Law in the Crisis of
Empire 379 - 455 AD


The Theodosian Dynasty and its Quaestors (1998)

With a Palingenesia of Laws of the Dynasty


by Tony Honoré

This original work will be of great interest to historians, lawyers, linguists and literary scholars who are interested in the later Roman Empire. It deals with the general laws and legal culture of the Theodosian dynasty, which lasted from 379 AD when Theodosius I was summoned from Spain to deal with a military disaster in the east, until 455, when his grandson Valentinian III was murdered and the fate of the western empire finally sealed. That empire was by no means a pure autocracy. The bishops had powers on which the emperor could not trespass. Lawyers and bureaucrats were often in a position to hold the emperor to certain general principles of law and administration. The book analyses the eastern and western laws separately and brings out the superior quality and professionalism of the eastern administration. It shows why the Theodosian Code of 429-438 AD, intended to restore the legal and administrative unity of the Roman empire, came too late to save the west. It illuminates western legal culture as seen through the eyes of the author of the late fourth century Historia Augusta and points to the greater readiness in the east for both lawyers and Christians to accept the necessary symbiosis of law and Christianity. It demonstrates that the laws of the period are by no means all of poor literary quality. On the contrary, they vary a great deal in style and merit according as they were drafted by aristocrats or bureaucrats, lawyers or laymen, poets or teachers. The book is accompanied by a reconstruction (palingenesia) of the laws of the Theodosian dynasty on two disks.

From reviews:

“Honoré triumphs again.” (Benet Salway)

“After the third (Tribonian, 1978) and the first (Emperors and Lawyers 1981, 2nd edition 1994) the second part of Honoré’s magnum opus on imperial law-making now appears.” (Detlef Liebs)

Emperors and Lawyers
Ulpian: Pioneer of Human Rights
How to Order