Corpus Juris Civilis
Overview
 
The Corpus Juris Civilis ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, Eastern Roman Emperor. It is also sometimes referred to as the Code of Justinian, although this name belongs more properly to the part titled Codex.

The work as planned had three parts: the Code (Codex) is a compilation, by selection and extraction, of imperial enactments to date; the Digest or Pandects (the Latin title contains both Digesta and Pandectae) is an encyclopedia composed of mostly brief extracts from the writings of Roman jurists; and the Institutes (Institutiones) is a student textbook, mainly introducing the Code although it has important conceptual elements that are less developed in the Code or the Digest.
Encyclopedia
The Corpus Juris Civilis ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

, Eastern Roman Emperor. It is also sometimes referred to as the Code of Justinian, although this name belongs more properly to the part titled Codex.

The work as planned had three parts: the Code (Codex) is a compilation, by selection and extraction, of imperial enactments to date; the Digest or Pandects (the Latin title contains both Digesta and Pandectae) is an encyclopedia composed of mostly brief extracts from the writings of Roman jurists; and the Institutes (Institutiones) is a student textbook, mainly introducing the Code although it has important conceptual elements that are less developed in the Code or the Digest. All three parts, even the textbook, were given force of law. They were intended to be, together, the sole source of law; reference to any other source, including the original texts from which the Code and the Digest had been taken, was forbidden. Nonetheless, Justinian found himself having to enact further laws and today these are counted as a fourth part of the Corpus, the Novellae Constitutiones (Novels, literally New Laws).

The work was directed by Tribonian
Tribonian
Tribonian or Tribonianos was a jurist during the reign of the Emperor Justinian I, who revised the legal code of the Roman Empire.Tribonian was born in Pamphylia around the year 500...

, an official in Justinian's court. His team were authorised to edit what they included. How far they made amendments is not recorded and, in the main, cannot be known because most of the originals have not survived. The text was composed and distributed almost entirely in Latin, which was still the official language of the government of the Empire in 529–534, whereas the prevalent language of merchants, farmers, seamen, and other citizens was Greek. By the early 7th century, the official government language segued into Greek during the lengthy reign of Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 (610–641).

How far the Corpus Iuris Civilis or any of its parts was effective, whether in the east or (with reconquest) in the west, is unknown. However, it was not in general use during the so-called Dark Ages. During the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, interest in it revived. It was "received" or imitated as private law and its public-law content was quarried for arguments by both secular and ecclesiastical authorities. This revived Roman law, in turn, became the foundation of law in all civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

 jurisdictions. The provisions of the Corpus Juris Civilis also influenced the Canon Law
Canon law (Catholic Church)
The canon law of the Catholic Church, is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation. It lacks the necessary binding force present in most modern day legal systems. The academic...

 of the church: it was said that ecclesia vivit lege romana — the church lives by Roman law. Influence on the common-law systems has been much smaller, although some basic concepts from the Corpus have survived through Norman law - such as the contrast, especially in the Institutes, between "law and custom (lex et consuetudo)". The Corpus continues to have a major influence on public international law. Its four parts thus constitute the foundation documents of the western legal tradition.

Codex

The Codex Justinianus (Code of Justinian, Justinian's Code) was the first part to be completed, on 7 April 529. It contained in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 most of the existing imperial constitutiones (imperial pronouncements having force of law), back to the time of Hadrian
Hadrian
Hadrian , was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He is best known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain. In Rome, he re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma. In addition to being emperor, Hadrian was a humanist and was philhellene in...

. It used both the Codex Theodosianus
Codex Theodosianus
The Codex Theodosianus was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Theodosius II in 429 and the compilation was published in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in 438...

and the fourth-century collections embodied in the Codex Gregorianus
Codex Gregorianus
The Codex Gregorianus or Gregorian Code is the title of a collection of constitutions of Roman emperors over a century and a half from the 130s to 290s AD.-History:thumb|Modern bust of Diocletian in his palace at Split, Croatia....

and Codex Hermogenianus
Codex Hermogenianus
The Codex Hermogenianus or Hermogenian Code is the title of a collection of constitutions of the Roman emperors of the first tetrarchy , mostly from the years 293–94....

, which provided the model for division into books that were themselves divided into titles. These works had developed authoritative standing. This first edition is now lost; a second edition was issued in 534 and is the text that has survived. At least the second edition contained some of Justinian's own legislation, including some legislation in Greek. It is not known whether he intended there to be further editions, although he did envisage translation of Latin enactments into Greek.

