was a pupil of Q. Cervidius Scaevola.
An inscription records his parents to be Papinianus Hostilis and Eugenia Gracilis, and that they survived their son Aemilius Paullus Papinianus, who died in his thirty-seventh year. Aemilins Papinianus succeeded Septimius Severus, afterwards emperor, as Advocatus Fisci (Spartian. Carucall.
8). Now Severus held this oftice under Marcus Antoninus, and he was employed in various high capacities by Marcus during his lifetime. Papinianus therefore was Advocatus Fisci during the reign of Marcus, who died A. D. 180. Severus became emperor A. D. 1.92, and died A. D. 211.
There is therefore an interval of about thirty-two years between the death of Marcus and that of Severus, and consequently Papinianus, who held office under Marcus, and was put to death by Caracalla, the successor of Severus, must have been much more than thirty-six when he died.
Papinian is said to have been related to Julia Domna, the second wife of Severus. (Spart. Caracall.
He was highly esteemed by Severus, nnder whom he was Libellorum magister (Dig. 20
. tit. 5. s. 12), and afterwards praefectus praetorio. (D. C. 76.10. 14
.) Paulus (Dig. 12
. tit. 1. s. 40) speaks of having delivered an opinion in the auditorium of Papinian. Paulus and Ulpian were both assessors to Papinian (Papiniano in consilio fuerunt, Spart. Pescen. Niger,
7). Lampridius (Alex. Severus,
68) enumerates the "juris professores," as he terms those who were pupils of Papinian: in the list are the names of Ulpian, Paulus, Pomponius, Africanus, Florentinus and Modestinus, the most distinguished among the great Roman jurists.
Severus came to Britain A. D. 208, in which year his sons M. Antoninus Caracalla and P. Septimius Geta were consuls, and he died at York A. D. 211. As Papinian was praefectus praetorio under Severus, and is mentioned as being summuned to the emperor's presence, when the design of Caracalla against his father's life was discovered, we may conclude that the illustrious jurist was in Britain during the residence of Severus; and he may have drawn up the rescript given by Severus in the last year but one of his reign, at York (A. D. 210). to one Caecilia. (Cod. 3. tit. 32. s. l.)
It is also said that the emperor commended his two sons to the care of Papinian, which seems to imply that he was at York when Severus died there.
On the death of his father, Caracalla, according to Dion, dismissed Papinian from his office, and in the second year of his reign he murdered his brother Geta, while he was clinging to his another for protection. Papinian also was soon after put to death by the emperor's orders.
The reasons given for his death were various, but it is easy to conceive that a tyrant like Caracalla would be satisfied with any excuse for getting rid of so stern a monitor and so honest a man.
The pretext may have been that he was a partisan of Geta, or that he re fused to comply with the emperor's order to make a defence before the senate and the people of his brother's assassination (Spart. Caracalla,
8); but Papinian's real crime was his abilities and his integrity. His biographer states (Spart. Caracall.
4) that Papinian was beheaded in the emperor's presence, and that his son, who was then quaestor, perished about the same time.
The dying words of Papinian warned his successor in the office of what his own fate might be, and they were prophetic ; for Macrinus, who did succeed him, rid the empire of its tyrannical master by assassination. (Spart. Caracall
. 8, 6.) Spartianus apparently supposed that Papinian was praefectus praetorio at the time of his death. (D. C. 77.1
, and the note of Reimarus.)
There are 595 excerpts from Papinian's works in the Digest.
These excerpts are from the thirtyseven books of Quaestiones,
a work arranged according to the order of the Edict, the nineteen books of Responsa,
the two books of Definitiones,
the two books De Adultteriis,
a single book De Adulteriis,
and a Greek work or fragment, intitled ἐκ τοῦ ἀστυνομικοῦ μονοβίβλου τοῦ Παπινιανοῦ
, a work which probably treated of the office of aedile both at Rome and in other towns. Papinian is chiefly cited by Paulus and Ulpian; and he is also cited by Marcian. All these three jurists wrote notes on the works of Papinian, and in some cases at least dissented from him.
