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A duel. Two men who were quarreling would meet on the dueling field, with matched weapons. These varied over time, from the early middle ages in Europe and American, common weapons were knives and daggers (in more informal, somewhat tribal conflicts), swords, sabers, and French rapiers, until the convention of pistols was established in the 18th century.

Duels were typically fought over questions of honor, where a challenger would toss a glove to the ground in front of the offender (throwing down the gauntlet), at which time the offender might retrieve the tossed glove and hit the challenger with it as reply. This appears to have been a carry over from medieval times when at the time one was knighted, he received three taps with the flat of a sword on the shoulder, and a slap in the face--the last affront a knight would receive without redress.

Duels where typically fought to one of the following predetermined conclusions:

  • First blood. With the wounding of one of the dueling parties, the conflict ended, the wounded party of course being the loser.
  • To ground. With one of the parties severely or critically wounded to the point that he can no longer continue, the wounded party of course being the loser.
  • To the death. Self-explanatory. The deceased party obviously being the losing party.
  • In the event of a pistol duel, a single shot was fired by each party. If neither party was struck, and the challenger communicated satisfaction, the duel ended. If the challenger remained dissatisfied, the duel might continue until one of the two was wounded or killed. Three or more rounds of fire was often considered barbaric and redundant, so duels rarely continued past two shots.

It is important to note that duels are traditionally fought over points of honor by the ancient code of chivalry, but also that they are not an exclusively western phenomenon. There is connection to divine intervention that weaves throughout the convention of dueling in western thought--duelers believing that God would decide, the loser often believed to have his sin shown by his wounding or death.

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Q: What is an old method of ending a quarrel?
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