Legislation about religion

Numerous provisions served to secure the status of Christianity as the state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

 of the empire, uniting Church and state, and making anyone who was not connected to the Christian church a non-citizen.

Laws against heresy
The very first law in the Codex requires all persons under the jurisdiction of the Empire to hold the Christian faith. This was primarily aimed against heresies such as Nestorianism
Nestorianism
Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius's studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus...

. This text later became the springboard for discussions of international law, especially the question of just what persons are under the jurisdiction of a given state or legal system.

Laws against paganism
Other laws, while not aimed at pagan belief as such, forbid particular pagan practices. For example, it is provided that all persons present at a pagan sacrifice may be indicted as if for murder.

Digesta

The Digesta or Pandectae, completed in 533, is a collection of juristic writings, mostly dating back to the second and third centuries. Fragments were taken out of various legal treatises and opinions and inserted in the Digest. In their original context, the statements of the law contained in these fragments were just private opinions of legal scholars - although some juristic writings had been privileged by Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

's Law of Citaions in 426. The Digest, however, was given complete force of law.

Institutiones

As the Digest neared completion, Tribonian and two professors, Theophilus and Dorotheus
Dorotheus (jurist)
Dorotheus was a professor of jurisprudence in the law school of Berytus in Syria, and one of the three commissioners appointed by the Eastern Roman emperor Justinian I to draw up a book of Institutes, after the model of the Institutes of Gaius, which should serve as an introduction to the Digest ...

, made a student textbook, called the Institutiones or Elements. As there were four elements, the manual consists of four books. The Institutiones are largely based on the Institutiones of Gaius
Gaius (jurist)
Gaius was a celebrated Roman jurist. Scholars know very little of his personal life. It is impossible to discover even his full name, Gaius or Caius being merely his personal name...

. Two thirds of the Institutiones of Justinian consists of literal quotes from Gaius. The new Institutiones were used as a manual for jurists in training from 21 November 533 and were given the authority of law on 30 December 533 along with the Digest.

Novellae

The Novellae consisted of new laws that were passed after 534. They were later re-worked into the Syntagma, a practical lawyer's edition, by Athanasios of Emesa
Athanasios of Emesa
Athanasios of Emesa was a Byzantine jurist living in the 6th century. Coming from the first generation of jurists to practice after Justinian completed the codification of Roman law, he worked as a teacher of law, rhetor and advocate.His principal work is the Syntagma , a practical lawyer's...

 during the years 572–77.

Continuation in the East

The Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 (East Roman Empire) was the successor of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and continued to practice Roman Law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 as collected in the Corpus Juris Civilis. This law was modified to be adequate for the new social relationships in the Middle ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. Thus the Byzantine law
Byzantine law
Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with Christian influence, however, this is not to doubt its later influence on the western practice of jurisprudence...

 was created. New legal code
Legal code
A legal code is a body of law written by a governmental body, such as a U.S. state, a Canadian Province or German Bundesland or a municipality...

s, based on Corpus Juris Civilis, were enacted. The most known are: Ecloga (740)—enacted by emperor Leo the Isaurian, Proheiron (c. 879)—enacted by emperor Basil the Macedonian and Basilika
Basilika
The term Basilika or 'Basilica' refers to a code of laws issued by the Eastern Roman emperor Leo VI the Wise . Written entirely in Greek, the 'Basilica', in 60 books, adapt the 6th-century Justinian code to the conditions of the 9th- and 10th-century Empire, and include laws issued by Leo VI and...

 (late 9th century)—started by Basil the Macedonian and finished by his son Leo the Wise. The last one was a complete adaptation of Justinian's codification. At 60 volumes it proved to be difficult for judges and lawyers to use. There was need for a short and handy version. It was finally made by Constantine Harmenopoulos
Konstantinos Armenopoulos
Constantine Harmenopoulos was a Byzantine jurist from Greece who held the post of katholikos kritēs of Thessalonica, one of the highest judicial offices in the Byzantine Empire....

, a judge from Thesaloniki, in 1345. He made a short version of Basilika in six books, called Hexabiblos. Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

n state, law and culture was built on the foundations of Rome and Byzantium. Therefore, the most important Serbian legal codes: Zakonopravilo
Zakonopravilo
The Nomocanon of Saint Sava was the first Serbian constitution and the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church, finished in 1219. This legal act was well developed. St...

