Decreta Frontiana

Some observations on D. 29,2,99 and the ‘law reports’ of Titius Aristo

In: Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review
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  • 1 Leiden University, Faculty of Law, P.O. Box 9520, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

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This article is about Roman ‘law reports’ in general, and particularly about the so-called decreta frontiana mentioned in D. 29,2,99 and not infrequently attributed to Titius Aristo. It is contended that Aristo was indeed the author of a great number of notae, responsa and epistulae, compiled by Sextus Pomponius a generation after Aristo’s death, but that he was not the author of ‘law reports’ entitled decreta Frontoniana or Frontiniana. All he did, was compose an observation (nota) on an appeal case decided by one of six possible consuls, called either Fronto, or Frontonianus, or even Frontinus, that Aristo had found in the consular commentarii. There is only one genuine Roman ‘law report’, and that isthe collection of cases decided by Septimius Severus and Caracalla as compiled by Julius Paulus. In the history of Roman legal literature, it is only in the Byzantine period that anything similar appears again.

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     See, for example, F. Schulz, Roman legal science, Oxford 1946, p. 154 and, more recently, J.-P. Coriat, Le prince législateur, Rome 1997, p. 95, and especially M. Rizzi, Imperator cognoscens decrevit, Profili e contenuti dell’attività giudizaria imperiale in età classica, Milaan 2012, p. 132–133 (Rizzi).

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  • 3

     F. Schulz, Geschichte der römischen Rechtswissenschaft, Weimar 1961, p. 181, following Th. Mommsen, Juristische Schriften, II, Berlin 1905, p. 22 (= Sextus Pomponius, in: Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte, 7 (1868), p. 475–476; further cited as Mommsen JS/ZfR); P. Krüger, Geschichte der Quellen und Literatur des römischen Rechts, 2nd ed., Munich–Leipzig 1912, p. 179; F. Wieacker, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, II, Munich 2006, p. 59 (‘möglicherweise’); Rizzi (supra, n. 2), p. 132–133 and especially Fr. Tamburi, I decreta Frontiana di Aristone, in: Studi in onore di Remo Martini, III, Milano 2010, p. 713–758.

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  • 66

     Fronto, ad M. Caes. 1,6,2. Fronto’s case illustrates that an appellatio ad principem did not yet, in his own time, presuppose a preceding decision a quo: everyone could still ‘call on’ (appellare) the emperor whenever he needed help, even when there was no preceding verdict against him: think of the apostle Paul. Appellatio (ad principem) only obtained the technical meaning we attach to it after the Roman emperors perceived that the normal ordo iudiciorum would be subverted if everyone were allowed to bring his case directly before the emperor rather than the normal courts of first instance. Fronto’s case bears witness to this development. See Orestano (supra, n. 59), p. 196 ff.

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  • 71

     See on this point also Kaser, Das Urteil (supra, n. 52), p. 122.

  • 122

     Talbert, The Senate of Imperial Rome (supra, n. 84), p. 464–466; 473–477.

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     M. Rizzi, Imperator cognoscens decrevit (supra, n. 2), p. 132–133, n. 96, does not seem to have an opinion on the nature of the decreta Frontiana, but merely refers to the opposing views of Mommsen and Karlowa without taking sides.

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