Institutiones Gai

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The Institutiones Gai , referring to the high-class jurist Gaius (also: Gaii Institutiones , Liber Gai , often just institutions ), are a legal beginners textbook from the middle of the 2nd century AD.


The institutions were discovered by Niebuhr in 1816 in the form of a palimpsest in Verona . Under the apparent text, which contained the letters of the church father Jerome , an erased copy of the institutions of Gaius, made around 500 AD, was found, which to date has only been documented in a few fragments of the digests . These were made around 161 AD, that is, under Antoninus Pius , and are considered to be "the most widespread in antiquity and by far the most influential elementary systematic representation of Roman private law in late antiquity, the Middle Ages and modern times".

The Gaian institutions are also characterized by the fact that this is "the best and almost completely preserved work of a Roman jurist outside of the Justinian tradition". These continue to offer the advantages of a coherent school lecture, which impresses with its clarity and comprehensibility. In addition, Gaius' legal thinking states that it is " much closer to the dogmatic tradition of continental jurisprudence (that is, the striving for systems, the striving for conceptualization and classification as well as the tendency towards abstraction) than the method of any other ancient jurist". To what extent the institutions may be regarded as the work of Gaius alone, and what about them, for example, glosses or interpolation , is still subject to scientific speculation. Science agrees, however, on the enormous importance of the find, since "numerous legal institutions that the Justinian Commission left unmentioned as out of date are only known through the new find".

The Gaian work has been passed on indirectly in several forms to modern times, as the work was used more frequently as a template for various legal writings during the 5th and 6th centuries. The so-called Augustodunian manuscript provides relatively insignificant insights . The late antique manuscripts of the Collatio and the Epitome Gai (contained in the Lex Romana Visigothorum ) gained greater importance for research . Later known as part of the Corpus iuris civilis , the Gaian influences found their way into the Digest and the Institutiones Iustiniani within the framework of the Justinian legal order .


The institutions themselves are divided into a scheme according to personal and family law ( personae ), property law ( res ) and procedural law ( actiones ). In personal and family law, a distinction is made between free and slaves. Property law is divided into physical things ( res corporales ) and non-physical things ( incorporales ) as well as inheritance law ( hereditas ), income law ( usus fructus ) and law of obligations ( obligationes ). Finally, procedural law distinguishes between real actiones in rem and obligatory actiones in personam . Furthermore, the bonds are divided into contract ( ex contractu ) and tort ( ex delicto ) and the contracts into real , verbal , litteral and consensual contracts . This classification, borrowed from the Hellenistic textbook pattern, replaced and leveled out previous structures and became a fundamental system of institutions followed by many modern private law systems. For example, the Austrian ABGB is structured according to the institutional system, in contrast to the German BGB , which follows the pandemic system .


  • Gaius: Institutiones. = The institutions of Gaius (= texts on research. 81). Edited, translated and commented by Ulrich Manthe . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-534-17474-7 .
  • Gai institutiones. Editio minor. (= Studia Gaiana. 1), ed. by M. David, Brill, Leiden 1964.
  • Johann Friedrich Ludwig Göschen (ed.): Gaii Institutionum commentarii IV. Reimer, Berlin 1820, ( digitized ).


  • Alfons Bürge : Roman private law. Legal thinking and anchoring in society. An introduction (= Ancient Studies. ). Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1999, ISBN 3-534-10095-6 .
  • Mario Bretone: History of Roman Law. From the beginning to Justinian. 2nd Edition. Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-44358-3 .
  • Tomasz Giaro : Gaius. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 4, Metzler, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-476-01474-6 , column 737 f.
  • Ulrich Manthe : The legal cultures of antiquity. From the ancient Orient to the Roman Empire. Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-50915-0 .
  • Hein LW Nelson: Tradition, structure and style of Gai Institutiones (= Studia Gaiana. 6). Brill, Leiden 1981, ISBN 90-04-06306-4 .
  • Dieter Nörr : Legal criticism in Roman antiquity (= Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-Historical Class. Treatises. NF 77). Publishing house of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich 1974, ISBN 3-7696-0072-X .
  • Leopold Wenger : The sources of Roman law (= Austrian Academy of Sciences. Memoranda of the entire academy . 2, ZDB -ID 528265-2 ). Holzhausen, Vienna 1953.
  • Bastian Zahn: Introduction to the Sources of Roman Law . In: JURA - Legal Training , 2015, p. 454 f.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Hein LW Nelson: Tradition, structure and style of Gai Institutiones. 1981, pp. 80 and 96 ff.