The code of honor is based on the assumption that honor is the most valuable characteristic of every person. Honor is the external face of a dignified human being. The right to a person’s dignity is one of the basic human rights and equally belongs to every man, no matter his or her age, sex, class, race etc.
Honor (lat. honos, gloria) is an abstract term that signifies the feelings of worth and respect which, in turn, affects the social position and self-evaluation of an individual or family, society, military or military unit, country, etc. So, to those individuals or their families, certain social communities, military or military units, military or civil schools, certain groups of people, countries, etc. a value or reputation in society is assigned in line with how they perform certain tasks defined by the code of honor, as well as the moral code of the community as a whole.
As early as some martial arts were created, no matter the country of their origin, a certain code of honor was deeply rooted in their basic moral principles. Accepting that code of honor, an individual would accept certain standards of behavior, as well as the ideals of the character that was necessary for a member of such a group of people, i.e. that kind of people that took up a certain martial art.
And so, in different historical periods, codes of honor were made in different countries across the world. Many of those codes of honor became widely known.
In Ancient Greece, the Spartans had their code of honor, and numerous others belonged to certain Roman legions, Alexander The Great’s units, Genghis Khan’s soldiers, and many more. One of the most famous codes of honor is surely the Japanese code of honor named “Bushido” which many Japanese warriors, samurais, abided by. Although this Japanese code of honor is the most famous one, many others are also very well-known and we will mention some of them.
One of the older codes of honor is the famous French code of the warrior class – Noblesse Oblige (nobility obliges, requirements set for knights) which was followed by knights as early as the 13th century. The German code of honor called Gemut is also well-known and it is said to be followed by the German knighthood during the Middle Ages. One of the most famous ones is definitely the English Gentleman’s Code and the French Gentilhomme which were mostly military and patrician codes of honor that appeared around the 16th century. One of the more popular knight codes of honor is the Italian code called Cavalleria. Knightly codes of honor bore similar names- Codigo de Caballero and, sometime later, Honor de Cavalleria which was widespread in Spain. During the Middle Ages, in some mid-European countries, the code of honor called Fidei et Honoris (a certain type of code of model behavior and appropriate conduct) was used. On its basis, it respected the principle of integrity and honor.
Those were all codes consisting of moral principles by which knights of various European countries needed to abide by.
Certain rules of behavior, i.e. codes of honor existed in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of them was, for example, the German code of officers’ behavior called the Grey Book which regulated the rules of behavior in sword or gun duels. France was a country known for its duels based on insulting a man’s honor. The famous commander Napoleon Bonaparte founded the French order of merit, Legion of Honour, as one of the first orders of such kind. During the 19thand 20th century, unwritten codes of honor existed in the American Wild West and its population lived in line with them. Those codes were known as The Cowboy Code or The Code of the West.
It is less known that one of the strictest codes of honor was implemented by pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was called the Code of the Brothers of the Shore. In 1889 in America, the ethical code of honor for vagrants was established – The Hobo Ethical Code. It became famous because of certain symbols that the vagrants used. Some criminal groups have also made their codes of honor popular, for example, the Chinese Triads have their own code, and the Japanese Yakuza have a different one. It is known among the Yakuza that, if dishonorable actions were made, they will chop off your pinky finger. One of the most famous codes in the world is the one followed by the Italian mafia. They have their own basic code of behavior called the Cosa Nostra (Engl. our thing, our way) and the code itself is known as Omerta.
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