Theodosius, the law-maker, 401-450 A.D., is often erroneously confused with his grandfather Theodosius the Great, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (347-395 A.D.).

Theodosius, grand-son, and emperor only of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire (an empire which by then was divided in half, each half having their own Emperor) is remembered in legal history not only for his Law of Legal Citations which was essential in an age of competing principles among Roman law jurists, but also for his great code which although ultimately unsuccessful in terms of application, an effort which nonetheless lit the flame of comprehensive codification which would be completed by his successor Justinian 100 years later.

Theodosius was well aware of the plot are of legal opinions which created a chaotic state of law throughout his territory. He was attracted to one publication by two lawyers known as Gregorius or Gregorianus, and Hermogenes or Hermogenianus (historical records are grossly deficient on these two individuals and even their names are partially formulated from informed conjecture).

Theodosius IITheodosius envisioned to codes of law but the second was never completed. In 429 A.D. he announced the project which was sanctioned in 438 A.D, the Codex Theodosianus. Theodosius' instructions to his eight commissioners (later increased to 16 commissioners) had been simple: create order from chaos including if necessary, preferring one principle of law from another were two conflicting legal theories existed.


The compilers looked at legal opinions from the previous 126 years starting with the first Christian Emperor of Rome.

The result was a fascinating: with extensive historical references, compiled in the 16 books. it was the first time since the 12 tables that a Roman government had attempted to issue a single code of law.

The Codex Theodosianus was adopted by the Emperor of the Western Holy Roman Empire. It was a significant influence to Euric's Code and, later, the laws of Alaric, King of the Visigoths (the Breviary of Alaric).

The Code was reprinted in 1528 by Joanne Sichardus at Basel and then, 22 years later, republished by Jean du Tillet, and again several times by successive authors. The most authoritative of version of the Theodosian Code is generally accepted to be that of Jacobus Gothofredus, also known as Godefroy, published posthumously at Lyons in 1665.


  • Duhaime, Lloyd, The Law of Citations, 426 A.D.
  • Smith, Williams, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875).
  • The Theodosian Code, 10 Green Bag 309 (1898)
  • Wolf, Hans Julius, Roman law: An Historical Introduction (University of Oklahoma Press, 1951), pages 161-162.