Justinian and His Codification of Roman Law

1940 Words Oct 24th, 2011 8 Pages
Justinian I and His Codification of Roman Law

Justinain I, whose full name was Flavius Justinianus in Latin, was the Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. He is commonly known as Justinian the Great, who had spent all his reign restoring the greatness of the Byzantine Empire and trying to reconquer the western half of the Roman Empire. His achievements could be seen in the Roman law, the administrative system of the Empire, religion, literature, architecture and some other fields, enough to prove his great influence on Europe and himself as one of the most influential people in the European Civilization.

Historical records during Justinian I’s reign are fairly abundant and opinions on him seem quite polarized, depicting him both as an
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It was a ten-man commission headed by John the Cappadocian. Their task was to go through the Codes issued before Justinian’s reign, namely the Gregorian, Hermogenian Codes and the Theodosian Code, which were ancient and inefficient, to discard the obsolete laws while adding later constitutions, and to compile the remaining selected ones into a practical and compact collection of laws. The new Code came into effect in April the next year. But none of the copies of it is available today.

It is the second edition of the Codes, now known as the Codex repetitae praelectionis, that survives. On December 15, 530, Justinian convened a second legal committee, headed by his imperial quaestor, Tribonian, a former commissioner of the first commission. Although he was born lowly, Tribonian proved his worth by leading the commission to scan through an enormous amount of Roman jurisprudence from the first to the fourth centuries and in 533, came up with their extraordinary final work as an Imperial statute, the Digest, which is “a great monument to the traditions of Roman law”.(Evans, 2005)

At the same time, Justinian saw the need to overhaul the legal education system, and the key of this overhaul is the promulgation of the Institutes in 533. (Humfress, 2006) The old textbook, Institutes of Gaius, which was centuries old, was abandoned. The new Institutes were written by Dorotheus and Theophilus under Tribonian’s supervision. (J.Evans,
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