What Is Jurisprudence And What Does It Have To Do With The Byzantine Empire?

Jurisprudence is not only a popular field of study, but is also represents a specific set of beliefs to which most of us unknowingly subscribe in some way or another. Can you imagine a nation without laws? Probably not. Laws are set into place for specific reasons. They help set a moral standard for the society living beneath them, they help the unwary discern between right and wrong, and they help determine punishment for those who are simply uncaring. Without law, many believe that anarchy would wreak havoc on us all. Those who study jurisprudence in depth wish to enhance their understanding of law and everything else under the umbrella of law: social behaviors guided by law, and legal reasoning, institutions, and systems.

This field of study has changed a great deal throughout time, and it’s no big surprise why.

In some developing areas of the world, laws and punishments are still archaic. In the more developed regions, most believe that laws should be intuitive and that punishments should be fair, just, and lack undue cruelty. It’s for this reason that the death penalty has been abolished in much of the so-called civilized world.

For those who wish to achieve a greater understanding of jurisprudence, a study of ancient civilizations is a must. They give us an accurate representation of how laws evolve over periods of time, and might even provide insight into how they could evolve in the future. There’s no better place to start than with the Byzantine Empire.

Many Byzantine customs and laws were assimilated from Rome. As Christianity became more and more prevalent throughout the Byzantine Empire, these laws changed as well. One of the reasons this era is so important to the present day is due to how we perceive, change, and inherit the laws of those who came before us. These civilizations gave us much of what we have today.

Justinian’s Code was the basis for much of the earliest Byzantine law, but the laws of the Byzantine Empire continued to change through the subsequent centuries. Even though these changes took place, the Western world was more enamored with Justinian’s Code. This set of laws was used by western scholars of jurisprudence, which is one reason why the veiled presence of these earlier laws is so apparent in contemporary jurisprudence.  

It should be noted that jurisprudence as a field of social science maintains several core beliefs. One of the most important relies on the concept of ancient natural law, or the assumption that any legislative branch must have limitations. Another focuses on neutrality and objectivity when determining the best course for legality. Limitations may or may not be necessary in such a system. The last core belief simply focuses on questioning what law does and how it functions–in addition to why it functions.