Byzantium inherited complex legal categories that helped define and construct ‘Otherness’. In particular, by the 6th century ideas of self and otherness were articulated around three great dichotomies: Roman/Barbarian, Christian/non-Christian – a division increasingly superseded by Orthodox/heretic – and free/slave. This paper will examine how these categories altered in Byzantine law between 600 and 900. This turbulent period witnessed marked transformations in the Byzantine symbolic universe that impacted on these categories. For instance, the Roman/Barbarian dichotomy essentially vanished in the 8th century, with the Byzantines identifying themselves firmly as Christians surrounded by heathen enemies. The dichotomy only gradually returned post-800 as the political and cultural environment shifted. This period is also usually noted for the increase in Byzantine law of corporal punishment and bodily mutilation. This paper will examine the extent to which such punishment physically marked out and ‘othered’ offenders.
By 785 Charlemagne completed the Frankish conquest of Frisia. After a brief period of quiet, violence ruled again when Vikings regularly harassed Frisia and even settled there, if not permanently. When vernacular Frisian laws begin to be recorded around 1200, Vikings play a conspicuous part in them. For generations, scholars have argued that these laws must therefore be dated to the 11th century, when Viking raiders were still a reality in Frisia. I will argue instead that the image of the Scandinavians (especially, the Danes) in Frisian law is the result of ‘invented tradition’. The Scandinavians are assigned a prominent role as the ‘Other’ to help the Frisians shape an identity that radically differed from that of the heathen Northmen and wilde wizing, while simultaneously this ideological construction helped them justify their politically independent position.
In medieval Iberia, there was close contact between the Christian community and religious minorities such as Jews and Muslims. Legal texts, namely Alphonse X’s legislation (the Partidas and the Fuero Real), attempt to establish the rules on how Christians should behave towards other religious groups. This paper aims to analyse the structure of prescriptive discourse and utterances with modal verbs stating what Christians ‘must not do’ (i.e. not adopt the values of others, thus attempting to preserve their own identity), and what they ‘should do’ (i.e. respect the other groups’ values or habits, thus not permitting the exclusion of minorities).