The Byzantine Senate or Eastern Roman Senate was the continuation of the Roman Senate, established in the 4th century by Constantine I. It survived for centuries, but with its limited power that it theoretically possessed, the Senate became irrelevant until its eventual disappearance circa 14th century; the Senate of the Eastern Roman Empire consisted of Roman senators who happened to live in the East, or those who wanted to move to Constantinople, a few other bureaucrats who were appointed to the Senate. Constantine offered free grain to any Roman Senators who were willing to move to the East; when Constantine founded the Eastern Senate in Byzantium, it resembled the councils of important cities like Antioch rather than the Roman Senate. His son Constantius II raised it from the position of a municipal to that of an Imperial body but the Senate in Constantinople had the same limited powers as the Senate in Rome. Constantius II increased the number of Senators to 2,000 by including his friends and various provincial officials.
The traditional principles that Senatorial rank was hereditary and that the normal way of becoming a member of the Senate itself was by holding a magistracy still remained in full force. By the time of the permanent division of the Roman Empire in 395, Praetors' responsibilities had been reduced to a purely municipal role, their sole duty was to manage the spending of money on public works. However, with the decline of the other traditional Roman offices such as that of tribune the Praetorship remained an important portal through which aristocrats could gain access to either the Western or Eastern Senates; the Praetorship was a costly position to hold as Praetors were expected to possess a treasury from which they could draw funds for their municipal duties. There are known to have been eight Praetors in the Eastern Roman Empire who shared the financial burden between them; the late Eastern Roman Senate was different from the Republican Senate as the offices of aedile and tribune had long fallen into abeyance and by the end of the 4th century the quaestorship was on the point of disappearing, save as a provincial magistrate.
The Emperor or the Senate itself could issue a decree to grant a man not born into the Senatorial order a seat in the Senate. Exemption from the expensive position of praetor would often be conferred on such persons that had become Senators in this way; the Senate was composed of statesmen and officials, ranging from the most important statesmen in the Empire such as the Master of Offices and the Master of Soldiers to provincial governors and retired civil servants. The senatorial families in Constantinople tended to be less affluent and less distinguished than those in the West; some aristocrats attempted to become senators in order to escape the difficult conditions that were imposed on them by late Roman Emperors such as Diocletian. The curiales were forced to become decurions where they were charged with participating in local government at their own expense as well as having to collect taxes and pay any deficits from their own pockets; as it was recognised that many who sought seats in the Senate were doing so to escape the harsh duties of the decurion Theodosius I decreed that they must complete their public service if they became Senators.
The Senate was led by the Prefect of the City, who conducted all of its communications with the Emperor. It was composed of three orders, the illustres and clarissimi; the members of the illustres were those who held the highest offices in Eastern Rome, such as the Master of Soldiers and Praetorian Prefects. The spectabiles formed the middle class of the Senate and consisted of important statesmen such as proconsuls and military governors of the provinces; the clarissimi was the lower class of the senate and was attached to the governors of the provinces and to other lesser posts. Members of the lower two orders were permitted to live anywhere within the Empire and were inactive Senators; the majority of active members in the Senate were the illustres, whose important offices were based in Constantinople and so were able to attend the Senate frequently. By the end of the 5th century the two lower classes were excluded from sitting in the Senate. During the reign of Justinian I the numbers of clarissimi were increased which caused many officials to be promoted to the rank of spectabiles and this in turn caused there to be an increase of the numbers of illustres, the elite class of the Senate.
