Tulane Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 4 (June 1974), pp. 1122-1128. Reprinted with the permission of the Tulane Law Review Association, which holds the copyright.


In an earlier study, I examined the private law in the rescripts of Carus and his two sons, the Emperors who ruled from 282 to 284, immediately before the accession of Diocletian, and found as the main conclusion that, despite everything, the quality of legal decision had remained reasonably high. This paper considers the four rescripts that survive from the troubled reign of the preceding Emperor, Probus. None contains a great legal innovation; none shows a drastic lowering of legal standards. Their importance lies in what they reveal about general matters. Despite the enormous military and economic problems of the age, the imperial chancellery functioned; rescripts were issued to the most ordinary individuals, men and women alike. There was no need for a rescript to be concerned with an important principle or difficult point of law. Whereas the classical jurists write as if they were concerned only with law at Rome itself, the rescripts show the practical realities: one of them, C. 8.55(56).2, with its mention of the provinciae praeses was obviously addressed to a person in a province, and it is probable that others, even all of them, were too. What is possibly most revealing of all is that every one of them is saying in effect that "lawyers' formalities" are not conclusive or are not effective in law, that truth is to prevail over writing or acts.