|Primary sources providing information about the value of weapons and armour, or giving other relevant information. The list is ordered chronologically. Click a title to go to the full description of a source.|
|The laws of Ine||Law||England: Wessex||688 - 694|
|Einhard's Life of Charlemagne||Vita||Germany: Aachen||791 - 814|
|Lex Ribuaria||Law||Germany: Cologne region||circa 800|
|Ewa ad Amorem||Law||Netherlands: central river area||circa 800|
|Will of Abba the Reeve||Will||England: Kent||833 – 839|
|Baldric's donation||Charter||Netherlands: central river area||850|
|Gesta s. Rotonensium||Chronicle||France: Brittany||851|
|Will of King Alfred||Will||England: South-west||873 - 888|
|Ordinance London District||Law||England: London||924 - 939|
|Laxdæla saga||Norse Saga||Norway||938|
|Will of Ælfgar||Will||England: South and Central||946 - 951|
|Law of Hywel Dda||Law||Wales||circa 950 - 1300|
|Title||The laws of Ine|
|Date||AD 688 - 694|
Original text: www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/oe/texts/prose/laws.html.
Translation: Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents Vol. I, Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1955.
|Original text||Gif hine mon gilt, þonne mot he gesellan on þara hyndenna gehwelcere monnan 7 byrnan 7 sweord on þæt wergild, gif he ðyrfe.|
|And if wergild is paid, than he may have in each of the hundreds (of the wergild) a slave, and a coat-of-mail, and a sword, if he need.|
|Comments||Price in shillings|
|Title||Einhardi vita Karoli Magni|
|Date||AD 791 - 814|
|Edition||Holder-Egger, O., Einhardi Vita Karoli Magni, MGH, SRG, Hannover, 1911.
Translation: Thorpe, L., Two Lives of Charlemagne, Penguin Classics, 1969.
|Chapter||Book III, chapter 23|
|Original text||Sago veneto amictus et gladio semper accinctus, cuius capulus ac balteus aut aureus aut argenteus erat. Aliquoties et gemmato ense utebatur, quod tamen nonnisi in praecipuis festivitatibus vel si quando exterarum gentium legati venissent.|
|He wrapped himself in a blue cloak and always had a sword strapped to his side, with a hilt and belt of gold or silver. Sometimes he would use a jewelled sword, but this was only on great feast days or when ambassadors came from foreign peoples.|
|Comments||Einhard resided at Charlemagne's court between about 791 until the emperor's death in 814. He wrote his Vita Karoli between 829 and 836.|
|Place||Germany: Cologne region|
|Date||Circa AD 800
Lex Ribuaria was codified between AD 630 and 750. For a large part, it is a copy of the Lex Salica from a century earlier. However, the pricelist with weapons, horses and cattle was added later to Lex Ribuaria, towards the year 800. The addition was made because people did not necessarily have to pay their fines in silver but they could also settle them in kind, for instance with weapons or livestock. Originally, a judge had to come in to estimate the value of the goods. Charlemagne formalised these prices in a law, so one did no longer depend on the personal judgement of a lawyer. [Sohm 1866, p. 79 f.f.].
|Edition||Sohm, R., Lex Ribuaria, MGH, Leges V, Hannover, 1875.|
|Original text||Si quis weregeldum solvere debet, bovem cornutum videntem et sanum pro 2 solidis tribuat. Vaccam cornutam videntem et sanam pro 1 solido tribuat. Equum videntem et sanum pro 7 solidis tribuat. Equam videntem et sanam pro 3 solidis tribuat. Spatam cum scogilo pro 7 solidis tribuat. Spata absque scogilo pro 3 solidis tribuat. Brunniam bonam pro 12 solidis tribuat. Helmum conderecto pro 6 solidis tribuat. Bainbergas bonas pro 6 solidis tribuat. Scutum cum lancea pro 2 solidis tribuat.|
|If someone must pay wergild, than a horned, sighted ox counts for 2 solidi. A horned, sighted and healthy cow counts for 1 solidus. A sighted and healthy horse counts for 7 solidi. A sighted and healthy mare counts for 3 solidi. A sword with scabbard counts for 7 solidi. A sword without scabbard counts for 3 solidi. A good breast plate (or chain mail byrnie) counts for 12 solidi. A usable helmet counts for 6 solidi. Good greaves count for 6 solidi. A shield and lance count for 2 solidi.|
The scabbard in Lex Ribuaria costs more than the sword itself.
