It is the quintessential image of the Middle Ages. Two men, together in a ring, trial by combat. The Gods decide who is right and who is wrong by who lives and who is struck down in defeat or death. It was one of the earliest forms of justice, and frankly, we should not have done away with it.
Oh, our reasons were sound. The strong prevailed over the weak, and this was viewed as unjust, since there was a clear advantage to the strong fighter in such matters. If we were to be just, we had to settle it by having men judging and then having an overwhelming force enforce that judgement, rather than one man upon another. That way the strong man would face punishment as well as the weak.
And man looked upon this and said it was good, so we developed a legal system with no trial by combat, which indeed banned it and made it a punishable offense. The weak saw this and said it was good. The strong looked at it and said it was at least equal.
The malicious looked at it and saw how they could act as they pleased with no fear of reprisals.
I read a story about a Harvard Law professor who recently retired. He has been happily married for decades and loyal to his wife. He has been accused of rape, falsely. But this is not the worst of it. The accuser is unnamed, had sworn no statement, made no complain, and the Professor can prove his innocence as he never met her and was no where near her locations at the alleged times. Instead, the accusation was processed as part of a legal claim in such a way that the accused cannot dispute it, cannot prove his innocence, and cannot even sue the lawyers who made the claim as part of their legal action for another man’s case for defamation. In fact, they are suing the accused for defamation against them because he went forth and proclaimed his innocence of their accusations.
I read this and though, how much easier would it be if he could call them forth in combat and have a champion split their skulls. He is the challenged, he has the right, or would have. In a perfect world, he could have called them out, as he should have had the legal right to do so. Though he can and has proven his innocence, he will forever be judged as guilty by the law and public who will not care beyond that legally, he is accused of rape.
So often I see issues of the law which could, which should, be solved with interpersonal violence. Not only would it provide closer to those involved, it would end many suits before they began. If the cost of defeat was your life for simply bringing up a dispute, it would mean that they had to truly believe in their cause, rather than maliciously start legal battles or accusations for their own profit.