Setting a new abstract framework for obligations in Justinian’s Institutes (533 CE)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The present paper emphasises the didactic considerations of the Justinianic corpus in general and the elementary work of the Institutes in particular, and argues that apparent inconsistencies can be explained against the background of the proposed reform plan of the legal curriculum. The paper briefly summarises the different classifications of obligations as found in the works of the 2nd century CE Gaius and the Institutes of Justinian. If there is no place for “any antinomy”, one may wonder how contradictory classifications can appear in different parts of in the Justinianic corpus, one in the Digest preserved under the name of Gaius and another in the Institutes. In order to present a solution for this question, my paper outlines Justinian’s reform plan of the legal curriculum and suggests that the institutionalised study of law generated the need to create the ideology of a coherent legal system which can be effectively communicated to the novice students of law. As students later immersed themselves into the study of specialised subfields and acquired a better understanding of the legal vocabulary and the particular legal institutions, the initial ideology gradually became irrelevant. Advanced students could realise that the ideology needed to be treated with a pinch of salt, i.e. it simply provided the didactic starting point for the novice and the idealised end-point for the master of law.
Period1 Mar 2015
Event titleLaw in Transition: The Sixth Annual International Berg Conference / XXIst Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians
Event typeConference
LocationTel Aviv, IsraelShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Roman law
  • Digest
  • Justinian
  • Legal reasoning