The Theodosian Code

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The Roman Empire was a marvelous civilization stretching from the far ends of the Mediterranean Sea to the nutrient rich soils of the Fertile Crescent and all the way north to what is now known as the United Kingdom. In fact, the empire was so expansive that there was a need for organized law; and so with each emperor there came new constitutions and decrees for the Roman people to follow. The Theodosian Code was just one of the many juristic materials that helped define Roman law and keep legal clarity until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 C.E.1This paper will define the contents of The Theodosian Code; show how the size and organization of the Roman Empire had an effect on the document; and examine how religion had influenced the laws within the document. By the end of this paper, the reader will have a better understanding of how historical Rome helped create the laws and constitutions contained within The Theodosian Code.
The Theodosian Code was a set of laws that was commissioned by Emperor Theodosius II in the Roman Empire during 429 C.E. These laws were collected by jurists who took all of the imperial edicts from Constantine I’s reign to Theodosius II’s reign and arranged them into one document dating from 313 C.E. to 437 C.E. The Theodosian Code is heavily influenced by Christian beliefs due to the fact that Christianity was the state religion during that period of time. It was completed in 438 C.E. and provides insight into the first century of imperial Christianity.2 The Theodosian Code was created in order to clarify some legal uncertainty that plagued the Roman Empire “despite the existence of the Gregorian and Hermogenian Codes and various collections of juristic materials.” 3 This legal uncertainty was apparent to Emperor Theodosius II and Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, so the two decided to make their own set of jurisdictions in 426 C.E. They started with installing the “Law of Citations”, which ultimately proved to be a



Citations: Alfred Andrea and James Overfield, “Christianity and the Roman World,” in Alfred Andrea and James Overfield, eds. The Human Record: Sources of Global History v.1, 6thed. (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 2009), 187. Felipe Fernádez-Armesto, “Trickle Down: Christianization and Islamization,” in The World: A History (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007), 285-287. George Long, “Codex Theodosianus,” last modified November 4, 2009. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Codex_Theodosianus.html (accessed February 25, 2013). George Mousourakis, A Legal History of Rome (London; New York: Routledge, 2007), 98–113. Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 58. “The Theodosian Code,” in Alfred Andrea and James Overfield, eds

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