Catch the thief! Catch the thief! Cut his hand off! You might wonder what I’m yelling about. Well, it’s not the movie scene from Games of Thrones (well, not yet anyway) but could have easily been a real scene from the period of the ancient Republic of Dubrovnik.
The Statute of the Dubrovnik Republic (Liber statutorum) is the oldest codex consisted of eight books where regulations of the organization of government and order were set. There are regulations of property-rights relations, the economical and production relationships and regulations of life as a whole. This Statute presented aspirations to the old Dubrovnikers for a harmonious society and was valid up to the fall of the Republic in 1808.
It’s all laid out in the book
The book VII of the Statute contains only articles that regulated the maritime law. For that matter it is the oldest such document in the world. The book VI among many others contains the law which forbade building of houses using straw as a building material. All houses had to be constructed in a way that would prevent the breaking out and spreading of fire inside the city walls. Kitchens had to be built on the top floor of a house because in a case of fire other floors of the house could be saved. In fact if you walk into one of the traditional old houses in Dubrovnik today you’ll find the kitchen on the top floor.
Self-defence is acceptable
There are many other interesting examples of the Republic’s law such as this one; those who brought bribed false witnesses to the court of law, were punished with the fine in the amount of the bribe money. The false witnesses also had to pay the fine but if he/she didn’t have money for it, then he/she was whipped. Those judges who were bribed had to pay a large fine and were never allowed to be hired in the law service again. Those who committed a murder but not in self-defence were punished with the death sentence.
If such persons managed to flee, then he/she was exiled for good and deprived of his/her private property. Those who liked to steal i.e. thieves had to pay a fine. If they hadn’t money to pay it, they were punished by the cutting off of their right arm. If he/she stole something very valuable then he/she lost both of his/her eyes. You can just imagine the methods of this punishment……