IV. Sources

Why then is the concept of legal culture particularly suited to the study of law in the Middle Byzantine period? This approach was chosen, in part, because it can be employed with the types and quantities of sources, particularly legal sources, which are available to the historian for this period, about which more shall be said later in the introduction, but which can be broadly characterized as follows: an abundance of law-books, imperial novels, and legal textbooks (which will be referred to as normative legal sources), but relatively few records of cases or examples of what legal historians like to call “the law in action.” This imbalance has impinged upon the type of work which most Byzantine legal historians have undertaken in the past, which is primarily Quellen kritik. Although it is worth going into greater detail as to the normative legal sources which this study utilizes, it should be noted that there exist numerous and much more exhaustive studies of Byzantine normative legal sources.33

Here, normative legal sources include the following: law books,
imperial novels,34 legal textbooks, scholia and commentaries on other legal sources and
legal treatises. Among law-books a distinction is to be made between official or imperially sanctioned collections of law and so-called private collections. The former were compiled and  sanctioned by the imperial regime and represented the official law of the land. The chronology and content of the major imperially-sanctioned law-books of this period, which include the Prochiron, Eisagoge, Leo VI’s Sixty Books/Basilika, and the Epitome are explored in detail in Chapter One. It is important to note that the most important of these codifications, that of the Basilika, has not survived in its entirety; 16 of its 60 books are not directly transmitted.35 Private collections of law, such as the Farmer’s Law, Mosaic Law, and Rhodian Sea-Law for the most  part have unclear origins and were not imperially-sanctioned, although sometimes forged histories of imperial promulgation were appended to these texts. The chronology and content of  these private laws is presented in Chapter Five. There are relatively few imperial novels issued after Justinian which have survived. The major collection of post-Justinianic imperial novels,that of Leo VI, is examined in Chapter One.

This dissertation makes major use of legal textbooks from this period, particularly the so called Peira, an anonymously-compiled casebook consisting of the judgments and verdicts of Eustathios Rhomaios, a jurist whose activity as a judge spanned the last quarter of the tenth and the first two quarters of the eleventh century.36 Of the 200 to 300 decisions (hypomnēmata) which Eustathios wrote and which were used along with his shorter pronouncements of a verdict (sēmeiōmata) as the basis for the Peira, only six decisions have survived in their entirety.37 Very soon after the composition of the Peira in the middle of the eleventh century it was used as a legal textbook, as a school text stemming from the first half of the twelfth century testifies.38
Eustathios also wrote a legal treatise on the bride-gift (hypobolon), referred to in the secondary literature as the De hypobolo (“On the bride-gift”).39 Finally, later tradition identifies Eustathios as the author of a text on the property acquired or delegated to family members who did not have the patria potestas, a peculium (Gr. pekoulion).40
The Peira is one of the few sources which allows historians to see how the law was
applied and interpreted by Byzantine jurists at the higher Constantinopolitan courts of the
Hippodrome and Velum. In analyzing the Peira, one must be careful to distinguish, where it is possible, between the work’s anonymous redactor, who added the references to the Basilika, and the oeuvre of Eustathios himself.41 Despite its obvious importance, the Peira remains in many ways a source which is underutilized by Middle Byzantine historians. A number of reasons have contributed to this state of affairs. Zachariä’s edition is imperfect, although given that the entire Peira survives only in one manuscript, it is not to be assumed that a new edition would correct all of the ambiguities of the current edition. The lack of a translation or commentary in any   modern language hinders access to the text for non-specialists. The new edition, German translation and commentary currently being undertaken by Ludwig Burgmann will render many of these obstacles obsolete when it is completed.42
This dissertation also makes use of scholia, particularly the scholia to the Basilika.43
These scholia are agreed to exist in two main divisions: “old” scholia dating from the sixth
century and “new” scholia dating mainly from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.44 Oftentimes a name at beginning of the scholion indicates the author. Unfortunately, not all of the scholia to the Basilika can be dated: many are anonymous and dating them by other means, such as vocabulary, is a very tricky proposition. Additionally, some scholars have bemoaned, quite rightly, the practice of categorizing scholia into “new” and “old” in general, as oftentimes the scholia themselves are written in much more complex fashion. For instance, a sixth-century scholion to the Justinianic corpus was sometimes continually reworked by later scholiasts: in such a case does one classify the scholion as “new” or “old”?45

