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Karen Rørby Kristensen


Since it was unearthed some 120 years ago, immense scholarly attention
has been devoted to the study of the more than 600 lines of the
so-called Law Code of Gortyn, particularly in terms of epigraphic,
linguistic, and legal studies. The text has also been subject to discussions
of social,political and economic nature. The present inquiry,
however, confines itself to providing a contribution to the ongoing
debate as to the Law Code’s structure and organisation, and to the
implications of the manner in which the legal provisions are organised
and structured within the Code. This is encompassed by the
question of codification, tradition, and innovation, which I shall deal
with in tworespects below. The first concerns the general layout of
the text – in other words its coherence as well as the logic behind
the order of the different laws. I shall argue that, although for our
purpose it makes good sense to identify sections of related legislation,
the order of the different laws is linked together in a natural
and logic sequence, which reveals two interrelated issues: theprocess
of organising the Code and the intended utility and applicability
for its future users. The second respect in which I shall consider the
question of codification, tradition, and innovation concerns the
structure of the individual laws, and the extent to which these demonstrate
traditional and innovative features. As will become clear,
unsurprisingly the legislative efforts demonstratemany traditional
features with regard to the layout. We can, however, observe innovative
legal enterprises, some of which were in accordance with tra-

ditional perception and expression, whilst some directly constituted
a breech in traditional norms and social custom.
Yet a few remarks on «code» and «codification» in relation to the
Gortynian material are indispensable. For decades,scholars have
discussed the extent to which the Law Code of Gortyn was actually a
«code». Those who still define the text as a «code» see it as a comprehensible
organisation of related legislation, rather than a «code» as
such 1. Others emphasise the plural: «the Gortynian laws» 2. There is,
nonetheless, a consensus with regard to one issue, namely the subject
matter in the legislation that wefind in the Law Code is treated
in other Gortynian inscriptions and in particular also in texts of approximately
the same date as the Law Code itself 3. In other words, it
is not vital whether we refer to the text as a «code» since we find
related legislation within the remaining Gortynian epigraphic corpus,
or we refer to the inscription as «the Gortynian laws». The interrelation
of thesubject matter in the legislation of the Law Code is
evident in the same manner as in the so-called «Second Code». I do,
however, sympathise with those who avoid the use of «code» altogether,
except where it is a convenient «short-hand» term. In other
words, I refer to the text as the Law Code of Gortyn for one reason
only – that is convention. The issue of the application of «codification
» hasshifted from the discussion of referring to the Law Code of
Gortyn as «code» towards the issue of whether individual sections of
the Law Code of Gortyn may be labelled «codification» or not 4. It is
obvious that this is dependent upon how we define «codification».
However, I agree that we may apply the term «codification» in the
sense not as «making codes», but as «legislating in full» interms of
one single subject matter. Thus in what follows I shall apply this
concept to a few of the sections of the Law Code. I also suggest that

1 E.g. Willetts (1967), p. 8; Gagarin (1982), p. 129; Nomima II, p. 3; Lévy (2000),
p. 186.
2 Lemosse (1957); Bile e.g. (1981), (1994), (1995). Davies (1996), pp. 33-56, argues
in favour of a «decodification» as a response to the discussion of the...
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