1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Breviary of Alaric

BREVIARY OF ALARIC (Breviarium Alaricanum), a collection of Roman law, compiled by order of Alaric II., king of the Visigoths, with the advice of his bishops and nobles, in the twenty-second year of his reign (A.D. 506). It comprises sixteen books of the Theodosian code; the Novels of Theodosius II., Valentinian III., Marcian, Majorianus and Severus; the Institutes of Gaius; five books of the Sententiae Receptae of Julius Paulus; thirteen titles of the Gregorian code; two titles of the Hermogenian code; and a fragment of the first book of the Responsa Papiniani. It is termed a code (codex), in the certificate of Anianus, the king’s referendary, but unlike the code of Justinian, from which the writings of jurists were excluded, it comprises both imperial constitutions (leges) and juridical treatises (jura). From the circumstance that the Breviarium has prefixed to it a royal rescript (commonitorium) directing that copies of it, certified under the hand of Anianus, should be received exclusively as law throughout the kingdom of the Visigoths, the compilation of the code has been attributed to Anianus by many writers, and it is frequently designated the Breviary of Anianus (Breviarium Aniani). The code, however, appears to have been known amongst the Visigoths by the title of “Lex Romana,” or “Lex Theodosii,” and it was not until the 16th century that the title of “Breviarium” was introduced to distinguish it from a recast of the code, which was introduced into northern Italy in the 9th century for the use of the Romans in Lombardy. This recast of the Visigothic code has been preserved in a MS. known as the Codex Utinensis, which was formerly kept in the archives of the cathedral of Udine, but is now lost; and it was published in the 18th century for the first time by P. Canciani in his collection of ancient laws entitled Barbarorum Leges Antiquae. Another MS. of this Lombard recast of the Visigothic code was discovered by Hänel in the library of St Gall. The chief value of the Visigothic code consists in the fact that it is the only collection of Roman Law in which the five first books of the Theodosian code and five books of the Sententiae Receptae of Julius Paulus have been preserved, and until the discovery of a MS. in the chapter library in Verona, which contained the greater part of the Institutes of Gaius, it was the only work in which any portion of the institutional writings of that great jurist had come down to us.

The most complete edition of the Breviarium will be found in the collection of Roman law published under the title of Jus Civile Ante-Justinianum (Berlin, 1815). See also G. Hänel’s Lex Romana Visigothorum (Berlin, 1847–1849).