Codex Theodosianus - Context of Code

Context of Code

The Code was written in Latin and incorporated the terms Constantinopolitana and Roma for Constantine's capital and for the original capital in Italy. It was also concerned with the imposition of orthodoxy - the Arian controversy was ongoing - within the Christian religion and contains 65 decrees directed at heretics.

Originally, Theodosius had attempted to commission leges generales beginning with Constantine to be used as a supplement for the Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus. He intended to supplement the legal codes with the opinions and writings of ancient Roman Jurists, much like the Digest found later in Justinian's Code. But the task proved to be too great, and in 435 it was decided to concentrate solely on the laws from Constantine to the time of writing. This decision defined the greatest difference between the Theodosian Code and Justinian's later Corpus Juris Civilis.

John F. Matthews observes, "The Theodosian Code does, however, differ from the work of Justinian (except the Novellae), in that it was largely based not on existing juristic writings and collections of texts, but on primary sources that had never before been brought together." Justinian’s Code, published about 100 years later, comprised both ius, "law as an interpretive discipline", and leges, "the primary legislation upon which the interpretation was based." While the first part, or Codex, of Justinian’s Corpus Civilis Juris contained 12 books of constitutions, or imperial laws, the second and third parts, the Digest and the Institutiones, contained the ius of Classical Roman jurists and the Institutes of Gaius.

While the Theodosian Code may seem to lack a personal facet due to the absence of judicial reviews, upon further review the legal code can give us insight into Theodosius' motives behind the codification. Lenski quotes Matthews as noting that the "imperial constitutions represented not only prescriptive legal formulas but also descriptive pronouncements of an emperor’s moral and ideological principles." Apart from clearing up confusion and creating a single, simplified and supercedent code, Theodosius II was also attempting to solidify Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, begun under Constantine's rule. In his City of God, St. Augustine praised Theodosius the Great, Theodosius II's grandfather, who shared his faith and devotion to its establishment, as "a Christian ruler whose piety was expressed by the laws he had issued in favor of the Catholic Church."

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