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A feud ( ) (referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud or vendetta or faida) is a long-running argument or fight between parties—often, through guilt by association, groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party (correctly or incorrectly) perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another. Intense feelings of resentment trigger the initial retaliation, which causes the other party to feel equally aggrieved and vengeful. The dispute is subsequently fuelled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence. This continual cycle of provocation and retaliation makes it extremely difficult to end the feud peacefully. Feuds frequently involve the original parties' family members and/or associates, can last for generations and may result in extreme acts of violence.

Until the early modern period, feuds were considered legitimate legal instruments and were regulated to some degree. Once modern centralizing states asserted and enforced a monopoly on legitimate use of force, feuds became illegal and the concept acquired its current negative connotation.

Blood feuds/vendetta

A blood feud is a feud with a cycle of retaliatory violence, with the relatives of someone who has been killed or otherwise wronged or dishonored seeking vengeance by killing or otherwise physically punishing the culprits or their relatives. Historically, the word vendetta has been used to mean a blood feud. The word is Italian, and originates from the Latin vindicta (vengeance). In modern times, the word is sometimes extended to mean any other long-standing feud, not necessarily involving bloodshed.

Vendetta history

Originally, a vendetta was a blood feud between two families where kinsmen of the victim intended to avenge his or her death by killing either those responsible for the killing or some of their relatives. The responsibility to maintain the vendetta usually falls on the closest male relative to whoever has been killed or wronged, but other members of the family may take the mantle as well. If the culprit had disappeared or was already dead, the vengeance could extend to other relatives.

Vendetta is typical of societies with a weak rule of law (or where the state doesn't consider itself responsible for mediating this kind of dispute) where family and kinship ties are the main source of authority. An entire family is considered responsible for whatever one of them has done. Sometimes even two separate branches of the same family could come to blows over some matter.

The practice has mostly disappeared with more centralized, rationalistic societies where law enforcement and criminal law take responsibility of punishing lawbreakers.

In ancient Homeric Greece, the practice of personal vengeance against wrongdoers was considered natural and customary: "Embedded in the Greek morality of retaliation is the right of vendetta . . . Vendetta is a war, just as war is an indefinite series of vendettas; and such acts of vengeance are sanctioned by the gods".

In the ancient tribal Hebraic context, it was considered the duty of the individual and family to avenge evil on behalf of God. The executor of the law of blood-revenge who personally put the initial aggressive killer to death was given a special designation: go'el haddam, the blood-avenger or blood-redeemer (Num. 35: 19, etc.). Six cities of refuge were established to provide a "cooling off" phase as well as due process for the accused. As the Oxford Companion to the Bible states: "Since life was viewed as sacred (Gen. 9.6), no amount of blood money could be given as recompense for the loss of the life of an innocent person; it had to be 'life for life'" (Exod. 21.23; Deut. 19.21)".

The Celtic phenomenon of the blood feud demanded "an eye for an eye," and usually descended into murder. Disagreements between clans might last for generations in Scotlandmarker and Irelandmarker. Due to the Celtic heritage of many whites living in Appalachia, a series of prolonged violent engagements in late- nineteenth-century Kentuckymarker and West Virginiamarker were referred to commonly as feuds, a tendency that was partly due to the nineteenth-century popularity of William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, both of whom wrote semihistorical accounts of blood feuds. These incidents, the most famous of which was the Hatfield-McCoy feud, were regularly featured in the newspapers of the eastern U.S. between the Reconstruction era and the early twentieth century. Although they were interpreted as such at the time, there is little reason to believe that these American incidents had any correlation to "feuding" in Europe centuries earlier.

Chariot racing in the Byzantine Empire also included the racing clubs. The Blues and the Greens were more than simply sports teams. They gained influence in military, political, and theological matters. The Blue-Green rivalry often erupted into gang warfare, and street violence had been on the rise in the reign of Justin I. Riots culminated in the Nika riots of 532 AD during the reign of Justinian I, with nearly half the city being burned or destroyed and tens of thousands of people killed.

In Japanmarker's feudal past the Samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, or their lord by katakiuchi ( ), or revenge killings. These killings could also involve the relatives of an offender. While some vendettas were punished by the government, such as that of the 47 Ronin, others were given official permission with specific targets.

At the Holy Roman Empire's Reichstag at Wormsmarker in 1495 the right of waging feuds was abolished. The Imperial Reform proclaimed an "eternal public peace" (Ewiger Landfriede) to put an end to the abounding feuds and the anarchy of the robber barons and it defined a new standing imperial army to enforce that peace. However, it took a few more decades until the new regulation was universally accepted. In 1506, for example, knight Jan Kopidlansky killed somebody in Praguemarker and the Town Councillors sentenced him to death and had him executed. Brother Jiri Kopidlansky revenged himself by continuing atrocities.

More than a third of the Ya̧nomamö males, on average, died from warfare. The accounts of missionaries to the area have recounted constant infighting in the tribes for women or prestige, and evidence of continuous warfare for the enslavement of neighboring tribes such as the Macu before the arrival of European settlers and government.
The Clan Gordon was at one point one of the most powerful clans in middle Scotlandmarker. Clan feuds and battles were frequent, especially with the Clan Cameron, Clan Murray, Clan Forbes, and the Chattan Confederation.

In Corsicamarker, vendetta was a social code that required Corsicans to kill anyone who wronged the family honor. It has been estimated that between 1683 and 1715, nearly 30,000 out of 120,000 Corsicans lost their lives to vendetta.

