Login *:
Password *:


7-08-2015, 20:45

Legal administration

Given the profound changes in civil and military administration beginning in the seventh century, at first sight it is surprising that so little legislative activity seems to have occurred in this century. One has nothing to set beside the major attempts at legislative reform of the fifth and sixth centuries, embodied in the Codex Theodosianus and the Codex Iustinianus. Apart from the Farmer’s law, whose date is disputed and which is anyway a compilation of materials from Justinian’s era and before, the emperors seem to have initiated very little legislation; what remains is primarily ecclesiastical in nature, for example Heraclius’ edict of 632 requiring the compulsory conversion of the Jews, his Ekthesis, and Constans II’s Typos (see above, pp. 229, 231). In contrast, the quinisext council called by Justinian II represents a major recapitulation of canonical legislation, which can be compared with the law-code of Justinian II’s great predecessor (see above, p. 108). The explanation for the lack of legislative activity in the secular sphere is probably to be found in the dual nature of Roman legislation. Legislation was not only a body of rules governing day-to-day behaviour, but more importantly a way of enunciating the world-view and set of values embraced by the Roman – or Byzantine – empire. As John Haldon has put it: Seen from this perspective, the legal ‘system’ became less a practical instrument for intervening in the world of men in order to modify relationships or individual behaviour, but more a set of theories which represented a desired (if recognisably not always attainable) state of affairs. Emperors needed to issue no new legislation, therefore, but rather to establish (or to re-establish) the conditions within which the traditional system would once again conform to actual practice.22