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A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules.Duels in this form were chiefly practiced in early modern Europe with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period (19th to early 20th centuries) especially among military officers.During the 17th and 18th centuries (and earlier), duels were mostly fought with swords (the rapier, and later the smallsword), but beginning in the late 18th century in England, duels were more commonly fought using pistols.Fencing and pistol duels continued to co-exist throughout the 19th century. Duels were fought not so much to kill the opponent as to gain "satisfaction", that is, to restore one's honor by demonstrating a willingness to risk one's life for it, and as such the tradition of dueling was originally reserved for the male members of nobility; however, in the modern era it extended to those of the upper classes generally.The cultivated art of politeness demanded that there should be no outward displays of anger or violence, and the concept of honour became more personalized.By the 1770s the practice of dueling was increasingly coming under attack from many sections of enlightened society, as a violent relic of Europe's medieval past unsuited for modern life.Roth also notes that thousands of men in the Southern United States "died protecting what they believed to be their honor." The first published code duello, or "code of dueling", appeared in Renaissance Italy.

Dueling declined in the Eastern United States in the 19th century and by the time the American Civil War broke out, dueling had begun to decline, even in the South.Judicial duels were deprecated by the Lateran Council of 1215, but the judicial duel persisted in the Holy Roman Empire into the 15th century.The word duel comes from the Latin 'duellum', cognate with 'bellum', meaning 'war'.On occasion, duels with pistols or swords were fought between women.From the early 17th century, duels became illegal in the countries where they were practiced.However, the tradition had become deeply rooted in European culture as a prerogative of the aristocracy, and these attempts largely failed.

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