By Sean D.W. Lafferty
PhD Dissertation, University of Toronto, 2010
Abstract: This is a study of a Roman legal document of unknown date and debated origin conventionally known as the Edictum Theoderici. Comprised of 154 edicta, or provisions, in addition to a prologue and epilogue, the Edictum Theoderici is a significant but largely overlooked document for understanding the institutions of Roman law, legal administration and society in the West from the fourth to early sixth century. The purpose is to situate the text within its proper historical and legal context, to understand better the processes involved in the creation of new law in the post-Roman world, as well as to appreciate how the various social, political and cultural changes associated with the end of the classical world and the beginning of the Middle Ages manifested themselves in the domain of Roman law. It is argued here that the Edictum Theoderici was produced by a group of unknown Roman jurisprudents working under the instructions of the Ostrogothic king Theoderic the Great (493-526), and was intended as a guide for settling disputes between the Roman and Ostrogothic inhabitants of Italy. A study of its contents in relation to earlier Roman law and legal custom preserved in imperial decrees and juristic commentaries offers a revealing glimpse into how, and to what extent, Roman law survived and evolved in Italy following the decline and eventual collapse of imperial authority in the region. Such an examination also challenges long-held assumptions as to just how peaceful, prosperous and Roman-like Theoderic’s Italy really was.