Diocletian and the Efficacy of Public Law

R D Rees

in Beyond Dogmatics

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780748627936
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651474 | DOI:
Diocletian and the Efficacy of Public Law

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Early in his speech to the Roman emperor Maximian, probably delivered in Trier in the spring of AD 289, a Gallic orator catalogued the duties of imperial office. Maximian had been appointed co-emperor by Diocletian four years earlier, and in keeping with the conventions of the genre of panegyrical oratory, is said to have fulfilled his responsibilities with distinction. One interesting feature of this anonymous orator's version of the established form is his selection of iustitia (‘justice’) for special mention. By 289 Maximian's most notable achievements as Diocletian's co-emperor were less to do with the law than the military, such as his overwhelming suppression of the Bagaudae in Gaul at the beginning of his reign. The mention of iustitia is worth dwelling on, therefore, although not necessarily believing, since the genre of panegyric had its own idiosyncratic economy of truth. Delivered before the emperor and local Gallic dignitaries, the orator's terms reveal what we can assume would have been considered an ideal if not a reality of contemporary law — the measure of a good judge, according to this aristocratic elite, is the extent to which he copies imperial justice. That is, a good judge narrows the gap between state and judiciary; judges are not only not independent, but their very dependence on the imperial centre is presented as a virtue.

Keywords: Maximian; Gallic orator; Diocletian; judge; imperial justice

Chapter.  7513 words. 

Subjects: History of Law

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