Agrarian Code

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Agrarian Code


a monument of Byzantine law compiled most likely at the turn of the eighth century in Asia Minor. The agrarian code is a codification of customary law, including a number of Roman legal norms as well as some biblical precepts. The code is a very important source for the study of Byzantine rural conditions after the invasion of Byzantium in the seventh century by Slavs and other peoples. The code regulated the legal relations in the village commune. Punishments included monetary fines as well as mutilations, such as the cutting off of a hand. In the agrarian code the principle of private property is weakened in comparison with Roman legal norms: thus, for such violations of property rights as plowing another’s field or felling trees in another’s forest, the code established extremely light penalties. The law admitted the possibility of ownership rights to trees growing on another’s land.

F. I. Uspenskii advanced the theory of the Slavic origin of the code, a theory which has been rejected by contemporary Byzantinists; there is no Slavic terminology in the agrarian code. The code greatly influenced the medieval law of Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania, and Rus’.


“Zemledel’cheskii zakon (nachalo VIII v.).” In Khrestomatia po istorii srednikh vekov, vol. 1. Moscow, 1961. Pages 344–51.
Siuziumov, M. la. “O kharaktere i suschnosti vizantiiskoi obschiny po Zemled’ercheskomu zakonu.”Vizantiiskii vremennik, 1956, vol. 10.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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