Front Page Titles (by Subject) 13.: ROMAN LAW IN THE EAST — ( C. XLIV .) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 7
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13.: ROMAN LAW IN THE EAST — ( C. XLIV .) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 7 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 7.
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ROMAN LAW IN THE EAST — (C. XLIV.)
New light has been thrown on the development of Imperial legislation from Constantine to Justinian, and on the reception of Roman law in the eastern half of the empire (especially Syria and Egypt), by the investigations of L. Mitteis, in his work “Reichsrecht und Volksrecht in den östlichen Provinzen des römischen Kaiserreichs” (1891). The study is mainly based on Egyptian papyri and on the Syro-Roman Code of the fifth century, which was edited by Bruns and Sachau (1880).
It was only to be expected that considerable resistance should be presented to the Roman law, which became obligatory for the whole empire after the issue of the Constitutio Antoniniana (or Law of Caracalla), among races which had old legal systems of their own, like the Greeks, Egyptians, or Jews. The description which Socrates gives of the survival of old customs at Heliopolis, which were contrary to the law of the empire, indicates that this law was not everywhere and absolutely enforced; the case of Athenais, put off by her brothers with a small portion of the paternal property, points to the survival of the Greek law of inheritance; and the will of Gregory Nazianzen, drawn up in Greek, proves that the theoretical invalidity of a testament, not drawn up in Latin and containing the prescribed formulæ, was not practically applied. Theory and practice were inconsistent. It was found impossible not to modify the application of the Roman principles by national and local customs; and thus there came to be a particular law in Syria (cp. the Syro-Roman law book) and another in Egypt. The old legal systems of the East, still surviving though submitted to the influence of the Roman system, presently had their effect upon Imperial legislation, and modified the Roman law itself. The influence of Greek ideas on the legislation of Constantine the Great can be clearly traced.1 It can be seen, for instance, in his law concerning the bona materni generis, by which, on a mother’s death, her property belonged to the children, their father having only the administration and usufruct of it, and no right of alienation. The same law is found in the Code of Gortyn (6, 31 sqq.).
The degeneration of Roman law (adulterina doctrina), caused by the tenacity of “Volksrechte” in the eastern provinces, was a motive of the compilation of Justinian’s Digest.
[1 ]Cp. Mitteis, Beilage III., p. 548 sqq. Ammian calls Constantine novator turbatorque priscarum legum.