ABSTRACT: In 1820 Cardinal Angelo Mai discovered in a Vatican manuscript (Codex Vaticanus Latinus N. 5766) the fragments of a voluminous juristic collection – indeed, a very extensive encyclopedia of the law, a sort of ‘pre-Justinian Digest’ containing excerpts from juristic writings and imperial constitutions – which he later called Fragmenta Vaticana. The compiler of the collection, as well as the title and purpose of his work, is unknown; its time is controversial. The manuscript, formerly in the monastery of Bobbio, is a palimpsest: the legal text lies beneath a work by the patristic writer, Iohannes Cassianus, on the lives of Egyptian anchorites; the underlying text was written in the fourth or, more likely, fifth century, while the text written on the top of it in the eighth. Since some of the sheets contain a signature number which allows us to assume a minimum format of 464 pages, scholars rightly estimate the Fragmenta Vaticana to have been approximately half the size of the Digest. In 1860 Theodor Mommsen provided the standard edition of the text in use today, together with a fundamental study, where he stated the original collection to have been composed during the reign of Constantine; thirty years later, Mommsen came to the different conclusion that the ‘Vatican Fragments’ were completed around 320 A.D., and re-edited with additions after 324, in Rome or in Gaul. Although Mommsen’s view has been strongly challenged, his idea of the Fragmenta Vaticana as an ‘open text’ seems no longer in dispute; however, the provenance of the Codex Vaticanus Latinus N. 5766 – as well as the circulation of our mysterious juristic collection with annotations in sixth-century Gaul – still gives rise to doubts.
Sperandio, M.U. (2019). Il ‘Digesto Antegiustinianeo’. Osservazioni sui Fragmenta iuris del Codex Vaticanus Latinus n. 5766. HISTORIA ET IUS, 15, 1-25 [10.32064/15.2019.17].