The following references contain instances of annotations on Papinian :-- Dig. 22
. tit. 1. s. 1.2; 18. tit. 1. s. 72; 1. tit. 21. s. 1.1; 3. tit. 5. s. 31.2.
No Roman jurist had a higher reputation than Papinian. Spartitnus (Severus,
21) calls him "juris asylum et doctrine legalis thesaurus."
The epithets of "prudentissimus," "consultissimus," "disertissimus," and others to the like effect, are bestowed upon him by various emperors. (Cod. 5. tit. 71. s. 14; 7. tit. 32. s. 3; 6. tit. 25. s. 9.)
As a practical jurist and a writer, few of his countrymen can be compared with him. Indeed the great commentator, who has devoted a whole folio to his remarks upon Papinian, declares that he was the first of all lawyers who have been or are to be, that no one ever surpassed him in legal knowledge, and no one ever will equal him. (Cujacius, Opera,
vol. iv., In Prooem. ad Quaest. Papinian.
) Nor is the reputation of Papinian unmerited.
It was not solely because of the high station that he filled, his penetration and his knowledge, that he left an imperishable name; his excellent understanding, guided by integrity of purpose, has made him the model of a true lawyer.
The fragments of Papinian are sometimes obscure, and require the aid of a commentator; but they will amply repay the labour that is necessary to seize the fullness of the meaning of this great master of jurisprudence.
A constitution of Theodosius and Valentinian (Cod. Theeod.
1. tit. 4, De Resposis Prmlentum
) declared all the writings of Papinian, Paulus, Caius, Ulpian and Modestinus to be authority for the judge; the opinions of those jurists also were to have authority, whose discussions and opinions (tractattus et opinliones) all the five mentioned jurists had inserted in their writings, as Scaevola, Sabinus Julian and Marcellus: if the opinions of these jurists, as expressed in their writings, were not unanlimous, the opinion of the majority was to prevail; if there was an equal number on each side, the opinion of that side was to prevail on which Papinian was (si numerus (auctorum) aequalis sit, ejus partes praecedat auctoribus in qua excellentis ingenii vir Papinianus emineat, qui, ut singulos vincit, ita cedit duobus).
It was one of the characteristics of Papinian not to consider himself infallible, and he did not hesitate to change his opinion, when he found a better reason, of which there is an instance in the passages here referred to. (Dig. 18
. tit. 7. s. 6.1; and Cod. 6. tit. 2. s. 22.3.) His strong moral feeling is indicated in another passage (Dig. 28
. tit. 7. s. 15), where he is speaking of conditions under which a heres may filial duty, to one's good name, to regard to decency, and generally, those which are against good morals (boni mores), must not be considered as conditions that a man can fulfil.
In the four years' course of study, as it existed before the time of Justinian, Papinian's Responsa
formed part of the third year's course, but only eight books out of the nineteen were explained to the students; and even this was done very imperfectly. In Justinian's course of studies, among other parts of the Digest, there were read in the third year, the twentieth, twenty-first and twenty-second books, which were intended to take the place of the exposition of Papinian formerly given in the third year's course; and it is stated that the students will in this manner become much better acquainted with Papinian. To make this intelligible, it should be observed, that all the titles of the twentieth book begin with an excerpt from Papinian, as Blume observes (Zeitschrift,
vol. iv. p. 294, Ueber die ordnung der fragmente in den Pandecten);
but he appears not to have observed that one of the titles of this book neither begins with nor contains any excerpt from Papinian.
The students were also to retain the old designation of Papinianistae, which denoted students of the third year; and the festival which they used to celebrate on commencing their third year's course was still to be observed. (Const. Omnem Reipublicae,
s. 4, &c.; Grotins, Vitae Jurisconsultorum;
Zimmern, Geschichte des Roömischen Prinatrechts,
vol. i. p. 361; Puchta, Cursus,
&c. vol. i. p. 454; Cujacius, Op.
tom. iv. ed. Neapol. 1758.)