribed this hon. statute from the old one, neither adding to, nor taking from it, but in order that it may be more comprehensible – in Croatian and Latin, all the hon. vlastela and hon. didici in agreement with all the people. And this was done during the princehood of the hon. lord prince Juraj Sinovcic, the grand prince and hon. duke Ivan Behovic, with the other chieftains and the people, as aforesaid.
On the 20th day of February 1665 in the province of Poljica. I, Marko Zuljevic, sworn notary of the honourable district of the parish of Poljlca, did write and transcribe all from the beginning faithfully and precisely, neither adding nor taking away.
21 December 1670
When the hon. lord Juraj Sinovcic was grand prince and the hon. Matij Kuhacic duke, they did convene an assembly of households at the customary place by Gradac with the monks, according to the old law. At the same time the hon. lord emperor and doge concluded peace, when Crete was surrendered for Klis and for other places. At that time the Turks wished us to be under their government, and the Latins wished us to be under theirs, but we had always been under the government of Klis. Thus did they all, monks and chieftains, unanimously and in accord resolve on their faith and soul that we should remain under our own houses and our own law; they did all together resolve that no one – no matter what his estate – may – in any way or manner – give, receive or allow any thing, either money or other goods, to be given to Turk or infidel, until it be seen under whose authority the said parish will remain and until ts borders be established. And no one may be charged with any misdeed before any of those lords, as everything that the chieftains of the said parish have hitherto done, has been with the agreement and approval of the people. Whoever does otherwise shall be punished to the full, as is foreseen in the old law on page 41 of this statute, and that penalty will be imposed on the criminal, as has already been said, without any mercy. And may God forbid that any of the lords of Upper or Lower Poljica be angry with us, but may they go to each other’s aid when necessary.
I, Marko Zuljevic, sworn notary of the hon. district of the parish of Poliica, as commanded.
6. 12 October 1676
Let it be known that there has been an assembly of all the hon. vlastele and hon. didici at Oblik by St. Andrew’s. hon. lord grand prince, hon. prince Pava Sucic, hon. duke Mihovijo Petrovic, hon. procurators, hon. prince Ivanis Vicicevic, hon. prince Luka Brnicevic, hon. prince Frane Gojsalic, hon. prince Jura Basic. and all hon. headmen, hon. prince Stipan Stazic, hon. prince Tadija Zuljevic, hon. prince Frane Gojsalic, hon. prince Pave Stanic, hon. prince Jura Dragicevic, hon. prince Matij Vukovic, hon. prince Tadija Cotic, hon. prince Jura Mijanovic, hon. prince Marko Baric, hon. prince Vicko Novakovic, hon. prince Pava Sucic and hon, prince Mikule Vlaho.
All the aforementioned did say and pledge on their faith and soul that they would always be in concord with the poor. If anyone is found to have been expelled from the brethren or anyone’s treachery is discovered, he shall be a traitor to his brethren and it shall be written in the statute that he is a traitor and must lose his head; no one from his house may be accepted into the assembly or into any other council of the brethren and the poor.
I, Dom Ivan Lozic, did write thus as ordered and commanded, when I was notary of the hon. parish of Poljica at this time.
As an unworthy rumor has sprung up concerning the hon. duke Stipan Stazic and his hon. house, to the effect that he is not of the didici-nobles, we have thus convened an assembly of the didici-nobles at Kozjak, we have opened the statute, and it has been found that, according to the statute and the law of the entire assembly, Stazic is truly an hon. brother gentleman and that previous hon. magistrates have come from their tribe. And that rumour stemmed from prince Ivan Sinovcic:, but has not been found true.
8. In the year 1685
Let it be known in the law of Poljica that on St. Arnir’s day, without justification Sucic did sever the nose of Marko Kuhacic, who is an alien; the parish of Poljica loses much property because of that nose. The parish decrees and resolves unanimously and in agreement that neither he nor anyone from his house, nor any of their generation may ever more be councillor or magistrate in the parish of Poljica.
The hon. parish resolves thus: if any man sustains him or commends his pardon, that man is to be stoned to death and written into the statute of Poljica as has Sucic.
9. 19 August 1725
Since it has at this time been revealed that Frane Sucic is a traitor to the hon. province of Poljica, the entire assembly of the hon. province of Poljica has resolved that it be recorded mat he may no more be a councillor, neither he nor any of his after him in the province of Poljica, and that the first leaf which is written above be confirmed.
Thus wrote I, Marko Baric, procurator and notary of the hon. province of Poljlca, as commanded on its faith by the entire illustrious assembly of Pollica, as aforesaid.
