Adonis Diaries

“Beryte (Beirut) School of law” by Joy Tabet

Posted on: August 7, 2010

“Beryte (Beirut) School of law” by Joy Tabet

In the previous two articles, I recounted the story of Beirut (Lebanon), confirming its status as the Roman Empire city for teaching laws and generating professors of jurisprudence between 150 to 556 AC.

Beirut was the “Mother and wet-nurse of laws“.  This article is providing details on the 5 most famous jurists in the second and third century who acceded to the highest functions in administration and governance in the Roman Empire and Byzantium Empire.

The Roman Emperial Constitution called “law of citations” ordered judges to applying the opinions of the five illustrious jurists.  When there is equality in alternative opinions then, it was Papinian opinion that prevailed.

Gaius (110-180) produced the course in law school called “Institutes”; it was a manual in 4 volumes exposing the Roman laws for civil rights.  He commented on the “Twelve Tables” code in seven books.  The doctrine of Gaius was authority to judges in the second and third centuries.

Armilius Papinian (142-212) was born in Homs (Syria).  Cervidius Scaevola was his law teacher and emperor Septimus Severus was his schoolmate and relative.  He was named “Lawyer of the treasury” by Emperor Marcus Aurelius and then became the prefect of the magistrate (the first dignitary of the Empire).  Emperor Septimus died in 211 and asked Papinian to guide his two sons Caracalla and Geta.

A year later, Caracalla assassinated Geta and demanded of Papinian to justify to the senate and the people the murder.  Papinian refused saying: “It is easier to commit parricide than to justifying it.  It is worse than a new parricide to accusing an innocent victim.”  Papinian was assassinated by a praetorian guard of Caracalla.  He was considered the “primus” among the other four illustrious classic masters of laws.

The doctrine of Papinian constituted the curriculum of the third years in law school; only 8 out of 19 books of “responses” were taught in that year.  In a period where slaves were considered chattel Papinian stated the principle of “Equality to all and liberty for each individual” almost 1,800 years before the UN universal declaration on human rights in 1948.

Julius Paulus was born in Tyr (Lebanon) and became a member of the “Emperor council”.  He ruled the Empire with the Emperor grand mother Julia Maesa as Emperor Alexander Sevirus was under age.  He wrote 236 works and was the most prolific among the classic jurists.  Of all his production, only the “fragments” in the “Digeste” and 5 books addressed to his son remain.  The 23 books of “Responses” were taught at the 4th year in law school.  There are over 2,000 citations of Paulus in the Digeste.

Domitius Ulpian (170-228) was born in Tyr (Lebanon) and lived in Beirut.  He succeeded Papinian as head of the law school and taught jurisprudence in Rome for a while.  He revised laws to reforming the Roman society and to limiting the dictatorship and vast privileges of the Praetorian Guards.

Even Emperor Alexander Severus could not protect Ulpian from the wrath of the praetorian guards who assassinated Ulpian in the presence of the emperor.  Ulpian wrote 16 books called “Libri ad edictum” that were taught in the second year at law school.  Over the third of the Digeste are compilation of Ulpian opinions.  He contributed to Roman civil code more than all the combined Roman jurists.  He stated: “All mankind are equal in natural rights”

Herennius Modestinus was a famous jurisconsult under Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235).  He was the most brilliant disciple of Ulpian.  He became consul with emperor Probus (276-282) and wrote 92 books of laws.

Beirut was destroyed by earthquake in 556 and was finished up by a major fire.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Beirut was a quaint fishing and small port village.  The European consuls deserted Sidon in order to build an adequate merchant port in Beirut.  The civil war destroyed Beirut again and is being rebuilt according to commercial standards of high towers devoid of any Orient character or spirit.

You can no longer rent a small apartment in Beirut:  Oil money after the latest financial crash overvalued Real Estate by 600% within two years in Beirut and Lebanon.

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