Girish Mahajan (Editor)


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A thelony was a medieval toll or fee. It might be just or unjust. A just thelony was a toll paid as compensation for what would now be considered a public service. An unjust thelony was a fee exacted contrary to custom or where no service is rendered to the person made to pay it.

Examples of just thelonies, taken from Charlemagne’s 805 Capitulary of Aix-la-Chapelle, are: a fee or toll for using a market, or for passage over a bridge when that has long been exacted, or for docking a ship for more than several days at a river bank. The same Capitulary gives as examples of unjust thelonies, the following: a toll on a bridge when none was exacted in the past, a fee for docking at a river bank for only a few days, a toll for passage on a road or through a forest or field, a toll exacted from persons going under a bridge.

Another of Charlemagne’s capitularies from 805, that of Diedenhofen, forbade any “new or unjust thelony [to be] exacted where ropes are stretched or where ships pass under bridges, or in other similar cases in which no aid is lent to the travellers.” In 809, Charlemagne ordered: “[I]n the open country where there is no bridge built, we command that no thelony be exacted in any way.”

Theodoric, King of the Franks, in 1036 decreed the customs and laws of thelony of Arras, for the use of the Monastery of St. Vaast, which was to receive the revenues from these thelonies. The thelonies listed were market dues to be paid by merchants for the purchase or sale of cloth, fish, fruits, grain, cheese, salt, charcoal, cattle, pigs, meat, the use of market stalls, and many other items.

A list of thelonies for ships and barges bringing goods to Billingsgate, in London, circa 1000, required the payment not only of money, but also — in the case of the men of the Emperor who came in ships — to give as thelony “on Christmas Day two grey garments, and one brown, ten pounds of pepper, gloves for five men, two leathern tuns of vinegar, and as much at Easter.” Henry I, King of England, in 1133 granted the citizens of London freedom from all thelony: “And let all men of London and all their goods both throughout England, and in harbors, be quit and free of thelony, passage, lastage, and all other customs.” Moreover, if any town or manor compelled thelony from a citizen of London, “let the citizens of London take in their city from that town or manor where thelony or custom was taken, as much as the man of London gave for thelony, and thus he will have been recompensed for the harm.”

As stated in the Wikipedia article History of the Jews in Speyer, Bishop Rüdiger of Speyer in 1084 invited a large number of Jews to live in his town "in my endeavor to turn the village of Speyer into a city." As part of this arrangement, he stated, "This also I have added that if any [other] Jew should at any time stay with them he shall pay no thelony." As part of this same arrangement, the Bishop provided that the Jews "were not required to pay tolls or duties [i.e., thelony] at the city's borders."

The word “thelony” may be derived from the late Latin word “toloneum” (alternatively, “telonium” or “teloneum”) meaning toll house, which may be a transliteration of the Greek “telonion” (τελώνιον), meaning a place where taxes or tolls are collected.


Thelony Wikipedia