As a result, a new order, the gloriosi, was created to accommodate the highest ranking senators. It is important to note that being a Senator was a secondary career for most of the Senate's members, who possessed important positions within the administrative machinery of the Empire. Whilst the powers of the Senate were limited, it could pass resolutions which the Emperor might adopt and issue in the form of edicts, it could thus suggest Imperial legislation, it acted from time to time as a consultative body. Some Imperial laws took the form of'Orations to the Senate', were read aloud before the body; the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, in 446, formulated a legislative procedure which granted to the Senate the right of co-operation, where any new law was to be discussed at a meeting between the Senate and the Council before being confirmed by the Emperor. This procedure was included in Justinian's code although it is unclear whether i
Byzantine Empire under the Justinian dynasty
The Byzantine Empire had its first golden age under the Justinian Dynasty, which began in 518 AD with the Accession of Justin I. Under the Justinian Dynasty the reign of Justinian I, the Empire reached its largest territorial point, reincorporating North Africa, southern Illyria, southern Spain, Italy into the Empire; the Justinian Dynasty ended in 602 with the deposition of Maurice and the ascension of his successor, Phocas. The Justinian Dynasty began with the accession of its namesake Justin I to the throne. Justin I was born in a small village, Bederiana, in the 450s AD. Like many country youths, he went to Constantinople and enlisted in the army, due to his physical abilities, he became a part of the Excubitors, the palace guards, he fought in the Isaurian and Persian wars, rose through the ranks to become the commander of the Excubitors, a influential position. In this time, he achieved the rank of senator. After the death of the Emperor Anastasius, who had left no clear heir, there was much dispute as to who would become emperor.
To decide who would ascend the throne, a grand meeting was called in the hippodrome. The Byzantine Senate, gathered in the great hall of the palace; as the senate wanted to avoid outside involvement and influence, they were pressed to select a candidate. Several candidates were rejected for various reasons. After much arguing, the senate chose to nominate Justin. Justin, from a Latin speaking province, spoke little Greek; as such, he surrounded himself with intelligent advisers, the most notable of, his nephew, Justinian. Justinian may have exerted great influence on his uncle, is considered by some historians, such as Procopius, to be the real power behind the throne. After his accession, Justin removed the other candidates to the throne. Unlike most emperors before him, who were Monophysite, Justin was a devout Orthodox Christian. Monophysites and the Orthodox were in conflict over the divinity of Jesus Christ. Past emperors had supported the Monophysites' position, in direct conflict with the Orthodox teachings of the Papacy, this strife led to the Acacian Schism.
Justin, as an Orthodox, the new patriarch, John of Cappadocia set about repairing relations with Rome. After delicate negotiations, the Acacian Schism ended in late March, 519. After this initial ecclesiastical overhaul, the rest of Justin's reign was quiet and peaceful. In 525 at the insistence of Justinian, Justin repealed a law which forbade court officials from marrying people of low class; this allowed Justinian to marry Theodora, of low social standing. In his last years, conflict increased around the Empire. There was increased strife with the Ostrogothic Kingdom in the Italian Peninsula, their king, Theodoric the Great, was suspicious of plots by the Byzantines. However, Theodoric died in 526; the Sasanian Empire resumed hostilities with the Byzantines, the Iberian War began in the east. In 527, Justin appointed Justinian co-emperor after becoming dangerously ill. Justin recovered from the illness, several months he died of an ulcer on an old wound; the strength of the dynasty was shown under Justinian I.
After the Nika Riots, Justinian rebuilt the city and reformed the law with the "Code of Justinian". Justinian had inherited a war with Persia from his uncle and previous emperor, Justin I. Justinian continued the war, succeeding in sending a force all the way down the Euphrates, but the raid stalled, he lost the beginnings of a new fortress in a crushing defeat; this impasse of sorts led to Justinian negotiating the "Eternal Peace" in which he agreed to pay eleven thousand pounds of gold in return for a cease in hostilities and the defense of several mountain passes. He set about satisfying his dream to rebuild the Roman Empire. On his command, his favored general, began reconquering old Roman territory, starting with the Vandals; the Vandals, after maintaining North African dominance since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, had become content and laid back. The Vandal king, attempted to surround the Byzantines at the battle of Ad Decimum. Belisarius rounded up his remaining men and broke the disorganized mass of Vandals, now poorly commanded.
