How did Duelling Originate?

A duel, as we think of it today, is a pre-arranged encounter in accordance with certain rules, between two persons with deadly weapons, for the purpose of deciding a point of honor. According to this definition, certain famous battles between two men were not really duels.

For example, Hector and Achilles were supposed to have fought each other, but this was not a duel. The reason for this is that in ancient times there was something called a “judicial duel”. This was a legalized form of combat and it decided questions of justice rather than of personal honor.

For instance, sometimes when a war was impending, a captive from the hostile tribe was armed and fought with the national champion. The outcome of the duel was supposed to be an omen, since it was believed that the one who won deserved to win.


At other times, such “duels” were a substitute for a trial in court. In time, this form of duelling was abolished, and the duel of honour came into being. These began about the sixteenth century.

The custom of dueling become some popular that between 1601 and 1609, more than 2,000 Frenchmen of noble birth were killed in duels! The church and other officials protestred against this custom, and in 1602 the French king issued and edict condemning to death whoever should give or accept a challenge to a duel or act as a second.

This proved to be too strict, and in 1609 it was changed so that permission to engage in a duel could be obtained from the king. Duels also became popular in England, and there, too, protests, finally made them illegal.

In German student life until fairly recent times. It was considered an honour for a student to have participated in them.

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