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Il Codice Civile: The First Translation of Napoléon's Code civil: Timeline

An online version of an exhibit at the Law Library of Louisiana on Il Codice Civile, the first translation of Napoléon's Code civil, from French to Italian. This guide includes information about Napoléon's famous code and his conquests across Italy.

Heading title with a Napoleon quote: "What nothing will destroy, what will live forever, is my Civil Code. - Napoleon Bonaparte."

King of Italy

Colorful portrait of Napoleon in full coronation robe, crown, and gloves.

Napoleon (1769-1821) as King of Italy, 1805

Andrea the Elder Appiani (1805)

General Pietro Colletta

The kingdom presented a noble spectacle, a tribunal in every commune and superior tribunals in the districts and provinces; the trials began and ended on the spot; the sentence and the judges themselves always on the side of the people, despotic urges abolished… the deception and torture formerly employed towards the accused and witnesses forbidden.

General Pietro Colletta of Naples, 1825


Timeline Of Napoléon And His Code In Italy

1800 - Northern Italy is re-conquered and annexed by the French Empire

1804 - Napoléon introduces his Civil Code in the French Empire, which includes the Piedmont region of Italy (northwestern Italy)

1805 - Napoléon is crowned King of Italy (present-day northeastern Italy)

1806 - Napoléon introduces the Codice di Napoleone to the Kingdom of Italy

1806 - Southern Italy is conquered; Napoléon’s brother Joseph established as King of the Kingdom of Naples

1807 - Napoléon introduces a modified criminal code, which removed provisions for juries

1808 - Napoléon introduces the Italian commercial code to the Kingdom of Italy, which reflected a compromise between French texts, Italian jurists, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce

1809 - The Codice di Napoleone is introduced in the Kingdom of Naples after a 3-year delay by Joseph because of Naples’ domination by baronial powers and the fierce opposition to the code’s rules for divorce; Napoléon eventually orders it adopted in full

1815 - Napoléon is defeated and expelled from the regions in Italy that he conquered; however, much of the Napoléonic Code remains the base for many of the new/restored kingdoms’ laws or, in regions where the Napoléonic Code was abolished, returns in revised form with different territory annexations over the 50 years leading to Italian Unification

1837 - The Kingdom of Sardinia in the Piedmont region enacts a civil code based primarily on the Napoléonic Code

1848 - The island of Sardinia joins governments with the Piedmont region in the Kingdom of Sardinia, motivated by the better legal system and reforms there; the Kingdom of Sardinia becomes the strongest in the Italian region

1861 - The Kingdom of Sardinia proclaims itself the Kingdom of Italy, after conquering the Kingdom of Two Sicilies in southern Italy (the former Kingdom of Naples region and the island of Sicily) and ratifying all annexations; five different legal codes were at that time in effect in the regions across the country

1865 - The newly formed Kingdom of Italy creates its own new Codice Civile, which retains and reflects much of the original Napoléonic Code

Continental Legal History Series

The Napoleonic Empire had extended its law all over Italy. And its law met with a better and more lasting fortune than its sovereignty; for when Napoleon was overthrown and the old dynasties were restored, his legislation survived, -- as the law of Rome outlived the Roman empire. And as Roman law remained the guide and inspiration for all succeeding legislators, so the Code of Napoleon, triumphant over political changes and national jealousies, even where it had ceased itself to be law, remained a model for other codes, which indeed owed to it their existence…The dynasties restored to thrones by the Congress of Vienna were powerless (however strong their desire) to repudiate the reforms instituted during French rule.

The Continental Legal History Series by the American Association of Law Schools, 1912

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole

Bonaparte at the Pont d'Arcole, an oil painting by French artist Antoine-Jean Gros, painted in 1796. It depicts a scene from the Battle of Arcole in November 1796, when General Napoleon Bonaparte leads his troops to storm a bridge.

Bonaparte at the pont d'Arcole

Jean-Antoine Gros (1801)