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Tribonian

(c. 470—541)


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The main architect of Justinian's codification of Roman law in the 6th cent. ad, was a lawyer from Side in Pamphylia who practised as an advocate and rose to be magister officiorum (master of offices) and in September 529 quaestor (minister of justice). He was a member of the commission to prepare Justinian's Codex of imperial laws (ad 528–9), and in 530 Justinian put him in charge of the preparation of the Digesta of legal writings (530–3), which he supervised throughout. He seems also to have played a full part (though this is disputed) in the detailed work of excerpting and editing the texts of earlier lawyers, of which he had a large personal collection and a deep knowledge. In 533 he headed a commission of three to prepare an up-to-date version of Gaius's Institutes, and in 534 produced a second edition of the Codex. Accused of corruption and innovation, he was removed from office in January 532 as a sop to the public at the time of the Nika riots, but continued to work on the codification and by 535 had resumed the office of quaestor, which he held until his death in 541 or 542, continuing to draft new slaws (Novellae). An erudite and self-confident man and a writer in the grand style in both Latin and Greek, Tribonianus, who is said to have been anti-Christian, was steeped in Neoplatonic philosophy of an Aristotelian type (see ARISTOTLE). In the Renaissance he was accused of ruining Roman law by introducing changes into the classical legal texts, originally written 250 to 500 years earlier, when they were incorporated in Justinian's Digesta. On a balanced view, however, the changes he made, apart from shortening and eliminating what was obsolete, were limited; they consisted largely in developing ideas found in the earlier writers, with whom Tribonianus considered himself to be on a par.

Tony Honoré

Subjects: Classical studies


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