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Original scientific paper

Insult and fama publica in Eastern Adriatic Communes during the Late Middle Ages

Petra Vručina

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page 39-63

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This paper seeks to examine the criminal court records mentioning insults from three Dalmatian late medieval towns: Trogir, Zadar, and Dubrovnik. Besides that, it connects the prosecution of insults with the formation of public opinion by means of rumours (fama publica). Namely, verbal offense was a public act and because of that, the knowledge about it spread in the community. In some cases, one can even assume that these insults were strategic attempts to endanger someone's honour, and thus his social status – because the latter depended on the perception of someone's honour. This paper also analyses the differences between insults directed at men and women, and what this meant for the perception of their honour. In general, women were insulted by references to their immoral sexuality. Men, on the other hand, were accused of being liars or thieves. Further on, by analysing these criminal records, it is possible to reach certain conclusions about the relations among different social groups and the ways in which social cohesion between the nobles and the commoners was created in medieval towns. In case of Dubrovnik, one can see that the nobility was not privileged in the judicial sphere.
The analysis of medieval insults provides us with new possibilities of understanding the medieval society and a basis for its future research.


Middle Ages; criminal records; insults; fama publica; Dalmatian cities; social history

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