Civil procedure.—“Oaths” are an important art of early procedure, and noticed by Saxo; one calling the gods to witness and therefor, it is understood, to avenge perjury if he spake not truth.
“Testification”, or calling witnesses to prove the steps of a legal action, was known, “Glum’s Saga” and “Landnamaboc”, and when a manslayer proceeded (in order to clear himself of murder) to announce the manslaughter as his act, he brings the dead man’s head as his proof, exactly as the hero in the folk-tales brings the dragon’s head or tongue as his voucher.
A “will” is spoken of. This seems to be the solemn declaration of a childless man to his kinsfolk, recommending some person as his successor. Nothing more was possible before written wills were introduced by the Christian clergy after the Roman fashion.
“Lawgivers".—The realm of Custom had already long been curtailed by the conquests of Law when Saxo wrote, and some epochs of the invasion were well remembered, such as Canute’s laws. But the beginnings were dim, and there were simply traditions of good and bad lawyers of the past; such were “Sciold” first of all the arch-king, “Frode” the model lawgiver, “Helge” the tyrant, “Ragnar” the shrewd conqueror.
“Sciold”, the patriarch, is made by tradition to fulfil, by abolishing evil customs and making good laws, the ideal of the Saxon and Frankish Coronation oath formula (which may well go back with its two first clauses to heathen days). His fame is as widely spread. However, the only law Saxo gives to him has a story to it that he does not plainly tell. Sciold had a freedman who repaid his master’s manumission of him by the ingratitude of attempting his life. Sciold thereupon decrees the unlawfulness of manumissions, or (as Saxo puts it), revoked all manumissions, thus ordaining perpetual slavery on all that were or might become slaves. The heathen lack of pity noticed in Alfred’s preface to “Gregory’s Handbook” is illustrated here by contrast with the philosophic humanity of the Civil Law, and the sympathy of the mediaeval Church.
But Frode (known also to the compiler of “Beowulf’s Lay”, 2025) had, in the Dane’s eyes, almost eclipsed Sciold as conqueror and lawgiver. His name Frode almost looks as if his epithet Sapiens had become his popular appellation, and it befits him well. Of him were told many stories, and notably the one related of our Edwin by Bede (and as it has been told by many men of many rulers since Bede wrote, and before). Frode was able to hang up an arm-ring of gold in three parts of his kingdom that no thief for many years dared touch. How this incident (according to our version preserved by Saxo), brought the just king to his end is an archaic and interesting story. Was this ring the Brosinga men?