Coupland  suggests that scabbards often had silver fittings, which would explain their high value.
Presumably, the prices mentioned here are from before the money reformation that took place during Charlemagne's reign, by the end of the 8th century. The old unit of account, the golden solidus, seems to be used here. This golden solidus equalled 36 silver pennies, or 36 x 1,3 grams of silver while the new silver solidus equalled 12 pennies [Henstra, 1999].
There are two versions of the Lex Ribuaria. The one cited here gives 1 solidus as the price of a cow and 7 solidi for a horse, the other gives 3 and 12 respectively. Both give 2 solidi as the price of an ox. I have chosen this ‘cheaper’ version here, because in none of the other Germanic laws that I checked, cows were more expensive than oxen.
|Title||Ewa ad Amorem|
|Place||The Netherlands: central river area|
|Date||Circa AD 800|
|Edition||Nieuwenhuijsen, K., Ewa ad Amorem or Lex Francorum Chamavorum, 2005, www.keesn.nl/ewaadamorem.|
|Original text||Quicquid in casa furaverit, in wirdira solidos VII. De warnione in wirdira solidos VII. De spadato caballo solidos VII. De servo solidos VII. De spata VII. De iumenta solidos IV. De bove solidos II. De vacca solidos II. De porcis et vervecis et animalibus iuvenibus et de capris tertiam partem quantem valet in wirdira.|
|Anyone who has stolen from a house [pays] as wirdira 7 solidi. For a breeding stallion as wirdira 7 solidi. For a castrated horse 7 solidi. For a slave 7 solidi. For a sword 7. For a pack-animal 4 solidi. For an ox 2 solidi. For a cow 2 solidi. For pigs and sheep and young animals and goats a third of their value as wirdira.|
The wirdira is the 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].
I assume that for a sword (as for pigs and sheep etc.) the wirdira is one third of the value of the item itself.
So the sword in Ewa ad Amorem would cost 21 solidi.
These are new silver solidi, from after the money reform, worth 12 silver pennies, or 12 x 1,3 grams of silver [Henstra, 1999].
|Title||Will of Abba the Reeve|
|Date||AD 833 – 839|
|Edition||Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.|
|Original text||Freoðomund foe to minum sweorde agefe ðeræt feower ðusenda, him mon forgefe ðeran ðreotene hund pending.|
|And Freothomund is to have my sword, and he is to give four thousand for it, and of this sum, thirteen hundred pence are to be given back to him.|
|Place||The Netherlands: De Betuwe (central river area)|
|Date||12 August 850|
|Edition||Sloet, L.A.J.W., Oorkondenboek der graafschappen Gelre en Zutfen, 's-Gravenhage, 1872.
Muller, S. and Bouman, A.C., Oorkondenboek van het Sticht Utrecht vol. I, Oosthoek, Utrecht, 1920.
|Number||Charter 41 (in Sloet); charter 67 (Muller and Bouman)|
|Original text||... et caballum ei donet, valentem xx solidos, scutum cum lance, valentem v solidos, ...|
|... and he gives a horse, worth 20 solidos, and a shield with lance, worth 5 solidos, ...|
|Title||Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium|
|Type||Chronicle of the abbey of Redon|
|Edition||Brett, C., The Monks of Redon, Gesta sanctorum Rotonensium and Vita Conuuoionis, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1989.|
|Chapters||1.6 and 1.7|
'Dicite abbati uestro: propterea ueni, ut emat mihi abbas gladium ualentem quinque solidos,
quod si non fecerit, ego discedam, et quantum ualuero illi perniciosus ero'.
'Nam neque equum optimum possumus inuenire, neque loricam, quia non est noster usus his armis indui. Sed si tibi placet, uiginti solidos ab aliis inueniemus, quia nos non habemus: hos accipe et caballum de eis eme.'
'Tell your abbot that I have come for this reason: for the abbot to buy for me a sword worth five solidi,
and if he does not do it, I shall go away and be as troublesome to him as it is in my power to be.'
'We cannot find a good horse or a lorica, because it is not our custom to use these weapons; but if it suits you we will find twenty solidi from others, since we have not got them ourselves. Take them and buy a war-horse with them.'
Chaper 1.6 is about a visit to the abbey by a very unpleasant person called Hincant.
