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NOVELLAE or NOVELLAE CONSTITUTIONES (νεαραὶ διατάξεις) are the disconnected enactments of Roman emperors following upon a codification of the existing legislation. The first such codification was that effected A.D. 439 by Theodosius II. [CODEX THEODOSIANUS], and the first Novellae were those issued by Theodosius himself nine years later, and confirmed for the Western Empire by Valentinian III. A.D. 448. Similarly Theodosius' successor, Marcian, made Novellae in co-operation with the Western emperor, and the same was done by Leo, but after him the legislation of the two empires was distinct, and none of the Western enactments seem to have possessed validity in the East. Several collections of the Novellae of Theodosius and his successors on the throne of Constantinople were made at unknown times and by unknown authors, and they have been edited by Haenel (1844): such of them as are of any importance for the modern civil law were of course incorporated in the Code of Justinian, and so lost the character of Novellae.

The Novellae Constitutiones of Justinian were his enactments subsequent to the publication of his second Codex, A.D. 534, and form a portion of the Corpus Juris Civilis. The first was issued on Jan. 1 in A.D. 535, and related to testamentary law: it was followed in the next thirty years (Justinian dying A.D. 565) by over 160 others, though far the greater number were [p. 2.246]issued before Tribonian's death in A.D. 545. Many consist of but one short chapter, but some of from forty to fifty: most concern ecclesiastical and administrative matters, but some are of great importance in relation to private law, effecting sweeping reforms in the rules of the family, and still more of inheritance. As a rule they are in Greek, but fifteen are in Latin and three in both languages: in this last case it was ordered that the Latin version, that being the official tongue, should be considered the authentic one. Justinian himself contemplated making a special and separate collection of his Novellae (Const. cordi, § 4), but we know that this was never done from a contemporary of his own, Johannes Scholasticus (from A.D. 557 Patriarch of Constantinople), who speaks of them as existing σποράδην. Three private collections have come down to us: (1.) The Epitome Juliani, a Latin condensation of 125 Novellae made by Julianus, a professor in Constantinople, A.D. 556. (2.) The Authenticum or Liber Authenticorum, a collection of 134 Novellae, all in Latin, of unknown origin, largely circulated in Italy in the twelfth century: their genuineness was at first denied by Truerius, but he subsequently retracted his opinion, and this collection was considered by the glossators as having the force of law. (3.) A collection of 168 Novellae in Greek, some of which however are in duplicates and others were enacted by various successors of Justinian; only 153 are Justinian's own. This was first published in Germany by Haloander in 1531. Besides these, there are other Novellae of uncertain origin and force, including the thirteen so-called “Edicta Justiniani.”

The most complete work on the history of the Novellae is by Biener, Geschichte der Novellen Justinians, Berlin, 1824: cf. also Beitrag zur Litterar-Geschichte des Novellen-Auszugs von Julian; Von Haubold, Zeitschrift, vol. iv.; and an excellent account of the history of the various collections and editions of them in Puchta's Institutionen, vol. 1.147.


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