Law in the Crisis of Empire, 379-455 Ad: The Theodosian Dynasty and Its Quaestors with a Palingenesia of Laws of the Dynasty

Law in the Crisis of Empire, 379-455 Ad: The Theodosian Dynasty and Its Quaestors with a Palingenesia of Laws of the Dynasty

Law in the Crisis of Empire, 379-455 Ad: The Theodosian Dynasty and Its Quaestors with a Palingenesia of Laws of the Dynasty

Law in the Crisis of Empire, 379-455 Ad: The Theodosian Dynasty and Its Quaestors with a Palingenesia of Laws of the Dynasty

Synopsis

This is a new book from an eminent and well-respected scholar. A work of reference; an essay in the analysis of style; a contribution to the prosopography of the late Roman quaestorship; a reflection on the fall of the western and the survival of the eastern Roman empire: the book combines all four. Using his innovative and controversial method of analysis, already successfully employed in his highly-acclaimed Emperors and Lawyers (2nd edn 1994, OUP), the author examines the laws of a crucial period of the late Roman empire (379-455 AD), a time when the West collapsed while the East survived. Wherever possible, he assigns each law to the likely imperial quaestor who drafted it. This approach yields a novel type of list of office holder (Fasti), in which each quaestor is associated with the laws he drafted. The author shows why the eastern Theodosian Code (429-438 AD), intended to restore the legal and administrative unity of the Roman empire, came too late to save the West. The accompanying Palingenesia on an accompanying disk will enable scholars to read the texts chronologically and to judge the soundness of the arguments advanced. This book will be welcomed as a significant advance in our understanding of a fascinating period of late antiquity.

Excerpt

A work of reference; an essay in the analysis of style; a contribution to the prosopography of the late Roman quaestorship; a reflection on the fall of the western and the survival of the eastern empire. This book comprises all four.

The work of reference is the machine-readable Palingenesia, shortly to be explained. The main text analyses the laws of the Theodosian age, taken to run from 379 to 450 AD in the east and 383 to 455 AD in the west. Some 1,652 texts of the period, drawn from 1,368 laws, survive. Four-fifths of the laws are preserved in whole or part in the Theodosian Code, the rest in Justinian's Code, the Collectio Avellana, the Sirmondian Constitutions, and other sources. On the basis of their style and outlook, the book assigns them to the imperial quaestors whose duty it was to draft them. Despite pitfalls, it is possible to assign about three-quarters of the laws to some forty-nine different quaestors of the period, thirty eastern, nineteen western. Table 1 sets out the details.

Twenty-four of these quaestors can, with greater or less assurance, be identified. They include leading figures such as Cynegius, destroyer of pagan temples; Nicomachus Flavianus, champion of paganism; Antiochus Chuzon, architect of the Theodosian code; and, a little before our period, the poet Ausonius. Ausonius apart, their work survives only in the laws they composed for the emperor. To identify these laws is the only way of getting to know them.

Other quaestors are Unknowns, new to the historical record. Nameless, they add to what we know about the sorts of people--bureaucrats, poets, lawyers, aristocrats--who rose to be quaestor. In the fourth century the quaestor, as the emperor's spokesman, grew in prestige and responsibility. It became his duty to draft laws; and by the middle of the fifth century he was in effect the emperor's minister of justice. Certain quaestors, mainly eastern lawyers, planned and piloted the codes of Theodosius II and Justinian, thereby preserving a version of Roman law to transmit to western Europe and ultimately the world.

Beyond the quaestorship and individual quaestors lie large issues. In what way did law shape the later empire? The ideal of the rule of law required a division of power between rulers and ruled. Citizens had rights against fellow citizens and the government. Upholding their rights of property, succession, status, contractual obligation, and so on, the state was in turn entitled, to an extent largely defined by law, to make them perform or finance public office and pay taxes. Christianity, that alternative society, also involved a division of power, one between the state and the bishops. How did these cultures, legal and Christian, relate to one another?

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.