In chapter 1.7, another unwelcome visitor, a man called Risuueten, demands a horse and a lorica (breastplate or chain mail byrnie)
in return for dropping his claim to an estate held by the abbey. The monks suggest to pay him 20 solidi as an alternative. Risuueten refuses the payment.
Shortly thereafter, he is killed by the Franks at Jengland.
Apparently, the 20 solidi were not enough for a horse and lorica.
|Title||Will of King Alfred|
|Date||AD 873 - 888|
|Edition||Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.|
|Original text||... Æþerede ealdormenn an sweord on hundteontigum mancusum.|
|... and to Ealdorman Ehtelred a sword worth 100 mancuses.|
|Comments||A mancus is a golden coin, worth 30 silver pennies [Blackburn, 2005; Carlson, 2005]. So this sword valued 3000 pennies.|
|Title||The ordinance of the bishops and reeves of the London district|
|Date||AD 924 - 939|
|Edition||Whitelock, D., English Historical Documents Vol. I, Eyre & Spottiswood, London, 1955.|
|Numbers||3, 6.1, 6.2, 8.5|
|... on penalty of 30 pence or one ox.
... a horse (is to be paid for) with half a pound, if it is worth so much, and if it is inferior it is to be paid for according to its value...
And an ox (is to be paid for) at a mancus; and a cow at 20 (pence); and a pig at 10 (pence); and a sheep at a shilling.
... is to be liable to pay 30 pence or one ox.
|Comments||This source does not contain information on weapons. It has been included for the values of cattle and horses in Anglo-Saxon England.|
Original text at the Netútgáfan-website
Press, M., Laxdale Saga, The Temple Classics, London, 1899.
Magnusson, M. and Palsson, H., Laxdaela Saga, Penguin Classics, 1975.
Online version at: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/Laxdaela,
and at www.yorku.ca/inpar/laxdaela_press.pdf.
|Chapter||13: Hoskuld returns to Iceland|
|Original text||Konungur dró gullhring af hendi sér, þann er vó mörk, og gaf Höskuldi og sverð gaf hann honum annan grip, það er til kom hálf mörk gulls.|
|The king drew a gold ring off his arm that weighed a mark, and gave it to Hoskuld; and he gave him for another gift a sword on which there was half a mark of gold.|
Magnusson and Palsson  give a slightly different translation, saying that the sword as a whole valued half a mark of gold.
The translation by Muriel Press is more accurate.
A mark of gold contained eight ounces, and each ounce was worth a mark of refined silver at this time, and a mark of silver was equivalent to the price of about four milch cows. So the gold ring was worth 32 cows, and the sword 16 cows [Magnusson and Palsson, 1975].
|Title||Will of Ælfgar|
|Place||England: South and Central|
|Date||AD 946 - 951|
|Edition||Anglo-Saxons Net - www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet.|
|Original text||And me kidde Þeodred bisccop and Edric Alderman þa ic selde mine louerd þat suerd þat Eadmund king me selde on hundtuelftian mancusas goldes. and four pund silueres on þam fetelse þat ic moste ben mine quides wirde.|
|And Bishop Theodred and the Ealdorman Eadric told me, when I gave to my lord the sword which King Edmund gave to me, which was worth a hundred and twenty mancuses of gold and had four pounds of silver on the sheath, that I might have the right to make my will.|
|Title||Law of Hywel Dda|
|Date||Circa AD 950 - 1300|
|Edition||Jenkins, D., The Law of Hywel Dda, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986.|
At first glance, the Law of the Welsh king Hywel Dda seems to be a relevant source for our topic, since Hywel lived in the 10th century.
His book of law contains (among many other things) a chapter summing up the prices of several weapons, animals, and all sorts of equipment.
It's much more comprehensive than the other, rather fragmentary sources mentioned here.
However, this list is probably not from Hywel's time. After Hywel's death in AD 950, many subsequent writers have made additions and possibly alterations to the original law. The price list is very probably such an addition, dating from the 13th century. Dafydd Jenkins starts his translation of the law with a warning: 'Any Welsh law manuscript contains a good deal of material which is later than Hywel's time, and great care is needed before a Welsh lawbook is cited as evidence for tenth-century conditions'.
So, I have decided not include data from Hywel Dda’s law in my overview.
© Dr. Kees C. Nieuwenhuijsen
home page: www.keesn.nl