Assises d'Antioch

Assises d’Antioch #

Introduction #

by Peter W. Edbury

The Assises d’Antioche is a treatise on the law of the principality composed during the reign of Prince Bohemond IV (1201-1233). That makes it roughly contemporary with the Norman Très Ancien Coutumier (c.1200) and with the earliest of the treatises from the kingdom of Jerusalem, the Livre au Roi, which on internal evidence belongs to the years 1198–1205. The Assises contains 17 chapters of matters relating to the High Court, and 21 chapters relating to matters of the Cour des Bourgeois, which addressed the rights of non-noble inhabitants of the Latin East. The bulk of the work considers topics such as dowry and inheritance rights, testamentary practices, financial transactions, and the sale of property.

The preface tells us that it was compiled by Pierre de Ravendel, Thomas the Marshal and other wise men. Both these named individuals were prominent vassals in the principality, with careers spanning the 1190s and the first two decades of the 13th century. Thomas the Marshal was a member of the Tirel family, which had made that office hereditary since the middle of the 12th century; he was among those who engineered Raymond-Roupen’s seizure of Antioch in 1216; and he evidently lived in exile after Bohemond IV’s restoration three years later. As far as is known, Pierre de Ravendel, on the other hand, was loyal to Bohemond throughout, and so, if indeed Thomas and Pierre went their separate ways in 1219, that would suggest that the Assises had been composed before that date.

The preface also explains how Simon, the constable of Antioch, had passed a copy of the text, which he had had from his father who in his turn had been given it by the authors, to Smbat, constable of Armenia and brother of the Armenian king, Hetum I (1226–69). It was Smbat who translated the Assises into Armenian. Quite when the translation was made is not clear, although, as the preface indicates, it was evidently before the Mamluk conquest and destruction of Antioch in 1268. But perhaps not long before that date: Simon the constable was in office by 1262, and remained in post until the conquest. We might note in passing that John of Ibelin, count of Jaffa (d. 1266), the celebrated Latin Syrian legal writer, was married to Smbat’s sister and that, as John himself mentioned, on at least one occasion Smbat had consulted him about a point of law.

The full title of the Assises was apparently The Usages and Assises of the Barony of the City of Antioch, thus reflecting an idea found in the kingdom of Jerusalem that the law comprised an assemblage of both customary law and enacted law. However, the legists made no attempt to distinguish these two elements. The treatise is divided into two roughly equal parts, the first dealing with the law as it affected the vassals, and the second concerned with burgess law.

The present edition #

The present edition features the Middle Armenian translation the Assizes of Antioch by Smbat sparapet with a parallel translation into modern French by Fr. Levon Alishan. Morphological tags can be used by scrolling over the Armenian text.

References #

  1. Alishan, L. (1876). Assises d’Antioche. Venice.

  2. Edbury, P. W. (2013). The Assises d’Antioche: Law and Custom in the Principality of Antioch. In K, J. Stringer & A. Jotischky (Eds.), Norman Expansion: Connections, Continuities and Contrasts. Routledge.

Additional resources #

  1. Moeller, C. (1907). Assizes of Jerusalem. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

  2. Nader, M. (2006). Burgesses and Burgess Law in the Latin Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Cyprus (1099-1325). Burlington: Ashgate.