Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Cáin Lánamna: An Old Irish Tract on Marriage and Divorce Law

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Cáin Lánamna: An Old Irish Tract on Marriage and Divorce Law

Article excerpt

Charlene M. Eska, Cain Lánamna: An Old Irish Tract on Marriage and Divorce Law, Medieval Law and its Practice 5 (Leiden and Boston, Mass.: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2010). xix + 377 pp. ISBN 978-90-04-17905-9; ISSN 1873-8 176. euroi25.oo/US$i85.oo.

The Old Irish tract on marriage and divorce law entitled Cáin Lánamna, 'the law of couples', is undoubtedly the most important source of information which we possess on the legal position of women in early Christian Ireland. It focuses particularly on the various categories of sexual union, ranging from a formal marriage approved by both families down to fleeting relationships, which nonetheless may entail legal rights and responsibilities. The tract devotes much attention to the division of property between the two parties in the event of a divorce. Cáin Lánamna dates from about ad 700, and the only complete version survives in a fourteenth-century manuscript, no. 13 16 in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. As is the usual convention in legal manuscripts, the Old Irish text is written in large script, accompanied by glosses and commentary in smaller script, which mainly date from around the twelfth century.

Eska is to be complimented on making this remarkable text available in a reliable edition. The first edition of Cáin Lánamna was published in 1869 in the second volume of the Ancient Laws of Ireland, under the general editorship of W. Neilson Hancock and Thaddeus O'Mahony. The text and translation were the work of the very gifted Irish scholar John O'Donovan, but he died before the publication of the volume, and consequently it did not have the benefit of a proper checking. …

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