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    Patristic sources

    Humfress, Caroline (2015) Patristic sources. In: Johnston, D. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Roman Law. The Cambridge Companions to Literature and Classics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 97-118. ISBN 9780521895644.

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    Since at least the legal humanists in the sixteenth century, lawyers and historians have attempted to reconstruct Roman legal texts and principles using Patristic literature from the first six centuries AD. Patristic or ‘patrological’ literature forms a disparate body of material, grouped together by the idea that it was written by ‘the Fathers’ of the Christian Church: those ancient Christian authors later acknowledged as authorities in the historical development of Christian doctrine. Patristic texts stretch across a vast range of different traditions, cultural contexts, and languages (Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ethiopian, Armenian, Coptic, etc.) and include polemical works, orations, sermons, letters, and poems, as well as systematic treatises on Christian doctrine and works of Biblical exegesis and scriptural commentary. Patristic scholars, like Roman lawyers and legal historians, have their own conventional schemes of periodization and classification: for example the traditional Patristic framework of ante-Nicene/Nicene/post-Nicene divides ‘the Fathers’ according to whether they wrote before or after the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council of the church held in AD 325 at the command of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to be baptized a Christian. In terms of the conventional periodization of Roman law, Patristic sources span virtually the entire classical period (when taken together with the Judaeo-Christian writings of the first century AD and those of the ‘Apostolic fathers’), as well as the ‘epiclassical’ (c. AD 235–c.300), ‘postclassical’ (fourth–sixth centuries AD), and Justinianic (AD 527–565) periods. The ‘Golden Age of Patristics’ is traditionally understood to be the fourth and fifth centuries AD, and it is the Greek and Latin patristic texts from these centuries that have been quarried most heavily as potential sources of information on late Roman imperial law, administration and forensic practice. For the postclassical and Justinianic periods, the recognition that (some) Patristic texts can be used as valuable extra-legal sources tends to merge with much broader debates concerning the extent to which Roman law and society were ‘Christianized’ under the later Empire.


    Item Type: Book Section
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2016 13:18
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:25


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