AVENGER OF BLOOD, the person, usually the nearest kinsman of
the murdered man, whose duty it was to avenge his death by killing the
murderer. In primitive societies, before the evolution of settled
government, or the uprise of a systematized criminal law, crimes of
violence were regarded as injuries of a personal character to be punished
by the sufferer or his kinsfolk. This right of vengeance was common to
most countries, and in many was the subject of strict regulations and
limitations. It was prevented from running into excesses by the law of
sanctuary (q.v.) and in many lands the institution of blood-money,
and the wergild offered the wrong-doer a mode of escaping from his
enemies' revenge. The Mosaic law recognized the right of vengeance, but
not the money-compensation. The Koran, on the contrary, while sanctioning
the vengeance, also permits pecuniary commutation for murder.
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