Justinian and Mathematics: An Analysis of the Digest’s Compilation Plan.


Ο Ιουστινιανός και τα Μαθηματικά: Ανάλυση του Digestorum ή Πανδέκτης (Pandectae)

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The compilation of the Digest is almost universally accepted as having been executed by three distinct committees, each responsible for reading and excerpting from their particular allocation of ancient Roman legal books (libri). Recently, it has been argued that the reading and excerpting process was further delegated, with each committee containing two subcommittees. However, this view has proved quite contentious. In this article I argue that the Digest was indeed organized at the subcommittee level. I further argue that its final appearance was the result of a pre-ordained plan that the volume of the Digest should amount to precisely five percent – calculated in terms of lines per book – of the total number of libri collected and read. Finally, I show how the precision inherent in this compilation plan can be used to define the Digest’s timetable; as well as to identify which of the commission’s six named commissioners was responsible for each of the subcommittees.
The major task of the emperor Justinian’s Second Law Commission was the compilation of the Digest, a collection of existing Roman private legal writings. It took three years to complete, being authorized on 15 December 530 with the issuing of C. Deo auctore, and
promulgated in C. Tanta on 16 December 533. It was issued in a single volume of fifty books.2 The commission was chaired by Tribonian, who initially held the post of quaestor, and also included the following commissioners: Constantinus, a senior legal government official; Theophilus, dean of the law school in Constantinople; Dorotheus, a renowned professor of law summoned from Beirut; Anatolius, also a professor of law from Beirut; and Cratinus, another law professor from Constantinople.3 The Digest together with the Institutes and the Codex Iustinianus comprised the Corpus Iuris, of which Kunkel wrote: ‘For as the
Bible was to the theologians so was the Corpus Iuris to the jurists of the Middle Ages. It was
the repository of all wisdom’.4
The first major advance towards discovering the method used to assemble the Digest occurred in 1820 when Bluhme proposed that the original books of legal writings had been excerpted in an orderly manner to produce four masses (bodies of text)…

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