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Crime & Justice in the Byzantine Empire?

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    Posted: 09 Aug 2009 at 14:14
Greetings!
 
I want to know if there are any resources available online and any knowledge that could be offered by the Byzantine Empire experts and enthusiasts in this forum with respect to crime and justice in the Roman Empire, specifically the Eastern Roman Empire aka Byzantine Empire. I doubt there were many statistics kept regarding criminals, however, there must be some information available regarding the overall structure of the criminal justice system.
 
I am vaguely aware of the early Byzantine period's Codex Theodosianus and Justinian's Corpus Jurus Civilis and am of the impression that Byzantine law was similar to western Roman law but with a strong Christian influence.
 
It would be interesting to find out how much more (or less) crime was committed in the Byzantine Empire than elsewhere and if the penalties for crime were stiffer and how law enforcement differed. I'm also interested in determinining how the Theocratic element of Byzantine society was reflected in the crime rates and the criminal justice system.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Praetor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Aug 2009 at 23:43
Hi Riggins and welcome to the forum!

I may not be much help on this matter but as far as online sources go I should mention that there are a number of extracts from Legal works from the age of Justinian at the Internet Medieval sourcebook which you may or may not be aware of: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook1c.html#Justinian

hope this helps.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2009 at 02:58

Most of materials I know about crime and justice in the Byzantine Empire are brief chapters/sections in other books. Here are few references:

Peter Brown, G. W. Bowersock, O. Grabar (eds.), Late Antiquity: A guide to the Postclassical World (1999), check "Crime and Punishment" section in the Alphabetical Guide, p. 399-400
 
M. L. Rautman, Daily life in the Byzantine Empire (2006), check "Law and Order" sub-chapter, p. 29-31
 
Judith Herrin, Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (2007), see chapter I.7 "Roman Law", p. 70-9 (though this one is not so focused on crime, but also on the development of jurist schools, about courts and other aspects of the history of Byzantine/Roman law)
 
I really have not enough information to talk about crime rates, but it's worth mentioning that along time the Byzantines replaced capital punishment with mutilation, exile, financial compensations, public humilations and other similar lesser penalties, so that during the long reign of John II Komnenos it is said there were no executions.
 
As for Christian Church, it certainly played an important role. The Church could grant asylum to some criminals, but the confinement in a monastery can be viewed also like some sort of a prison. Also some crimes were in the authority of ecclesiastical courts: heresy, apostasy, sacrilege, simony, etc.
 


Edited by Chilbudios - 10 Aug 2009 at 02:59
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2009 at 08:16
Ioannes II Komnenos, not John. Dead 
 
Hmmh. Yes, the punishment that I most likely have read in use was the exile, especially in political circumstances (eg the chap was unwanted in the vicinity of the Purple).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2009 at 08:35
Why are you not writing it in Greek letters? Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2009 at 08:46
Cause my keyboard doesn't support it (yet).
 
If I could, I would. We must remain true to the historical reality...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Dec 2009 at 11:18
It would appear that outsiders to the Byzantine Empire saw the types of punishment employed to be especially harsh. Even the Western Crusaders who passed through the empire thought the the punishments dealt to offending criminals within the empire were of a savage nature, and this is quite telling coming from a people whose own judicial system would be seen as severe in the extreme by today's standards.

One suspects that certain Byzantine Emperors, in a court designed to be an earthly mimickry of the Kingdom of Heaven, liked to see themselves as standing in for God. And so some of them indulged enthusiastically in being judge and jury in certain cases of civil law. The Emperor Theophilos comes to mind especially, as the man who arbitrated in the case of a rich man who had built his house so high that it blocked out the sun from reaching the home of a much poorer woman next door. The Emperor found in favour of the poor woman, and had the wealthy man flogged for his disregard for a fellow imperial subject.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Dec 2009 at 07:59

Welcome to All Empires, Riggans!

Here you can find the entire Codex of Justinian in English translation.  This includes the Laws, Institutes, Digests, and Novels.  However, I would take this translation with a grain of salt since many more modern ones have surpassed it.
 
 
As for the Theodosian Code, I am not aware of any accessible English translations online.  Your best bet outside of a library would be limited views on Google Books.  As for the Latin, there are abundant reproductions of the original online.
 
Originally posted by Riggans Riggans wrote:

It would be interesting to find out how much more (or less) crime was committed in the Byzantine Empire than elsewhere and if the penalties for crime were stiffer and how law enforcement differed.
 
You might be able to infer some general ideas about the frequency of crimes by the descriptions and penalties in the laws.  As for statistics and detailed studies of crime, your best bet would be to consult a sociological or anthropological secondary study of the Byzantine Empire.  Nevertheless, nothing can take the place of examining the primary sources!
 
Originally posted by Riggans Riggans wrote:

I'm also interested in determinining how the Theocratic element of Byzantine society was reflected in the crime rates and the criminal justice system.
 
