The Legislative Works of Alfonso X, el Sabio.

Siete Partidas 1251-1265

Generally considered the most important law code of the Middle Ages (andx-large st legislative compilation since Roman times). In 1251 Alfonso commissioned a group of jurists to effect the legislative reform envisioned by his father, Fernando III. The work was intended to ultimately replace the bastardized Visigothic Forum Judicum (the Fuero Juzgo, in Asturias & León) as well as the diverse, conflicting, and confusing legislative maze of local Fueros and unwritten customs (in Castile). Based on customary law, Roman and canon law, Alfonso's Fuero Real, and ideas of Aristotle, Seneca and Isidore of Seville, this legislative synthesis (enriched with doctrinal commentary and exposition of philosophical principles) is intended to guide jurists and future monarchs and promote social harmony by providing subjects with norms and legal dispositions to regulate human activity in all forms of social intercourse.


  ...nos, el sobredicho Rey don Alffonso, entendiendo y ueyendo los grandes males que nascien e se leuantauan entre las gentes de nuestro sennorio por los muchos fueros que usauan en las uillas et en las tierras, que eran contra dios e contra derecho, assi que los unos se yudgauan por fazannas desaguisadas e sin razon, e los otros por libros minguados de derecho, e aun aquellos libros rayen e escriuien y lo que les semeiaua a pro dellos, e a danno de los pueblos, tolliend o a los Reyes su poderio e sus derechos, e tomando lo porassi, lo que non deuie seer fecho en ninguna manera. E por todas estas razones minguaua se la iusticia e el derecho, porque los que auien de yudgar los pleytos non podien en cierto nin conplidamient re dar los iuyzios, ante, los dauan auentura e a su uoluntad, e los que recibien el danno non podien auer iusticia ni emienda, assi cuemo deuien. Onde nos, por toller todos estos males que dicho auemos, fiziemos estas leyes que son escriptas en este libro a seruicio de dios e a pro comunal de todos los de nuestro sennorio, porque connoscan e entiendan ciertamientre el derecho, e sepan obrar por el e guardarse de fazer yerro porque no cayan en pena.[Prolog. Siete Partidas, ms. 20787 British Museum A dd.]


The 7 books of law:

1 Book

Canonical code: defining obligations of clergy and matters of dogma. Except title I, on law (what it is, who has power to make laws and why, who has power to amend laws, etc.). 

2 Book

Emperors, kings & other lords: The prerogatives, rights & duties of those who govern.

3 Book

Justice and its administration.

4 Book

Laws governing matrimony, kinship, position of legitimate and illegitimate children, adoption, paternal rights, slavery and freedom, lordship,

5 Book

Commercial law: governing loans, debts, contracts, purchases, exchanges, fairs, markets, merchant marine, and all other forms of commerce and dealings among men.

6 Book

Wills, inheritance, guardianship of orphans and minors

7 Book

Criminal Law: crimes, calumny, penalties, punishments, indemnities. Laws governing Jews, Moors and heretics.


Notable characteristics include:

Other legislative works:

Setenario Begun by Alfonso during his father's reign. Although charged with its completion and apparently personally involved in its elaboration, Alfonso turned his attention to the larger project of comprehensive legislative reform before the work was completed; much of it corresponds to the first of the Siete Partidas. Includes considerations on understanding, nature, the ages of man, knowledge and the liberal arts, metals and their production, different forms of religiosity and paganism, true faith, articles of the Creed and the Sacraments, all distributed over a strictly adhered-to septenary model. Despite its many deficiencies, as a stylistically unified, organic exposition of the microcosm-macrocosm doctrine of cosmic unity, the work has been called the "most lucid and attractive explication of the world view presiding over the entire Alfonsi corpus".

Fuero Real 1255. Granted to Castile in 1255 to supplement existing law, but valid only when it didn't contradict local law. Used by judges at king's court of appeals. Concise, clear, methodical and factual. Parts of it incorporated into the Siete Partidas.

El Espéculo 1255. Divided into 5 books (6th and 7th referred to, but never compiled). Book I: law, doctrine of Trinity, articles of Catholic faith; Books II -III: political and military organization of the kingdom; Books IV-V: Justice. Intended for wide distribution (one copy to each town). Very different style from Siete Partidas (concise, factual, devoid of displays of erudition), yet much of its contents reappear in the more ambitious work. Compiled, says Alfonso, "with the advice and general consent of the archbishops and bishops and noblemen and most honorable experts of law that we could find, and others who were in our court and our kingdom". Title derived from A's prolog: "...this book, that is a mirror of the law by which all our domains are to be judged". The prolog also explains the historical reasons for the current chaotic state of legislation in the Peninsula and the need, first voiced by his father, to effect a legislative reform that would return the kingdom to "a state such as that which was maintained in ancient times by the emperors and kings from which he [his father] descended" and "that it be known as an empire, not a kingdom, and he, not king, but emperor".