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For other uses, see Feud (disambiguation).
"Avenger of blood" redirects here. For the biblical and Jewish concepts, see Goel.

A feud /ˈfjuːd/, referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, beef, clan war, gang war, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight, often between social 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 retribution, 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. They can be interpreted as an extreme outgrowth of social relations based in family honor.

Until the early modern period, feuds were considered legitimate legal instruments[1] and were regulated to some degree. For example, Montenegrin culture calls this krvna osveta, meaning "blood revenge", which had unspoken but highly-valued rules.[2] In tribal societies, the blood feud, coupled with the practice of blood wealth, functioned as an effective form of social control for limiting and ending conflicts between individuals and groups who are related by kinship, as described by anthropologist Max Gluckman in his article "The Peace in the Feud"[3] in 1955.

Blood feuds/Vendetta[edit]

"Blood feud" redirects here. For other uses, see Blood Feud (disambiguation).

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.[citation needed] The word is Italian and means "vengeance" or "revenge", originating from the Latin vindicta (vengeance). This was an improper use of the word, since "vendetta" is more for personal revenge, while the word faida would be more appropriate for a blood feud.[citation needed] In modern times, "vendetta" is sometimes extended to mean any other long-standing feud, not necessarily involving bloodshed. Sometimes, a vendetta is not mutual, but rather refers to a prolonged series of hostile acts waged by one person against another without reciprocation.[4]

Vendetta history[edit]

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 up the mantle as well. If a culprit had disappeared or was already dead, the vengeance could extend to other relatives of the perpetrator.

Vendetta is common in societies with a weak rule of law (or where the state does not 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 any one of them has done. Sometimes two separate branches of the same family have even come to blows, or worse, over some dispute.

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

In Homeric ancient 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".[5]

In the ancient 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 killer to death was given a special designation: go'el haddam, the blood-avenger or blood-redeemer (Book of Numbers 35: 19, etc.). Six Cities of Refuge were established to provide protection and due process for any unintentional manslayers. The avenger was forbidden from harming the unintentional killer if the killer took refuge in one of these cities. As the Oxford Companion to the Bible states: "Since life was viewed as sacred (Genesis 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' (Exodus 21.23; Deuteronomy 19.21)".[6]

According to historian Marc Bloch:

The Middle Ages, from beginning to end, and particularly the feudal era, lived under the sign of private vengeance. The onus, of course, lay above all on the wronged individual; vengeance was imposed on him as the most sacred of duties ... The solitary individual, however, could do but little. Moreover, it was most commonly a death that had to be avenged. In this case the family group went into action and the faide (feud) came into being, to use the old Germanic word which spread little by little through the whole of Europe — 'the vengeance of the kinsmen which we call faida', as a German canonist expressed it. No moral obligation seemed more sacred than this ... The whole kindred, therefore, placed as a rule under the command of a chieftain, took up arms to punish the murder of one of its members or merely a wrong that he had suffered.[7]

A kasbah in the Dades valley, High Atlas. Historically, tribal feuding and banditry were a way of life for the Berbers of Morocco.[citation needed] As a result, hundreds of ancient kasbahs were built.

Rita of Cascia, a popular 15th-century Italian saint, was canonized by the Catholic Church due mainly to her great effort to end a feud in which her family was involved and which claimed the life of her husband.

The blood feud has certain similarities to the ritualized warfare found in many pre-industrial tribes. Thus, for instance, more than a third of 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.[8]

In Japan's feudal past, the samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, and their lord by katakiuchi (敵討ち), 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 Forty-seven Ronin, others were given official permission with specific targets.

At the Holy Roman Empire's Reichstag at Worms in 1495 AD, 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.[citation needed] In 1506, for example, knight Jan Kopidlansky killed a family rival in Prague, and the town councillors sentenced him to death and had him executed. His brother, Jiri Kopidlansky, revenged Jan by continuing atrocities.[citation needed] Another case was the Nuremberg-Schott feud, in which Maximilian was forced to step in to halt the damages done by robber knight Schott.

In Greece, the custom of blood feud is found in several parts of the country, for instance in Crete and Mani. Throughout history, the Maniots have been regarded by their neighbors and their enemies as fearless warriors who practice blood feuds, known in the Maniot dialect of Greek as "Γδικιωμός" (Gdikiomos). Many vendettas went on for months, some for years. The families involved would lock themselves in their towers and, when they got the chance, would murder members of the opposing family. The Maniot vendetta is considered the most vicious and ruthless;[citation needed] it has led to entire family lines being wiped out. The last vendetta on record required the Greek Army with artillery support to force it to a stop. Regardless of this, the Maniot Greeks still practice vendettas even today. Maniots in America, Australia, Canada and Corsica still have on-going vendettas which have led to the creation of Mafia families known as "Γδικιωμέοι" (Gdikiomeoi).[9][not in citation given]

Vatheia, a typical Maniot village famous for its towers

In Corsica, vendetta was a social code that required Corsicans to kill anyone who wronged the family honor. Between 1821 and 1852, no less than 4,300 murders were perpetrated in Corsica.[10]

Family vendettas are also typical of the island of Sardinia, especially the interior rural areas, where the feud is called in the native language disamistade (lit. "compromised friendship").

