This article summarizes some of the results of an inquiry into third-century rescripts which has been proceeding for the last seven years but of which nothing has so far been published. The main source, the Codex Justinianus, contains some 2491 items dated between A.D. 193, when we first have a substantial number of texts, and 305, which are certainly or probably private rescripts, as I shall call them, i.e. subscriptiones. These were written answers given by the emperor to petitions by private individuals on points of law. If these written answers, which were in some sense the concern of the imperial office a libellis, are reassembled from the titles under which they are grouped in the Codex, and are read in complete chronological order, the reader is struck by the fact that their style is consistent over a period which varies from a few months to several years.
The periods of consistent style, however, do not coincide with the reign of a particular Augustus or Augusti. Some twenty such periods and hence some twenty third-century composers of rescripts, who are clearly not emperors, can be distinguished in this way. In half a dozen cases there is evidence, again drawn from the style of composition, that the composer is one of the jurists known to us independently from the pages of Justinian's Digest; for example, Papinian, Ulpian, Menander, Modestinus or Hermogenianus. In two cases the evidence for the identification is set out in some detail below. It seems, therefore, that the composition of rescripts of any importance was the responsibility of professional lawyers, acting in their capacity of imperial secretaries a libellis, an office which Papinian at least is known to have held.