Greece Law History Part I

By | January 20, 2022

Despite the subjugation of Byzantine Hellenism by the Turks, Byzantine law did not disappear, but continued to regulate private relations between the Greeks. This is especially due to the religious character of Muslim law, which imposed the principle of the personality of law.

Byzantine law, as it had been formulated in the various synoptic collections, among which the ‛άβιβλος of Armenopulus was most in use, was applied by the Greek municipal and ecclesiastical authorities, when they judged both as arbitrators and as judges with exclusive competence, which had been granted by the Turks to the bishops with regard to matrimonial relations and succession between Christians. Parallel to Byzantine law, customary rights were gradually formed – codified indeed in some Aegean islands – which, although generally having a local character, almost always consecrated common principles of law, according to the evolution and

In addition to the aforementioned collections of customary local rights and some synodal deliberations regulating family law issues, there are very few other written sources of Greek law during the period of Turkish rule. Of particular mention are the codes in Greek of the Danubian countries, the constitution of Alessandro Ypsilantis (1780), the code of Wallachia by Giovanni Caratzas (1818) and especially the code of Moldavia by Callimachi (1817), the most important of all..

From the beginning of the revolution of 1821, under the influence of the ideas of the French revolution, the Greeks were involved in the drafting of the Constitutional Charter of a free Greece. The first constitution of the Epidaurus assembly (1822) was liberal and of democratic principles. And the subsequent constitutions of the second assembly of Astro (1823) and of the third of Trezene (1827) were also of democratic principles. The latter, however, unlike the previous ones, entrusted the executive power to a single person, the governor Giovanni Capodistria, who governed the country until his assassination in 1831.

For the continuation of the national tradition, the first two constitutions of the revolution determined the laws of the Byzantine emperors as the source of civil law. Instead, in the constitution of 1827 the tendency to imitate foreign codes, especially the French one, prevailed. The French Code de commerce applied by Greek traders even before the revolution had already been accepted in 1822 and in 1823 a Greek penal code was also drawn up on the basis of the French one.

However, this trend did not lead to the drafting of a civil code. On the contrary, according to the decision of the governor Koper of 11 December 1828, which sources of civil law were recognized again the Byzantine ones and precisely the ‛Εξάβιβλος of Armenopulus, and by virtue of the decree of February 4, 1830 the collection of civil laws was ordered Byzantine and their arrangement, which however never took place. Among the laws of the governor of Koper, those concerning wills and notaries, derived from French law, are worthy of mention. Courts were established from the early years of the revolution: however, with the exception of penalties, they only came into operation in the Koper period.

With the arrival of King Otto (see History: XVII, p. 904), most of the legislative activity was assumed by the Bavarian GL von Maurer, member of the regency, to whom we owe (1833-34) the following codes still in force today: a) organization of courts and notariats, in French imitation; b) Criminal Code (πονικὸς νόμος) based on the Bavarian projects of 1822, 1827 and 1831; c) criminal procedure (ποινικὴ δικονομία) mainly on the basis of the French one; d) civil procedure (πολιτικὴ δικονομία) based on the French one and on Bavarian projects, especially that of 1831. The Code de commerce was preserved for commercial legislationalready in force, of which a Greek translation was made (1835).

According to the decree of February 23, 1835, the sources of civil law are the civil laws of the Byzantine emperors and customs. This interim measure continues to form the basis of civil law to this day.

However, as early as 1835 a commission was set up for the drafting of the civil code, especially in imitation of the French one. In 1836 two very important laws were enacted, one on mortgages and one on pledges, and in 1837 one on the distinction of assets. The so-called “civil law” (ἀστικός νόμος, 1856), containing, among other things, the provisions on Greek private international law and Hellenic citizenship, the law on transcription (1856) and the law on minors, guardianship and care (1861); the law on mixed marriages (1861) is also interesting. All these laws feel the influence of French law.

Under King George I, the Ionian Islands annexed to Greece, the law of 1866 introduced the legislation of the kingdom, but preserving the Civil Code of the United States of the Ionian Islands of 1841, still in force.

Greece Law History 1