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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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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Page 2

The title of the Ecloga (meaning selection or extract) is indicative of its sources. The title runs as follows: An abridged selection of laws, arranged by Leo and Constantine, the wise and pious kings, from the Institutes, Digest, Code, Novels of the Great Justinian, and corrected with a view to greater humanity (εἰς τὸ φιλανθρωπότερον), or, as others translate this, with a view to improvement. The introduction states definitely that the decrees issued by the preceding emperors have been written in various books and that their meaning, difficult for some, is entirely incomprehensible for others, especially for those who do not live in the God-guarded imperial city. The various books refer to Greek translations and commentaries of Justinian's lawbooks which were used in actual practice, frequently replacing the Latin originals. Very few people could understand these Greek translations and commentaries. The profusion of books and the variations and contradictions found in them produced considerable confusion in the civil law of the Byzantine Empire. Leo III saw clearly the existing state of affairs and made it his aim to relieve these conditions. The principles of the Ecloga, laid down in its introduction, are imbued with ideas of justice and righteousness. They maintain that judges must refrain from all human passions and make decisions of true Justice, developed by clear reasoning; they must not scorn the needy, or leave unpunished the strong man guilty of offense. They must justly refrain from accepting gifts. All the officials in judicial service must receive definite salaries from the imperial pious treasury, so that they take nothing from any person who might come under their jurisdiction, in order that the prediction of the Prophet, 'They sold the righteous for silver' (Amos 2:6), should not come true and that we should not be visited by the wrath of God for becoming transgressors of his commandments.

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