The Middle Ages for Teachers - Justinian's Code, Lesson Plan and Classroom Activity Illustration

Middle Ages for Teachers - Justinian's Code

Lesson Plan, Justinian's Code (Donn)


Say: Here in the United States, we have a really important document called the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was written down so everyone would know their rights, and these rights would be saved for all future citizens to enjoy. Over the year, the Bill of Rights has had really important rights added to it so that today we have even more rights. Those new rights are called Amendments. One of those amendments freed the slaves, another gave women the right to vote. These are important rights. The same was true with Justinian's Code.

Justinian was the Emperor of the Eastern Roman empire in 500 CE. Justinian, looked at his empire and saw that the laws were a mess. Because they weren't written down, the laws in one part of the empire might be different then the laws in another part of the empire. Justinian wanted all of his people to be treated the same way, so Justinian had his judges and lawyers get together and write down all the laws of the land. He wanted to save in writing all the laws that began in ancient Rome. He wanted to add new ones to give people even more rights.

One of the laws in Justinian's Code stated a person is innocent until proven guilty. Can you think of any country today that has this same law? If you said the United States, you are right. Many countries have this law including Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and more. It's an important law.

Justinian wrote down many such laws. He did such a good job way back in 500 CE, that new and existing governments refer to his laws as guides when creating laws for their own countries today. He did a superb job because he thought about the needs of all the people. It's not easy to write laws that are fair for everyone.

Activity: You Are The Lawmakers

Say: Today, you are going to be lawmakers. Working in groups, your job is to create 12 laws that would be fair for all students in your school. Each group is limited to 12 laws.

Give them some time. Then, have each group read their laws. Have the class vote to see if they think the law is fair. Why or why not?

Close activity by asking: What is the difference between a law and a rule?