THE EMPEROR'S POWER IN TEMPORAL MATTERS Are All Parts Of The World Subject To The Emperor In Temporals? Opinion 1: Affirmative Chapter 5 ~ William Of Ockham

Breviary of Matthias Corvinus 


Are all parts of the world subject to the Emperor in temporals? 

Opinion 1: affirmative 

Chapter 5

Student I think that I understand to some extent how temporal affairs are distinguished from spiritual affairs. Getting down, therefore, to the power of the emperor over temporal affairs, I ask first whether a true emperor of the Romans has such power over temporal affairs throughout the whole world that all the regions of the world have been made subject to him in temporal affairs.

Master As was touched on above, there are various opinions about this. One is that all the kingdoms of the world are by right subject to the emperor of the Romans in temporal affairs.

Student Although you brought forward in chapter 26 of [book] 1 of this [tractate] [[reference wrong]] some glosses on the decrees and decretals which maintain that opinion, would you nevertheless adduce some others, if there are any.

Master The gloss on the words per singulas provincias in dist. 63, c. Hadrianus [c.22, col.322] seems to imply this when it says, "Therefore there is one emperor in France and in Spain, as in 7, q. 1, c. In apibus. I grant this unless they prove that they are exempt from the emperor, as in 23, q. 8, para. Ecce. Whence they [[all, Zn]] will still give tribute to the emperor from their head, since they do not prove that they are exempt, as in ff. de censibus l. ult.. For if they say they are not subject to the Roman emperor, they are saying as a consequence that they do not have anything of their own, as in dist. 1, c. Ius quiritum above. Let us confess therefore that the emperor is lord of the world, as in ff. ad l. Rhod. l. deprecatio." But there is not a greater reason for France and Spain to be subject to the Roman emperor than for other kingdoms. All kingdoms of both believers and unbelievers, therefore, are subject to the emperor in law, although not in fact.

Again, the gloss on the words in Germanos in Extra, De electione, c. Venerabilem [c.34, col.167] reads as follows: "In this way, therefore, rule of the world was transferred to the Teutons. For they have the rule of the Roman church, de consecratione, dist. 5, c. in die. And so it is clear that the empire is not with the Greeks, although the emperor is broadly called by that name, Extra, De maioritate et obedientia, c. Solitae. So too is the king of the the Czechs [[or is it the chess pieces?]] called a king, since there is no empire outside the church, 24, q. 1, c. Schisma, para. sed nec illud. There is however indeed an emperor over all kings, 7, q. 1, c. In apibus, and all nations are under him, 11, q. 1, para. Sed si quis, in vers. voluminis. For he is the prince and lord of the world, ff. ad l. Rhod. de iact. l. deprecatio. And even the Jews are under him, c. de Iuda, l. Iudaei, and all provinces, 63, dist. c. Adrianus. And everything is in the power of the emperor, 8, dist. c. Quo iure defendis and 23, q. 8, c. Convenior."

Again, the gloss on dist. 1, c. Ius Quiritum [col.6], part of which was brought forward earlier, says, "The Jews use Roman law and are called Romans because all are called Romans who are subject to the Roman empire, just as it is said that the characteristic of Romans is to have their children in their power, just as there are also gentiles under the Roman empire. For the emperor is prince of all the world, ... ff. ad l. Rhod. ... qui levandae [Digest 14.2.8]. Whoever does not want to be under the Roman empire, therefore, can have neither an inheritance nor the other things that are counted here as part of Roman law."

The gloss on the word omnia in 23, q. 8, c. Convenior [col.1372] implies the same thing, saying, "Therefore everything belongs to the emperor, as above at dist. 8, c. Quo iure."

Student It is clear enough that many people have the opinion that the emperor of the Romans is the lord and prince of the whole world. Try to argue for that opinion.

Master This opinion seems to be based mainly on one reason, which is as follows. The whole world has sometimes been subject to the Roman empire and the Roman empire has not been deprived of any lordship over any kingdom which was subject to it. All the kingdoms of the world, therefore, are still subject to the Roman empire.

