Posted by: ken98 | January 5, 2010

The Emperor Julian, the US Supreme Court, and the New Courthouse of Bordeaux

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…

The Story
Julian in Gaul

  • Julian restores 7 cities in Gaul between the mouths of the Metz and Rhine (4 subsist into modern times) Bingen, Andernach, Bonn, and Nuyss. Its ironic Julian’s doing this, unbeknown to him, all his careful restoration work will be wrecked in a few decades time by the final German/Frankish barbarian invasions – it will be 400 – 600 years until the countryside and country are put aright again
  • Julian is Gibbon’s (romantic) hero – he is working in the extreme twilight of direct Roman rule in Gaul, creating plenty, justice, and happiness as any idealized Roman magistrate would have in the last 700 years. Julian acts courageously and indefatigably – as the night draws nigh, and darkness readies to fall over all Gaul/France
  • Julian’s Work: gets the marauding Germans to rebuild the infrastructure gladly (Germans will just wreck it in 20 years time again – this time permanently – the rich villa owners of Gaul days’ are numbered – they’re all living on borrowed time at this point – although to any living at the time, things seemed to be turning around again, finally)
  • Julian’s Work: relieves the famine by ordering the importation of wheat from un-invaded, peaceful Britain – Gaul is replenished
  • Julian’s Work: Constantius refuses to send money to pay troops, Julian gets them the troops to continue working for low/non-existent pay anyway
  • Julian’s Work: Constantius asks for extra taxes, Julian gets him to back down
  • Julian Civil Adm: famous quotes: president of Narbonnese Province (Delphidius) “Who will ever be found guilty if it be enough to deny? – Julian: “who will ever be innocent if it is sufficient to affirm (accuse)?” Famous “innocent until proven guilty” principle of law (esp in U.S.)
  • Gibbon on the ephemeral victories of Julian: “(Julian) could not entertain any rational hopes of securing the public tranquility, either by the peace or conquest of Germany. Yet the victories of Julian suspended, for a short time, the inroads of the Barbarians, and delayed the ruin of the Western Empire.” Sometimes “a short time” is not only the best you can do, but a great accomplishment
  • Gibbon ends with a brief, loving description of the Roman city of Paris (Leukatia)
    Constantine’s Converstion – Was it Sincere? When Was it?

  • Constantine’s Conversion to Christianity – WHEN EXACTLY WAS IT? (lots of contradictory evidence)
  • Was it (per Lactantius) when Const. acknowledged a one God? (306)
  • Was it (per Eusebius) when Const. won the battle of the Mylvian Bridge (and won the empire – by seeing the miraculous sign of the cross in the sky and painting the sign of the cross as a good luck talisman on all his soldier’s shields? (312)
  • Was it (per Zosimus) when Const. executed his own son Crispus, regretted it, and renounced the old Roman gods? (326)
  • Was it (per Gibbon) when he was baptized (on his deathbed)? (337) (Note: it was common practice for early Christians to be baptized on one’s deathbed, some considered sins committed after baptism as particularly unforgivable – so it made sense to procrastinate until the last minute and not take any celestial chances)
    Constantine’s Contradictory Behavior – Both For and Against Paganism

  • Constantine continued to be contradictory his whole life – ex. in 321 he issued (among many many others) 2 edicts: one making Sunday a holy day, and two, directing the regular consultation of the old oracles of the old Roman gods
  • Constantine continued in many pagan customs – examples: coins still bore Apollo, Mars, Hercules, he still celebrated the apotheosis of his father Constantius when Constantius died (apotheosis was the formal legislative act making a dead emperor a god in the Olympian hierarchy – standard practice for pagan emperors)
  • Constantine continued his whole life to be devoted to Apollo as god of Light and Poetry, and the unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus)
  • Constantine protected the christians of Gaul, when he was still just ruling over the Gaulish portion of the empire (306-312)
  • Constantine proclaimed the Edict of Milan (313) as soon as he could, legalizing the status of Christians, and granting them legal and monetary restitution (even reimbursements from the imperial treasury) for recent seizures/persecutions
  • Constantine gave as his reasons for legalizing Christians” 1) universal tolerance, and 2)to propitiate the deity that is in heaven (which could mean anything – Apollo, Sun, Christ, or nature herself as the over-arching deity of all creation)
  • Building of the Supreme Court of the United States - The emperor Julian's pronouncement in 358 about citizens being - innocent until proven guilty - is a foundation of US Criminal Law

    Building of the Supreme Court of the United States - The emperor Julian's pronouncement in 358 about citizens being - innocent until proven guilty - is a foundation of US Criminal Law

    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).”

    Courthouse of Bordeaux - a very modern venue for the practice of law, and also the place 1600 years earlier where the emperor Julian practiced law when he was Caesar over all Gaul and tried cases in Gallia Narbonnensis

    Courthouse of Bordeaux - a very modern venue for the practice of law, and also the place 1600 years earlier where the emperor Julian practiced law when he was Caesar over all Gaul and tried cases in Gallia Narbonnensis

    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.”

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