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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sara Menzinger on Law and Dante

Dear Students,

this week's classes will take place on Wednesday and Thursday only - due to Easter break.

They will be devoted to the topic of "Law, Canonists and Bible in the Political Thought of Dante".

The classes will be based on sources which you will receive via email today. 

If you would like to have a more thorough insight on the topic, here are some further non compulsory readings: 

- J. Steinberg, Dante and the Limits of the Law, Chicago 2013; 

- D. Quaglioni, “Arte di bene e d’equitade”. Ancora sul senso del diritto
in Dante (Monarchia, II v 1), in “Studi Danteschi”, 76 (2011), pp.
27-46; Monarchia, ed. by D. Quaglioni, in Dante Alighieri, Opere, ed.
M. Santagata, vol. II, Milano, Mondadori («I Meridiani»), 2014;

- B.Tierney, Religion, Law and the Growth of Constitutional Thought.
1150-1650, Cambridge 1982.

Next week the classes will take place regularly (April 23rd and 24th)! 

Prof. Menzinger's CV:

Sara Menzinger is Substitute Professor of Legal History at the Law Department in Roma Tre. She specializes in Medieval Legal History and she has published widely on the topic of Italian city states [e.g. Giuristi e politica nei comuni di Popolo. Siena, Perugia e Bologna, tre governi a confronto (ius nostrum. Studi e testi pubblicati dall’Istituto di Storia del Diritto italiano, Universit√† degli Studi di Roma, “La Sapienza”, vol. 34), Roma 2006 and La Summa Trium Librorum di Rolando da Lucca (1195-1234). Fisco, politica, scientia iuris. Roma 2012 (together with Emanuele Conte)].

She has conducted research in many Italian and international universities and research centers, among which the Istituto Italiano di Studi Storici (Naples), the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History (Frankfurt) and the Deutsches Historisches Institute (Rome).


  1. Justinian and the Divine Comedy
    In the fifth chapter of Paradise of the Divine Comedy the encounter between Dante and the Emperor Justinian has its predominance part and constitutes one of the most notorious and important dialogues in the Divine Comedy. This encounter will fully develop in the sixth chapter of Paradise,entirely dedicated to Justinian's dialogue, A great chorus of souls, aimed by the charity of giving a sense of gratifying to Dante, comes near him.Consequently Dante asked to one of those spirits,the Emperor Justinian,who he is and why,together with the other spirits,enjoys a low utter bliss state.Justinian will answer in the sixth chapter;in the centre of that Canto,an intense speech in which the prodigious process of the world carried on by Rome is glorified. The praise is the introduction for a grave and afflicted reprimand against Guelfi and Ghibellini; against the first ones because they are contrasting with that unity and against the second ones who exploited the unity for their Parties politics,while the directed emanation of God's will overcomes all conflicts.Dante deeply analyzed the elaboration,made by Justinian,of the Corpus Iuris Civilis,that represents the unified collection of Roman laws:the foundation of the worldwide laws.Once the political unity had been broken,the legal unity survived thanks to the Corpus Iuris Civilis,and this was considered by Dante a promise of reestablishment of the political unity.The Corpus was effectively composed by a commission of lawyers,led by Tribonianus;but Dante gave credits for the work only to Justinian,who,moreover,as well as promoting the marvelous project,deeply influenced on it.Dante quotes the Corpus Iuris Civilis also in the 6th chapter of Purgatory:he wrote that Justinian turned out the instrument able to unify the Empire,but the German Emperors didn't pursue the principle of universality and in this way injustices were born.
    We can also underline the fact that according to Dante's thought the Corpus was promoted by Justinian who played under the direct holy inspiration. As a matter of fact he wrote:"a Dio per grazia piacque di spirarmi l'alto lavoro".

  2. The story of Dante as a poet, as an intellectual and as a politician it shows in the eyes of those who study it as a continuous and hopeful search for justice and peace among men. It is an idea of ​​justice that is rooted in the teachings of the Gospel, being closely united to charity, or to the highest point to which comes love.
    From the concept of justice as an enemy of greed, Dante drew a concept of law which is essentially designed as a tool to achieve the common good, as the real and personal relationship between man and man,which if it's maintained, keeps the human society, if it is corrupted, corrupts.Law and justice in the thought of Dante, of course, are inextricably linked and both are a manifestation of the divine will.
    Through Comedy In addition, the Poet pronunciation vigorous exhortation to find unity and charity, in overcoming the divisions, dissensions, envy and oppression.In the Volume, after a cultural and historical context of the figure of Dante, opens a reflection on the theme of justice in relation to law, politics, religion and theology,with the ultimate aim to explain and highlight the legal thought of Dante, fully understandable only in the light of an analysis that takes into account the profound religiosity and authentic faith of the poet, as professed in the XXIV canto of Paradise.

