Biographies: Jurists of the Empire (27 BC - 284 AD)

The sources of Roman law

Jurists of the Empire[1]

Note: The jurists mentioned in this document are listed roughly in chronological order. This reflects the progression of the ‘profession’ as well as the familial and educational links between various individuals. It also links up to the online timeline and its downloadable version. Our focus here is mainly on the jurists mentioned in the text. For a complete overview of all of the jurists, see the works cited in the footnote below.

The jurists cited in this section are:

Gaius Anteius Capito

Marcus Antistius Labeo

Fabius Mela

Marcus Cocceius Nerva (Pater)

Marcus Massurius Sabinus

Marcus Cocceius Nerva (Filius)

Gaius Cassius Longinus

Sempronius (?) Proculus

Gnaeius Arulenus Caelius Sabinus

Pegasus

Lucius (?) Iavolenus Priscus

Titius Aristo

Lucius Neratius Priscus

Publius Iuventius Celsus (Filius)

Lucius Aburnius Valens

Sextus Pomponius

Gaius

Publius Salvius Iulianus

Sextus Caecilius Africanus

Lucius Volusius Maecianus

Iunius Mauricianus

Terentius Clemens

Venuleius Saturninus

Ulpius Marcellus

Quintus Cervidius Scaevola

Papirius Iustus

Florentinus

Aemilius Papinianus

Arrius Menander

Claudius Tryphoninus

Aemilius Macer

Domitius Ulpianus

Callistratus

Tertullianus

Iulius Paulus

Aelius Marcianus

Herennius Modestinus

Gaius Anteius Capito - Born in the early 40s BC, deceased by 22 AD. Capito, a student of Aulus Ofilius, was known for his adherence to older doctrines. Whether that made him a supporter of Republican ideals is open to debate. He was granted the ius respondendi and is controversially credited with being the founder of the Sabinians. He was Consul Suffectus in 5 AD and was appointed Curator Aquarum in 13 AD. He wrote influential treatises on pontifical and public law as well as a collection of miscellanies (Coniectanea).

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 25 – 55; 59 – 62 as well as Schiller, Roman law, para 114.

Marcus Antistius Labeo - Son of the Republican jurist Pacuvius Antistius Labeo, born c. 50 BC, deceased by 10/11 AD. He studied under Gaius Trebatius Testa and became the leading lawyer of the Augustan age. He only held the office of Praetor and the traditional account holds that he turned down an offer of Consulship from Augustus because of his republican convictions. He was both a teacher of law and a prolific writer, who divided his year equally between teaching in Rome and writing in the county. He produced more than 400 books including a collection of decided cases, a commentary on the Twelve Tables and on the praetorian edict as well as a treatise on pontifical law. Labeo is credited with being the founder of the Proculians (though there is much debate about this). Although his literary was prolific, only two of his works, the Pithana and the Posteriora (a collection edited posthumously by Iavolenus Priscus) are cited in the Corpus Iuris Civilis.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, § 160; Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 25 – 55 as well as Schiller, Roman law, para 113.

Fabius Mela – A jurist of the Augustan era, possibly of Spanish origin, of which not much is known.

Marcus Cocceius Nerva (Pater) – A little-known jurist who lived during the reign of Tiberius. He became the head of the Proculians after Marcus Antistius Labeo. Nerva was Consul before 24 AD and succeeded Gaius Anteius Capito as Curator Aquarum. None of the works of this jurist are known.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 68 – 73.

Marcus Massurius Sabinus - A jurist from Verona (?), who became a successful teacher of law in Rome and who lent his name to the Sabinians. He was not a wealthy man and seems to have survived by accepting gifts from his students. In his early fifties (according to some), however, Sabinus seems to have amassed sufficient wealth to be admitted to the rank of equites. He was the author of a treatise on the ius civile (in three books) that became the object of commentary by the jurists of the classical period (e.g. Paul and Ulpian ad Sabinum). This work, according to Berger, is said to have contained the Sabinian Scheme: a discussion of private law under four headings (succession, persons, obligations and things). Sabinus also produced a commentary on the praetorian edict, a collection of legal opinions and a monograph on theft. He had a reputation for being a skilled lawyer and Tiberius awarded him the ius publice respondendi, seemingly the first lawyer to be awarded this privilege who was not of senatorial origin.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 62 – 68, Hazel, Who’s Who, entry on Masurius Sabinus as well as Schiller, Roman law, para 115.

Marcus Cocceius Nerva (Filius) – Almost nothing, according to Berger, is known about this jurist, apart from his affiliation with the Proculians and his authorship of a monograph on usucapio.

See Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary, entry on Marcus Cocceius Nerva.

Gaius Cassius Longinus - Leader of the Sabinians and a famous jurist of the first century AD. He was related to Servius Sulpicius Rufus (his great-grandfather). Gaius Cassius Longinus lived during the reigns of Claudius and Nero and had an illustrious public career (Praetor Urbanus 27 AD, Consul Suffectus 30 AD, governor of Asia in 40/41 AD and Legatus in Syria 47/5 – 49 AD) until he was implicated in the Pisonian conspiracy (65 AD), prosecuted and banished. The emperor Vespasian eventually allowed him to return from exile. He is best known for his work on the ius civile which, together with the annotations of Iavolenus, was frequently cited in the classical period.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 119 – 140 as well as Schiller, Roman law, para 117 and Hazel, Who’s Who, entry on Gaius Cassius Longinus.

Sempronius (?) Proculus - A jurist and teacher of law (born between 12 and 2 BC, deceased post 66 (?) AD), who may have been born in Spain. He became leader of the Proculians. He is known to have authored 11 books of Epistulae (a textbook designed for teaching). He is credited as being the first jurist to use the term Epistula in this sense.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 119 – 140 as well as Schiller, Roman law, para 116.

Gnaeius Arulenus Caelius SabinusConsul Suffectus in 69 AD. He was leader of the Sabinians and author of a commentary on the aedilician edict.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 142 – 146 as well as Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary, entry on Caelius Sabinus.

Pegasus – A jurist of the latter first century AD and a Proculian. He is known to have been Praetor, Praefectus Urbi (c.75 AD) and Consul Suffectus in c. 90 AD. During his term as Consul he was the driving force behind the Senatusconsultum Pegasianum on fideicommissum hereditatis.

See Schulz, History, p. 104; Spruit, Enchiridium, § 165; Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 146 – 164.

Lucius (?) Iavolenus Priscus – A jurist, born c. 43/53 AD, with an illustrious military and public career, Consul Suffectus in 97 (or 87) (?) AD and later governor of successively the provinces of Upper Germany, Syria and Africa. He was a member of Nerva’s and Trajan’s Imperial council and remained a member of this council during the early years of Hadrian’s reign. He is also credited with being the teacher of Publius Salvius Iulianus. Iavolenus Priscus is best known for his Epistulae in 16 books, a collection of excerpts from the works of earlier jurists, and his collection of texts from Marcus Antistius Labeo’s Posteriora.

Schulz, Legal Science, 104, Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary, entry on Octavius Iavolenus Priscus. See Also Schiller, Roman law, para 120 for an overview of the main primary sources and a critical review of the secondary sources on this jurist.

Titius Aristo – A student of Gaius Cassius Longinus and a man of humble birth who rose to prominence in the early second century AD. He was a practicing advocate and an expert in public and private law (with the ius respondendi), possibly a Proculian. Aristo produced a work containing excerpts of the writings of earlier jurists together with his own commentary. Pomponius collected various works of Aristo and published it under the title, Digesta, but only secondary references to this work have survived.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 213 – 221.

Lucius Neratius PriscusConsul Suffectus in 97 AD, governor of Lower Germany and Pannonia (c. 100 AD). He was a member of the Imperial councils of Trajan and Hadrian. He authored, amongst other works, a collection of regulae (as a teaching aid) as well as a monograph de nuptiis.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 194 – 213.

Publius Iuventius Celsus (Filius) – Succeed his father, a little known jurist of the same name, as head of the Proculians. He held various offices of state (Praetor 106 AD and Consul in 129 AD) and became governor of Thrace and Asia Minor. During his term as Consul he was the driving force behind the Senatusconsultum Iuventianum on hereditas petitio. Celsus was also a member of the Imperial council under Hadrian and possibly also Trajan. His works include a set of 39 books of Digesta as well as Epistulae and Quaestiones. He possessed the ius respondendi - and was frequently cited by later jurists.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, § 168; Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 221 – 230; Schiller, Roman law, para 121.

Lucius Aburnius Valens – A little known Roman jurist who lived during the reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius and held certain offices of state. He was the author of an extensive treatise on fideicommissa.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 213 – 234.

Sextus Pomponius – One of the most prominent academic jurists of the Principate who lived during the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He did not produce any legal opinions (responsa) nor does he seem to have held any public office. He was the author of over 300 books, including a massive commentary on the Edict in 150 books, a commentary on the ius civile in 35 books and a series of monographs on a variety of topics. He is best known for his Enchiridium, a comprehensive account of the history of Roman legal science that is frequently cited in the Corpus Iuris Civilis.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, §§ 171 – 172; Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 287 – 304, Schiller, Roman law, para 123.