Belisarius went on to capture Carthage, the Byzantines were victorious. Justinian recalled the victorious Belisarius. In Italy, dynastic squabbles amongst the ruling Ostrogoths gave Justinian an opportunity to invade, he sent Belisarius to Sicily with 7500 men. Belisarius received only token resistance, he moved on to mainland Italy. After putting down a mutiny in conquered North Africa, Belisarius landed in mainland Italy; the Gothic garrison of Naples resisted however, after several months siege, Belisarius sacked the city. After more ensuing dynastic squabbles, resulting in the deaths of two kings, Belisarius was invited to Rome by the pope while the king was in Ravenna. Hearing of this, the Gothic king, sent a huge
Alexander Vasiliev (historian)
For other persons of a similar name, see Alexander Vasilyev. Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev was considered the foremost authority on Byzantine history and culture in the mid-20th century, his History of the Byzantine Empire remains one of a few comprehensive accounts of the entire Byzantine history, on the par with those authored by Edward Gibbon and Fyodor Uspensky. Vasiliev was born in Saint Petersburg, he studied under one of the earliest professional Byzantinists, Vasily Vasilievsky, at the University of St Petersburg and taught Arabic language there. Between 1897 and 1900, he furthered his education in Paris. In 1902, he accompanied Nicholas Marr in his trip to Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai. During his stay at the Tartu University, Vasiliev prepared and published a influential monograph and the Arabs, he worked in the Russian Archaeology Institute, established by Fyodor Uspensky in Constantinople. In 1912, he moved to the St Petersburg University as a professor, he was elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1919.
In 1925, during his visit to Paris, Vasiliev was persuaded by Michael Rostovtzeff to emigrate to the West. It was Rostovtzeff. Several decades Vasiliev moved to work in Dumbarton Oaks. Towards the end of his life, he was elected President of the Nikodim Kondakov Institute in Prague and of the Association Internationale des Études Byzantines. Slavs in Greece The Latin Sway in the Levant History of the Byzantine Empire: Vol. 1: Constantine to the Crusades History of the Byzantine Empire: Vol. 2: From the Crusades to the Fall of the Empire Byzantium and the Arabs, Vol. 1: Political relations between Byzantines and Arabs during the Amorian Dynasty Byzantium and the Arabs, Vol. 2: Political relations between Byzantines and Arabs during the Macedonian Dynasty The Goths in the Crimea "The Opening Stages of the Anglo-Saxon Immigration to Byzantium in the Eleventh Century" in Seminarium Kondakovianum The Russian attack on Constantinople in 860 The'Life' of St. Peter of Argos and its historical significance The monument of Porphyrius in the Hippodrome at Constantinople Imperial porphyry sarcophagi in Constantinople "The Historical Significance Of the Mosaic of Saint Demetrius at Sassoferrato", Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 5 p. 29-39 Justin, the First: An Introduction to the Epoch of Justinian the Great The second Russian attack on Constantinople Hugh Capet Of France And Byzantium The iconoclastic edict of the Caliph Yazid II, A. D. 721 A survey of works on Byzantine history The life of St. Theodore of Edessa Medieval ideas of the end of the world: West and East Prester John and Russia Anastos, Milton V..
"Alexander A. Vasiliev: a personal sketch"; the Russian Review. 13: 59–63. JSTOR 125908. Der-Nersessian, Sirarpie. "Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev, 1867-1953". Dumbarton Oaks Papers: 1–21. JSTOR 1291090. Works by or about Alexander Vasiliev at Internet Archive
Basil I, called the Macedonian was a Byzantine Emperor who reigned from 867 to 886. Born a simple peasant in the theme of Macedonia, he rose in the Imperial court, he entered into the service of Theophilitzes, a relative of Emperor Michael III, was given a fortune by the wealthy Danielis. He gained the favour of Michael III, whose mistress he married on the emperor's orders, was proclaimed co-emperor in 866, he ordered the assassination of Michael the next year. Despite his humble origins, he showed great ability in running the affairs of state, he was the founder of the Macedonian dynasty. He was succeeded upon his death by his son Leo VI. Basil was born to peasant parents in late 811 at Chariopolis in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia; the name of his father was Bardas, the name of his grandfather was Maïktes. His ethnic origin is unknown, has been a subject of debate. During Basil's reign, an elaborate genealogy was produced that purported that his ancestors were not mere peasants, as everyone believed, but descendants of the Arsacid kings of Armenia, of Constantine the Great.
