Submission and Homage: Feudo-Vassalic Bonds and the Settlement of Disputes in Ottonian Germany



This article seeks to shed light on the role of feudo-vassalic relations in Ottonian Germany, approaching the subject from the angle of the role that homage played in dispute settlement. Taking as its starting point two descriptions of acts of submission which involved the ritual of homage, it argues that neither can sustain a traditional feudo-vassalic interpretation; it would seem that homage was used in such contexts not because the parties involved were bound by a putative ‘feudal contract’, but rather because it was a flexible rite, which was by no means limited to relations between feudal lords and their enfeoffed vassals. This leads on to a broader reconsideration of feudo-vassalic bonds in the tenth- and early eleventh-century Reich, which argues that though the evidence to hand does not conform well to classic teaching regarding the ‘feudal system’, it nevertheless shows important developments towards something approximating this, which by the second half of the twelfth century comes more fully into view.