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 the 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 war was impending, a captive from the hostile tribe was armed and he 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 dueling was abolished, and the duel of honor came into being. These began in the sixteenth century. The custom of dwelling became so popular that between 1601 and 1609, more than 2,000 Frenchmen of noble birth were killed in duels! The church and other officials protested against this custom, and in 1602 the French king issued an 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 Germany, however, student duels were a part of German student life until fairly recent times. It was considered an honor for a student to have participated in then.
What Are The Rules Of A Duel?
Duels could be fought with swords or pistols. The person who felt offended or dishonored had to “challenge” his opponent to a duel. This was usually done by throwing his glove down in front of the opponent or by hitting him in the face with a glove.