HISTORIC
Beritus (Berytus) Nutrix Legum (Beirut Mother of Law)
Towards the middle of the third century after Christ a school of law and jurisprudence arose at Berytus, which attained high distinction, and is said by Gibbon to have furnished the eastern provinces of the empire with pleaders and magistrates for the space of three centuries (A.D. 250-550). The course of education at Berytus lasted five years, and included Roman Law in all its various forms, the works of Papinian being especially studied in the earlier times, and the same together with the edicts of Justinian in the later. Pleaders were forced to study either at Berytus, or at Rome, or at Constantinople, and, the honours and emoluments of the profession being large, the supply of students was abundant and perpetual. External misfortune, and not internal decay, at last destroyed the school, the town of Berytus being completely demolished by an earthquake in the year A.D. 551. The school was then transferred to Sidon, but appears to have languished on its transplantation to a new soil and never to have recovered its pristine vigour or vitality.


In many respects, one of the most important cities of Phoenicia during the time of the Roman Empire was Berytus. It became the seat of the most famous provincial school of Roman law. The school, which probably was founded by Septimius Severus, lasted until the destruction of Berytus (Beirut) itself by a sequence of earthquakes, tidal wave, and fire in the mid-6th century. Two of Rome's most famous jurists, Papinian and Ulpian, both natives of Phoenicia, taught as professors at the law school under the Severans. Their judicial opinions constitute well over a third of the Pandects (Digest) contained in the great compilation of Roman law commissioned by the emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.