You must be careful how you define "theocratic" with reference to Byzantium.  Of course, there were elements of theocracy in Byzantine civilization, as you seem to indicate.  But "theocracy" with reference to Byzantium cannot be defined anachronistically against modern notions of democracy and republican federalism.  One must also be careful not to be enticed too much by the idea of "caeseropapism," a notion which has been steadily eroded by recent historiography.
 
That being said, in a brief synopsis, I can tell you that the involvement of the Church and religious considerations in the promulgation of laws is more accurately reflected in the Novels of Justinian than in the Theodosian Codex.  Although both were Orthodox Christian emperors, Justinian actively granted rights and privileges to the Church for both religious and practical reasons.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jeanmarat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Dec 2010 at 07:52
I was wondering if anyone has information on burning as a form of punishment in the Byzantine empire.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Dec 2010 at 08:40
The Codex Iustiniani [Corpus Juris Civilis 1:5] sets immolation as the penalty for heresy (along with the confiscation of all property and denial of the right of testate) and such continued at least in the stated Law in both the Ecloga and the Proheiron of the 8th and 9th centuries, now set forth in Greek rather than Latin. However, despite the legal groundwork for such an exercise of capital punishment there is a dearth of records in both the West and the East indicating any prominence of the practice prior to the 13th century, at which time--naturally--the Eastern Roman Empire was but a shadow.
 
Keep in mind, however, that immolation is not original with Justinian since his decretal here is an echo of Roman Law under Arcadius and Honorius and the decretals against heresy found in the Codex Theodosianus.
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1) So immolation for 'heresy' begun in the Roman Law ?

2) I didn't find burning of men as a punishment here :
http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/blume&justinian/Code%20Revisions/Book1rev%20copy/Book%201-5rev.pdf
I only found burning of books. Could you please point us to the text ?
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Originally posted by jeanmarat jeanmarat wrote:

1) So immolation for 'heresy' begun in the Roman Law ?

2) I didn't find burning of men as a punishment here :
http://uwacadweb.uwyo.edu/blume&justinian/Code%20Revisions/Book1rev%20copy/Book%201-5rev.pdf
I only found burning of books. Could you please point us to the text ?
 
Well, if one wishes to be technical immolation as capital punishment in the Roman Law has hoary antecedents in the Leges Duodecim Tabularum (the Twelve Tables) where anyone who maliciously sets afire a dwelling or the larder of another is to be "burned at the stake" (preceded by the usual binding and scourging)--see the transcription here: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/12tables.html
 
This perspective lies at the heart of the understanding held consequent to Constantine as to the gravity to communal integrity posed by heresy. If one understands that under Roman tradition all grave crimes against the social order demanded capital punishment (decapitation, burning, and precipitous dropping [the Tarpeian Rocks gig]) one can grasp the rationales at Law with regard to heresy. True, by the Late Republic capital punishment was seldom applied to the elite, but with the advent of Empire it achieved a renaissance.
 
Now, admittedly I am baffled as to why you claim immolation only applied to books since the translation you cited specifically sets forth capital punishment [e.g. Theodosius--"also be expelled from the cities and be delivered over to capital punishment"] and in understanding the veiled references to existing edicts and prescriptions set in the decretals of Arcadius and Honorius the equation of heresy as the equivalence of setting afire the shelter and sustenance of the people (the orthodox Church) leaves little room for doubt specifically in view of the specific references made by Justinian. Contrast the translation you employed with the Latin found here: http://webu2.upmf-grenoble.fr/Haiti/Cours/Ak/Corpus/CJ1.htm#5
 
Huic itaque hominum generi nihil ex moribus, nihil ex legibus sit commune cum ceteris
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Dec 2010 at 06:59
Given the silence, we may conclude that immolation was an accepted Roman practice in the Late Empire, and an extension of much older understandings. 

Edited by drgonzaga - 19 Dec 2010 at 06:03
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     In my humble opinion Maxentivs coins show the application of prison sentences for burglars. The coins of the Roman Empire shows the judgments against various crimes such as theft.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 06:14
You don't imprison people in a hypostyle. Also the suggestion doesn't account for the orb. It looks more like a depiction of a judge sitting in court. There is a coin from Constantine with almost exactly the same depiction. I'd suggest it might have something to do with the basilica the two of them built, which served as a courthouse, but I would have thought that would have depicted an arch rather theâm the triangular wossname.
 
 


Edited by gcle2003 - 19 Dec 2010 at 06:16
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 06:47
Toni wrote:
In my humble opinion Maxentivs coins show the application of prison sentences for burglars.
 
However, the famed inscription Conservator Vrbis Svae (Preserver of His City)--typical of his coinage between AD 306 and 312--with the obverse design of the seated Roma with orb and sceptre centered on the hexagonal temple can not be predicated as illustrations of punishments for various crimes since Rome had no prisons at all as understood today. The famed cramped room proximate to the Cloaca Maxima held no one saved those condemned to death! With regard to the coinage itself, they were a reference to Maxentius as the sole individual who, unlike his rivals for power, resided in the city and was dedicated to its embellishment.
 
The book to read: Mats Cullhed. Consevator Urbis Suae. Stockholm: Svenska Institutet i Rom, 1994.
 
