Justinian and the Senate of Rome under Ostrogothic Rule

Justinian and the Senate of Rome under Ostrogothic Rule

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Justinian and the Senate of Rome under Ostrogothic Rule

By Evangelos Chrysos


Introduction: One of the practical reasons that persuaded Otto Seeck to leave out the period from 476 to 565 in his Regesten der Kaiser und Päpste is that “the subscriptions of the Codex lustinianus are too heavily destroyed to allow a satisfactory continuation of the work”. The same statement can be made also for the inscriptions of the Codex. For this codified collection of laws from 117 to 534 was copied in the Middle Age not as a literary achievement but only for its practical use in the courts; and for this practical use the information given by the inscriptions and the subscriptions — the name of the emperor, the name of the addressee and the date of the promulgation was entirely superfluous. Thus the inscriptions and subscriptions were either copied carelessly or were omitted. Therefore we must read with great caution the inscriptions and subscriptions, as they have been established by the editors since the 16th century: From Gregor Haloander over Dionysius Gothofredus to Paul Krüger.

The constitution I want to discuss here is Codex lustinianus VI 51 and has the title De caducis tollendis, or in S. P. Scott’s translation “Concerning the abolition of the forfeitures of successions to the State”. This law, summarizing all imperial legislation since Augustus’s lex Papia Poppaea in the matter, deals with the way the imperial treasury confiscated the property of deceased persons when their legitimate heirs had for any reasons lost their right to the inherited property.

Although this law deals with a dry, technical matter, interesting only to the students of Roman civil law, especially testamentary law, it is also quite interesting for the study of the law making procedure in the time of Justinian. It is not a constitution addressed to an imperial magistrate – the matter would require it to be addressed either to the praefectus praetorio or to the comes rerum privatarum – but it is technically an imperial letter-proposition sent to the Senate, whose members are frequently addressed as patres conscripti.

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