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Justinian launches second section of Code

This Day in World History

December 15, 530

Justinian launches second section of Code

One of the great projects of the Byzantine Empire was the creation of a revised law code during the rule of the Emperor Justinian. The emperor ordered the creation of this Code soon after taking the throne and entrusted the first task to Tribonian, a court official.

That first task was to compile and publish an authoritative set of laws based on a review of all imperial commands issued over the preceding five centuries. Tribonian and his fellow commissioners were to reconcile any contradictory commands, delete any that no longer applied, and update the whole to reflect current conditions. That work was completed in 529, when ten volumes of law code were published—the first of four parts of the Code of Justinian.

On December 15, 1530, Justinian took the second step in his reform effort, naming Tribonian to head a commission of a dozen legal scholars. The new task was to review all judicial decisions made over the centuries, distill the most important points, reword any confusing statements for clarity, and create a final collection that would serve as a model for future judicial rulings. He gave them ten years to complete the task; they finished the work in three. The result, published in 533, is called the Digest.

The third part of the Code was also published in 533. This section, the Institutions, was intended to serve as an introductory legal text. The fourth, called the Novels, collected all the new laws that appeared during Justinian’s rule.

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