Palingenesia

The term Palingenesia or “reconstruction” is applied particularly to the reconstruction of legal texts which have been altered by editors after they were first issued. I apply it to the rearrangement in chronological sequence of texts that have been published out of order in various sources. The Palingenesia to Emperors and Lawyers consists of 2,609 replies to petitioners (rescripts) who put their legal problems to the emperors between 193 and 305 AD. Most of them are short. They were drafted in my view by lawyers (secretaries a libellis, later magistri libellorum) who were employed by the emperors so that he could answer in a professionally reputable way. Though he might occasionally brush aside the legal advice he was given by the secretary for this purpose such occasions were rare and the emperor’s opinion was more highly regarded if his rescript was drafted by a leading lawyer such as Papinianus.

The Palingenesia to Law in the Crisis of Empire which is on two disks consists of 1,652 texts drawn from 1,368 laws of the period 379 to 455 AD. These are not rescripts but general laws addressed to the whole population or a substantial part of it and are consequently bulkier. They are not all drafted by lawyers. The official responsible for drafting them was the imperial quaestor. He might be someone who had worked his way up through the bureaucracy, with or without a legal training, but might equally be a prominent aristocrat, a teacher of literature or a poet. Thirty eastern and nineteen western quaestors who drafted laws can be picked out, and about half of these can with some plausibility be identified with a known historical person.

 

The disks.

Each Palingenesia is on one or more floppy disks. The disks are to be found inside the back cover of the book. The advantage of publishing the disks along with the book is that the books interpret the laws to be found in the texts collected in the Palingenesia. So a reader who wants to check up on the interpretation proposed can bring the text he wants to read up on his computer screen, read it and decide for himself or herself whether he or she agrees with the interpretation. Quite apart from this, the files on disk can added to or adapted in order to build up the reader’s own database. The Palingenesia can therefore function as a tool of research as well as a check on the text. The Palingenesia to Emperors and Lawyers is also available on Dr. Metzger’s Roman Law and Resources website at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/~law113/rl/rl.htm

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