The Roman empire was no longer influential by the time Justinian was crowned as emperor of the Byzantines in 527 AD, but Rome’s former rulers left behind many laws that the Eastern emperors used to govern their people. These laws were often contradictory and/or outdated, so in 529 AD, Emperor Justinian decided these laws needed an update. He assembled a committee composed of ten men (decemvirs) who helped him put together the laws passed down from the time of Emperor Hadrian to the reign of his uncle, Emperor Justin I, into an easily understandable code. Their task also included the revision of the laws that were contradictory and the elimination of some that were deemed outdated. The Justinian Code was established during the 5th century AD according to the Bible Timeline with World History.
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The committee was led by the Praetorian Prefect John of Cappadocia and supervised by Tribonian, a renowned Roman jurist. They used three earlier compilations of the laws set by the former emperors which included the Codex Theodosianus, Codex Gregorianus, and Codex Hermogenianus. It had taken four years before the committee released the first part of the revised set of laws that made up the Justinian Code (Corpus Iurus Civilis or Body of Civil Law). It consisted of four parts: the Digesta or the Digest (released in 533 AD), the Codex or the Code (534 AD), the Institutiones or Institutes (535 AD), and the Novellae or Novella (556 AD).
The Digest was a compilation and summary of the writings on the law of the classical Roman jurists, while the Code was an outline of the empire’s laws and other proclamations. The smallest of these was the summary of the Digest, the Institutes, and all of these were updated twenty later with the Novella which included new laws set out by Emperor Justinian.
Picture By Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6435925
“Medieval Sourcebook: The Institutes, 535 CE.” Fordham University Internet History Sourcebooks. Accessed August 05, 2016. http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/535institutes.asp.
“Roman Legal Tradition and the Compilation of Justinian.” Berkeley Law, University of California. Accessed August 05, 2016. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/library/robbins/RomanLegalTradition.html.
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