There are differing views as to whether when these scholia, particularly the “old” scholia,
were attached to the text of the Basilika itself, and whether these scholia constituted a catenastyle commentary.46 According to one view, the surviving manuscripts indicate that there never existed any archetypal or standard collection of scholia; it appears as though scholia were selected and written sui generis for each manuscript.47 According to another view, a catena-style commentary to the Basilika, consisting of both “old” as was many “new” scholia, was completed in the middle of the eleventh-century, probably during the reign of Constantine IX Monomachos.48
Last but not least among normative legal sources, there are a number of legal treatises on
special subjects, especially from the eleventh century. Chief among them are the Meditatio de nudis pactis (“Treatise on open pacts”) and the Tractatus de peculiis (“On the property of minors”). These Middle Byzantine legal treatises are discussed in detail in Chapter Four.
For the purposes of this study, non-normative legal sources include the various types of
documents found in surviving monastic acts, such as wills, deeds of sale, gifts and agreements.
These sources are given little or no coverage in most surveys of Byzantine law. Most of the
surviving monastic acts from the time of the Macedonian dynasty stem from the various Athonite monasteries, although a few documents from elsewhere in the Balkans as well as Asia Minor and Southern Italy survive from this period as well.
As mentioned above, this dissertation also makes extensive use of sources which are not
generally the preserve of Byzantine legal historians, including chronicles, epistolary collections,histories and orations. Two categories of sources which are excluded from this dissertation for different reasons are lead seals and saints’ lives. Lead seals, although incredibly useful for administrative and prosopographic studies, are less informative regarding Byzantine Legal Culture. Hagiographic sources, by contrast, would have greatly enriched this study, but given  their vastness and the special problems they present the legal historian they were excluded from types of sources used by this dissertation: indeed, they merit a study of legal culture in and of themselves.49


Zachary Ray Chitwood


33 Karl Eduard Zachariä von Lingenthal, Historiae juris graeco-romani delineatio; N. van der Wal and J.H.A.Lokin, Historiae iuris graeco-romani delineatio: les sources du droit byzantin de 300 à 1453 (Groningen: E.Forsten, 1985); Peter E. Pieler, “Νομικὴ φιλολογία”, translated by Eleutheria Papagiannē and Spyros Trōianos, in
Herbert Hunger (ed.), Βυζαντινὴ λογοτεχνία. Ἡ λόγια κοσμικὴ γραμματεία τῶν Βυζαντινῶν, 3 vols. (Athens:Morphōtiko Hidryma Ethnikēs Trapezēs, 1991-4), vol. 3 (1994), pp. 183-379 [A much-updated Greek translation of idem, “Byzantinische Rechtswissenschaft” in Hubert Hunger (ed.), Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der
Byzantiner, Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft 12/5 , 2 vols. (Munich: Beck, 1978), vol. 2., pp. 343-480]; Spyros N. Trōianos, Οι πηγές του Βυζαντινού Δικαίου, 3rd ed. (Athens: Ant. N. Sakkoula, 2011); Leopold Wenger, Die Quellen des römischen Rechts, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften; Denkschriften der gesamten
Akademie 2 (Vienna: A. Holzhausen, 1953).
34 An exhaustive discussion of the history (from around the year 1500 to the present day) of the editions of imperial novels issued from the time of Justinian onward can be found in Ludwig Burgmann, “Die Gesetze der byzantinischen Kaiser”, FM 11(2005): pp. 77-132. As Burgmann points it, only a small portion of these novels (around one-fifth) are in editions which meet contemporary standards of textual criticism (ibid., pp. 126-7).
Regarding the novels issued by emperors of the Macedonian dynasty after Leo VI, see Andreas Schminck, “Zur Einzelgesetzgebung der ‘makedonischen’ Kaiser”, FM 11 (2005): pp. 269-323.
35 Nicholaas van der Wal, “Probleme bei der Restitution verlorengegangener Basilikenbücher”, SG 3 (1989): pp.143-54.

36 There are no hard and fast dates for Eustathios’ life; Nicholas Oikonomides (“The ‘Peira’ of Eustathios Rhomaios.
An Abortive Attempt to Innovate in Byzantine Law”, FM 7 (1986): pp. 169-192) conjectured that he was born c.970 and died sometime in the early 1030s, although Andreas Schminck believes that Eustathios was born no later than the early years of the 960s (“Zur Einzelgesetzgebung der ‘makedonischen’ Kaiser”, pp. 305-6) and possibly
considerably earlier than that. There are numerous articles and studies of the Peira, but relatively few of them have attempted to place the work within its wider historical and societal context. Among the exceptions are: Oiknomides,“The ‘Peira’ of Eustathios Rhomaios” and Speros Vryonis, Jr., “The Peira as a Source for the History of Byzantine
Aristocratic Society in the First Half of the Eleventh Century” in Dickran K. Kouymjian (ed.), Near Eastern Numismatics, Iconography, Epigraphy and History, Studies in Honor of George C. Miles (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1974), pp. 279-84. The broad outlines of Eustathios’ jurisprudence are presented in Simon,Rechtsfindung, as well as Günter Weiss, “Hohe Richter in Konstantinopel. Eustathios Rhomaios und seine
Kollegen”, JÖB 22 (1973): pp. 117-43.

