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Javolen'us Priscus

or PRISCUS JAVOLE'NUS, an eminent Roman jurist. His name occurs in both forms; Pomponius calls him first Priscus Javolenus, and afterwards Javolenus Priscus. (Dig. 1. tit. 2. s. 2. § ult.) Pliny adopts the latter form (Ep. 6.15). Javolenus was a pupil of Caelius Sabinus, and a leader of the Sabinian school during a period when Celsus the father, Celsus the son, and Neratius Priscus, led the opposite school, as successors of Pegasus. He was the teacher of Aburnus Valens, Tuscianus, and Julianus. It appears from a fragment of Julianus (Dig. 40. tit. 2. s. 5), that Javolenus was a praetor and proconsul in Syria. According to a passage of Capitolinus (Ant. Pius, 12), he was one of the council of Antoninus Pius. Some of his biographers think that if he were alive in the reign of Antoninus, he must have been too old to hold such a post; hence they question the authority of Capitolinus, and, moreover, the passage referred to is probably interpolated and corrupt. But there is no pressing improbability in the statement, if the reading be genuine; for if, as appears to be likely, Javolenus was born about the commencement of the reign of Vespasian (A. D. 79), he might well be an imperial councillor between the age of sixty and seventy. Pliny relates from hearsay an anecdote of Javolenus, which has given rise to much discussion (Ep. 6.15). Passienus Paulus, a noble eques and writer of verses, invited Javolenus to a recitation. Paulus began by saying " Prisce jubes," but we are not told whether these were the first words of his poem, or a polite form of asking leave to commence. Javolenus, however, replied, " Ego vero non jubeo." This mal-àpropos expression occasioned much laughter among the party, but was chilling to the host. Whether it was uttered by Javolenus in a fit of mental absence, or by way of awkward joke, or as a blunt expression of impatience, under an infliction which more than once roused the indignation of Juvenal, does not appear. Pliny sets down Javolenus as a madman, but this imputation is probably to be construed in a loose sense. Even if the rude saying of Javolenus was occasioned, as some think, by actual temporary mental aberration, brought on by overwork, his madness was not of such a kind as to prevent him from attending to the ordinary duties of his profession (Plin. l.c.) Some writers, in order to save the credit of the jurist of the Digest, have absurdly imagined a second mad jurist of the same name. Others, as absurdly, have imagined that the insanity of Javolenus is to be detected in two passages of the Digest (Dig. 35. tit. 1. s. 55, Dig. 17. tit. 1. s. 52), from the badness of their reasoning. In the former passage, Javolenus compares the bequest of a legacy to an incapable person to a direction of the testator that so much money should be thrown into the sea. The two cases so compared in their legal effects have some resemblances and some differences. The other passage contains an opinion of Javolenus, which, instead of betraying any symptom of insanity, rests upon sound legal principles, and is correctly decided.


In general, the writings of Javolenus manifest an accurate knowledge of antiquity, and of the works of preceding jurists. He is several times cited by some of the most eminent of his successors--Julianus, Valens, Gaius, Ulpian, and Paulus. When the name Priscus alone occurs, as in Ulpiani Fragmenta, tit. 11. s. 28, Javolenus, and not Neratius Priscus, is to be understood. In an extract from Ulpian, Dig. 7. tit. 8. s. 10.2, we find the expression " Et Priscus et Neratius."

There are 206 extracts from Javolenus in the Digest, occupying twenty-three pages in Hommel. He wrote,

It is not certain whether these titles designate the same or different works. The Posteriora was a posthumous work of Labeo, and took its name from being published after the death of its author. (Gel. 13.10.) It is probable that Javolenus not only edited the Posteriora with a commentary, but published an abridgment. (Blume in Savigny's Zeitschrift, vol. iv. pp. 318-324.) Javolenus has been thought to be sometimes captious in his criticisms on Labeo, who was the founder of the opposite school. Gellius (13.10) mentions the 40th book of the Posteriora of Labeo; the 37th is cited in Dig. 4. tit. 3. s. 9.3, and the 38th in Dig. 48. tit. 13. s. 9.2 and 6; yet the Florentine Index, under the name Labeo, speaks of ten books only, and under the name Javolenus makes no reference to the Posteriora.

The compilers of the Digest seem not to have been acquainted with the Posteriora of Labeo in any other form than the edition of Javolenus, and the Epitome, as well as the " Javoleni Libri ex Posterioribus Labeonis " (if they were distinct), consisted each of ten books. The extract in Dig. 40. tit. 12. s. 42, though headed " Labeo Libro quarto Posteriorum," is undoubtedly taken from the edition of Javolenus, for at the end of the extract are these words : " Javolenus : haec vera sunt." The 1st book, as may be collected from the extracts in the Digest, treated of testaments, the 2nd and 3rd of legacies, the 4th and 5th of contracts, the 6th of Dos and Nuptiae. From the 7th there is no extract. The 8th treated of tutela, the 9th of private delicta, the 10th of procedure. (Regius in Otto. Thes. Juris, vol. ii. p. 1473, seq.)

Further Information

The modern biographers of Javolenus have been very numerous. The best and ablest is Van Alphen, whose Spicilegia de Javoleno Prisco Icto et specimen observationum ad quaedam ejus fragmenta in Pandectis obvia, first published 4to, Ultraj. 1768, was reprinted in the excellent collection of Ger. Oelrichs, entitled " Thesaurus Novus Dissertationum Juridicarum selectissimarum in Academüs Belgicis habitarum," vol. iii. tom. i. pp. 1-94 ; Glob. Aug. Jenichen, de Prisco Javoleno Icto incomparabili, 4to. Lips. 1734; Jo. Glieb. Lindner, de Javoleno Prisco Icto, 4to. Arnstadtii, 1770 ; Neuber, Die juristischen Klassiker, pp. 146-182 ; Ferd. Kämmerer, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Theorie des Römischen Rechts, vol. i. num. 6, pp. 245-254.)


1 Dig. 35. tit. 1. s. 54, Dig. 46, tit. 3.78.

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    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 13.10
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