Codification of Justinian

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Codification of Justinian


a systematic compilation of the Byzantine law of the sixth century, undertaken on the order of the emperor Justinian. The code is known as the Corpus Iuris Civilis; it was first printed under this name in 1583. The purpose of the codification of Justinian was to reconcile the old Roman law, which served as its basic source, with the requirements of the process of feudalization, which was slowly taking shape in the Byzantine empire. A codification was also required to allow for several legal institutions that had been formed in the eastern provinces of the empire, to eliminate archaisms, and to include precedents in the legal process of Byzantium, as well as including the legislation of the emperors that followed the publication of the Codex Theodosianus. The codification was done in the years 529–534 by a small commission headed by the noted jurist Tribonian.

The Justinian codification consists of three parts: Institutes, the Pandekta (Digest), and the Codex Iustinianus.

Supplements and amendments introduced into the codification of Justinian in 535–565 by the imperial constitutions received the name of Novellae; they interpret ambiguities discovered in the compilation and supplement or amend the law in force. The Novellae are not to be confused with interpolations, which are various textual amendments that had not been previously stipulated and that were introduced into the Pandekta.

The codification of Justinian was in force during the entire existence of Byzantium. The Écloga of 726 introduced various amendments, some significant, into the codification of Justinian, as did the Proxiron of 879. The codification of Justinian was modified by Emperor Leo VI; the Basilics published under his rule represent a new systematization of the legal norms and institutions that make up the codification of Justinian.

The codification of Justinian has served as a primary source for studies of Roman law and Roman legal literature and was the basis of the Roman law adopted in feudal Europe.


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