At the Origins of the Hispanic Legal Tradition: A Translation and Commentary of the Book of Judgments

Collaborative Group

Professor Noel E. Lenski, Professor Damián Fernández




In 654, Recceswinth, king of the Visigoths, issued a law code for the territory of Iberia and southern France that represented the culmination of a centuries-long process of cultural and normative integration between the Hispano-Roman populace of the region and the Germanic elite that had taken control of the territory in the fifth and early sixth century. Combining Roman and Germanic normative traditions, this new Book of Judgments (Liber Iudiciorum) served as a catalyzing social force that helped weld the peninsula into a culturally diverse but politically unified whole. This Visigothic Law Code was supplemented and mildly revised in 681, and both the 654 and 681 recensions survive up to the present. These have been published in a modern critical edition in Latin which has never been properly translated. Historian of ancient Europe Damian Fernández and classicist Noel Lenski will translate the Latin text and furnish it with a fulsome introduction and historical commentary. Lenski has worked extensively on ancient law and was a member of the team that recently published a complete translation of the sixth-century Codex Justinianus. Fernández has published on the history and archaeology of Visigothic Iberia. They join forces to provide access to this crucial text to specialists in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but also to a much wider audience. The considerable powers the Book of Judgments grants to the Visigothic monarch were readily adapted to serve reconquista royal power. Its extensive provisions on slaveholding allowed Spain and Portugal to maintain a robust slave culture which was then exported to the New World. And its strident anti-Jewish measures set the stage for the later tensions in a culture that cultivated convivencia for the seven hundred years after Muslim rulers took control of Spain in 711. This translation thus will not only provide access to the single most important source for Visigothic Iberia but also for the broader Hispanic legal tradition. It will be published in both print and online formats. Award period: September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2020