Duels

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Duels "This is the excellence of Court: take away the ladies, duels and the ballets and I would not want to live there." - A. d'Aubigne, Baron de Foeneste, Il, 17 Duels and the act of dueling is something that has characterized not only the imagination of historians and modern warfare enthusiasts, but also the minds of writers and readers of literature for years. The numerous literary variations on the theme of dueling are enough of an indication of its importance, and the fascination with the act continues to increase. However, dueling is more than a literary climax or a plot twist; duels have been being fought for centuries and are actually derivatives of many medieval practices. The word duel has several predecessors, depending on which history is being referenced. The most common form of the word is derived from the German word Duell, which is a derivative of the Latin word duellum. Duellum is a combination of the Latin words bellum and duo, which connotes a war between two. This simple definition seems to be the most common and the most recognizable. Historian Francois Billacois states that a duel is "a fight between two or several individuals (but always with equal numbers on either side), equally armed, for the purpose of proving either the truth of a disputed question or the valour, courage and honour of each combatant (Billacois, 5)." Historian Ute Frevert concurs, but points out that duels, especially in the modern era, were "no mock fights, but serious passages at arms in which the opponents risked their lives and which could result in serious injury, or even death (Frevert, 11)." Most contemporary historians believe that the modern version of the duel developed out of three medieval institutions: the feud, the judicial duel and the knightly tournament. The belief that dueling was derived from these three events is often referred to as the continuity theory. Feuds in the medieval period occurred when people attempted to settle disputes and exact revenge for insults through "private vengeance," rather than by going to the authorities and entrudting them to settle the matter. Judicial duels, on the other hand, were official acts, during which both parties (the plaintiff and the defendant) fought their grievances out on the battle field with swords in front of a judge.

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