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p214 Breviarium

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp214‑215 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

BREVIARIUM, or BREVIARIUM ALARICIANUM. Alaric the Second, king of the Visigoths, who reigned from A.D. 484 to A.D. 507, in the twenty-second year of his reign (A.D. 506) commissioned a body of jurists, probably Romans, to make a selection from the Roman laws and the Roman law writers, which should form a code for the use of his Roman subjects. The code, when made, was confirmed by the bishops and nobility at Aduria (Aire in Gascony);º and a copy, signed by Anianus, the referendarius of Alaric, was sent to each comes, with an order to use no other law or legal form in his court (ut in foro tuo nulla alia lex neque juris formula proferri vel recipi praesumatur). The signature of Anianus was for the purpose of giving authenticity to the official copies of the code; a circumstance which has been so far misunderstood that he has sometimes been considered as the compiler of the code, and it has been called Breviarium Aniani. This code has no peculiar name, so far as we know; it was called Lex Romana Visigothorum, and at a later period, frequently Lex Theodosii, from the title of the first and most important part of its contents. The name Breviarium, or Breviarium Alaricianum, does not appear before the sixteenth century.

The following are the contents of the Breviarium, with their order in the code:—

  1. Codex Theodosianus, XVI books.
  2. Novellae of Theodosius II, Valentinian III, Marcian, Majorian, Severus.
  3. The Institutiones of Gaius, II books.a
  4. Pauli Receptae Sententiae, V books.
  5. Codex Gregorianus, V books.
  6. Codex Hermogenianus, I book.
  7. Papinianus, lib. I Responsorum

The code was thus composed of two kinds of materials, imperial constitutions, which, both in the code itself and the commonitorium or notice prefixed to it, are called Leges; and the writings of Roman jurists, which are called Jus. Both the Codex Gregorianus and Hermogenianus, being compilations made without any legal authority, are included under the head of Jus. The selections are extracts, which are accompanied with an interpretation, except in the case of the Institutions of Gaius; as a general rule, the text, so far as it was adapted, was not altered. The Institutions of Gaius, however, are abridged or epitomised, and such alterations as were considered necessary for the time are introduced into the text: this part of the work required no interpretation, and accordingly it has none. There are passages in the epitome which are not taken from Gaius (Gaius, III.127, ed. Goeschen).

This code is of considerable value for the history of Roman law, as it contains several sources of the Roman law which are otherwise unknown, especially Paulus and the five first books of the Theodosian code. Since the discovery of the Institutions of Gaius, that part of this code is of less value.

The author of the Epitome of Gaius in the Breviarium paid little attention to retaining the p215words of the original, and a comparison of the Epitome and the MS. of Gaius is therefore of little advantage in this point of view. The Epitome is, however, still useful in showing what subjects were discussed in Gaius, and thus filling up (so far as the material contents are concerned) some of the lacunae of the Verona MS.

A complete edition of this code was published by Sichard, in his Codex Theodosianus, Basileae, 1528, small folio (Schulting, Jurisprudentia Vetus Ante-Justiniana, Lugd. Bat. 1717; Jus Civile Antejustinianum, Berlin, 1815; Julii Paulli Recept. Sentent. Lib. V ed. Arndts, Bonn, 1833; Savigny, Geschichte des Röm. Rechts in Mittelalter, II c8; Böcking, Institutionen, I.90, &c.; Gaius, Praefatio Primae Editioni Praemissa.).


Thayer's Note:

a The Institutiones of Gaius: They are an abridgment of the Commentaries of Gaius. These are online here.


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