The Armenian historians Samuel of Ani and Stephen of Taron record that he hailed from the village of Thil in Taron. In contrast, Persian writers such as Hamza al-Isfahani, or al-Tabari call both Basil and his mother Saqlabi, an ethnogeographic term that denoted the Slavs, but can be interpreted as a generic term encompassing the inhabitants of the region between Constantinople and Bulgaria. Claims have therefore been made for an Armenian, Slavic, or indeed "Armeno-Slavonic" origin for Basil I; the name of his mother points to a Greek origin on the maternal side. The general scholarly consensus is that Basil's father was "probably" of Armenian origin, settled in Byzantine Thrace; the author of the only dedicated biography of Basil I in English has concluded that it is impossible to be certain what the ethnic origins of the emperor were, though Basil was reliant on the support of Armenians in prominent positions within the Byzantine Empire. One story asserts that he had spent a part of his childhood in captivity in Bulgaria, where his family had been carried off as captives of the Khan Krum in 813.
Basil lived there until 836, when he and several others escaped to Byzantine-held territory in Thrace. Basil was lucky enough to enter the service of Theophilitzes, a relative of the Caesar Bardas, as a groom. While serving Theophilitzes, he visited the city of Patras, where he gained the favour of Danielis, a wealthy woman who took him into her household and endowed him with a fortune, he earned the notice of Michael III by his abilities as a horse tamer and in winning a victory over a Bulgarian champion in a wrestling match. Symeon Magister describes Basil as "... most outstanding in bodily form and heavy set. On Emperor Michael's orders, Basil divorced his wife Maria and married Eudokia Ingerina, Michael's favourite mistress, in around 865. During an expedition against the Arabs, Basil convinced Michael III that his uncle Bardas coveted the Byzantine throne, subsequently murdered Bardas with Michael's approval on April 21, 866. Basil became the leading personality at court and was invested in the now vacant dignity of kaisar, before being crowned co-emperor on May 26, 866.
This promotion may have included Basil's adoption by himself a much younger man. It was believed that Leo VI, Basil's successor and reputed son, was the son of Michael. Although Basil seems to have shared this belief, the subsequent promotion of Basil to caesar and co-emperor provided the child with a legitimate and Imperial parent and secured his succession to the Byzantine throne; when Leo was born, Michael III celebrated the event with public chariot races, whilst he pointedly instructed Basil not to presume on his new position as junior emperor. When Michael III started to favour another courtier, Basil decided that his position was being undermined. Michael threatened to invest Basiliskianos with the Imperial title and this induced Basil to pre-empt events by organizing the assassination of Michael on the night of September 23/24, 867. Michael and Basiliskianos were insensibly drunk following a banquet at the palace of Anthimos when Basil, with a small group of companions, gained entry.
