The New Student's Reference Work/Justinian I

Justin'ian I, nephew of Emperor Justin, was born in Illyricum in 482 or 483 A. D. Although slave-born, he shared in his uncle's success, and was given a good education at Constantinople. He was made a consul in 521. In 527 Justin proclaimed him his partner in the empire, and died four months afterward. His reign of 38 years is the most brilliant in the history of the later empire. Under the direction of the famous generals whom he chose, the famous Narses, Belisarius and others, the Roman empire was widened to its old limits and east and west united. Justinian, however, is most famous as a lawgiver. As soon as he gained the throne, the constitutions or imperial statutes were gathered and reduced to a code. But these statutes were but a small part of the law. The bulk of it — what we would call the common law — was contained in the writings of the jurists or law commentators. Of these writings there were many hundred volumes; but, owing to want of agreement between the writers, the law was very uncertain. Hence the famous Tribonian, with four associates, was instructed to prepare a single treatise which should cover the whole ground. This great work was accomplished in four years, and was published in fifty volumes, known as the Digest. On the same day — Dec. 31, 534 — Tribonian brought out a law-treatise, which Justinian caused to be prepared as a textbook for students. It is known to all modern lawyers as Justinian's Institutes. Justinian also bettered the condition of the slaves, taking away from their masters the power of putting them to death. He was an able ruler, and his intentions in the main were just and upright. He died on Nov. 14, 565. See his Life by G. Body.