Gaius – One of the greatest unknown jurists of Roman legal history. His full name, origin and many of the details concerning his life remain unknown. There is support for the view that he received his legal education in Rome, but that he taught in the provinces (possibly in the East). He is known to have been lecturing in 160/161 AD and was still alive in 178 AD. He was a prolific writer of nearly 30 books on a variety of subjects including the Twelve Tables (6 books), the Edict of the urban praetor (10 books), the provincial edict (32 books) and numerous monographs on related matters. His works appear to have attained fame only after his death (He is cited as one of the “important five” jurists of the classical period in the Law of Citations). He is perhaps best known for his Institutiones, a systematic student textbook used as the template for Justinian’s Institutes.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, §§ 173 – 174. On Gaius, see extensively, Macdonell, J. and Manson, E. Great Jurists of the World (London 1913) pp. 1 – 16; Honoré, A.M. Gaius (Oxford 1962); Schiller, Roman law, para 125.

Publius Salvius Iulianus - A jurist from North Africa (born in the 80s AD). He was a student of Iavolenus Priscus and the teacher of Sextus Caecilius Africanus. He had an illustrious career in the Imperial service during the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He was Consul in 148 AD and later governor of Lower Germany, Nearer Spain and Africa. He also served as a member of Hadrian’s and Antoninus Pius’ Imperial councils. He is best known for his Digesta in 90 books, a comprehensive collection of legal opinions that was highly regarded by later jurists, though he also produced various other commentaries and monographs. Publius Salvius Iulianus is also known for being the redactor of the Praetorian Edict on the instruction of the emperor Hadrian (in the 120s AD), who was apparently so impressed by his learning that he doubled his salary.

See Bauman, Lawyers and Politics, pp. 237 – 263, Schiller, Roman law, para 122 provides a critical account of the life the jurist and our main sources of information on his life.

Sextus Caecilius Africanus – A jurist from North Africa (Tunisia) and a student of P. Salvius Iulianus. He is the author of a collection of Responsa, published under the title Quaestiones (9 books). A large portion of this work reflects the opinions of his teacher, Julian and it is often difficult to disentangle them. He is also credited with having produced a collection of Epistulae (in 20 books).

Schiller, Roman law, para 124.

Lucius Volusius Maecianus – A jurist hailing from the Italian port-city of Ostia, best known for being the law tutor of the future emperor Marcus Aurelius. He had a glittering official career, governor of Egypt in 160 – 162 AD and thereafter member of the Imperial council during the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. His principal work is a collection of Quaestiones de fideicommissis (in 16 books). He also produced works on criminal procedure and a monograph in Greek on the Lex Rhodia.

Iunius Mauricianus – A little known jurist who wrote a commentary on the Lex Papia Poppaea (in 6 books).

Terentius Clemens – A virtually unknown jurist who wrote a commentary on the Lex Papia Poppaea (in 20 books).

Venuleius Saturninus – There is little information about the life of this jurist. He authored various treatises on actions, interdicts and stipulations as well as minor works on the office of Proconsul and on criminal procedure.

Ulpius Marcellus - A jurist from Asia Minor who became a Roman citizen during the reign of Trajan. He taught and practiced law in Rome and also acted as advisor to Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He produced nearly fifty books, including an extensive Digesta, a collection of Responsa and a commentary on Julian’s Digesta in the form of Notae.

Quintus Cervidius Scaevola - A jurist of North African origin (born in Carthage). He had an illustrious public career, Praefectus Vigilum in 175 – 177 AD and later became legal advisor to Marcus Aurelius. He is known to have practiced law and he is also credited with being the teacher of Iulius Paulus and possibly Aemilius Papinianus. His works include Quaestiones (20 books), Responsa (6 books), a Digesta (40 books).

Schiller, Roman law, para 126.

Papirius Iustus – Little is known about this jurist’s life and official career. He authored a collection of Imperial constitutions in 20 books.

Florentinus – A little known jurist who produced an extensive Institutiones (12 books).

