Ewa ad Amorem
Lex Francorum Chamavorum

Kees Nieuwenhuijsen
version 1.1, December 2005


The official title of the text at this website is the 'Ewa, quae se ad Amorem habet' or the law that they have along the Amor. However, it is better known as Lex Francorum Chamavorum or shortly the Lex Chamavorum.

It is a Dutch law text that was codified around 800 AD, possibly during the Reichstag at Aachen in 802/803, and in any case during the reign of Charlemagne (768 - 814) or his successor Louis the Pious (814 - 840). In this era, several laws of Germanic peoples were recorded. The Frankish rulers added their own regulations to these originally pagan folk laws (see Lex Frisionum, Nieuwenhuijsen, 2003).

The Ewa ad Amorem gives some insight into the society in Carolingian times, in the border area between Frisians, Franks and Saxons.
Like other Germanic books of law, the Ewa starts with fines for killing people of various social ranks. This informs us about the wergelds for nobles, freemen, serfs, and slaves. In the Amor-area the homines Franci held a special social position.
In contrast to Lex Frisionum, the Ewa ad Amorem does not extensively describe all sorts of wounds one could inflict upon a fellow human. It does give many rules about theft and obeying royal orders. The Ewa has special regulations for Frisian and Saxon traders. Niermeyer (1953) suggested that these Saxons did not come from the east, but that they were Anglo-Saxons. However, Halbertsma (2000) doubted this.
From one of the articles, it can be inferred that the value of a sword was equal to the value of a horse or a slave, i.e. 3 times 7 shillings. The shillings (solidi) in the Ewa are probably silver shillings, with a value of 12 silver pennies each (like the new money in Lex Frisionum, see Nieuwenhuijsen, 2003).
The Ewa explicitly mentions corporal punishment: the loss of a hand for perjury and the death for repeated theft. As in other Germanic laws, one could escape these punishments by buying them off, or with the help of a superior who answered for you.


There has been quite some debate about the location to which the Ewa ad Amorem applies. Originally, Pertz (1835, cited by Gaupp, 1855) had the idea that it had been codified at Xanten. However, Gaupp (1855) disagreed: he suggested, the law came from Hamaland, the region of the Chamave tribe. In modern geographical terms this is the eastern part of the Dutch province of Gelderland (including the area around the river IJssel and the eastern part of De Betuwe). Therefore, he suggested the name Lex Francorum Chamavorum. This name has been adopted by many scholars.
Fruin (in a study from 1924, cited by Niermeyer, 1953 and Halbertsma, 2000) looked to the west of The Netherlands, to the present Alblasserwaard. The names Groot Ammers and Ammerstol would refer to the river Amor (or Ammor) that used to flow here. In that case, Amor-land would be a rather small territory.
In 1953, Niermeyer made a thorough analysis of all available date. In his opinion, Amor-land was the whole central Dutch river area: De Betuwe, Maas and Waal and, to the west, Teisterbant. Possibly, further north, the present province of Utrecht could also be considered part of the Amor-area.
This latter vision has not been challenged since, although Algra (2000, p. 92, without source) still mentions Hamaland. I assume, with Blok (1968) and Halbertsma (2000), that Niermeyer is nearest the truth, with the central Dutch river area. Luit van der Tuuk (2005 and pers. comm.) argues that Dorestad was at the border between Frisia and Amorland. This would imply that Amorland was south of the river Rhine and that it did not stretch into the present province of Utrecht, as suggested by Niermeyer.
Anyway, the name Lex Francorum Chamavorum is dubious. Therefore, I have used the name Ewa ad Amorem throughout this article.

Manuscripts en transcriptions

In Paris, there are two 10th century manuscripts of the Ewa ad Amorem. One originates from Metz (Paris Lat. 9654), the other from Navarra (Paris Lat. 4628 A).
I found three transcriptions of these Latin texts: Gaupp (1855), Sohm (1875) and Eckhardt (1966). Gaupp informs us about an even older transcription, made in 1680 by a Baluza. In Baluza's time, both manuscripts were already present in Paris. All these transcriptions give the full text of the Metz manuscript, plus any differences occurring in the Navarra manuscript. Since there are only minor differences, I have given here only the Latin text from the Metz manuscript. Unfortunately, I have not found any pictures of the original manuscripts.


