Enactments of the Roman emperors, in the exercise of their legislative authority, which had
statutory force. They comprise the following varieties:
, by which, in the earlier imperial period, the emperor submitted a
“bill” to the Senate (
Inst. ii. 17, 7
). They were
regarded as law apart from the senatus consulta, by which, in theory, they received the
character of “acts,” and are often cited as such in preference to the
or edictales constitutiones
, general rules of
law made by the emperor after the analogy of the edicts of the republican magistrates.
, by which the emperor delegated his authority to other magistrates,
such as legati, praesides
, and praefecti.
, issued by the emperor in his
capacity as praetor, judge, or supreme jurisconsult. Up to the time of Constantine they were
by far the commonest kind of constitutio. Decreta
were determinations of suits
by the emperor either as sitting in a court of first instance or on appeal (Suet. Aug. 33
(Tac. Ann. vi. 9
) were provisional decisions
on the legal
point at issue (as to which he had been consulted by a
magistrate or a private individual), the facts being left to be inquired into, and a final
judgment given, by another magistrate or iudex.
were of two kinds: epistolae
The first are
independent replies on consultation (Dig.
1, 4, 1, 1; Inst. iii. 20, 4
), many issued by
Hadrian, Severus, and Caracalla being extant in the Digest. The second are brief opinions on
cases submitted to the emperor by petition, and written at the foot of the latter; this form
being most commonly employed in answering private persons (Dig.
1, 4, 1, 1;
1, 23, 6).
In the Eastern Empire a peculiar kind of rescripts acquired the name of
“pragmatic sanctions.” They were drawn up in a peculiar and solemn form,
and were more highly taxed than other. Zeno restricted their use to petitions preferred by
In framing constitutions of any kind the emperor was assisted by the council called consistorium