In general, analyses of the Peira and of Eustathios’ other writings tend to be studies of particular legal institutions. Marriage law has been extensively studied: see Ludwig Burgmann, “Turning Sisinnios against the Sisinnians: Eustathios Romaios on a disputed Marriage” in Paul Magdalino (ed.), Byzantium in
the year 1000, Medieval Mediterranean Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400-1500 45 (Leiden; Boston: Brill,2003), pp. 161-81; El. Sp. Papagiannē, “Το έγκλημα της ‘φθοράς’ και η αγωγή ‘περί ύβρεως’ στο χωρίο 49.4 της Πείρας” in Spyros N. Trōianos (ed.). Κατευόδιον: in memoriam Nikos Oikonomides, Forschungen zur byzantinischen Rechtsgeschichte 15; Athener Reihe (Athens-Komotēnē: Ekdoseis Ant. N. Sakkoula, 2008), pp. 5-26; Dieter Simon, “Das Ehegüterrecht der Pira. Ein systematischer Versuch”, FM 7 (1987): pp. 193-238; Sp. N.Trōianos “Μοιχεία και περιουσιακές συνέπειες. Μία παρερμηνεία στη βυζαντινή νομολογία του 11ου αιώνα” in Μνήμη Ν. Χωραφά, Η. Γάφου και Κ. Γαρδίκα (Athens: Ant. N. Sakkoula, 1986), pp. 283-9. Two articles of
Antonio d’Emilia treated the law of sale and inheritance law, respectively: see idem, “L’applicazione pratica del diritto bizantino secondo il titolo della Πεῖρα Εὐσταθίου τοῦ Ρωμαίου relativa alla compravendita”, Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici n.s. 2-3[12-13] (1965-6): pp. 33-80; idem, “L’applicazione pratica del diritto ereditario
bizantino secondo la c.d. ‘Peira d’Eustazio Romano’”, Rivista di studi bizantini e neoellenici n.s. 4 [14] (1967): pp.71-94. Among other aspects of the Peira which have recently been examined include slavery (Helga Köpstein,“Sklaven in der ‘Peira’”, FM 9 [1993]: pp. 1-33) as well as the sale of office; see D. Tsourka-Papasthathē, “Vente d’office. Observations sur la Πεῖρα Ευσταθίου του Ρωμαίου 38.74” in Ch. Papastathis (ed.), Byzantine Law:
Proceedings of the International Symposium of Jurists, Thessaloniki, 10-13 December 1998 (Thessaloniki: The Bar Association of Thessaloniki, 2001), pp. 229-34 [a translated and updated version of eadem, “Πώληση οφφικίου.
Παρατηρήσεις στην ‘Πείρα’ Ευσταθίου του Ρωμαίου 38.74”, Επιστημονική Επετηρίδα Δικηγορικού Συλλόγου Θεσσαλονίκης «Αρμενόπουλος» 23 (2002): pp. 13-30]. The text has even been used as an indicator of economic data; see Angeliki Laiou, “Οικονομικά ζητήματα στη ‘Πείρα’ Ευσταθίου του Ρωμαίου” in Basilikē N. Vlysidou
(ed.), Η αυτοκρατορία σε κρίση? Το Βυζάντιο τον 11ο αιώνα, 1025-81, Διεθνή συμπόσια 11 (Athens: Ethniko Hidryma Ereuōn, Institouto Vyzantinōn Ereuōn, 2003), pp. 179-89. For a detailed analysis of the terminology employed for the various documents mentioned in the Peira, see Ludwig Burgmann, “Zur diplomatischen Terminologie in der Peira” in Lars M. Hoffmann (ed.), Zwischen Polis, Provinz und Peripherie. Beiträge zur
byzantinischen Geschichte und Kultur (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2005), pp. 457-67.
37 Four of these decisions are edited in Andreas Schminck, “Vier eherechtliche Entscheidungen aus dem 11.Jahrhundert”, FM 3 (1979): pp. 221-322. The other two were for many years ascribed to the Patriarch Alexios Stoudites (1025-43), but were in fact the work of Eustathios as well (Schminck, “Vier eherechtliche
Entscheidungen”, p. 222).
38 M. Treu, “Ein byzantinisches Schulgespräch”, BZ 2 (1893): pp. 96-105. Treu dated this text to the end of the  eleventh century on the basis of a mention of the Tipoukeitos, but, as Schminck observed, it was more likely  composed in the first half of the twelfth century; see Schminck, “Vier eherechtliche Entscheidungen”, p. 221, note 2.
39 Diether Roderich Reinsch, “Eustathios Rhomaios’ Opusculum über das Hypobolon”, FM 7 (1986): pp. 239-52.
40 Marie Theres Fögen and Dieter Simon, “Tractatus de peculiis”, FM 10 (1998): pp. 261-318. On the authorship of  the tract, see pp. 294-6.
41 A very good point recently made by Boudewijn Sirks; see idem, “Peira 45.11, a presumed succession pact, and the  Peira as legal source” in Christian Gastgeber (ed.), Quellen zur byzantinischen Rechtspraxis; Aspekte der  Textüberlieferugn, Paläographie und Diplomatik, Akten des internationalen Symposiums, Wien, 5.-7.11.2007,
Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung 25 (Vienna: Verlag der Österrichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften,2010), pp. 189-99, here pp. 198-9. In general when the jurisprudence of Eustathios can be discerned, then it conforms to Justinianic law, see idem, “The Peira: Roman Law in Greek Setting” in Studi in onore di Remo Martini III, Università di Siena-Facoltà di Giurisprudenza e di Sicenze Politische, Collana di Studi “Pietro Rossi”, Nuova
Serie 23 (Milan: Giuffrè Editore, 2009), pp. 583-591, p. 590: “The conclusion is that in the early 11th century the law on the legitimate portion as collected in Peira 41 did not differ much or at all from the law in the 6th century and was applied in a way, basically consistent with 6th century law.”

