Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Civil Law

Civil Law. By the Civil Law is generally understood the Municipal Law of the Roman Empire, as comprised in the Institutes, the Code and the Digest of the Emperor Justinian, and the novel constitutions of himself and some of his successors. Of this body of Law the following is a short and general account: -

The Roman Laws - founded first upon the regal constitutions of their ancient kings, next upon the twelve tables of the decemviri, then upon the Laws or Statutes enacted by the senate or people, the edicts of the Pretor, and the responsa prudentium or opinions of learned lawyers, and, lastly, upon the imperial decrees, or constitutions of successive emperors - had grown to so great a bulk that they were computed to be many camels' loads by an author who preceded Justinian. This was in part remedied by the collections of three private lawyers, Gregorius, Hermogenes, and Papirius, and then by the Emperor Theodosius the younger, - by whose orders a Code was compiled A.D. 438, being a methodical collection of all the imperial constitutions then in force: which Theodosian Code was the only Book of Civil Law received as authentic in the western part of Europe till many centuries after, and to this it is probable that the Franks and Goths might frequently pay some regard in framing legal constitutions for their newly created kingdoms. It was under the auspices of the Emperor Justinian that the present body of Civil Law was compiled and finished by Tribonian and other lawyers about the year 530.

This consists of: - 1. The Institutes, which contain the elements or first principles of the Roman Law in four books. 2. The Digests or Pandects, in fifty books, containing the opinions and writings of eminent lawyers, digested in a systematical method. 3. A New Code or Collection of Imperial Constitutions, in twelve books, - the lapse of a whole century having rendered the former Code of Theodosius imperfect. 4. The Novels or New Constitutions, posterior in time to the other books, and amounting to a supplement to the Code containing new decrees of successive emperors as new questions happened to arise. These form the body of Roman Law, or Corpus Juris Civilis, as published about the time of Justinian, which, however, fell soon into neglect and oblivion until in the 12th century the policy of the Roman Church began to give new vogue and authority to the Civil Law, introduced it into several nations, and occasioned that mighty inundation of voluminous comments with which this system of law more than any other is now loaded. Scots law, and the law of many Continental countries, owe much to Roman law.