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Born c. 170
Died 223
Nationality Roman
Occupation jurist

Ulpian (/ˈʌlpiən/; Latin: Gnaeus Domitius Annius Ulpianus; c. 170 – 223) was a Roman jurist of Tyrian ancestry.


The exact time and place of his birth are unknown, but the period of his literary activity was between AD 211 and 222. He made his first appearance in public life as assessor in the auditorium of Papinian and member of the council of Septimius Severus; under Caracalla he was master of the requests (magister libellorum). Elagabalus (also known as Heliogabalus) banished him from Rome, but on the accession of Severus Alexander (222) he was reinstated, and finally became the emperor's chief adviser and praefectus praetorio. His curtailment of the privileges granted to the Praetorian Guard by Elagabalus provoked their enmity, and he narrowly escaped their vengeance; ultimately he was murdered in the palace, in the course of a riot between the soldiers and the mob.[1]


His works include: Ad Sabinum, a commentary on the jus civile, in over 50 books; Ad edictum, a commentary on the Edict, in 83 books; collections of opinions, responses and disputations; books of rules and institutions; treatises on the functions of the different magistrates — one of them, the De officio proconsulis libri x., being a comprehensive exposition of the criminal law; monographs on various statutes, on testamentary trusts, and a variety of other works. His writings altogether have supplied to Justinian's Digest about a third of its contents, and his commentary on the Edict alone about a fifth. As an author he is characterized by doctrinal exposition of a high order, judiciousness of criticism, and lucidity of arrangement, style and language.[1] He is also credited with the first life table ever.[2]

Domitii Ulpiani fragmenta, consisting of 29 titles, were first edited by Tilius (Paris, 1549). Other editions are by Hugo (Berlin, 1834), Booking (Bonn, 1836), containing fragments of the first book of the Institutiones discovered by Endlicher at Vienna in 1835, and in Girard's Textes de droit romain (Paris, 1890).[1]


It had been assumed for a long time that Ulpian of Tyre was a model for Athenaeus' Ulpian in The Deipnosophists — or The Banquet of the Learned. Athenaeus makes 'Ulpian' out to be a grammarian and philologist, characterised by his customary interjections: "Where does this word occur in writing?". He is represented as a symposiarch and he occupies a couch alone; his death is passed over in silence in Book XV 686 c. Scholars today agree that Athenaeus's Ulpian is not the historical Ulpian, but possibly his father.

The date of the real Ulpian's death in 223 AD. has been wrongly used to estimate the date of completion of The Deipnosophists.


"The sovereign is not bound by the laws."
(Princeps legibus solutus est.)

"What pleases the prince has the force of law."
(Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem.)

"Justice is the constant and perpetual will to render to every man his due."
(Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius suum cuique tribuendi.)

"To live honorably, to harm no one, to give to each his own."
(Honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere.)

Digesta 1.1.10[3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ulpian". Encyclopædia Britannica 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ Frier B., 1982, Roman Life Expectancy: Ulpian's Evidence, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, LXXXVI.
  3. ^ it:Alterum non laedere
  4. ^ The quote is the motto of Palacký University Faculty of Law


  • Tony Honoré, Ulpian: Pioneer of Human Rights; Oxford University Press; 2002.

External links[edit]

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Wed, 04 Feb 2015 07:00:00 -0800

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The Guardian

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Thu, 18 Sep 2014 21:38:43 -0700

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Thu, 07 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

A more accurate accounting should date back to at least the Roman empire, with the jurist Ulpian's observation (before he was murdered by an unpersuaded mob) that “what pleases the prince has the force of law.” The imposition of the Magna Carta in 1215 ...

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... that comprehensive restatement of Roman law which was mandated by the Emperor Justinian I, carefully abstracted by a team assembled by Tribonion from over 2,000 books written by some 39 selected Roman legal scholars such as Ulpian and Gaius, ...

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