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Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

The internal activities of the emperors of the Isaurian dynasty 

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Legislation. Leo III was not only a gifted leader and energetic defender of his Empire against external enemies, but also a wise and capable legislator. Even in the time of Justinian the Great, in the sixth century, the Latin text of his Code, Digest, and Institutes was little, or not at all, understood in the majority of provinces. In many districts, in the east particularly, old local customs were used in preference to official statutes, as was clearly evidenced by the popularity of the Syrian Lawbook of the fifth century. The Novels (Novellae) issued in Greek dealt only with current legislation. Meanwhile, in the seventh century, as the Empire was gradually losing Syria, Palestine, and Egypt in the east, North Africa in the south, and the northern parts of the Balkan peninsula in the north, it was becoming more and more Greek by language. For wide and general use it became necessary to create a lawbook in Greek which would reflect all the changes in living conditions since the time of Justinian the Great.

Fully realizing the need for such a code, Leo III entrusted the task of compiling it to a commission whose members he chose personally. The efforts of this body resulted in the publication of a code entitled the Ecloga, issued in the name of the wise and pious emperors, Leo and Constantine. There is some uncertainty as to the exact date of its publication. Some western scholars refer it to the end of Leo's reign (739-40),although the Russian Byzantinist, V. G. Vasilievsky is inclined to ascribe it to a date nearer the beginning of Leo's reign (about the year 726). Recently there has even been some doubt as to whether the Ecloga may be referred to the time of Leo III and Constantine V at all. At present most modern students of the question set the date of publication as March, 726.

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