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Ulpia'nus, Domi'tius

derived his origin from Tyrus in Phoenicia, as he states himself, " unde mihi origo." (Dig. 50. tit. 1. s. 1.) These words do not prove that he was a native of Tyre, as some have supposed; they rather prove that he was not, and that his ancestors were of that city. The time of Ulpian's birth is unknown. Some of his juristical works may have been written during the joint reign of Septimius Severus and Antoninus Caracalla (A. D. 211), but the greater part were written during the sole reign of Caracalla, especially the two great works Ad Edictum and the Libri ad Sabinum. He was banished or deprived of his functions under Elagabalus (Lamprid. Heliog. 100.16), who became emperor A. D. 217; but on the accession of Alexander Severus A. D. 222, he became the emperor's chief adviser, who is said to have followed Ulpian's counsel in his administration. (Lamprid. Alex. Sever. 51.) The emperor once designed to assign a peculiar dress to every office and rank, so that the condition of persons might be known from their attire; and he also proposed to give slaves a peculiar dress that they might be recognised among the people, and that slaves and ingenui might not mingle together. Ulpianus and Paulus dissuaded the emperor from this measure by good reasons. (Lamprid. Alex. Severus, 100.27.) As a proof of his confidence the emperor never saw any one of his friends alone, except the Praefectus Praetorio and Ulpian; and whenever he saw the praefect, he invited Ulpian. The emperor conferred on Ulpian the office of Scriniorum magister, and made him a consiliarius : he also held the office of Praefectus Annonae, as we see from a constitution of Alexander in which he entitles him " Domitius Ulpianus praefectus annonae jurisconsultus amicus meus." (Cod. 8. tit. 38. s. 4.) He also was made Praefectus Praetorio, but it is doubtful whether he first held this post under Elagabalus or under Alexander Severus. The epitomator of Dion says that Ulpian prepared the way for his promotion to the place of Praefectus Praetorio by causing his two predecessors, Flavianus and Chrestus, to be put to death. But there is no other evidence than this. (D. C. 80.2.) Zosimus (1.11) says that Ulpian was made a kind of associate with Flavianus and Chrestus in their office, by Mamaea, the mother of Alexander, and that the soldiers hereupon conspired against Ulpian, but their designs were anticipated by Mamaea, who took off their instigators, by whom, we must suppose, he means Flavianus and Chrestus; and Ulpianus was made sole praefectus praetorio. Ulpian perished by the hands of the soldiers, who forced their way into the palace at night, and killed him in the presence of the emperor and his mother, A. D. 228. As this happened so early in the reign of Alexander, the remark of Lampridius that the emperor chiefly availed himself of the advice of Ulpian in his administration, is only a proof of the carelessness of this writer. His promotion to the office of praefectus praetorio was probably an unpopular measure. A contest is mentioned between the Romans and the praetorian guards, which lasted three days, and was attended with great slaughter. The meagre epitome of Dion only leaves us to guess that Ulpian's promotion may have been connected with it.


A great part of the numerous writings of Ulpian were still extant in the time of Justinian, and a much greater quantity is excerpted from him by the compilers of the Digest than from any other jurist. The number of excerpts from Ulpian is said to be 2462; and many of the excerpts are of great length, and altogether they form about one-third of the whole body of the Digest. It is said that there are more excerpts from his single work Ad Edictum than from all the works of any single jurist. The excerpts from Paulus and Ulpian together make about one half of the Digest. Those of Ulpian compose the third volume of the Palingenesia of Hommelius.

Works mentioned in the FLorentine Index

The following are the works of Ulpian which are mentioned in the Florentine Index, and excerpted in the Digest. The great work Ad Edictum was in 83 libri; and there were 51 books of the work entitled Libri ad Sabinum [SABINUS MASSURIUS]. He also wrote 20 libri ad Leges Juliam et Papiam; 10 de omnibus Tribunalibus; 3 de Officio Consulis; 10 de Officio Proconsulis; 4 de Appellationibus; 6 Fideicommissorum; 2 libri Institutionum; 10 Disputationum; 6 de Censibus ; a work de Adulteriis; libri singulares de Officio Praefecti urbi; de Officio Curatoris Reipublicae ; de Officio Praetoris Tutelaris. All these works were probably written in the time of Caracalla. The work of which we still possess a fragment, under the title " Domitii Ulpiani Fragmenta," was, perhaps, written under Caracalla (17.2) ; and it is generally supposed to be taken from the liber singularis Regularum. There are also excerpts from Regularum Libri septem, which some suppose to have been a second edition of the Regularum liber singularis; but it may have been a work on a different plan.

Other Works

Ulpian wrote also libri duo Responsorum ; libri singulares de Sponsalibus; de Officio Praefecti Vigilum, de Officio Quaestoris; and libri sex Opinionum. The time when these works were written is uncertain.