42 Burgmann has already published a sample of the work, a translation and commentary of Peira, Chapter 51 “On Judges”; see Ludwig Burgmann, “Peira 51. Übersetzung und Kommentar” in Spyros N. Trōianos (ed.), Κατευόδιον:
in memoriam Nikos Oikonomides, pp. 5-26.
43 Contained in vols. 9-16 of the Groningen edition of the Basilika. For a detailed discussion of the Basilika scholia,see Fritz Pringsheim, “Über die Basiliken-Scholien”, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte.
Romanistische Abteilung 80 (1963): pp. 287-341. Since the publication of the Groningen edition of the Basilika, a number of new Basilika scholia have been discovered in manuscripts. Marie Theres Fögen brought to light two manuscripts which contained fragments of Bas. 37.1-2 (which is only reconstructed to a very small degree in the
Groningen edition); see M. Th. Fögen, “Zur Restitution von B. 37.1 und 2”, FM 3 (1979): pp. 178-93. Somewhat  later Fögen and Burgmann published scholia on books 2, 7-8 of the Basilika; see L. Burgmann and M.Th. Fögen,“Florilegium Lesbiacum”, FM 5 (1982): pp. 107-178. 51 passages from the Basilika which to that point had not been
directed transmitted along with 44 new Basilika scholia were published in Viktor Tiftixoglu and Spyros Troianos,“Unbekannte Kaiserurkunden und Basilikentestimonia”, FM 9 (1993): pp. 137-79. Scholia from books 35-45 were edited in that same volume of Fontes Minores; see Joachim Dittrich, “Die Scholien des Cod. Taur. B.I.20.”, FM 9
(1993): pp. 181-298. Quite recently, two new Basilika manuscripts from the Austrian National Library were discovered, which unfortunately add little to the reconstructed text (mainly some better readings for book 19); see Bernard H. Stolte, “Zwei neue Basiliken-Handschriften in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek II:
Rechtshistorische Analyse” in Christian Gastgeber (ed.), Quellen zur byzantinischen Rechtspraxis, pp. 139-51.
44 See Andreas Schminck, “Basilika” in ODB, vol. 1, p. 265.
45 L. Burgmann and M.Th. Fögen, “Florilegium Lesbiacum”, p. 127.

46 For a concise summary of these issues, see Trōianos, Οι πηγές, p. 281ff.
47 H.J. Scheltema, “Über die Scholienapparate der Basiliken”, in Mnemosynon Bizoukidès (Thessloniki, 1960), pp.139-45 (Reprinted in idem, Opera minora ad iuris historiam pertinentia [Groningen: Chimaira, 2004], B20).
48 Schminck, Studien, pp. 47-52.

49 Kalliopē A. Bourdara has studied the idea of justice and the basis of the law in Middle Byzantine hagiography; see eadem, Το δίκαιο στα αγιολογικά κείμενα, Forschungen zur byzantinischen Rechtsgeschichte 2; Athener Reihe (Athens: Ekdoseis Anton. N. Sakkoula, 1987); eadem, Εικονομαχία και Δίκαιο. Νομική θεώρηση των αγιολογικών
κειμένων, Forschungen zur byzantinischen Rechtsgeschichte 14; Athener Reihe (Athens: Ekdoseis Anton. N.Sakkoula, 2004); eadem, “Η λαïκή αντίδραση στην ἐναρξη της εικονομαχικής πολιτικής του Λέοντος Γ’. Νομική θεώρηση των αγιολογικών ”, Βυζαντινά 21 (2000): pp. 459-73.


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