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p302 Codex Theodosianus

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp302‑303 of

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

CODEX THEODOSIA′NUS. In the year 429, Theodosius II, commonly called Theodosius the younger, appointed a commission, consisting of eight persons, to form into a code all the edicta and generales constitutiones from the time of Constantine, and according to the model of the Codex Gregorianus and Hermogenianus (ad similitudinem Gregoriani et Hermogeniani Codicis). In 435, the instructions were renewed or repeated; but the commissioners were now sixteen in number. Antiochus was at the head of both commissions. It seems, however, to have been originally the design of the emperor not only to make a code which should be complementary to, and a continuation of, the Codex Gregorianus and Hermogenianus; but also to compile a work on Roman law from the classical jurists, and the constitutions prior to those of Constantine. However this may be, the first commission did not accomplish this, and what we now have is the code which was compiled by the second commission. This code was completed, and promulgated as law in the Eastern empire in 438, and declared to be the substitute for all the constitutions made since the time of Constantine. In the same year (438) the code was forwarded to Valentinian III, the son-in‑law of Theodosius, by whom it was laid before the Roman Senate, and confirmed as law in the Western empire. So long as a connection existed between the Eastern and Western empires, that is, till the overthrow of the latter, the name Novellae was given to the constitutions subsequent to the code of Theodosius. The latest of these Novellae that have come down to us are three of the time of Leo and Anthemius, A.D. 468.

The Codex Theodosianus consists of sixteen books, the greater part of which, as well as his Novellae, exist in their genuine state. The books are divided into titles, and the titles are subdivided into constitutiones or laws. The valuable edition of A. Gothofredus (6 vols. fol. Lugd. 1665, re-edited by Ritter, Lips. 1736‑1745, 6 vols. fol.) contains the code in its complete form, except the first five books, for which it was necessary to use the epitome contained in the Breviarium [Breviarium]. This is also the case with the edition of this code contained in the Jus Civile Antejustinianeum of Berlin, 1815. But the recent discovery of a MS. of the Breviarium, at Milan, by Clossius, and of a Palimpsest of the Theodosian code at Turin by Peyron, has contributed largely to the other parts of this code, and has added numerous genuine constitutions to the first five books, particularly to the p303first. Hänel's discoveries also have added to our knowledge of the later books, and his edition of the Theodosian Code, Bonn, 1837, 4to, is the latest and the best.

The extract or epitome of the first five books in the Breviarium is very scanty; 262 laws, or fragments of laws, were omitted, which the discoveries of Clossius and Peyron reduced to 200. More recent discoveries by Carlo Baudi a Vesme at Turin will add to the 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 16th books.

The Novellae Constitutiones anterior to the time of Justinian are collected in six books in the Jus Civile Antejustinianeum, Berlin, 1815, and in Hänel's more recent edition.

The commission of Theodosius was empowered to arrange the constitutiones according to their subject, and under each subject according to the order of time; to separate those which contained different matter, and to omit what was not essential or superfluous. The arrangement of the Theodosian Code differs in the main from that of the code of Justinian, which treats of jus ecclesiasticum in the beginning, while that of Theodosius in the first book treats chiefly of offices; and the second, third, fourth, and beginning of the fifth book treat of jus privatum. The order here observed, as well as in the code which it professed to follow as a model, was the order of the writers on the praetorian edict. The eighth book contains the laws as to gifts, the penalties of celibacy, and that relating to the jus liberorum. The ninth book begins with crimes. The laws relating to the Christian church are contained in the sixteenth and last book. It is obvious from the circumstances under which the Theodosian and Justinian codes were compiled, and from a comparison of them, that the Justinian code was greatly indebted to the Theodosian. The Theodosian code was also the basis of the edict of Theodoric king of the Ostrogoths; it was epitomised, with an interpretation, in the Visigoth Lex Romana [Breviarium]; and the Burgundian Lex Romana, commonly called Papiani Liber Responsorum, was founded upon it.


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