The locks to the chamber doors had been tampered with and the chamberlain had not posted guards. On Michael III's death, Basil, as an acclaimed co-emperor, automatically became the ruling basileus. Basil I became an effective and respected monarch, ruling for 19 years, despite being a man with no formal education and little military or administrative experience. Moreover, he had been the boon companion of a debauched monarch and had achieved power through a series of calculated murders; that there was little political reaction to the murder of Michael III is due to his unpopularity with the bureaucrats of Constantinople because of his disinterest in the administrative duties of the Imperial office. Michael's public displays of impiety had alienated the Byzantine populace in general. Once in power Basil s
Byzantine Empire under the Leonid dynasty
The Eastern Roman Empire was ruled by the House of Leo from 457, the accession of Leo I, to 518 AD, the death of Anastasius I. The rule of the Leonid dynasty coincided with the rapid decline and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire. Following the end of the Western Empire, Emperor Zeno abolished the position of Western Roman Emperor and declared himself the sole Roman Emperor; the Eastern Roman Empire would come to last for several more centuries, subsequent dynasties would invest large amounts of resources in attempts to retake the western provinces. The Leonid dynasty ruled the Western Roman Empire from 474 to its abolishment in 480 AD. After the death of Marcian and the end of the Theodosian dynasty, Leo I was placed upon the throne by the Alan general Aspar, who served as commander-in-chief of the Eastern Roman army and enjoyed a role similar to that of Ricimer in the Western Roman Empire, appointing puppet emperors. Aspar had believed that Leo I would be a weak puppet, but Leo grew independent of him and after Aspar and his son Ardabur were murdered in a riot in 471, the Eastern Empire was restored to roman leadership, which it would retain for centuries to come.
By the time of Leo's accession, the Western Roman Empire had nearly collapsed entirely. Though it enjoyed a brief restoration of power under Emperor Majorian, the West had become restricted to northern Gaul and parts of Illyria by the late 460s. Leo attempted to reconquer North Africa from the Vandals; the campaign was unsuccessful and Northern Africa would remain outside of imperial control until the reign of Justinian I in the early 500s. Leo I was the earliest emperor to be crowned by the Patriarch of Constantinople and not by a military leader, representing the ecclesiastical hierarchy; this change would become permanent and the religious nature of the coronation had replaced the military version in the Middle Ages. As condition for an alliance with the Isaurians, Leo married his daughter Ariadne to Tarasicodissa, who took the name Zeno, in 466; the son of Ariadne and Zeno, Leo II, succeeded upon the death of Leo I in 474 but he died after only 11 months of rule and was succeeded by Zeno.
The reign of Zeno saw the end of the Western Roman Empire. The dating of the end is somewhat controversial, it is sometimes dated to 476, early in Zeno's reign, when the Germanic Roman general Odoacer deposed the titular Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus, but declined to replace him with another puppet. Odoacer accepted Julius Nepos, the deposed Western Emperor supported by Zeno, as his sovereign and acted as his viceroy of Italy. Nepos did not return to Italy but continued to reign as Western Emperor from Dalmatia until his death in 480. After the death of Julius Nepos, Zeno became the sovereign of Odoacer and he did not appoint another Western Emperor, instead proclaiming himself as the sole Emperor of the Roman Empire, juridically reuniting West and East for the first time in 85 years; the position would never again be divided. With Odoacer acting independent, Zeno negotiated with the Ostrogoths of Theoderic, who had settled in Moesia, he sent the gothic king to Italy as magister militum per Italiam.
After the fall of Odoacer in 493, who had lived in Constantinople during his youth, ruled Italy on his own. Thus, by suggesting that Theoderic conquer Italy as his Ostrogothic Kingdom, Zeno maintained at least a nominal supremacy in the West land while ridding the Eastern Empire of an unruly subordinate. Zeno was deposed by Basilicus in 475 for twenty months, but regained his throne and imprisoned Basilicus and his family in a dry cistern, where they would die from exposure. Anastasius I, an aged civil officer of Roman origin, became Roman Emperor through marriage with the widow of Zeno, Ariadne, in 491. Anastasius was a competent reformer and administrator, perfecting the coinage system introduced by Constantine I by setting the weight of the copper follis, the most used coin throughout the Empire. Anastasius abolished the chrysargyron tax, a tax, hated due to it being collected in lump sums every four years; the monetary reforms of Anastasius lead to the State Treasury containing an enormous 145,150 kg of gold upon his death.
