Opolskie Studia Administracyjno-Prawne (Dec 2020)

About the imperial constitutions issued in Serdica. The imperial constitutions for the Orient and the Occident

  • Malina Novkirishka-Stoyanova

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 3
pp. 49 – 74


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Imperial constitutions make the basic source of Roman law in the period of the Principate or the Dominate. They present the Roman manner of unifying multicultural law of the Empire, consisting of various legislative practices and organization of the judiciary, in which it was necessary to solve different problems resulting from managing the state. Following the division of the Empire into the eastern and the western parts, there arose the problem of securing legal power of constitutions implemented by one of the rulers to be binding on the whole territory of the Empire still treated as one whole body. The analysis of the imperial constitutions introduced in the Serdica of old provides certain answers in this respect. The city appears to have been one of the temporal capitals of the Empire in the East, while awaiting Constantine who would confirm its key position by uttering the words: “Serdica mea Roma est”. In the years 2011-2012, in the University of Sofia there was a scientific project run, whose goal was to present the palingenesis of the imperial legislation enacted in Serdica as well as the position of the city in the period of late Empire. Apart from this, it was attempted to prove that the imperial law remained ‘alive’ in the uneasy period between the end to the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century. The analysis of the kinds of constitutions and their content allows us to discover the first stages of deep transformations of the Emperor’s power, which occurred at that time, as well as to get to know about the realization of the reforms launched by Diocletian and implemented until the rule of Constantine. First of all, we can see the picture of Emperor Constantine the Great – legislator, administrator, judge, who would promote abiding by the Emperor’s cult in the time when Christianity was winning more and more stable position in the Empire. The Edict of Tolerance, which was issued by Galerius in Serdica on 30 April 311 CE, should be regarded as the one laying the foundations of legislature favourable to Christians and, at the same time, opening the door to passing the Edict of Milan in 313 CE.