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Medieval Sourcebook:
Codex Justinianus:
Protection of Freemen and Coloni, c. 530 [Xl.48.xxii.]

The freeman was protected against the unjust claims of landlords by the importance attached to the giving of testimony and to written records; and the son of a colonus, if not trained to agriculture, could escape from farm labor by the work of his relatives.

Xl.48.xxii. Since we know that by our law no judgment ought to be made against any one about his condition, neither from testimony nor from writing, unless also some additional testimony be brought forward from other evidence, we decree that an abstract only or other writing shall not suffice in the least for this, nor shall the condition of adscripticius be imposed on any one, but some additional testimony in writing as indicated above ought to be brought forward, inasmuch as such written testimony is aided either by the records of the public census or in other lawful ways. For it is better in difficulties of this kind that demands for restitution be shown from several sections of the law, and not from testimony and writings only so that freemen might not be driven to a lower status. But if both writing and testimony or deposition, taken without compulsion, should come to light (for what if a contract, instrument, or other charter also, in which he is described thus, intimated and, among its statements, deponed that the colonus is an adscripticius), then from both kinds of obligation, i.e., both of writing, and of testimony or deposition, he must be believed to be, such as he deponed and stated himself to be in writing. Also it should not be gracelessly doubted (if the son of a colonus for thirty or perhaps forty years or more, his father being hitherto alive and working on the land, lived as a freeman, and if the landlord, because he paid him through his father, did not even demand his presence, whether on the death of the father or after he appeared to be useless and not suited to the country) that the son can be excused for abusing his long liberty and for neglecting to till the soil for many years or for neglecting to perform any of the works of a colonus, since the lord could not accuse him on account of his inactivity and he agreed through his father to all that the lord had wished. In all such cases it seems to us sufficiently wrong for the lord to prejudge the absence of his coloni, who, born in the country and afterwards absent, till their land through their friends, fathers, brothers, or relations.... For when a part of the body, in a way, remains on the farm by relationship it does not appear either to wander away or to stay free. And so a constant law remains for the lord and while the parents or children or relations of the colonus remain on the estate, he himself would appear to have resided there.


From: P. Krueger, ed., Codex Justinianus, (Berlin, 1877), p. 986; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, eds., A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 265-266.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998