The Index mentions Πανδέκτου βιβλία δέκα, but there is no excerpt from the work in the Digest ; yet there are two excerpts (12. tit. 1. s. 24; 40. tit. 12.34), from a liber singularis Pandectarum. Accordingly the emendation of Grotius, ἓν for δέκα, in the title in the Florentine Index may be accepted.

The Florentine Index omits the libri duo ad Edictum Aedilium Curulium, the libri ad legem Aeliam Sentiam, of which there were at least four, and the libri singulares de Officio Consularium and Excusationum; and also the notae ad Marcellum (Dig. 9. tit. 2. s. 41) and ad Papinianum (Dig. 3. tit. 5. s. 31.2) from which there are no excerpts.

We learn from the Vaticana Fragmenta (§ 90 -- 93) that he also wrote a work De Interdictis in four books at least, and a liber singularis de Officio Praetoris Tutelaris ( Vat. Fr. § 232).

Ulpian's style is perspicuous, and presents fewer difficulties than that of many of the Roman jurists who are excerpted in the Digest. Compared with his contemporary, Paulus, he is somewhat diffuse, but this is rather an advantage for us, who have to read the Roman jurists in fragments. The easy expression of Ulpian, and the length of many of the extracts from his works, render the study of his fragments a much easier task than that of such a writer as Papinian. The great legal knowledge, the good sense, and the industry of Ulpian place him among the first of the Roman jurists; and he has exercised a great influence on the jurisprudence of modern Europe, through the copious extracts from his writings which have been preserved by the compilers of Justinian's Digest.

The fragments entitled Domitii Ulpiani Fragmenta, or as they are entitled in the Vatican MS. " Tituli ex corpore Ulpiani," consist of twenty-nine titles, and are a valuable source for the history of the Roman law.


They were first published by Jo. Tilius (du Tillet) Paris, 1549, vo.; and they are printed in the Jurisprudentia, &c. of Schulting. The edition of Hugo, Berlin, 1834, 8vo., contains a fac-simile of the Vatican MS. The edition of the Fragmenta, by E. Böcking, Bonn, 1836, 12mo. contains also the fragments of the first book of the Institutions of Ulpian, which were discovered by Endlicher in 1835 in the Imperial Library at Vienna; but they are too meagre to enable us to determine the plan of this Institutional work.


There occurs in Ulpian (Dig. 1. tit. 1. s. 1.2, 3, 4. s. 4. s. 6) and in Tryphoninus and Hermogenianus a threefold division of law, viewed with respect to its origin --Jus Naturale, Gentium, Civile. In Gaius and other writers there is only a two-fold division, for Jus Naturale and Jus Gentium in Gains and those other writers are equivalent. Savigny (System, &c. vol. i. Beylage i.) has explained the meaning of Ulpian's threefold division. The authors of the Institutiones of Justinian have introduced great confusion by first giving Ulpian's threefold division, which they apply to the case of slavery, and then taking the passages of Gaius, Marcianus and Florentinus, in which the twofold division is either expressed or clearly implied. (Inst. 1. tit. 1.4; tit. 2. pr.; tit. 5. pr.) The confusion is completed by their taking a passage of Gains in which the twofold division occurs, and by the addition of the remark that the Jus Naturale (sicut diximus) is the same as the Jus Gentium. (Inst. 2. tit. 1.11.)

Confusion with Ulpian the Tyrian

It is generally assumed that Ulpian the Tyrian, who is named in the argument to the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus, is the jurist, because he is called the Tyrian; but the jurist was not a Tyrian. Athenaeus (p. 686, ed. Casaub.) speaks of the happy death of his Ulpian; but the jurist died a wretched death; he was murdered by infuriated soldiers. Athenaeus does not call his Ulpian a jurist, and it is clear that he did not consider him one. This assumption leads to a great deal of confusion, and is totally unfounded. See the article Athenaeus, " Biographical Dictionary of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge."

Attitude to the Christians

Some attempt has been made to prove both that Ulpian and Paulus were very hostile to the Christians. The charge is founded on a passage of Lactantius (Div. Inst. 5.11); but it is not certain that the Domitius whom he mentions is Domitius Ulpianus. And if the passage refers to Ulpian, it proves nothing against him. If among the imperial rescripts directed to proconsuls, there were some which imposed penalties on the Christians, a writer de Officio Proconsulis could not omit a part of the law which regulated a proconsul's office, even if the law was severe and cruel. A collection of the statute law of England on religion would not have been complete a few years ago, if it omitted those statutes which contained severe penalties against certain classes of religious persons.

Further Information

Puchta, Instit. i. p. 457; Zimmern, Geschichte des Röm. Pricatrechts, i. p. 370; Grotius, Vitae Jurisconsullorum.


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