 (1219) and Dušan's Code
Dušan's Code
Dušan's Code was enacted by Tsar Dušan in two state congresses: in May 21, 1349 in Skopje and amended in 1354 in Serres. It regulated all social spheres, so it can be considered a medieval Serbian constitution. The Code included 201 articles. The original manuscript is not preserved, but around...

 (1349 and 1354), transplanted Roman-Byzantine Law included in Corpus Juris Civilis, Prohiron and Basilika. These Serbian codes were practised until the Serbian Despotate
Serbian Despotate
The Serbian Despotate was a Serbian state, the last to be conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Although the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 is generally considered the end of the medieval Serbian state, the Despotate, a successor of the Serbian Empire and Moravian Serbia survived for 70 more years,...

 fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in 1459. After the liberation from the Turks in the Serbian Revolution
Serbian revolution
Serbian revolution or Revolutionary Serbia refers to the national and social revolution of the Serbian people taking place between 1804 and 1835, during which this territory evolved from an Ottoman province into a constitutional monarchy and a modern nation-state...

, Serbs
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 remained to practise Roman Law by enacting Serbian civil code in 1844. It was a short version of Austrian civil code
Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch
The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch is the Civil Code of Austria, which was enacted in 1811 after about 40 years of preparatory works. Karl Anton Freiherr von Martini and Franz von Zeiller were the leading drafters at the earlier and later stages of the draft. Comparable to the Napoleonic...

 (called Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), which was made on the basis of Corpus Juris Civilis.

Recovery in the West

Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis was distributed in the West but was lost sight of; it was scarcely needed in the comparatively primitive conditions that followed the loss of the Exarchate of Ravenna by the Byzantine empire in the 8th century. The only western province where the Justinianic code was effectively introduced was Italy, following its recovery by Byzantine armies (Pragmatic Sanction
Pragmatic sanction
A pragmatic sanction is a sovereign's solemn decree on a matter of primary importance and has the force of fundamental law. In the late history of the Holy Roman Empire it referred more specifically to an edict issued by the Emperor....

 of 554), but a continuous tradition of Roman law in medieval Italy has not been proven. Historians disagree on the precise way it was recovered in Northern Italy about 1070: perhaps it was waiting unneeded and unnoticed in a library until the legal studies that were undertaken on behalf of papal authority that was central to the Gregorian Reform
Gregorian Reform
The Gregorian Reforms were a series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII and the circle he formed in the papal curia, circa 1050–80, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy...

 of Pope Gregory VII
Pope Gregory VII
Pope St. Gregory VII , born Hildebrand of Sovana , was Pope from April 22, 1073, until his death. One of the great reforming popes, he is perhaps best known for the part he played in the Investiture Controversy, his dispute with Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor affirming the primacy of the papal...

 led to its accidental rediscovery. Aside from the Littera Florentina
Littera Florentina
The parchment codex called Littera Florentina is the closest survivor to an official version of the Pandects, the digest of Roman law promulgated by Justinian I in 530–533....

, a 6th-century codex of the Pandects
Pandects
The Digest, also known as the Pandects , is a name given to a compendium or digest of Roman law compiled by order of the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century .The Digest was one part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the body of civil law issued under Justinian I...

 that was preserved at Pisa
Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, apparently without ever being publicly consulted, (and removed to Florence after Florence conquered Pisa in 1406), there may have been other manuscript sources for the text that began to be taught at Bologna, by Pepo
Pepo (jurist)
Pepo was an 11th century consultant judge who became the first law teacher at the University of Bologna. His teaching was based on Justinian's compilations of Roman law, including the Code, Institutes, and Digest....

 and then by Irnerius
Irnerius
Irnerius , sometimes referred to as lucerna juris , was an Italian jurist, and founder of the School of Glossators and thus of the tradition of Medieval Roman Law....

. The latter's technique was to read a passage aloud, which permitted his students to copy it, then to deliver an excursus explaining and illuminating Justinian's text, in the form of gloss
Gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

es. Irnerius's pupils, the so-called Four Doctors of Bologna
Four Doctors of Bologna
The Four Doctors of Bologna were Italian jurists and glossators of the 12th century, based in the University of Bologna: Bulgarus, Martinus Gosia, Jacobus de Boragine and Hugo de Porta Ravennate....

, were among the first of the "glossators" who established the curriculum of medieval Roman law
Medieval Roman law
Medieval Roman law is the continuation and development of ancient Roman law that developed in the European Late Middle Ages. Based on the ancient text of Roman law, the Corpus iuris civilis, it added many new concepts, and formed the basis of the later civil law systems that prevail in most...

