Projet Volterra


Authenticum (UCL Ms Ogden 5)

Roman legal history in the UCL Special Collections

by Simon Corcoran

It may surprise readers to learn that the UCL Special Collections, not generally known for its mediaeval holdings, contain a manuscript important for Roman legal history, which has not previously been studied in much detail. This is UCL Ms Ogden 5, a copy of the Authenticum of Justinian's Novels (i.e. new laws). A short but incisive description and analysis of this has just been published by Professor Luca Loschiavo of the University of Teramo, as "Un singolare manoscritto londinese dell'Authenticum (London, University College Library, Ogden 5)".

The Authenticum was originally formed as a teaching collection for Justinian's recent legislation at the Constantinople law-school in the 550s and then almost immediately adapted for use in Italy, consisting of some laws in Latin, but mostly legislation in Greek furnished with interlinear word-for-word translations into Latin to aid struggling students (and professionals!). Largely neglected in the early medieval period, it was taken up again in the twelfth century west and, with the Greek abandoned (leaving only the Latin), came to be regarded erroneously as the collection of Novels officially approved by Justinian. Thus the major part of these Novels (97 out of 135), divided into nine "collations", was included in the standard "Vulgate" of the "Corpus of Civil Law", developed by the Bologna law school and then finalized in the thirteenth century. The Corpus formed the foundational text for the later medieval and modern Civilian (i.e. Roman law) jurisdictions across Europe and indeed beyond. In a series of important articles, Professor Loschiavo has done much to illuminate the nature of the original Authenticum or Liber authenticorum and how it was copied and used before being ossified into the "Vulgate". The Authenticum does not survive in its full or original form, and the standard edition by Gustav Heimbach (2 vols.; 1846/1851) is a reconstruction, now rather in need of reassessment.

The UCL manuscript, although it has lost a portion at its end, is otherwise particularly complete. Unknown to nineteenth-century editors of the Novels, it is one of three important surviving witnesses (the others are in Vienna and the Escorial), attesting to a relatively early and full state of the Authenticum. It is datable c.1200 (the UCL on-line catalogue has not been emended and still reads c.14th C.), and is closest in form to a now lost manuscript from Klosterneuburg used by Heimbach. Some differences in shape and content make it clear, however, that Ms Odgen 5 is not in fact that missing manuscript, but probably shared a common exemplar. The manuscript also includes a copy of a precious, but previously mis-understood note originally of the sixth century, which gives a description of the original bilingual collection and its relationship to the other major and contemporary Latin source for the Novels, the Epitome of Julian (a Constantinopolitan lecture-course also of the 550s). Finally, the manuscript contains several sets of unique pre-Accursian glosses (marginal comments from before the "Vulgate" text was fixed) datable between the late twelfth and mid thirteenth centuries. Some of the later glosses were probably written by a pupil of the great Bolognese jurist, Azo (d. c.1225) and demonstrate a pronounced Ghibelline outlook, supportive of the claims of emperor over pope that suits the reign of the emperor Frederick II (r. 1220-1250). Loschiavo includes as an appendix to his article an edition of eleven of the most interesting of these later glosses.

Professor Loschiavo is a good friend of the Projet Volterra, having participated in colloquia here in the History Department in 2010 and 2013, and is contributing to the forthcoming Volterra volume. His work on the Authenticum has proved a particularly apposite complement to the research of members of the Volterra team upon manuscripts of other parts of the Justinianic material, which came to comprise the mediaeval "Corpus of Civil Law" (Michael Crawford on the Institutes and Digest; Simon Corcoran on the Justinian Code).

This is not the first time in the recent past that the UCL Special Collections have furnished material useful for the study of Roman legal history. In 2010 there finally appeared in print for the first time the translation into English of Theophilus's so-called Paraphrasis, that was originally made between 1897 and 1901 by Alexander Falconer Murison (1847-1934), Professor of Roman Law at UCL (1883-1925). The Paraphrasis was a first-year law-school lecture course in Greek on the Latin Institutes of Justinian, probably given in 534, immediately after the Institutes themselves were published. Murison's clear and accurate translation now serves as the parallel text to a new edition of the Greek produced by a team of Groningen Byzantine legal historians, led by Professor Jan Lokin. Given the difficulty of reading Roman legal Greek, the translation is helping to make this important monument to the bilingual legal world of the sixth-century Roman Empire more accessible to both students and scholars. Also in 2010, Simon Corcoran published in the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies a reassessment of Murison's scholarly career, including his engagement with Theophilus, making extensive use of his papers deposited at UCL in the 1920s and 1930s (UCL Mss Add. 15-26).

Finally, it should be noted that UCL possesses a second Roman legal manuscript, also in the Ogden collection (UCL Ms Ogden 4), containing a copy of Justinian's Institutes, dating to the later thirteenth century, fortified by the standard Accursian gloss, added to the texts of the "Corpus of Civil Law".

Further reading

S. Corcoran, "Murison and Theophilus", Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 53/2 (2010), pp. 85-124 doi: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.2010.00011.x

S. Corcoran, Review of J.H.A. Lokin et al., Theophili Antecessoris Paraphrasis Institutionum and Analecta Groningana, in Journal of Roman Studies 101 (2011), pp. 338-340 http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1326451

L. Loschiavo, "Il codex graecus e le origini del Liber authenticorum", Zeitschrift der Savigny Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte: romanistische Abteilung 127 (2010), pp. 115-171 http://www.academia.edu/2053308

L. Loschiavo, "La riscoperta dell'Authenticum e la prima esegesi dei glossatori", in L. Loschiavo et al. (eds), Novellae Constitutiones. L'ultima legislazione di Giustiniano tra oriente e occidente da Triboniano a Savigny (2011), pp. 111-139 http://www.academia.edu/2053269

L. Loschiavo, "Un singolare manoscritto londinese dell'Authenticum (London, University College Library, Ogden 5)", in P. Maffei and G.M. Varanini (eds), "Honos alit artes". Studi per il settantesimo compleanno di Mario Ascheri (Florence, 2014), vol. III, pp. 73-82 http://www.academia.edu/8716388