  3. Paradiso Paradise Canto XXIV: (Eighth Heaven: Sphere of the Fixed Stars)
    After the glorious re-ascent of Christ and Mary, Beatrice speaks to the souls still gathered, praying that they allow Dante a taste of the supper of Christ.
    Dante observes that the hosts all form circles around fixed poles and dance.
    One soul boldly comes forward and dances three times around Beatrice while singing and his song is so gorgeous that Dante is paralyzed.
    When he stops dancing, Beatrice identifies him as the "great man to whom our Lord bequeathed the keys." Hence we know him to be St. Peter. She asks him to test Dante on faith so that he can be worthy of moving into "this realm."
    Upon hearing this, Dante doesn't freak out, but acts like a good student, arming himself with his arguments.
    St. Peter wastes no time and turns, almost gleefully, to Dante. He asks a seemingly simple question: what is faith?
    Dante looks to Beatrice for permission to speak, she gives it, and Dante answers, like your brother, St. Paul, wrote, "Faith is the substance of the things we hope for / and is the evidence of things not seen."
    St. Peter nods. He then asks Dante why faith is "substance" and "evidence."
    Dante answers that faith speaks of "the deep things [which] are hidden from sight below." And because these things (like Heaven and blessedness) cannot be seen by mortal eyes, they must be taken on faith. This is why faith is a substance. Since mortals must reason from this blind faith, it is also evidence of unseen things.
    St. Peter approves again. He compares faith to a coin, saying that they've now determined the coin's "alloy and…weight." He then asks if Dante carries such a coin in his purse.
    Dante answers, of course.
    St. Peter continues: where does faith come from?
    Dante doesn't hesitate: the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as seen in the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testament.
    St. Peter asks, why do you consider the Scriptures to be the word of God?
    Dante: Such miracles as the ones recorded in the Bible must have been created; they cannot have been the work of nature, and the only other answer is God.
    St. Peter gets tricky. He points out that if these miracles are only attested in the Scriptures and Dante is saying these miracles legitimize the Scriptures, then Dante's reasoning is circular. He again asks Dante how he knows the Scriptures are real?
    Dante, catching the trick question, says, simple: faith. Nothing else can "attest…these works to you."
    That's the winning blow. Everyone celebrates with a singing of "Te Deum laudamus" ("We Praise You, O God").
    St. Peter affirms Dante's faith and compliments him on the eloquence of his answers. But he's not done yet. He asks Dante to state what he believes. Dante answers with his creed: I believe in one God who moves Heaven with his love, and this belief comes from the proof of the Scriptures. I believe in the Holy Trinity – One in Three and Three in One.
    St. Peter leans forward and embraces Dante. St. Peter celebrates by blessing Dante, singing, and dancing around him in circles.

  4. An interesting "Canto" that shows the link between literature and law, and that, as we talked about in class, shows Dante as a poet but also a lawyer and a politician, is the Sixteenth ( the circle of the wrathful ) .
    He met Marco Lombardo and discuss the "free will" .
    Dante through the words of Marco Lombardo consider the necessity of the laws because the soul of man is like a child , always in search of happiness , looking at all the ways to reach it; and it is for this reason that it is necessary to have laws and someone to apply it . This task would be responsible to the emperor and the pope who should stay in their respective spheres rather than aspire to wealth and power. Therefore, the additional problem is the mixture between temporal and spiritual power that has corrupted , first , the Church. Is therefore necessary to implement this distinction and give the Church the spiritual power and the temporal emperor , leaving the independent powers .

    Luigi Winkler

  5. All Dante's Inferno is permeated by the idea of the right punishment. In fact, when I think about Law and Dante the first thing that comes to my mind is the all Inferno from the Divina Commedia.
    The Inferno is ruled by the Legge del Contrappasso which is a form of punishment based on the analogy or on the contrast between the punishment inflicted to the damned soul and the actions and sins he made when the person was alive.
    When the punishment is based on the analogy with the sin made , the penalty is the same or related to it, instead when it is based on the contrast it is the opposite of the sin done.
    For example, the lustful who were led by passion all their lives, are eternally drifted by a tornado or the gluttons who ate more than they needed in their lifetime, are stuck in the mud while they suffer from thirst and hunger and while hail falls on them.
    I think that just the fact that he wrote such a poem full of these kind of legal implications is telling us that he might have had a legal education of some sort and that eventually he might have known Canon Law and his principle and final aim of the "Salus Animarum".
    And even if he didn't, I think he was in a way trying to imagine himself as a judge. He, in fact, tried to create a world where, in his opinion, everybody eventually got what they deserved.