Systematization of Roman law under Justinian: results and significance

The Codification of Justinian is considered to be the most valuable monument of jurisprudence. Justinian – the Eastern Roman emperor (527-565) – saw one of the means of preserving the slave system in perfect legislation. Only strong and tough legislation is able to keep in obedience the ever more rebellious slaves, who are fundamentally shaking the foundations of the slave-owning empire, the emperor believed. In addition, through codification, Justinian dreamed of recreating the former unified Roman Empire.

Justinian’s codification immeasurably exceeded all previous ones in scope. It was distinguished by a wide creative basis, a huge number of sources, the seriousness, and the sequence of their processing.

In 528, Justinian I created a commission of 10 people with the participation of the Tribonian magistrate, Theophilus, professor of law in Constantinople. The commission was charged primarily with systematizing the imperial constitutions. Three previous codifications of the imperial constitutions greatly facilitated the work, and already on April 7, 529, a collection of constitutions was published under the name of the Code of Justinian, which incorporated all the imperial decrees of the 1st-6th centuries. A number of disputable (about 50) issues are also being resolved through the adoption of new constitutions.

Then Justinian decided in the same way to systematize the so-called “ancient law” (jus vetus), that is, the writings of Roman lawyers, their comments on civil and praetor law.

In 530, Justinian issued a decree on the creation of a commission of 15 people headed by Tribonian, consisting of two professors from the Constantinople Academy (Theophilus and Cratinus) and two from the Beritian Academy (Dorotheus and Anatoly), as well as 11 lawyers. The task of the commission – writing the Digest, that is, extracts from the writings of classical Roman lawyers – was completed by December 16, 533. At the same time, Tribonian, Theophilus and Dorotheus, on behalf of Justinian, prepared the Institutions, a textbook for students; they came into force on November 21, 533.

In 534, a new edition of the code came out – more than 300 new decrees were added. Already after the death of Justinian, the so-called “Novels” written by Professor Julian from Constantinople in 556 were added to the three main parts of the corpus, a collection of imperial decrees issued in 535-556, after the publication of the code. Justinian himself called his creation “the temple of Roman justice”, medieval lawyers gave it the name “Civil Law Corps”.

The main task of the codification carried out by Justinian was to streamline the application of Roman law in Byzantium, including harmonizing it with the new Byzantine legislation. Roman legal material was cleared of many obsolete norms and institutions and supplemented with new ones, reflecting the process of feudalization of Byzantine society.

This codification up to the XI century. remained not only the most important source of the current law of Byzantium, but also was the foundation on which its legal system was finally formed.

The legislation of Justinian completed the development of Roman law. After the publication of his collections, Justinian forbade lawyers to publish any interpretations of them, allowing only the compilation of indexes and translations from Latin into Greek, and this stopped the further development of jurisprudence.

Development of jurisprudence in the Middle Ages. Correlation between secular and ecclesiastical jurisprudence.

Jurisprudence , which flourished so magnificently in ancient Rome and then continued in a peculiar way by Byzantine jurists, revived in Western Europe in the 12th century . This process was initiated by the founding by Irnerius ( 1065–1125 ) of the glossator school in Bologna .

The purpose of this school was to study the primary sources of Roman law itself without other legal norms that were subsequently superimposed on it. As soon as industry and trade intensified economic activity, developed further private property, property turnover, carefully developed Roman private law was restored and again gained authority.

In the Western European Middle Ages, in addition to Roman law, canonical (church) and customary law also acted. Each of these three branches of law had its adherents.

Adherents of Roman law (called ” legists “) were not limited to studying and commenting on it alone, but were also engaged in adapting it to the economic and political changes that objectively took place in feudal society. As opponents of the system of privileges (alien to Roman private law), they achieved, for example, obtaining by persons from the burgher class the legal opportunity to acquire real estate (including the estates of feudal lords). Much was undertaken by them in order to withdraw the cause of justice from the hands of individual lords, the Roman Catholic Church, and to concentrate it in the hands of the royal, state power. In their support of the sovereigns who fought against the separatism of the feudal lords and the claims of the papacy to secular power, the lawyers of the considered direction went as far as justifying absolutism and recognizing the will of the monarch as a force higher and more authoritative than law.

Supporters of customary law were also allies of the royal power. However, they generally did not intend to consider this power absolute and subordinate the law to it. According to them, the duty of the sovereign is to obey the law that is above him. Adherents of customary law actively collected, studied and systematized legally significant norms, traditions, customs that spontaneously arose in public life and were created by judicial practice.

Other socio-political positions were occupied by jurists who preferred canon law, which regulated relations both within the church organization itself and between the church and the laity. Lawyers of this trend tried to build a single and effective (in their terms) legal complex, combining in it a number of prescriptions of the Bible, decisions of church councils, extracts from papal encyclicals and bulls, excerpts from the works of the “fathers of the church”, some norms of Roman and customary law. The first set of canon law – the “Code of Gratian” – was compiled in the XII century. monk Gratian. The theoretical premise of canon law was the notion that the church legally has jurisdiction to judge and decide cases that are not only moral-religious, but also purely secular.

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