Projet Volterra


Epitome Iuliani

The Epitome of Julian 

by Simon Corcoran


Law-school texts after 533

In 533, in his constitution Omnem addressed to the law professors of Beirut and Constantinople, Justinian laid down a five-year legal course, comprising both taught elements and self-study, using those materials produced by his great codification, namely the Institutes, Digest and Code. He continued, however, to issue a great deal of new legislation (novellae constitutiones or novels), although he never got around to organizing them into an official collection. Nonetheless, since they contained important modifications and revisions of the earlier codified material, they could hardly be ignored in legal teaching. It is not surprising, therefore, that it was the law professors, who were instrumental in creating collections of novels for their own instructional purposes. We do not know how the formal curriculum was adapted to allow for this additional material, although a sixth year of study is one plausible option.

The development of legal teaching was much driven by problems of language - namely the fact that in the surviving portions of the empire, Greek was the common language of culture and education, while Latin had remained the language of most legal texts. Teaching, therefore, became a two-fold process. First came a series of lectures (in Greek) providing summaries of the (mainly Latin) material, known as an index. Then came examination of the original (Latin) text with the help of explanatory paragraphai (in Greek). This was further aided by the creation of word-for-word interlinear translations ("kata podas"). The best surviving example of such Greek teaching materials is the paraphrasis of Theophilus for the Institutes (of which he was one of the original co-authors, although this identification has been challenged). This work, as it survives, is essentially an amalgam of the index and paragraphai.

In contrast to the codified material of 533-4, the Novels were overwhelmingly issued in Greek. It is no surprise, therefore, that the major teaching texts that survive for the Novels are a mirror of that for the earlier Latin legal texts. What we possess are course materials from the academic year 556/7, clearly designed to help Latin speaking students from Italy or other Latinate areas cope with Greek texts. First, there is the Authenticum, which represents the Latin "kata podas" translation of a set of Novels (although a few novels are original versions issued to Latin speaking provinces). And then there is the Epitome of Julian.

Julian and his Epitome

The Epitome of Julian represents the lecture course (index) on the Novels given by Julian, the last known antecessor or law professor at Constantinople. That the law teachers were making their own collections of novels and not working from some standard set is made all the clearer by the fact that the Authenticum and the Epitome represent different (although extensively overlapping) selections of material.

The Epitome of Julian deals with 124 novels of Justinian. Its use in teaching at Constantinople may not have outlasted Justinian's death by much, as the law school and its prescribed curriculum seem to have come to an end under Justin II. However, in Italy, it was this summary version of the novels that remained best known in the early middle ages, until superseded in the XII C. by the Authenticum (believed to be Justinian's official compilation promised for Italy), following the reanimation of the rest of the Justinianic corpus during the XI C.

The Volterra version of the Epitome

The text used for this web-version of the Epitome is the standard edition of Gustav Hänel (1873), but without the apparatus criticus, and employing upper case "V" and lower case "u" throughout, while the subscripts or dating clauses at the end of each Constitutio are given in Roman capitals. Hänel's edition is also used by Fiorelli Bartoletti Colombo (1996) with minor corrections listed on pp. 19-20. These avoid substantive emendation and are for the most part the tidying of orthography and presentation, which we generally follow. The Florence edition is part of the series "Legum Iustiniani Imperatoris Vocabularium", of which the major part is a concordance to the Greek (mainly the Collectio CLXVIII Novellarum) and Latin (mainly the Authenticum) versions of Justinian's novels (8 and 11 vols. respectively; Milan, 1977-1989). In addition to the bare text, therefore, the Epitome volume contains also useful indexes of words &c., plus a searchable database on a 3.5" floppy disk. It is a sign of the speed of technological change that many computers no longer possess the drives to read such disks, and it is a pity that their database has not, to our knowledge, been subsequently mounted on the web. We hope that our version, although less sophisticated, is at least readily accessible.

Note that, although the summaries of the constitutions are numbered CONST. I to CXXIV, it is the chapters within each that bear individual headings. Further, although these chapters are numbered within each constitution, they are also numbered in a continuous sequence kp. 1 to 564, which numeration provides the most frequently used reference system for the Epitome.


F. Briguglio, 'L' «Epitome Iuliani» e il « Legum Iustiniani imperatoris vocabularium»', Rivista di Diritto Romano 1 (2001)
P. Fiorelli and A.M. Bartoletti Colombo, Iuliani Epitome Latina Novellarum Iustiniani (Florence, 1996)
Gustav Hänel, Iuliani Epitome Latina Novellarum Iustiniani (Leipzig, 1873; repr. Osnabrück, 1965)
W. Kaiser, Die Epitome Iuliani: Beiträge zum römischen Recht im frühen Mittelalter und zum byzantinischen Rechtsunterricht (Frankfurt, 2004) [A magisterial and detailed account, which was awarded the gold medal at the VII Premio Boulvert in 2007]

Other Julianic materials

Other works associated with the Epitome are transmitted as appendices to it in the mediaeval manuscripts. They divide into two sets. In Appendix A are found a set of scholia and a summary of the pragmatic sanction of Justinian which restored the government of Italy in 554. Appendix B contains summaries of three Novels (134, 121, 138), two short treatises or lectures (the Dictatum de consiliariis; the Collectio de tutoribus), the paratitla (essentially an index with cross-references to other legal sources) and a set of chapter headings.

A later summary almost entirely based on Julian's material dealing with church matters, the Summa de ordine ecclesiastico, is also available on-line.


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