A celebrated Roman lawyer whose origin is unknown. Taught by the lawyer Cervidius Scaevola (late 2nd cent. ad), he was active in Rome as advocate, teacher, and writer. Under Septimius Severus he was assessor to Papinian as praetorian prefect and became a member of the emperor's council and perhaps head of the records office (a memoria). He was thus able to publish reports of cases decided by Severus (Imperiales sententiae, Decreta), in which he shows his sturdy independence. Though the matter is disputed, he was possibly made praetorian prefect by Elegabalus in ad 219, when the emperor married Julia Cornelia Paula, whose name suggests that she was the lawyer's daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 220. Paulus was banished but was recalled by Severus Alexander (222–35), whom he served as counsellor while continuing to write.
His output in some five decades came to over 300 books (libri), including 16 on the civil law (Ad Sabinum) and 78 on the praetor's edict (Ad edictum praetoris), besides notes on earlier writers and dozens of monographs on particular topics. The big commentaries came early in his career, and the monographs often develop themes touched on in them. There are also 26 books of Quaestiones (‘Problems’) and 23 of Responsa (‘Opinions’) derived mainly from Paulus' extensive consultative practice. His fame attracted several spurious works, including the so-called Pauli sententiae (‘Paul's Views’), compiled in the late 3rd cent. but endorsed by Constantine I as genuine. The Law of Citations of 426 named him as one of five lawyers whose corpus of work had authority, and Justinian's compilers selected over 2,000 passages from him, some 17 per cent of the Digesta, often to supplement the account given by Ulpian. His bent as a writer was academic, even doctrinaire, his tone sharp, his outlook basically cautious; but his remarkable range of interests ensured that his ideas were continually evolving. Influenced by Aristotelian natural law and Stoic philosophy (see ARISTOTLE, he along with Ulpian helped to ensure the adaptation of Roman law to a cosmopolitan society.
Subjects: Classical studies