Justinian Code Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

One of the most underappreciated, albeit vitally important, documents in history is Justinian's Code of Laws. Use this plan to teach your students about the impact of Justinian's Code of Laws.

Lesson Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • follow the development of late Roman Law to Justinian's Code of Laws
  • compare Justinian's Code of Laws to earlier Roman Law


1 hour


  • Copies of the annotated Justinian's Code of Laws and Twelve Tables (one of each for each student)

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Key Vocabulary

  • Twelve Tables
  • Justinian's Code of Laws


  • Start the lesson by reviewing the following concepts:
    • Split of the Roman Empire
    • Fall of the Western Roman Empire
    • Military successes of Justinian
  • Watch the video Justinian's Code of Law and Roman Emperors after Constantine, making sure to compare and contrast the two vocabulary terms. Stop the video at these points for discussion:
    • 3:06--How would you describe these leaders of the Roman Empire? What about their leaderships styles? Do you think this switch of views on religion under Julian was constructive for the Empire?
    • 4:44--Why do you think Justinian felt the need to rewrite the Twelve Tables? Do you think this had more to do with society and less to do with the laws themselves? Why or why not?

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