. The tradition was carried on by French lawyers, known as the Ultramontani
Ultramontanism
Ultramontanism is a religious philosophy within the Roman Catholic community that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope...

, in the 13th century.

The merchant classes of Italian communes
Medieval commune
Medieval communes in the European Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense among the citizens of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread...

 required law with a concept of equity
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 and which covered situations inherent in urban life better than the primitive Germanic oral traditions. The provenance of the Code appealed to scholars who saw in the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 a revival of venerable precedents from the classical heritage. The new class of lawyers staffed the bureaucracies that were beginning to be required by the princes of Europe. The University of Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

, where Justinian's Code was first taught, remained the dominant centre for the study of law through the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

.

The present name of Justinian's codification was only adopted in the 16th century, when it was printed in 1583 by Dionysius Gothofredus
Denis Godefroy
Denis Godefroy , jurist, son of Leon Godefroy, lord of Guignecourt, was born in Paris....

 under the title "Corpus Juris Civilis". The legal thinking behind the Corpus Juris Civilis served as the backbone of the single largest law reform of the modern age, the Napoleonic Code
Napoleonic code
The Napoleonic Code — or Code Napoléon — is the French civil code, established under Napoléon I in 1804. The code forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and specified that government jobs go to the most qualified...

, which marked the abolition of feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

.

The Corpus Juris Civilis was translated into French, German, and Spanish in the 19th century. However, no English translation of the entire CJC existed until 1932 when S.P. Scott's version was published. Unfortunately, Scott did not base his translation on the best available Latin versions, and his work was severely criticized. Fortunately, Fred. H. Blume
Fred H. Blume
Friedrich Heinrich Blume , or Fred H. Blume, as he referred to himself, was a Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court. He was born in Winzlar, Germany, January 9, 1875. He served as a Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court for 42 years and by himself translated into English Justinian’s Code and the...

 did use the best-regarded Latin editions for his translation of the Code and the Novels (Novellae Constitutiones
Novellae Constitutiones
The Novellae Constitutiones , or Justinian's Novels, are one of the four major units of Roman law created by Roman Emperor Justinian I in the course of his long reign . The other three pieces are: the Code, the Digest, and the Institutes. Together, the four parts are known as the Corpus Juris...

).

See also

  • Byzantine law
    Byzantine law
    Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with Christian influence, however, this is not to doubt its later influence on the western practice of jurisprudence...

  • List of Roman laws
  • Basilika
    Basilika
    The term Basilika or 'Basilica' refers to a code of laws issued by the Eastern Roman emperor Leo VI the Wise . Written entirely in Greek, the 'Basilica', in 60 books, adapt the 6th-century Justinian code to the conditions of the 9th- and 10th-century Empire, and include laws issued by Leo VI and...

  • Zakonopravilo
    Zakonopravilo
    The Nomocanon of Saint Sava was the first Serbian constitution and the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church, finished in 1219. This legal act was well developed. St...

  • Dušan's Code
    Dušan's Code
    Dušan's Code was enacted by Tsar Dušan in two state congresses: in May 21, 1349 in Skopje and amended in 1354 in Serres. It regulated all social spheres, so it can be considered a medieval Serbian constitution. The Code included 201 articles. The original manuscript is not preserved, but around...

  • Code of Hammurabi
    Code of Hammurabi
    The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

  • Henry de Bracton
    Henry de Bracton
    Henry of Bracton, also Henry de Bracton, also Henrici Bracton, or Henry Bratton also Henry Bretton was an English jurist....

  • Frederick Barbarossa

Corpus Iuris Civilis complete


Institutiones, Codex and Digesta


Corpus Iuris Civilis complete

  • The Civil Law English translation (from Latin editions earlier than that of Mommsen and Krueger) by S.P. Scott, 1932; digitised

Codex


Codex and Novellae

  • Annotated Justinian Code English translation (from the Mommsen and Krueger edition) by Fred H. Blume
    Fred H. Blume
    Friedrich Heinrich Blume , or Fred H. Blume, as he referred to himself, was a Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court. He was born in Winzlar, Germany, January 9, 1875. He served as a Justice of the Wyoming Supreme Court for 42 years and by himself translated into English Justinian’s Code and the...

    , 1943; revised by Timothy Kearley, 2005-2009 (greatly preferable to Scott's translation)

Selections

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