Biography of Gayo (s. II d.C.)

Roman jurist, born in the second decade of the second century AD and died after 178 A.d. contemporary of Pomponio, was little known in his time, as he began to be valued during the Postclassic period.


Data of his life little is known. He lived in the period between the reigns of Marcus Aureliusand Adriano, which was contemporary in his writings. His commentary on the Orficiano impossible has made that his death occurred after 178 a.d. Some researchers have claimed that he was born and lived in an Eastern Province of the Roman Empire, even though no data confirming this theory has not been found. The style of his works shows that you are dedicated to teaching. Although the Sabinians and Proclians schools were outnumbered, Gaius described himself in one of his writings as sabinianus, while fighting perceptions of the Proclians.


The most famous of his works was Institutiones, which has been preserved in its entirety, which makes her the only work on Roman jurisprudence which has retained nearly complete. Other writings of his highlights were the ex Libri Q. Mucio, the Libri VI ad legem XII Tabularum and the Libri ad edictum provinciale XXX. Also wrote several monographs on various topics of Roman law (de casibus, dotalicium, of formula hipothecaria, apud ad senatus consultum orfitianum and tacitis dideicomisiis). For many years was attributed authorship of the VII rerum cottidianarum Libri, although subsequent research has shown that this was a reworking of the Institutiones Postclassic.

Characteristics of his works

His style, very basic, was characterized by the little controversy that used to explain the concepts of the right, which would be very common during the Postclassic period. Its methodology, style and Scholastic activity were markedly different from those of the rest of the classical jurists of his time. That his work was not cited by his contemporaries was due possibly to the teaching character of his writings. Subsequent Jurists evaluated in Gaius clarity and ability to systematize, example of which are the Institutiones, which maintains at all times an abstract level, without worrying about its implementation, with particular emphasis on the regulae. All his works had a didactic character, because they were intended to explain the works of the classical jurists to students.

In his works, he said that all peoples are governed by laws and customs, which extracted part of his own right, which it termed as a civilian, and part of the common right of all men, which he called people. For Gaius, was Roman people's right in law, plebiscites, the senadoconsultos, in the constitutions of the Princes, the edicts and in the dictamines of the jurisconsults. It defined the law as what the people order and sets, and plebiscite as what commands and establishes the populace; an impossible is what sorts and establishes the Senate; a Constitution of the Prince was established by the emperor by Decree, edict, or letter; edict is what order and establish the judges; and, finally, the dictamines of the jurisconsults were, in the opinion of Gaius, the opinions of those who are allowed to set the right.


His main work has allowed a very complete knowledge of the classical Roman law (see Roman law [loudly right]), although it has not allowed a total reconstruction of the same. It gives important information about the form processes and civil prosecution of the archaic period, and the performance of some religious institutions that did not appear in the digest to the have fallen into disuse when it was collected. He was referring only to aspects of private law. It was divided into four books, of which the first was referring to the General principles of law; the second to the right of persons; the third mention made things right; and the room to the right of the actions. This division was moving away from the one followed by the rest of the lawyers during the time of the severe, although it was that took the works of time justiniana and medieval. However, with this new scheme managed a model of clarity, design and synthesis of the concepts of private law. It was the first clear example of systematization and formulation of a clear way of private Roman law, which used the work of many generations of Jurists.

His influence on lawyers and subsequent legislation

The Institutiones became reference work for students of law's first year in the Imperial schools starting from the 3rd century AD. Many authors of later generations considered him its predecessor. 535 his pieces were compiled in the digest. In the year 426 West Emperor enacted dating law, which stated that the opinion of Gaius, along with those of Papinian, Paulo, Ulpian and Modestino, was the only one which could be invoked in court proceedings. When several opinions came into disagreement should prevail the opinion of majority and, in the event of a tie, the Papiniano. Justiniano used his Institutiones as a basis for the elaboration of their code, in which literally copied some fragments of Gaius. In the West were made during the low Empire numerous summaries of his works, whose most prominent example was the Epitome Gai, made in the 5th century, and that was included in the Breviary of Alaric and the Interpretationis Fragmenta, document which was discovered in 1816.


ARANGO-RUIZ, V. history of Roman law. (Madrid: 1943).

ARIAS RAMOS, j., Roman law. (Madrid: 1984).

DAZA, J. historical introduction to Roman law. (Alicante: 1987)

FUENTESECA DÍAZ, p. lessons from history of Roman law. (Salamanca: 1963).

PARICIO, J. history and sources of Roman law. (Madrid: 1988).