In the Late Middle Ages, the Basque Country was ravaged by the War of the Bands, bitter partisan wars between local ruling families. In Navarre, 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, and 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 Dagestani aul of Kadar, one such blood feud between two antagonistic clans lasted for nearly 260 years, from the 17th century till the 1860s.[11]

The defensive towers built by feuding clans of Svaneti, in the Caucasus mountains

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 Scotland and Ireland. The Clan Gordon was at one point one of the most powerful clans in middle Scotland. Clan feuds and battles were frequent, especially with the Clan Cameron, Clan Murray, Clan Forbes, and the Chattan Confederation.

Due to the Celtic heritage of many White people living in Appalachia, a series of prolonged violent engagements in late nineteenth-century Kentucky and West Virginia 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 had written 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, and are seen by some as linked to a Southern culture of honor with its roots in the Scots-Irish forebears of the residents of the area.[12] Another prominent example is the Regulator–Moderator War, which took place between rival factions in the Republic of Texas. It is sometimes considered the largest blood feud in American history.[13]

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[edit]

Vendetta is still practised in some areas in:

Blood feuds within Russian communities do exist (mostly related to criminal gangs), but are neither as common nor as pervasive as they are in the Caucasus.[citation needed] In the United States, blood feuds are also not as pervasive or common, but do exist within the African-American and Chicano communities[48] (sometimes gang-related, but not necessarily). Gang warfare also often takes the form of blood feuds. African-American, (Cambodian, Cuban Marielito, Dominican, Guatemalan, Haitian, Hmong), Sino-Vietnamese Hoa, Jamaican, Korean, Laotian, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran and Vietnamese gang fights in the United States, as well as Colombian, Mexican and Brazilian gang and paramilitary wars, Cape Coloured turf wars in South Africa, Dutch Antillean, Surinamese and Moluccan gang fights in the Netherlands, and Scottish, White British, Black and Mixed British criminal feuds in the UK, very often have taken the form of blood feuds where a family member in the gang is killed and a relative takes revenge by killing the murderer as well as other members of the rival gang. This has resulted in gun violence and murders in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Ciudad Juarez, Medellin, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Amsterdam, London, Liverpool, and Glasgow, to name just a few.

Blood feuds also have a long history within the White Southern population of the U.S., where it is called the "culture of honor", and still exist to the present day.[49]

A fortified tower used as refuge for men involved in a blood feud who are vulnerable to attack. Thethi, northern Albania.


In Albania, the blood feud is a tradition; for example, about 600 blood feuds allegedly existed against King Zog.[50] It 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.[citation needed] There are now more than 1,600 families who live under an ever-present death sentence because of blood feuds. Since 1992, at least 5,000 Albanians have been killed due to blood feuds.[51]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Gang feuds also exist in Dublin, Ireland and to a lesser extent in the Republic's third-largest city, Limerick. Family and gang feuds are also very common in towns across the country. Feuds can be due to personal issues, money, or disrespect, and grudges can last generations. Since 2001, over 300 people have been killed in feuds between different drugs gangs, dissident republicans, and Traveller families.[52][not in citation given]


Family and clan feuds, known locally as rido, are characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups, as well as between communities. It can occur in areas where the government or a central authority is weak, as well as in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security. Rido is a Maranao term commonly used in Mindanao to refer to clan feuds. It is considered one of the major problems in Mindanao because, apart from numerous casualties, rido has caused destruction of property, crippled local economies, and displaced families.

Located in the southern Philippines, Mindanao is home to a majority of the country’s Muslim community, and includes the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Mindanao is a region suffering from poor infrastructure, high poverty rates, and violence that has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people in the last four decades.[citation needed] There is a widely-held stereotype that the violence is perpetrated by armed groups that resort to terrorism to further their political goals, but the actual situation is far more complex. While the Muslim-Christian conflict and the state-rebel conflicts dominate popular perceptions and media attention, a survey commissioned by The Asia Foundation in 2002 — and further verified by a recent Social Weather Stations survey — revealed that citizens are more concerned about the prevalence of rido and its negative impact on their communities than the conflict between the state and rebel groups.[53] The unfortunate interaction and subsequent confusion of rido-based violence with secessionism, communist insurgency, banditry, military involvement and other forms of armed violence shows that violence in Mindanao is more complicated than what is commonly believed.

Rido has wider implications for conflict in Mindanao, primarily because it tends to interact in unfortunate ways with separatist conflict and other forms of armed violence. Many armed confrontations in the past involving insurgent groups and the military were triggered by a local rido. The studies cited above investigated the dynamics of rido with the intention of helping design strategic interventions to address such conflicts.