10. 9 August 1725
A certain Perme Markicevic recently removed from the province of Poljica, from the village of Cazin Dolac, to a dwelling on Brac. Since it has been discovered that the said Perme with his sons is betraying this province in matters of interest to this province, the entire hon. parish and a joint assembly of the hon. province of Poljica has resolved that neither the said Perme nor any of hls descendants may be a councillor in the province of Poljica, as our law commands.
1 The Croatian text of the opening sentence ( ” Prvi zakon poljicki jest vazimati kneza od gospodina – ‘od’ is missing in some manuscripts – ko je gospodinu viran a Poljicem ugodan” ) is slightly unclear. Although the word gospodin occurs twice, it is only in its second occurence that it can be said with certainty to refer to the doge. As for the rendering of vazimati with ‘’elect’ , it was a long established custom in Poljica for the nobles to elect a prince from their own number. The word ‘vazimati’ is replaced by the less ambiguous ‘obirati’ ( elect) already in the following sentence.
2 In Poljica there were two species of nobility: vlastela and didici. These were respectively the descendants of members of the Hungarian and Bosnian nobility who settled in the region of Poljica and continued to enjoy noble status there.
3 Cr. vlasici, literally Vlachs or Wallachians, descendants of the nomadic tribes who grazed their flocks on Mt. Mosor in Poljica. The term came to imply ‘hired shepherds’ .
4 Vrv ( f. ) or vrvni ( adj. ), a community broader than that based on blood kinship, no longer possessing joint estate but only the remnants of it in the form of groves and pastures. (see also article 62 )
5 Cr. oba se i na sebi, local dialect meaning literally ‘chest to chest’ ( prsa o prsa) or ‘in hand-to-hand combat’.
6 Macin in the original.
7 Cr. dokle se tezak priobuje, local dialect meaning ‘until the ploughman changes his shoes’ , which is, ‘upon the completion of his work’ .
8 From ita content, this paragraph apparently belongs with article 110, with which it forms a logical whole. It is left here in order not to disturb the sequence of subsequent paragraphs.
9 Katuni are clusters of small hamlets. The term is also occasionally applied to common pastures. Each katun had its own katunar or ‘headman’.
10 One rozga = 2,13m.
Lira ( Cr. libra ) Venetian coin. worth 20 soldin
Balanza ( Cr. bolanca) Venetian coin of little value; less than one dinar
Soldin ( Cr. sold) One twentieth of a lira.
Dinar In Dalmatia one twelfth of a soldin
Pinez ( Cr. pinez ) Venetian coin, probably worth the same as one dinar; one penny
Bezzo ( Cr. bec) Venetian coin of little value; one half-soldin
Eagle ( Cr. orljak ) Austrian coin worth rather more than 5 bezzo
Thaler ( Cr. tolor) Austrian silver coin, the precise value of which it is difficult to estimate
The English equivalents have been used throughout the translation
alien / izvanj ski. any other than a man of poljica
character witness / porotnik. Could be called a plaintiff or defendant, not as a witness of the offence, but as a person who would vouch for the litigant’s character ( Lat. coniurator)
communal assembly / skupni zbor
court officer / pristav
death fine, due or tax / mrtva vraida
district of poljica / poljicka opcina
duke / vojvoda
frontiersman ( of the Turks) / martolog
head tax / harac
herdsman / see note 3.
injury, or wound ( according to the context) / rana
injury fine, due or tax / ziva vrazda
joint estate / plemenscina. Inherited land, based on principle of collective ownership
man of poljica / poljicanin
next.of.kin / bliznji
notary / kancilir
parish / zupa Also translatable as ‘county’. Used on occasions for the whole district of Poljica.
patrimony / bascina, Estate inherited by individuals
penalty or fine ( according to context) / kazna
pledge-fine / osud zastavni
prince / knez
severance / o-dilen’je
tenant / kmet or kmetic
tribe / pleme, Also translatable as ‘clan’
Nenad Gattin and Zvonimir Berkovic: Dubrovnik, Liber University Press, Zagreb 1977, (A pictorial monograph of the city. Beautiful photographs, introduction in English.)
Mate Suic: Anticki grad na istocnom Jadranu, Liber University Press, Zagreb 1976, Pp. 328. (Greek and Roman town-planning and development in the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. )
lvo Vinski: Drustveni proizvod svijeta, Liber University Press, Zagreb 1976, Pp. 197. (A comparative study of the gross domestic products of individual countries and the major economic regions of the world.)
Pavao Vuk-Pavlovic: Dusevnost i umjetnost, Liber University Press, Zagreb 1976, Pp. 257. (A treatise on aesthetics by a prominent Croatian Philosopher.)
Benedikta Zelic-Bucan: Bosancrca u srednjoj Dalmaciji, Izdanje Historijskog arhiva, Split, 1961.
Benedikta Zelic-Bucan: Popis pucanstva Splitske nadbiskupije 1725. Godine, lzdanje Historijskog ararhiva