Student How is it proved that the whole world has been subject to the Roman empire?

Master The gospel attests to this when it says [Luke 2:1], "A decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered." Constantine attests to this too when he says, as was brought forward above from dist. 96, c. Constantinus [c.14, col.342], "So determining we decree that it," that is the see of Rome, "should have rule both over the four sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople and over all the other churches of God throughout the whole world. ... Now we resolve that all of these things, which we have decreed and confirmed through this our sacred imperial [order] and through other divine decrees, should remain undiminished and undisturbed until the end of the world. Whence, before the living God, who commanded us to rule, and before his terrible judgement, we call on the emperors who succeed us, all our nobles and satraps, the whole senate and all people throughout the whole world, now and forever, [...] to witness that none of them is permitted in any way to violate or in any way to overthrow these things." Constantine shows in these words that the whole world was subject to him, not in fact, however, because at that time some people were in rebellion. Therefore it was in law.

Student How is it proved that the Roman empire has not been deprived of the right and lordship which it had over any kingdom or province?

Master This is proved as follows. If the Roman empire was deprived of the right and lordship which it had over any kingdom or province it was deprived either by right or by a person: not by right because no one has the right, either divine or human, of such a deprivation; not by a person because no one inferior to the emperor, who was the lord of the world, could deprive the emperor of such right and lordship.

Student That argument does not seem to be valid. This is (i) first because the Roman empire could be deprived of this right and lordship by the power of kingdoms rebelling, because, as we read in Extra, De regulis iuris, c. Omnis [c.1, col.927], "Through whatever causes a thing arises, by those same causes it is dissolved." The Roman empire acquired its right and lordship over other kingdoms, however, by the power of the sword. It is also by the power of the sword, therefore, that it could lose that right and lordship. This is (ii) secondly because by his negligence and fault the emperor of the Romans could have lost the right and lordship which he had over many other kingdoms. For, as is noted in the gloss on 22, q. 5, c. De forma [col.1281], "Anyone is bound to his subject by the same faith as is the subject to his lord. ... And if he shall not have kept it, he is deprived of the lordship which he had over his vassal." If the emperor has treated some kingdoms unjustly, therefore, or has not defended them in their necessity, he has justly lost the right and lordship which he had over them. This is (iii) thirdly because rights are removed by prescription. Other kingdoms, therefore, could have prescribed against the empire. And so the emperor could have lost the right and lordship which he had over some other kingdoms.

Master It is clear to some people that those [reasons] do not obstruct the previous argument.

The first does not because, as was touched on above, although a great part of the world was subjugated to the Roman empire by the power of the sword, yet afterwards they all willingly agreed to be subjected to that same empire. And therefore it could not thereafter be dissolved by the power of the sword.

The second also, about a fault of the emperor or of the Romans, does not, it seems, obstruct it because neither in him nor in them does so great a fault appear that the Roman empire should have been deprived of its right and lordship over any kingdom. Even granted that such a fault had been committed, the empire should nevertheless not have been deprived of its right without the decision of the totality of mortals or of some one or ones acting in the place of the totality of mortals. However, no such decision against the Roman empire has ever been asserted by the totality of mortals or by any one or ones acting in their place. Therefore the Roman empire has not been deprived of that right or lordship.

Nor does the third, about prescription, seem to obstruct the previous argument. This is (i) because it does not seem that anyone ever has prescribed against the Roman empire in this matter, because no one could in good faith remove himself from the Roman empire. And whoever did remove himself from the Roman empire, therefore, removed himself only from its power. It is also (ii) because as in spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs it is not prescribed against obedience and supervision [[or the right of visitation?]], so no one can prescribe against the lordship of the Roman empire. This is proved from the fact that in temporal affairs prescription is by imperial law. However, the emperor has never made a law or statute that someone could prescribe in this way against the Roman empire. Therefore, no prescription can be brought forward in this case.


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