Monday, December 26, 2016

A Different Kind Of Christmas

On Christmas Day in 438 the Praetorian Prefect of Italy, Glabrio Faustus, hosted a gathering at his luxurious home in Rome.  Assembled were the members of the Roman Senate, there for the presentation of the new compilation of Roman Law, the Theodosian Code, so-named after the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius (408-50), at whose direction the new code was compiled. Abe Books)

It was a well-rehearsed ceremony in which the attendees enthusiastically, and repetitively, endorsed the code.  Some of exhortations were the usual flattery of the Emperor:
"As Roman Emperors [Theodosius in the East, Valentinian in the West], pious and felicitous, may You rule for may years!" (repeated 22 times)    
But many others illustrate that bureaucracy has been around forever:.
"We give thanks for this regulation of Yours!" (repeated 23 times)
"Let many copies of the Code be made to be kept in the governmental offices!" (10 times)
"In order that the established laws may not be falsified, let all copies be written down in letters!" (18 times)
"To this copy which will be made by the constitutionaries, let no annotations upon the law be added!" (12 times)
"We request that copies to be kept in the imperial bureaux shall be made at public expense!" (16 times)
"You have removed the ambiguities of the imperial constitutions!" (23 times)
There's a lot more.  It's been calculated that with all the exhortations and repetitions, the shouting (in Latin) would have lasted for 40 minutes.  Sounds like a lot of fun.  Hope they exchanged gifts afterwards.


The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather.  According to Heather, minutes of this meeting in Rome were incorporated into the Preface to official copies of the Code made after 443.  The only surviving copy is an eleventh century manuscript copied from an earlier version of the Code, and preserved in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, Italy.

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