Anastasius would be succeeded by the first Emperor of the Justinian dynasty. Family trees of the Byzantine imperial dynasties Grierson, Philip. Byzantine Coinage. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks. ISBN 0-88402-274-9. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Treadgold, Warren. A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2
Byzantine Empire under the Theodosian dynasty
The Eastern Roman Empire was ruled by the Theodosian dynasty from 379, the accession of Theodosius I, to 457, the death of Marcian. The rule of the Theodosian dynasty saw the final East-West division of the Roman Empire, between Arcadius and Honorius in 395. Whilst divisions of the Roman Empire had occurred before, the Empire would never again be reunited; the reign of the sons of Theodosius I contributed to the crisis that under the fifth century resulted in the complete collapse of Roman control in the West. The Eastern Empire was spared the difficulties faced by the West in the third and fourth centuries, due in part to a more established urban culture and greater financial resources, which allowed it to placate invaders with tribute and pay foreign mercenaries. Throughout the fifth century, various invading armies overran the Western Empire but spared the east; the Theodosian dynasty ruled the Western Roman Empire from 392 to 455 AD. Theodosius I was granted rule of the Eastern Roman provinces by the previous Emperor, Gratian of the Valentinian dynasty, due to Gratian having inherited the entire Empire from his predecessor Valens in 378.
Gratian would continue to rule the Western Roman Empire until 383. After the deaths of Gratian and his successor Valentinian II, Theodosius became the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire 392-395. Theodosius is remembered from making a series of decrees that codified Nicene Christianity as the official state church of the Roman Empire. Theodosius dissolved the order of the Vestal Virgins in Rome, banned the pagan rituals of the Olympics in Ancient Greece and did nor punish nor prevent the destruction of antique Hellenistic temples, such as the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. With the death of Theodosius in 395, the Roman Empire was divided once more between his two sons. Arcadius, the older son, inherited the East and the imperial capital of Constantinople and Honorius inherited the West; the Empire would never be reunited again, though Eastern Roman emperors, beginning with Zeno, would claim the united title after Julius Nepos' death in 480 AD. Arcadius was a weak ruler, dominated by a series of advisors as he was more concerned with appearing to be a pious Christian than he was with political and military matters.
The first such advisor, engendered intense competition with the advisor of Western Emperor Honorius, the romanized vandal magister militum Flavius Stilicho, who might have had him assassinated in 395 AD. Advisors would include his wife Aelia Eudoxia, the Patriarch John Chrysostom and Praetorian Prefect Anthemius. Theodosius II, sometimes nicknamed "the Younger", became Eastern Roman Emperor at the age of seven following the death of his father Arcadius in 408. Praetorian Prefect Anthemius continued to act as advisor and the de facto ruler and the Theodosian land walls of Constantinople was completed during his rule; the older sister of Theodosius, was proclaimed Augusta and became regent in 414 AD. Though the regency ended in 416 and Theodosius became Augustus himself, Pulcheria remained a strong influence within the government. Influenced by Pulcheria and fuelled by an increasing interest in Christianity, Theodosius went to war against the Sassanid Empire in the early 420s as they were persecuting Christians.
He was forced to allow a stalemate however. The wars with the huns were composed by hunnic raids being followed by significant payments by the Eastern Empire so that the Huns would remain at peace with the Romans; the death of Honorius of the West in 423 led Theodosius to support and install Valentinian III as Western Emperor in 425. To strengthen ties between East and West, Licinia Eudoxia, daughter of Theodosius, was betrothed to Valentinian. Theodosius died in 450 as the result of a riding accident and was succeeded by Marcian, husband of his sister Pulcheria, as Eastern Emperor. Marcian would reverse many of the actions taken by Theodosius II in terms of treaties with the Huns and in religious affairs. All Eastern Roman tributary payments to Attila ceased under Marcian while Attila was busy invading Italy. Marcian personally launched expeditions across the Danube into the hunnic heartland, winning significant victories against them; the actions of Marcian, combined with famine in Italy, forced Attila to retreat back to the Hungarian plains where he would die in 453.
