Why Is The Justinian Code Important To Historians?
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FROM the Caucasus to the Atlantic, from the Crimea to Sinai, from the Danube to the Sahara—that was the realm of the Byzantine Empire at its peak. Many historians say that it lasted from the 4th century to the 15th century C.E. It was an empire that not only preserved the Greco-Roman culture but also had much to do with the spread of so-called Christianity. It was the creator and codifier of political, social, and religious practices that have remained vibrant down to this day.|
Nevertheless, this mighty empire had a remarkably unassuming birth. Historically, the Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Roman Empire in the East. Its date of birth remains debated. Some historians view Diocletian (c. 245–c. 316 C.E.) as the first Byzantine emperor; others Constantine the Great (c. 275-337 C.E.); and still others Justinian I (483-565 C.E.). Most, however, agree that the Byzantine Empire began to take on the appearance of a distinct entity when Emperor Constantine moved the capital of his empire from Rome to Byzantium in 330 C.E. He renamed the city after himself—Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
Interestingly, neither the rulers nor the citizens of the empire ever referred to themselves as Byzantines. They considered themselves to be Romans, or Romaioi. The term “Byzantine” did not come into use until after the 14th century.
Believe it or not, Byzantine government, laws, religious concepts, and ceremonial splendor continue to affect the lives of billions today. For example, Justinian’s famous compilation of legal principles called the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law) became the foundation of Roman law in continental Europe today. Via the Code Napoléon, Byzantine legal precepts were transmitted to Latin America and other countries, where they still hold sway.
Moreover, Byzantine architects learned how to set a large dome over a quadrangular space—a style that spread as far as Russia. Some even credit the Byzantines with popularizing the use of forks at the dinner table. In Venice in the 11th-century, when a Byzantine princess used a two-pronged fork instead of eating with her fingers, onlookers were shocked! Centuries later, however, the fork began to catch on among the wealthy. Popes of Rome also yielded to Byzantine influence, wearing a tiara modeled after the Byzantine emperor’s. England’s monarchs likewise copied the emperor’s orb and scepter.
The Byzantine Empire also left behind a fascinating collection of government policies. For example, the needy were put to work in state bakeries and market gardens. “Idleness leads to crime,” believed Emperor Leo III (c. 675-741 C.E.). Because it was thought that drunkenness led to disorder and sedition, taverns were closed at 8:00 p.m. According to National Geographic Magazine, “incest, homicide, privately making or selling purple cloth (reserved for royalty alone) or teaching shipbuilding to enemies might bring decapitation, impalement—or drowning in a sack with a hog, a cock, a viper, and an ape. The grocer who gave false measure lost his hand. Arsonists were burned.”
Interestingly, the Byzantine Empire also provided much of the cradle-to-grave care provided by welfare states today. Emperors and wealthy citizens went to great lengths to finance hospitals, poorhouses, and orphanages. There were homes for repentant prostitutes—some of whom became “saints”—and even a reformatory for fallen female aristocrats.
Monasticism was one of the most powerful religious trends in the empire. Monasteries served as centers for copying and storing thousands of Bible manuscripts. Three of the most important and most complete extant Bible manuscripts—the Vatican 1209, the Sinaitic (inset), and the Alexandrine (background)—may have been produced or preserved in the monasteries and religious communities of Byzantium.
Well, Justinian had all the various laws and codes from the Roman empire combined into one, and organized and codified them.|
It served as a model for future laws, and was borrowed by Western Europeans as they set up their own societies.
It very nicely took all that came before it, placed it in an orderly fashion, and made it much easier for all those that came after to build upon.
The Napoleonic Code was a law system that was based on earlier French laws as well as Roman law, and followed Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis in dividing civil law into three different parts:|
1. personal status
3. acquisition of property
Before the Code, France did not have a single set of laws; laws depended on local customs, and often on exemptions, privileges and special charters granted by the kings or other feudal lords.
was the French civil code, established under Napoléon I. It was drafted rapidly by a commission of four eminent jurists and entered into force on March 21, 1804. Even though the Napoleonic code was not the first legal code to be established in a European country with a civil legal system — it was preceded by the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (Bavaria, 1756), the Allgemeines Landrecht (Prussia, 1792) and the West Galician Code, (Galicia, then part of Austria, 1797) — it is considered the first successful codification and strongly influenced the law of many other countries. The Code, with its stress on clearly written and accessible law, was a major step in establishing the rule of law. Historians have called it "one of the few documents which have influenced the whole world."
During the Revolution the vestiges of feudalism were abolished, and the many different legal systems used in different parts of France were to be replaced by a single legal code, whose writing Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès had been charged to lead. However, due to the turmoils of war and unrest, the situation did not much advance until Napoleon's era ensured more stability and Cambacérès, then Second Consul under Napoleon, could work in a more serene manner.
Developing out of the various customs of France, notably the Coutume de Paris, this recodification process was inspired by Justinian's codified Roman law. The development of the Code was a fundamental change in the nature of the civil law legal system; it made laws much clearer. The reaction of the Civil Code and other subsequent codes resulted in considerable debate within France's legislative bodies.
In ancient régime France, law courts, known as the Parlements, had often taken up a legislative role by judges protesting royal decisions – to protest excesses of royal power or, in some occasions, in order to defend the privileges of the social classes to which the judges belonged. The latter was especially true in the final years before the Revolution. As a result, the French Revolution took a negative view of judges making law.
This is reflected in the Napoleonic Code prohibiting judges from passing judgments exceeding the matter that is to be judged, because general rules are the domain of the law, a legislative, not judicial, power. In theory, there is thus no case law in France. However, the courts still had to fill the gaps in the laws and regulations; thus a large body of jurisprudence was born; while there is no rule of stare decisis (binding precedent), the decisions by important courts have become more or less equivalent to case law.
to sum up, the Napoleonic Code was a system of laws that