Down with Justinian!


In ancient times, the Romans observed a festival called the Parilia every year on 21 April.  We remember this festival as “Foundation of Rome Day,” since first-century Romans like Ovid believed that 21 April was the day when Romulus laid out the boundaries of the new city.  The Romans settled on  753 BC as the year of the city’s founding only centuries after they had agreed on 21 April as the day.  From their point of view, the day returned regularly and could be celebrated, while the year was gone forever and therefore had no practical value.   

Apparently to emphasize the association between the Parilia and the founding of Rome, the emperor Hadrian changed the name of the festival to Romaea in AD 121.  The importance of 21 April outside the city of Rome rather declined as the center of the empire moved eastward in the centuries after Hadrian; by the time the western empire officially collapsed in AD 476, it is doubtful whether the festival was observed in the east at all.  When in AD 547 the Byzantine emperor Justinian decreed a new system for naming years, the Romaea or Parilia lost all official status in the east. 

So, those of us who have a soft spot for Foundation of Rome Day have a grudge against Justinian.  Apparently, we are represented at Language Log, where Bill Poser today posts a note about some of the more hideous aspects of Justinian’s proudest achievement, the law code known as the Corpus Iuris Civilis.

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