Throughout history, the Maniots—one of Greecemarker's toughest populations—have been known by their neighbors and their enemies as fearless warriors who practice blood feuds. Some vendettas went on for months and sometimes years. The families involved would lock themselves in their towers and when they got the chance would murder members of the opposing family.

The Basque Country in the Late Middle Ages was ravaged by bitter partisan wars between local ruling families. In Navarremarker, these conflicts became polarised in a violent struggle between the Agramont and Beaumont parties. In Biscay, the two major warring factions were named Oinaz and Gamboa. (Cf. the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy). High defensive structures ("towers") built by local noble families, few of which survive today, were frequently razed by fires, sometimes by royal decree.
Leontiy Lyulye, an expert on conditions in the Caucasus, wrote in the mid-19th century: "Among the mountain people the blood feud is not an uncontrollable permanent feeling such as the vendetta is among the Corsicans. It is more like an obligation imposed by the public opinion." In the Dagestanimarker aul Kadar, one such blood feud between two antagonistic clans lasted for nearly 260 years, from the 17th century till the 1860s.

An alternative to feud was blood money (or weregild in the Norse culture), which demanded payment of some kind from those responsible for a wrongful death (even an accidental one). If these payments were not made or were refused by the offended party, a blood feud would ensue.

Vendetta in modern times

Vendetta is reputedly still practiced in some areas in Francemarker (especially Corsicamarker) and Italymarker (especially Sicily, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria, Apuliamarker, and other areas of Southern Italy), in Mani and Cretemarker (Greecemarker), among Kurdish clans in Iraqmarker and Turkeymarker, in northern Albaniamarker, among Pashtuns in Afghanistanmarker, among Somali clans, among the Berbers of Algeriamarker, over land in Nigeriamarker, in Indiamarker (a caste-related feuds among rival Hindu groups), between rival tribes in the north-east Indianmarker state of Assammarker, among rival clans in Chinamarker and Philippinesmarker, among the Arab Bedouins and Arab tribes inhabiting the mountains of Yemenmarker and between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraqmarker, in southern Ethiopiamarker, among the highland tribes of New Guineamarker, in Svanetimarker, in the mountainous areas of Dagestanmarker, many northern areas of Georgiamarker and Azerbaijanmarker, a number of republics of the northern Caucasus and essentially among Chechen teips where those seeking retribution do not accept or respect the local law enforcement authority. Vendettas are generally abetted by a perceived or actual indifference on the part of local law enforcement.
In Albaniamarker, the blood feud has returned in rural areas after more than 40 years of being abolished by Albanian communists led by Enver Hoxha. More than 5,500 Albanian families are currently engaged in blood feuds. There are now more than 20,000 men and boys who live under an ever-present death sentence because of blood feuds. Since 1992, at least 10,000 Albanians have been killed due to blood feuds.

Mutual vendetta may develop into a vicious circle of further killings, retaliation, counterattacks, and all-out warfare that can end in the mutual extinction of both families. Often the original cause is forgotten, and feuds continue simply because it is perceived that there has always been a feud.

There is a scene in The Godfather, in which Michael Corleone, hiding from U.S. police in Sicily, walks through a village with his two bodyguards. Michael asks, "Where are all the men?" The bodyguard replies, "They're all dead from vendettas."

Some of the gang wars between organized crime groups are effectively forms of vendetta, where the criminal organization (like the Mafia "family") has taken the place of blood relatives.

Famous blood feuds

Fictional blood feuds

Hip-hop feuds

See Hip-hop feud

Wrestling feuds

In professional wrestling, a feud is a staged disagreement between two wrestlers or factions.

Football rivalries

See also


  1. At the root of the political power eventually gained by the factions was the fact that from the mid-fifth century the making of an emperor required that he should be acclaimed by the people (Liebeschuetz, The Decline of the Roman City, 211).
  2. McComb, Sports in World History, 25
  3. Maximilian I
  4. The State of the Estates
  5. Keeley: War before civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage
  6. Corsican Soup and Pulp Fiction
  7. Vendetta
  8. Chechen society and mentality, Dr. Emil Souleimanov
  9. Police search Calabrian village as murders are linked to clan feud, The Independent
  10. Feud Between Kurdish Clans Creates Its Own War, New York Times
  11. In Turkey, a lone peacemaker ends many blood feuds,
  12. Kurdish Families - Kurdish Marriage Patterns
  13. Somali feuding 'tit-for-tat', News24
  14. Anthony Wilkin, Among the Berbers of Algeria, (T. F. Unwin: 1900), p.253
  15. Nigeria deploys troops after 14 killed in land feud, Reuters
  16. India's caste row leaves six dead, BBC News
  17. Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “Untouchables”, (Human Rights Watch Report, 1999)
  18. Thousands flee Assam tribal feud, BBC News
  19. Clan Feuds, an Old Problem, Are Still Threatening Chinese, New York Times
  20. Clan feuds fuel separatist violence in Philippines, study shows, International Herald Tribune
  21. 'In the Land of the Blood Feuds', The Washington Post
  22. Tribe - Nyangatom, BBC
  23. No guns at Ethiopian peace talks, BBC News
  24. Deadly twist to PNG's tribal feuds, BBC News
  25. Yemen Country Study
  26. Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania's blood feuds,, June 24, 2008
  27. Gang mayhem grips LA, The Observer

Further reading

  • Jonas Grutzpalk: Blood Feud and Modernity. Max Weber's and Émile Durkheim's Theory. In: Journal of Classical Sociology 2 (2002); p. 115–134.[37485]

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