After the death of Attila, Marcian would settle many hunnic vassal tribese within Eastern Roman lands as foederati, taking advantage of the fall of the Hunnic empire. He would be succeeded by the first Emperor of the Leonid dynasty. Family trees of the Byzantine imperial dynasties
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables, to the Corpus Juris Civilis ordered by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. Roman law forms the basic framework for civil law, the most used legal system today, the terms are sometimes used synonymously; the historical importance of Roman law is reflected by the continued use of Latin legal terminology in many legal systems influenced by it, including common law. After the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, the Roman law remained in effect in the Eastern Roman Empire. From the 7th century onward, the legal language in the East was Greek. Roman law denoted the legal system applied in most of Western Europe until the end of the 18th century. In Germany, Roman law practice remained in place longer under the Holy Roman Empire. Roman law thus served as a basis for legal practice throughout Western continental Europe, as well as in most former colonies of these European nations, including Latin America, in Ethiopia.
English and Anglo-American common law were influenced by Roman law, notably in their Latinate legal glossary. Eastern Europe was influenced by the jurisprudence of the Corpus Juris Civilis in countries such as medieval Romania which created a new system, a mixture of Roman and local law. Eastern European law was influenced by the "Farmer's Law" of the medieval Byzantine legal system. Before the Twelve Tables, private law comprised the Roman civil law that applied only to Roman citizens, was bonded to religion; the jurist Sextus Pomponius said, "At the beginning of our city, the people began their first activities without any fixed law, without any fixed rights: all things were ruled despotically, by kings". It is believed that Roman Law is rooted in the Etruscan religion; the first legal text is the Law of the Twelve Tables, dating from the mid-5th century BC. The plebeian tribune, C. Terentilius Arsa, proposed that the law should be written, in order to prevent magistrates from applying the law arbitrarily.
After eight years of political struggle, the plebeian social class convinced the patricians to send a delegation to Athens, to copy the Laws of Solon. In 451 BC, according to the traditional story, ten Roman citizens were chosen to record the laws. While they were performing this task, they were given supreme political power, whereas the power of the magistrates was restricted. In 450 BC, the decemviri produced the laws on ten tablets, but these laws were regarded as unsatisfactory by the plebeians. A second decemvirate is said to have added two further tablets in 449 BC; the new Law of the Twelve Tables was approved by the people's assembly. Modern scholars tend to challenge the accuracy of Roman historians, they do not believe that a second decemvirate took place. The decemvirate of 451 is believed to have included the most controversial points of customary law, to have assumed the leading functions in Rome. Furthermore, the question on the Greek influence found in the early Roman Law is still much discussed.
Many scholars consider it unlikely that the patricians sent an official delegation to Greece, as the Roman historians believed. Instead, those scholars suggest, the Romans acquired Greek legislations from the Greek cities of Magna Graecia, the main portal between the Roman and Greek worlds; the original text of the Twelve Tables has not been preserved. The tablets were destroyed when Rome was conquered and burned by the Gauls in 387 BC; the fragments which did survive show. It did not provide a complete and coherent system of all applicable rules or give legal solutions for all possible cases. Rather, the tables contained specific provisions designed to change the then-existing customary law. Although the provisions pertain to all areas of law, the largest part is dedicated to private law and civil procedure. Many laws include Lex Canuleia, Leges Licinae Sextiae, Lex Ogulnia, Lex Hortensia. Another important statute from the Republican era is the Lex Aquilia of 286 BC, which may be regarded as the root of modern tort law.
However, Rome's most important contribution to European legal culture was not the enactment of well-drafted statutes, but the emergence of a class of professional jurists and of a legal science. This was achieved in a gradual process of applying the scientific methods of Greek philosophy to the subject of law, a subject which the Greeks themselves never treated as a science. Traditionally, the origins of Roman legal science are connected to Gnaeus Flavius. Flavius is said to have published around the year 300 BC the formularies containing the words which had to be spoken in court to begin a legal action. Before the time of Flavius, these formularies are said to have been secret and known only to the priests, their publication made it possible for non-priests to explore the mea