The causes of rido are varied and may be further complicated by a society's concept of honor and shame, an integral aspect of the social rules that determine accepted practices in the affected communities. The triggers for conflicts range from petty offenses, such as theft and jesting, to more serious crimes, like homicide. These are further aggravated by land disputes and political rivalries, the most common causes of rido. Proliferation of firearms, lack of law enforcement and credible mediators in conflict-prone areas, and an inefficient justice system further contribute to instances of rido.


Studies on rido have documented a total of 1,266 rido cases between the 1930s and 2005, which have killed over 5,500 people and displaced thousands. The four provinces with the highest numbers of rido incidences are: Lanao del Sur (377), Maguindanao (218), Lanao del Norte (164), and Sulu (145). Incidences in these four provinces account for 71% of the total documented cases. The findings also show a steady rise in rido conflicts in the eleven provinces surveyed from the 1980s to 2004. According to the studies, during 2002–2004, 50% (637 cases) of total rido incidences occurred, equaling about 127 new rido cases per year. Out of the total number of rido cases documented, 64% remain unresolved.[53]


Rido conflicts are either resolved, unresolved, or reoccuring. Although the majority of these cases remain unresolved, there have been many resolutions through different conflict-resolving bodies and mechanisms. These cases can utilize the formal procedures of the Philippine government and/or the various indigenous systems. Formal methods may involve official courts, local government officials, police, and the military. Indigenous methods to resolve conflicts usually involve elder leaders who use local knowledge, beliefs, and practices, as well as their own personal influence, to help repair and restore damaged relationships. Some cases using this approach involve the payment of blood money to resolve the conflict. Hybrid mechanisms include the collaboration of government, religious, and traditional leaders in resolving conflicts through the formation of collaborative groups. Furthermore, the institutionalization of traditional conflict resolution processes into laws and ordinances has been successful with the hybrid method approach. Other conflict-resolution methods include the establishment of ceasefires and the intervention of youth organizations.[53]

Famous blood feuds[edit]

The Hatfield clan in 1897.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Boehm, Christopher (1984). Blood Revenge: The Anthropology of Feuding in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies. Lawrence, Kansas: The University of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0245-3. 
  3. ^ Gluckman, Max. "The Peace in the Feud". Past and Present, 1955, 8(1):1-14
  4. ^ "Definition of vendetta". Merriam-Webster dictionary online. Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  5. ^ Griffiths, John Gwyn (1991), The Divine Verdict: A Study of Divine Judgement in the Ancient Religions, BRILL, p. 90, ISBN 90-04-09231-5 
  6. ^ Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D. (1993), The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, p. 68, ISBN 0-19-504645-5 
  7. ^ Marc Bloch, trans. L. A. Manyon, Feudal Society, Vol. I, 1965, p. 125-126
  8. ^ Keeley, Lawrence H. War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage Oxford University Press, 1996
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  36. ^ http://www.afrim.org.ph/minda-news-page.php?nid=1492
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  45. ^ Toria, Malkhaz (2011-11-25). "Theoretical justification of ethnic cleansing in modern Abkhazian historiography". ExpertClub.ge. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  46. ^ Harding, Luke (2010-06-26). "Uzbeks in desperate plea for aid as full horror of ethnic slaughter emerges". The Guardian. TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  47. ^ Vatchagaev, Mairbek (2012-11-15). "Chechen and Ingush Leaders Feud over Burial of Slain Insurgents". http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=40111&no_cache=1 Eurasia Daily Monitor. The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  48. ^ López, Miguel R. (2000). Chicano Timespace: The Poetry and Politics of Ricardo Sánchez. Texas A&M University Press. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  49. ^ Parsons, Chuck (2013). The Sutton-Taylor Feud: The Deadliest Blood Feud in Texas. University of North Texas Press. p. 400. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  50. ^ Gunther, John (1936). Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers. p. 370. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  51. ^ White, Jeffrey (2008-05-25). "Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania's blood feuds". The Christian Science Monitor. CSMonitor.com. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  52. ^ Lally, Conor (2012-03-09). "Gardaí suspect Dublin drug feud link in double killing". The Irish Times. IrishTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-26. 
  53. ^ a b c Torres, Wilfredo M. (ed) (2007). Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao. Makati: The Asia Foundation. p. 348. ISBN 978-971-92445-2-3. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Grutzpalk, Jonas. "Blood Feud and Modernity. Max Weber's and Émile Durkheim's Theory." Journal of Classical Sociology 2 (2002); p. 115–134.
  • Kreuzer, Peter. 2005. "Political Clans and Violence in the Southern Philippines." Frankfurt: Peace Research Institute Frankfurt. PDF
  • Torres, Wilfredo M. (ed). 2007. Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao. Makati: The Asia Foundation. PDF
  • Torres, Wilfredo M. 2010. "Letting A Thousand Flowers Bloom: Clan Conflicts and their Management." Challenges to Human Security in Complex Situations: The Case of Conflict in the Southern Philippines. Kuala Lumpur: Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN). PDF
  • Boehm, Christopher. 1984. Blood Revenge: The Anthropology of Feuding in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies. Lawrence: University of Kansas. at Google Books

External links[edit]