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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The learned and splendid age of jurisprudence


knowledge of the civil law.

The second period, the learned and splendid age of jurisprudence, may be extended from the birth of Cicero to the reign of Severus Alexander. A system was formed, schools were instituted, books were composed, and both the living and the dead became subservient to the instruction of the student. The tripartite of Aelius Paetus, surnamed Catus, or the Cunning, was preserved as the oldest work of Jurisprudence. Cato the censor derived some additional fame from his legal studies, and those of his son: the kindred appellation of Mucius Scaevola was illustrated by three sages of the law; but the perfection of the science was ascribed to Servius Sulpicius, their disciple, and the friend of Tully; and the long succession, which shone with equal lustre under the republic and under the Caesars, is finally closed by the respectable characters of Papinian, of Paul, and of Ulpian. Their names, and the various titles of their productions, have been minutely preserved, and the example of Labeo may suggest some idea of their diligence and fecundity. That eminent lawyer of the Augustan age divided the year between the city and country, between business and composition; and four hundred books are enumerated as the fruit of his retirement. Of the collection of his rival Capito, the two hundred and fifty-ninth book is expressly quoted; and few teachers could deliver their opinions in less than a century of volumes. In the third period, between the reigns of Alexander and Justinian, the oracles of
jurisprudence were almost mute. The measure of curiosity had been filled: the throne was occupied by tyrants and Barbarians, the active spirits were diverted by religious disputes, and the professors of Rome, Constantinople, and Berytus, were humbly content to repeat the lessons of their more enlightened predecessors. From the slow advances and rapid decay of these legal studies, it may be inferred, that they require a state of peace and refinement. From the multitude of voluminous civilians who fill the intermediate space, it is evident that such studies may be pursued, and such works may be performed, with a common share of judgment, experience, and industry. The genius of Cicero and Virgil was more sensibly felt, as each revolving age had been found incapable of producing a similar or a second: but the most eminent teachers of the law were assured of leaving disciples equal or superior to themselves in merit and reputation.

[Footnote 521: Compare, on the Responsa Prudentum, Warnkonig, Histoire Externe du Droit Romain Bruxelles, 1836, p. 122.--M.]

[Footnote 53: The series of the civil lawyers is deduced by Pomponius, (de Origine Juris Pandect. l. i. tit. ii.) The moderns have discussed, with learning and criticism, this branch of literary history; and among these I have chiefly been guided by Gravina (p. 41--79) and Hei neccius, (Hist. J. R. No. 113-351.) Cicero, more especially in his books de Oratore, de Claris Oratoribus, de Legibus, and the Clavie Ciceroniana of Ernesti (under the names of Mucius, &c.) afford much genuine and pleasing information. Horace often alludes to the morning labors of the civilians, (Serm. I. i. 10, Epist. II. i. 103, &c)

Agricolam laudat juris legumque peritus Sub galli cantum, consultor ubi ostia pulsat. ------------ Romae dulce diu fuit et solemne, reclusa Mane domo vigilare, clienti promere jura.

* Note: It is particularly in this division of the history of the Roman jurisprudence into epochs, that Gibbon displays his profound knowledge of the laws of this people. M. Hugo, adopting this division, prefaced these three periods with the history of the times anterior to the Law of the Twelve Tables, which are, as it were, the infancy of the Roman law.--W]


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