Written by the famed Swedish scholar at Uppsala University, it is sound scholarship and actually devotes a full chapter to an in depth review of his coinage.
 
Now back to "punishments" in Rome...one that definitely did not exist was that of incarceration for offenses either during a period awaiting trial or consequent to a conviction. If one believes otherwise, then they had best understand fully the connotations of carcer and publica vincula within the judicial process since the rich had the luxury of house arrest, all others had best hot foot it out of town for if you were poor justice was a one day affair!


Edited by drgonzaga - 19 Dec 2010 at 06:48
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 06:52
Aside to Gcle: Hopefully, my post answers your reply that came just as I was preparing mine. The seated figure is the goddess Roma and all questions on the coinage (as well as Constantine's later use of the obverse from the available mint stamps left by Maxentius consequent to the Milvian bridge imbroglio) are ably handled by Professor Culhed.
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     Here is another coin of the Roman Empire, London, its ruling protects children against violence. Texts, in the official language of the Roman Empire, are quite clear.
http://numismticahebreahispana.blogspot.com/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 08:03
Say what? That is  Fel Temp Reparatio (Restoration of Happy Times) coinage from the late 4th century typical for the rule of Constantius II and Constans after AD 348 and are known in numismatic circles as "the falling horseman" coins. This particular one is that of Constantius and has nothing to do with children but instead implies the coming of victory over the barbarians!
 
I have to ask, just where are you getting these off-the-wall assignations for what are, after all, well known items in numismatic circles. This particular coin comes from the Antioch mint [officina] (as is clear from the obverse) hence I would be most interested in discovering who signals "London"!
 
 


Edited by drgonzaga - 19 Dec 2010 at 08:05
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       It may not be London, because these coins were issued throughout the Roman Empire. The same pattern was followed in Alexandria, but with small design changes.
      Should be noted that few coins include the place of issue. This Byzantine coin from Damascus may be the exception.








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      The important thing is to understand that the Roman Empire did not use the Times New Roman, but an alphabet that can be described as reduced Hebrew, probably cause the influence of reduced Phoenician.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 22:35
There no "may not be" about it...since it is a definite "not" London. As for the geographic origin of a particular issue, the monetae officinae pose no difficulty in terms of identification since even without a specific mint mark the design variants pretty much signal origin as to place. Such is more than obvious in the example presented, which is among those known as the "barbarian and hut" series principally minted during the rule of Constans, since they were issued at thirteen separate mints and each mint stylized the "tree" over the hut differently. Nor can the assertion that "few" coins could have their place of origin identified sustainable as a simple review of a numismatic catalogue reveals.
 
As for the crock on "reduced" anything, please! If you've got an off-the-wall proposition at least respect chronology. The follis on display is anything but "anonymous" and illustrates the "King of Kings" coinage from Constantinople in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. Damascus, my foot!


Edited by drgonzaga - 19 Dec 2010 at 23:59
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Dec 2010 at 23:39
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Aside to Gcle: Hopefully, my post answers your reply that came just as I was preparing mine. The seated figure is the goddess Roma and all questions on the coinage (as well as Constantine's later use of the obverse from the available mint stamps left by Maxentius consequent to the Milvian bridge imbroglio) are ably handled by Professor Culhed.
 
Makes sense. I was just reacting to what seemed obvious: it's not something I know much about.
 
As for later posts, while the Roman Empire didn't use Times New Roman, Morison and Lardent and indeed The Times not being that venerable, there's certainly plenty of evidence it was fairly well acquainted with the Latin alphabet, including the inscriptions on the coins themselves.
 
Incidentally, why all the Hebrew script? Can anyone translate it?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Dec 2010 at 00:19
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Incidentally, why all the Hebrew script? Can anyone translate it?
 
Ah, the travails of the Internet and the agendra driven subversion of sound scholarship made possible by its liberties (or more appropriate licence)...
 
The objective Gcle is a clear one:
 

La numismatica hebrea en Hispania ha sido objeto de una manipulacion historiografica, basada en el antisemitismo. La iberica se ha "leido" siguiendo las teorias de la Escuela Alemana de Arqueologia (heredera de la Anneherbe de Himmler), para teorizar un pueblo celta. La neoiberica se ha "leído" como si de latin se tratase. En ambos casos, la lengua hebrea queda oculta, haciendo posible el negacionismo historiografico del pueblo hebreo. From--  http://numismticahebreahispana.blogspot.com/

TRANS:
Hebrew numismatics has been the object of historiographical manipulation based upon antisemitism. The Iberica [a reference to coinage in the Iberian peninsula] has been "read" following the theories of the German School in archaeology (the heir of Himmler's Anneherbe) so as to theorize a Celtic people. The neoiberica [probably jargon for coinage pertinent to later Roman and Visigothic coinage] has been "read" as if it touches upon Latin. In both instances, the Hebrew language remains hidden, making possible the historiographical negation of the Hebrew people.
 
Chalk it up to conspiracy theories that turns all topsy-turvy.


Edited by drgonzaga - 20 Dec 2010 at 00:20
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