Aemilius Papinianus - One of the leading jurists of the severan age. His place of birth is unknown, but there is support for the view that he was of African origin, since he had close ties with the emperor Septimius Severus, who originated from North Africa. He held the office of Praefectus Praetorio in 203 – 205 AD and was executed in 212 AD seemingly by order of Caracalla. His principal works include collections of cases, a work of Quaestiones in 37 books, Responsa in 19 books, a work on legal definitions in two books and a monograph on adultery. He was long regarded as one of the greatest jurists of the classical period. He is listed in the Law of Citations as one of the ‘important five’ jurists of the classical period.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, §§ 176, 190; Macdonell and Manson, Great Jurists, pp. 17 – 31; Schiller, Roman law, para 128.

Arrius Menander – A jurist who lived during the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla and who was a member of their Imperial councils. He was the author of a treatise on military law.

Claudius Tryphoninus – Student of Q. Cervidius Scaevola and member of Septimius Severus’ Imperial council. He produced collections of Notae as well as Disputationes (21 books).

Aemilius Macer – Little known jurist who produced monographs on procedure, military law and the office of the provincial governor.

Domitius Ulpianus - A highly productive jurist, who was born into a prominent provincial family in Phoenicia in the city of Tyre. He held various Imperial offices during his lifetime (Praefectus Praetorio from 222 AD) and was assassinated in 223 AD. Ulpian was a prolific writer who wrote many treatises and monographs on a variety of topics, including commentaries on the praetorian edict in 83 books, on the ius civile in 51 books as well as a monograph on the duties of the Proconsul.  He was one of the most influential jurists of the classical period and was listed in the Law of Citations as one of the ‘important five’ jurists of the classical period.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, § 177; Macdonell and Manson, Great Jurists, pp. 32 – 44; Honoré, A.M. Ulpian (Oxford 1982) (reprinted as Ulpian: Pioneer of Human Rights 2nd edition (Oxford 2002); Schiller, Roman law, para 130)

Callistratus – A jurist, possibly of Greek origin, who lived during the reign of Septimius Severus. He was the author of Institutiones, Quaestiones, a commentary on the edict of the provincial governor as well as works on more unusual subjects such as fiscal law and magisterial jurisdiction.

Tertullianus – A little-known jurist, who is often identified with the Christian writer of the same name. There is, however, insufficient proof to substantiate this association. He is known to have authored Quaestiones and a monograph on peculium castrense.

Iulius Paulus - A prolific jurist about whom very little is known, except that he was a contemporary of Ulpian and a student of Quintus Cervidius Scaevola. He practised as an advocate in Rome and he is known to have served on the Imperial councils of Septimius Severus and Caracalla. Iulius Paulus also acted as assessor to Papinianus during the latter’s term as Praefectus Praetorio. The possibility exists that he also held that office in 219 AD. He produced 320 books which included 16 on the ius civile and 78 (perhaps 80) on the praetorian edict. His works were widely read by later jurists and their authority was confirmed in the Law of Citations where he is listed as one of the ‘important five’ jurists of the classical period.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, § 178; Schiller, Roman law, para 129.

Aelius Marcianus - A jurist from the Eastern provinces, who seemingly did not hold any public office during his life. He was the author of many monographs and commentaries, but he is perhaps best known for his Institutiones (in 16 books) that were frequently cited in the Digest of Justinian.

Herennius Modestinus - A student of Ulpian, who became an important Imperial official in Rome in the mid-third century AD. He authored, amongst other works, an extensive collection of Responsa (19 books) dealing with controversial issues in law as well as a treatise, written in Greek, on the exceptions from guardianship. Some scholars regard him as a transitional figure. In their view, Modestinus was the last of the jurists of the classical period and the forerunner to the more limited legal culture that arose in the late third century AD. The authority of his works is confirmed in the Law of Citations where he is listed as one of the ‘important five’ jurists of the classical period.

See Spruit, Enchiridium, § 179; Schiller, Roman law, para 131.

[1] Biographies have been compiled using Schulz, F. History of Roman Legal Science (Oxford 1946); Berger, A. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (Philadelphia 1953); Schiller, A. Roman law: mechanisms of development (The Hague/Paris/New York 1978); Syme, R. Fiction about Roman jurists, (1980) 97 ZSS (rA), pp. 78 – 104; Bauman, R.A. Lawyers and Politics in the Early Roman Empire (Munich 1989); Bauman, R.A. Personal names, adoptions and families of Roman jurists, (1991) 108 ZSS (rA), pp. 1 – 20; Spruit, J.E. Enchiridium 4th edition (Deventer 1994); Hazel, J. Who’s Who in the Roman World (London/New York 2002); Hornblower, S. and Spawforth, A. (eds.) The Oxford Classical Dictionary 3rd revised edition (Oxford 2003).