Contributions of the Ancient Roman Jurists to the Digest of Justinian

Justinian by a Constitution addressed to Tribonian empowered him to name a commission for the purpose of forming a Code out of the writings of those jurists who had enjoyed the Ius Respondendi, or, as it is expressed by the Emperor, "antiquorum prudentium quibus auctoritatem conscribendarum interpretandarumque legum sacratissimi principes praebuerunt." The compilation however comprises extracts from some writers of the Republican period (Const. Deo Auctore), and from Arcadius Charisius and Hermogenianus. Ten years were allowed for the completion of the work. The instructions of this Emperor were, to select what was useful, to omit what was antiquated or superfluous, to avoid unnecessary repetitions, to get rid of contradictions, and to make such other changes as should produce out of the mass of ancient Juristical writings a useful and complete body of law (jus antiquum). The compilation was to be distributed into Fifty Books and the Books were to be subdivided into Titles (Tituli). The work was to be named Digesta, a Latin term indicating an arrangement of materials, or Pandectae, a Greek word expressive of the comprehensiveness of the work. The name Digesta had already been used by Salvius Julianus for the title of his chief work. The term Pandectae had also been applied to compilations which contained various kinds of matter. It was also declared that no commentaries should be written on this compilation, but permission was given to make Paratitla or references to parallel passages with a short statement of their contents (Const. Deo Auctore). It was also declared that abbreviations (sigla) should not be used in forming the text of the Digest. The work was completed in three years (17 Cal. Jan. 533) as appears by a Constitution both in Greek and Latin which confirmed the work and gave to it legal authority (Const. Tanta, &c., and Δέδωκεν). 

Besides Tribonian, who had the general conduct of the undertaking, sixteen other persons are mentioned as having been employed on the work, among whom were the Professors Dorotheus and Anatolius, who for that purpose had been invited from the law-school of Berytus, and Theophilus and Cratinus who resided at Constantinople. The compilers made use of about two thousand different treatises, which contained above 3,000,000 lines (versus, στίχοι), but the amount retained in the compilation was only 150,000 lines. Tribonian procured this x-large collection of treatises, many of which had entirely fallen into oblivion, and a list of them was prefixed to the work, pursuant to the instructions of Justinian (Const. Tanta, &c., s16). Such a list is at present only found in the Florentine MS. of the Digest, but it is far from being accurate. Still it is probably the Index mentioned in the Constitution, Tanta, &c.

The work is thus distributed into Fifty Books, which, with the exception of three books, are subdivided into Titles, of which there are said to be 422. The books 30, 31, 32, are not divided into Titles, but have one common Title, De Legatis et Fideicommissis; and the first Title of the 45th book, De Verborum Obligationibus, is really divided into three parts, though they have not separate Rubricae. Under each Title are placed the extracts from the several jurists, numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on, with the writer's name and the name and division of the work from which the extract is made. These extracts are said to amount to 9123. No name, corresponding to Liber or Titulus, is given to these subdivisions of Tituli which are formed by the extracts from the several writers, but Justinian (Const. Tanta, &c., s7) has called them "leges," and though not "laws" in the strict sense of the term, they were in fact "law;" and in the same sense the Emperor calls the jurists "legislatores" (Const. Tanta). The Fifty Books differ materially both in bulk, number of titles, and number of extracts. The Glossatores and their followers, in referring to the Digest, sometimes indicate the work by P, p, or Π, and sometimes by D or ff, which according to some writers represents D, and according to others.

There was also a division of the whole Fifty Books into Sevenx-large r masses, called Partes, which corresponded to the seven main divisions of the works on the Edict, and had also a special reference to the course of instruction then established. Thus the first Pars comprises Four Books, the second Pars comprises seven Books, and so on (Const. Tanta, "Igitur prima quidem pars," &c.).

The number of writers from whose works extracts were made is thirty-nine, comprehending those Jurists from whom extracts were made at second hand, as Q. Mucius Scaevola, the Pontifex, from whom four fragments, and Aelius Gallus from whom one fragment is taken; but omitting Servius Sulpicius Rufus, who is represented by Alfenus, distinguishing Aelius Gallus from Julius Aquila, Venuleius from Claudius Saturninus; assuming that there is only one Pomponius, and omitting Sabinus whose name is erroneously inserted in the Florentine Index.

The following is the list of Jurists from whose writings the Digest was constructed, as it is given in the Palingenesia of Hommelius, who has arranged the matter taken from each writer under his name, and placed the names in alphabetical order. The dates of the Jurists are chiefly founded on the authority of Zimmern. The figures in the third column indicate the proportions contributed to the Digest by each Jurist, estimated in the pages of Hommelius: (a) denotes that the contribution is under one page of the Palingenesia. This list includes Sabinus. The extracts from many of the writers are few and short: those from Ulpian are more than a third of the whole; and next to these the extracts from Paulus, Papinian, Julianus, Pomponius, Q. Cervidius Scaevola, and Gaius, are thex-large st.

Jurists DATE
Sextus Caecilius Africanus Hadrian and the Antonini 24
Alfenus Varus a pupil of Servius Sulpicius Rufus and contemporary with Cicero 9
Furius Anthianus Unknown (a)
Julius Aquila perhaps about the time of Sep. Severus (a)
Aurelius Arcadius Charisius Constantine the Great 1/2
Callistratus Caracalla 17 1/2
Juventius Celsus Domitian and Hadrian 23
Florentinus Alex. Severus 4
Gaius Hadrian and the Antonini 72
C. Aelius Gallus a contemporary of Cicero (a)
Claudius Hermogenianus Constantine the Great 1/2
Priscus Javolenus Nerva and Hadrian 23 1/2
Salvius Julianus a pupil of Javolenus 90
M. Antistius Labeo Augustus 12
Aemilius Macer Alex. Severus 10
Lucius Volusius Maecianus Antoninus Pius 8
Lucius Ulpius Marcellus The Antonini 32 1/2
Aelius Marcianus Caracalla and Alex. Severus 38
Junius Mauricianus Antoninus Pius 1/2
Rutilius Maximus Unknown (a)
Arrius Menander Caracalla 3
Herennius Modestinus a pupil of D. Ulpianus 41 1/2
Quintus Mucius Scaevola Pontifex Maximus, consul B.C. 95 1
Priscus Neratius Trajan 10
Lucius Aemilius Papinianus S. Severus and Caracalla 104
Justus Papirius M. Aurelius 1/4
Julius Paulus Alex. Severus 297
Pomponius Antoninus Pius 80
Licinius? Proculus Otho? 6
Licinius Rufinus Caracalla 1/2
Massurius Sabinus Tiberius 1/2
Claudius Saturninus The Antonini 1
Qu. Cervidius Scaevola The Antonini 78 1/2
Paternus Tarrentenus Commodus (a)
Clemens Terentius Hadrian and the Antonini 1/2
Q. Sep. Florens Tertullianus S. Severus and Caracalla 1/4
Claudius Tryphoninus S. Severus and Caracalla 22
Salvius Aburnus Valens Hadrian and Antoninus Pius 3
Venuleius The Antonini 10
Domitius Ulpianus S. Severus and Alex. Severus 610

Return to Justinian's Codification

Excerpted from article, "PANDECTAE or DIGESTA" by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College  in William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D. ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (John Murray, London, 1875)  pp. 858‑861.