Tuesday, 26 October 2021

The Law of Emperor Justinian

Despite its title, this blog by a friend on FishEaters is a record of his 'spiritual journey. Full of unpopular opinions on politics and religion!'

From History of New England

The Justianianic Code, which establishes the principles of equality under the law and the presumption of innocence, forms the basis of many of the legal codes today. It had tremendous influence on Napoleon Bonaparte who included many of its principles in his own Napoleonic Code. The legal legacy of Justinian the Great is so tremendous that if one walks into the Halls of U.S. Congress, they will see, in the House of Representatives, images of the great influencers and legal thinkers of American law. Among these are Pope Innocent III, Louis IX, and Justinian the Great. Justinian is considered the founder of Roman law though what he really did was right Roman law down into written format, giving it a more explicitly Christian emphasis.


Justinian practiced this law and governed as was due. During the Nika riots, of which the Blue faction of the chariot fanatics would often persecute relentlessly other factions, burning their homes down, murdering, and looting. Justinian did not lean himself in the governance to be in favor of one faction over another despite whatever perceived leanings he had toward the chariot factions. He ministered due justice, putting to death whoever caused harm, even if it was the Blue faction that he may have been sympathetic toward (Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, ch. XXXII). According to John Malalas, Justinian would cut the genitals off of clerics who practiced pederasty causing the deaths of many priests caught in pederasty (Chronicle, Bk. 18.18) and he ended the Gothic wood and oil taxes (Bk. 18.20). The Empress Theodora, his consort, also punished severely brothel keepers (Bk. 18.24).

Justinian was a proponent of federalism, as explained by Paul the Deacon. He divided up his laws into different rubrics, reducing the amount of laws to fifty for special magistrates or judges in a work called  "Digests", and one book he called "The Institutes" in which he further explained and expounded on his own laws (History of the Langobards, Bk. 1, XXV). These laws were further reduced to one volume called the "New Code". Despite his more despotic leanings and sub-Christian thought, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes can be cited here as an exponent of the legal code of the Holy Emperor. He elaborates on the essential seven characteristics of the civil code of Justinian the Great. Justinian the Great had seven sorts of Civil Laws.

1. Those that were edicts, constitutions, and epistles of the Emperor himself.
2. The decrees of the whole people of Rome when put to question by the Senate.
3. The decrees of the common people, excluding the Senate.
4. The orders of the Senate.
5. The edicts of the Praetors, which were comparable to the Chief Justices in England.
6. The sentences and opinions of lawyers to whom the Emperor gave authority to interpret the Law.
7. The unwritten customs, which by the tacit consent of the Emperor, were not contrary to the Law of Nature and were very Laws. (Leviathan, ch. XXVI)

One reading this will recognize a very common theme between our current system of presidential parliamentary republics and constitutional monarchies. These systems of government, in general, respect the two-fold aspect of Catholic social doctrine regarding the subsidiarian and the solidaritarian nature of relationship. Federalism is respected. The individual is respected. Yet all are in solidarity with each other through the common rule and governance of one Emperor. The concept of full equality under the law also has its roots in Galatians 3 where St. Paul declares that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all have been baptized into Christ. Under the law of Christ, all will have the same hearing at Judgment Day, so also in the civil government, all shall have a fair and equal hearing under the law, regardless of political ideology or political alignment with the civil authorities. The Blue Faction may have been favored by the Emperor, but the rioters were still rioters and they were put to death as a consequence for their actions. A rioter is still a rioter regardless of their political views and if one rioter is locked away in jail but another rioter is let out back onto the streets because of the "cause" they fought for, then the law has no equal application: it is tyranny.

Justinian also recognized the concept of symphony, and acknowledged the harmony between the Church and State. He accepted that the two needed cooperation together. In the Preamble to the Edict of April 17, 535, he writes:
"The greatest gifts which God in His heavenly clemency bestows upon men are the priesthood and the Imperial authority. The former ministers to Divine things, the later presides and watches over human affairs; both proceed from one and the same source and together they are the ornaments of human life. Therefore nothing is so close to the hearts of Emperors as the moral wellbeing of the priesthood since priests have the task of perpetual prayer to God on behalf of Emperors themselves. For if the priesthood is in all matters free from vice and filled with faith in God, and if the Imperial authority with justice and efficiency sets in order the commonwealth committed to its charge, there shall be an ideal harmony to provide whatever is useful for the human race. We therefore have the greatest anxiety for the true doctrines of God and for the moral wellbeing of the priesthood by which, if it is preserved, we believe that the greatest gifts will be given to us by God and we shall preserve undisturbed those things which we have and in addition acquire benefits which are at present lacking to us. But all things are done rightly and efficiently if a beginning is made which is fitting and agreeable to God. We believe that this will come about if there is due care for the observance of the holy canons, which the justly praised Apostles and venerated eyewitnesses and servants of the word of God handed down and which the holy Fathers preserved and interpreted." (in Thornton, Pious Kings and Right-Believing Queens, 255)
The Codes of Justinian became foundational in Roman law and legal theory. It was Roman law that led to the birth of the Medieval system of feudalism, especially in the Frankish law. Roman law influenced the great Pope Innocent III and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes also recognizes the impact of Roman law in the English common law. Roman law was also a strong component and inspiration of the Napoleonic Code which forms the basis of all modern day presidential parliamentary republics and constitutional monarchies. As mentioned, Justinian does not go unrecognized in the United States of America. In the House of Representatives, an icon of the Holy Emperor is raised up among the chief influencers of the legal system of the United States. If only we could commit ourselves to following the influence of this Holy Emperor once again. St. Justinian, pray for our nation!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to deletion if they are not germane. I have no problem with a bit of colourful language, but blasphemy or depraved profanity will not be allowed. Attacks on the Catholic Faith will not be tolerated. Comments will be deleted that are republican (Yanks! Note the lower case 'r'!), attacks on the legitimacy of Pope Francis as the Vicar of Christ (I know he's a material heretic and a Protector of Perverts, and I definitely want him gone yesterday! However, he is Pope, and I pray for him every day.), the legitimacy of the House of Windsor or of the claims of the Elder Line of the House of France, or attacks on the legitimacy of any of the currently ruling Houses of Europe.