Until now, there was no translation of the complete Ewa ad Amorem into English, Dutch or any other modern language.

Translating the Ewa ad Amorem was a difficult job, because the original text is, in Niermeyer's words, of a 'very awkward Latinity' (1953, p. 165). Especially in the more complex articles it is hard to determine exactly who did what in relation to whom.
Still, I gave it a try. I do not pretend that my translation is correct or the only correct version. Any suggestions are welcome.

Niermeyer's study (1953) was useful for interpreting some passages. Also, I benefited from the word lists by Köbler (1999) and (more specifically with reference to this Ewa) by Eckhardt (1966). The Latin text contains many words from the Germanic language spoken in the Amor-region. These words do not appear in any ordinary Latin vocabulary, but they are being explained in the lists mentioned.

Below are explanatory notes to some of the Latin and Germanic terms occurring in the Ewa ad Amorem.

The bannus or king's ban is the power of the emperor or king to order or to forbid something. This power could be mandated to a subordinate (count or duke).
In the Ewa ad Amorem 'banning' is usually about an order to attend a meeting or a call for military service. The term bannus is also used for the fine on neglecting an order or an interdiction. (Algra, 2000). The Codex Eberhardi, a 9th century property list from Fulda regarding Frisia, mentions taxes named heriban and rosban (for the grazing of horses) (Nieuwenhuijsen, 2005, Dutch medieval sources).

Where the Ewa ad Amorem mentions dominicus or fredo dominico, it is unclear whether the emperor or king is meant, or a lower lord. The present translation, in accordance with Eckhardt (1966) has chosen for 'king'. Lex Frisionum, in this regard, usually says regis, which is obviously referring to the king (Nieuwenhuijsen, 2003).

handradum, hantradam
Per hantradem = with the reaching of a hand (Eckhardt, 1966) or with a holy oath (per sacramentum promissorium; Sohm, 1875).

homo Francus
The term homines Franci is used for a special class of free Frankish men who had a wergeld three times as high as homines ingenui, the ordinary Frankish free men.
It has been suggested that these homini Franci were the original nobles from the Amor region. However, Fruin (cited by Niermeyer, 1953) argued that they were Frankish noblemen who where stationed here by Charles Martell, after the conquest of Amorland.
Here, homo Francus has been translated as 'Frankish nobleman'.

A warengus is someone who enjoys the special protection of the king. Sohm (1875) says these were foreigners, while Blok (1968) suggests traders and craftsmen.

De fine that a thief had to pay to the bereaved for the lack of the stolen object during the time between the theft and its replacement (Niermeyer, 1953). This wirdira was additional to the compensation of the stolen value itself. It is translated here as 'transition fine'.


Algra, N.E.
Oudfries recht 800-1256, Fryske Akademy, Leeuwarden, 2000.
Blok, D.P.
De Franken, Fibula-Van Dishoeck, Bussum, 1968.
Eckhardt, K.A.
Lex Ribvaria II: Text und Lex Francorum Chamavorum, Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover, 1966.
Gaupp, E. Th.
Lex Francorum Chamavorum oder das vermeintliche Xantener Gaurecht, translated and published in French as: Recherches sur la Lex Francorum Chamavorum, Revue historique de droit français et étranger vol. 1, 1855, 417 - 443.
Halbertsma, H.
Frieslands oudheid, Matrijs, Utrecht, 2000.
Köbler, G.
Liber exquisiti xenii, Lexikon frühmittelalterlicher Rechtswörter (Frühmittellateinisches Rechtswörterbuch), www.koeblergerhard.de, 1999.
Niermeyer, J.F.
Het Midden-Nederlands rivierengebied in de Frankische tijd, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 66, 1953, 145 - 169.
Nieuwenhuijsen, K.
Lex Frisionum, www.keesn.nl/lex, 2003.
Nieuwenhuijsen, K.
Dutch Medieval Sources, home.tiscali.nl/axenhowe, 2005.
Sohm, R.
Lex Francorum Chamavorum, in: MGH Legum (V), Hannover, 1875, 269 - 276.
Tuuk, L. van der
Denen in Dorestad, in: Jaarboek Oud-Utrecht 2005, 5 - 40.

e-mail: kees.nieuwenhuijsen@tip.nl
English Introduction
Nederlands Inleiding