Day 116 – Ken here (T)(1-5-2010)
(DEF v.2, ch.19,20, pp.720-730)
We end chapter 19 with Gibbon’s overview of Julian‘s conduct in Gaul (France) before he became sole emperor – Gibbon heartily approves – Julian is the darling emperor of Gibbon. We will spend many happy chapters reviewing with Gibbon Julian’s (relatively) short imperial reign (3 years). Chapter 20 begins a long, long discussion of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity and the conversion of the empire to Christianity.
Actually, although I am dreading it somewhat (after the tedious chapters on early Christianity and early persecutions), the juxtaposition/struggle between paganism and Christianity in the large government of the Late Roman Empire should be interesting. Remembering, of course, Gibbon is writing in the late 1700’s and has been mercilessly beaten up by the press and established conservative church, so he is liable to over-explain, water-down, and dance around the hot topics of the day (after all, who needs all that stress? – Gibbon has 4 more volumes to write and 1000 years to cover yet).
so, let’s close out the old chapter 19 and get on with the new…
Julian and the United States Supreme Court
The roots of United States law run right back through the furthest dimmest precedents of the Roman empire. Some of our grandest, most cherished institutions/legal theories are thousands of years old, and come from surprisingly accidental, small beginnings. Who would have thought that
1) in the twilight/shutting down era of the Roman empire,
2) in an obscure provincial law court,
3) under a minor Caesar who appeared to be on the point of being executed continually (Julian) by the reigning emperor,
4) during a relatively unimportant extortion case
5) argued by a good, but unknown provincial prosecutor,
a concluding argument would be remembered, and a premise would be set that would provide the absolute foundation for all criminal law in a large country not to be born for another 1300 years on another continent (the United States)? The prosecutor Delphidius in 358 in Gaul provoked the sitting general/Caesar Julian to propose the legal principle “Innocent until proven guilty” in response to a query by Delphidius.
From small things come great change – what kinds of things are WE doing NOW that will affect entire countries, or even entire planetary systems perhaps a few dozen centuries hence?
Details of the incident follow from the History of the Bordeaux Bar
in noting famous incidents in world legal history which took place in/through the Bordeaux Bar.
“The most famous remains Attius Tiro Delphidius, quoted by Gibbon as the vehement Delphidius, who prosecuted for extortion, the president of the Narbonnese province in Emperor Julian Court, in 358.
At the end of the trial, as it was plain that Delphidius, had presented insufficient evidence upon which to convict the defendant, who had maintained his innocence and presented no evidence of his own, Delphidius exclaimed,“ ‘Oh, illustrious Caesar! If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?’ to which Julian replied, ‘If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?”
The anecdote is always quoted as illustrating the roots of presumption of innocence even in US Supreme Court Case Law. (See Coffin v. United States, 1895).”
Note on Bordeaux’s New Courthouse (from a Feb 2009 Journal of the AIA (American Institure of Architects) here). Courthouse architecture as an outward manifestation of societal values (justice in society, the process of justice, absolute equality and absolute accessibility of justice). French Law follows Napoleonic Law which traces direct precedents back into Roman Imperial Summaries (including those of the emperor Julian).
But the architecture itself and the theory behind it is fascinating.
“The expressive potential of the courtroom as symbol of an exalted process is exploited to perhaps its highest potential in Rogers’s Bordeaux courthouse where the seven courtrooms are fully revealed as separate elevated objects. The inventive power of the scheme lies in the clarifying simplicity of its organization: the essence of the courthouse is reduced to two elements, courtrooms and administrative block, each set on opposing plinths and united by a hovering roof plane. The courtrooms are expressed as highly sculptural wooden vessels, set in contrast to the mute neutrality of the glass office block. Freed from the enveloping crust of support spaces typical of the American courthouse typology, each courtroom is a discrete monument announcing the building’s purpose and meaning, without need of an intervening architectural overlay. The circulation elements that connect to the courtrooms – open bridges and stairs – emphasize the separation of the bureaucratic elements of the court from the courtroom, implying that all who enter the room do so openly and equally, without special advantage.
This perception may have special meaning in a French court, where judges participate in both the investigations and the jury deliberations, in a system that prioritizes the pursuit of justice over the protocol of due process as found in American and English courts.”