Publius Juventius Celsus

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Publius Juventius Celsus Titus Aufidius Hoenius Severianus (AD 67– AD 130) — the son of a little-known jurist of the same name, hence also Celsus filius — was, together with Julian, the most influential ancient Roman jurist of the High Classical era.


Public life

Celsus was presumably born in upper Italy, where the gentilicum of Juventius was common and where senatorial Juventii can also be found. In either 106 or 107 Celsus was praetor. In 114/115 he was governor of Thracia, and afterwards he became suffect consul for the nundinium of May–August 115 as the colleague of Lucius Julius Frugi. [1] Celsus held the office of consul the second time as consul ordinarius for the year 129 with Lucius Neratius Marcellus as his colleague. [2] He achieved the apex of a successful senatorial career when he became proconsul of Asia in 129/130. [3]

As a jurist

Celsus succeeded his father Juventius Celsus in the Proculian school of lawyers. He was part of the Consilium of Hadrian and helped bring about the Senatus consultum Iuventianum, which held that a good-faith possessor of an inheritance only had to yield it back inasmuch as he was enriched by it. Another dictum of his, impossibilium nulla obligatio est – impossible obligations are void – has become a core tenet of civil law.

Celsus' legal style was bold and biting. Pliny the Younger did, however, criticise his rhetorical weaknesses. Celsus' principal work was his libri digestorum 39 , of which books 1-27 discussed the edicts of Hadrian's edicts -- books 1-12 and 24-27 on the order of the edicts, and books 13-23 concerned legacies and wills -- while books 28-39 discussed the laws the Senate promulgated and numerous senatus consulta.

Notable dicta

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  1. Alison E. Cooley, The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy (Cambridge: University Press, 2012), p. 468
  2. Cooley, Cambridge Manual, p. 470
  3. Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron , 13 (1983), pp. 167f

Other secondary sources

Political offices
Preceded by
Lucius Vipstanus Messalla,
and Marcus Pedo Vergilianus

as suffect consuls
Suffect consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Julius Frugi
Succeeded by
Marcus Pompeius Macrinus Neos Theophanes,
and Titus Vibius Varus

as suffect consuls
Preceded by
Aulus Egrilius Plarianus,
and Q. [...]

as suffect consuls
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Lucius Neratius Marcellus  II,
followed by Quintus Julius Balbus
Succeeded by
Quintus Fabius Catullinus,
and Marcus Flavius Aper

as ordinary consuls