Justice Legal Literature

Bernard Stolte

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Justice Legal Literature

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  • Classical Studies
  • Greek and Roman Law
  • Classical Reception


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Byzantium has produced an extensive legal literature, though little in the way of legal theory. In the field of secular law, the reign of Justinian I brings the transition from Late Antiquity to Byzantium. Justinian's codification of Roman law in the Digest (and Institutes) and Code both brings ancient Roman law to its conclusion and forms the beginning of Byzantine law. The Digest is an anthology of the writings of Roman jurists of the first century bce to the third century ce, the great majority of which is case law, but which now is presented as a normative system. An intensive programme of legislation during the first few years of Justinian's reign had resulted in the modernisation and codification of the law. The Macedonian emperors Basil I and Leo VI reorganised the legislative texts in the so-called Basilica, but still kept very close to the Justinianic example. Byzantium has also produced an extensive ecclesiastical legal literature. Church councils promulgated decisions, kanones, and their collections form the nucleus of canon law.

Keywords: Byzantium; legal literature; Justinian I; emperors; codification; legislation; Basilica; canon law; Roman law; church councils

Article.  3718 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Greek and Roman Law ; Classical Reception

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