The Ecloga on Sexual Crimes (8th Cent.)
[Adopted from Genokoplos]
The Ecloga of Leo III (717-41) was meant an abridgment
of the Corpus Juris Civilis, but there are several modifications
to be noted in it. These have led some scholars to term the Ecloga the first law code to be influenced by Christian principles. This
influence is apparent in the following list of criminal punishments,
taken from the Ecloga. Although the frequently mentioned punishment
of mutilation might offend modern sensibilities, it is important
to note that such measures often replaced capital punishment and
were considered to provide a time for penance, thus presumably
allowing the wrongdoer to secure the forgiveness of God.
THE ECLOGA ON SEXUAL CRIMES
1. A married man who commits adultery shall by way of' correction
be flogged with twelve lashes; and whether rich or poor he shall
pay a fine.
2. An unmarried man who commits fornication shall be flogged with
3. A person who has carnal knowledge of a nun shall, upon the
footing that he is debauching the Church of God, have his nose
slit, because he committed wicked adultery with her who belonged
to the Church; and she on her side must take heed lest similar
punishment be reserved to her.
4. Anyone who, intending to take in marriage a woman who is his
goddaughter in Salvation-bringing baptism, has carnal knowledge
of her without marrying her, and being found guilty' of' the offence
shall, after being exiled, be condemned to the same punishment
meted out for other adultery, that is to say, both the man and
the woman shall have their noses slit.
5. The husband who is cognizant of, and condones, his wife's adultery
shall be flogged and exiled, and the adulterer and the adulteress
shall have their noses slit.
6. Persons committing incest, parents and children, children and
parents, brothers and sisters, shall be punished capitally with
the sword. Those in other relationships who corrupt one another
carnally, that is father and daughter-in-law, son and stepmother,
father-in-law and daughter-in-law, brother and his brother's wife,
uncle and niece, nephew and aunt, shall have their noses slit.
And likewise he who has carnal knowledge with two sisters and
7. If a woman is carnally known and, becoming pregnant, tries
to produce a miscarriage [abortion], she shall be whipped and
8. Those who are guilty whether actively or passively of committing
unnatural offences shall be capitally punished with the sword.
If he who commits the offence passively, is found to be under
twelve years old, he shall be pardoned on the ground of youthful
ignorance of the offence committed.
9. Those guilty of "abominable crime" [homosexuality?]
shall be emasculated.
from E. Freshfied, trans, A Manual of Roman Law: The
"Ecloga", (Cambridge, 1926], 108-12.). Reprinted
in Deno Geanokoplos, Byzantium, (Chicago: 1984), 78
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© Paul Halsall June 1997