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Comitatus was a Germanic friendship structure that compelled kings to rule in consultation with their warriors. The comitatus, as described in the Roman historian Tacitus's treatise Germania (98.AD), is the bond existing between a Germanic warrior and his Lord, ensuring that neither leaves the field of battle before the other. The translation is as follows:

"Moreover, to survive the leader and retreat from the battlefield is a lifelong disgrace and infamy"

Comitatus, being the agreement between a Germanic lord and his subservients, is the direct source of the practice of Feudalism. Partly influenced by the Roman practice of a general distributing land to his officers after their retirement, the Germanic comitatus eventually evolved into a wholesale exchange between a social superior and inferior. The social inferior (in Feudalism, the Vassal) would pledge military service and protection to the superior (Lord). In return, the superior would reward the inferior with land, compensation, or privileges. [1]

Comitatus and Women

This form of brotherhood that was brought over from Germany, before it became feudalism, had a profound effect on women. As can be seen by the prime example The Wife's Lament. The genre of the frauenlied was created during the same time as comitatus was being practiced. This genre almost always consists of a women being left by her husband because he needs to leave his wife and be with his liege lord. In the words of the "Wife's Lament","that man's kinsmen began to think in secret that they would separate us." Since this is a fraternal society, another example of the treatment of women is the almost complete absence of women in writings from the early medieval period. The Exeter Book, which "The Wife's Lament" contains few pieces written from the female perspective or including females at all.

Because of the close relation to the liege lord, the men serving in comitatus were closer to their kinsman than to their wives. Some of the most beautiful poetry written in the Exeter Book is written in memory of a dead liege lord. More is written about religious information, and one is written about the loss of a woman. The Husband's Message though thinking of women shows how they were considered possessions by the men of the tribes. In "The Husband's Message" he lists her after many of the belongings he has already obtained almost like another object to be gotten. In this poem, the women was left all alone during a feud. The man, though he claims to love the woman, chose to leave her alone in order to be with his brothers and leige lord of the clan. Even though there is a 'love poem' written in early medieval times, this poem shows that the love portrayed was questionable.

References

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