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The structure, character and content of Roman law





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Roman law is first and foremost private law, law of and between citizens. In relation to it public law and the law of nations are less important. Roman law is concerned with the relationships between people, their legal actions, and the right they have on goods. Legal persons were in particular the fathers of families, the proverbal pater familias. They held great power over their wives, children and slaves. An important element is the law of procedure. The archaic Roman law was characterized by a lot of ritualized legal formulae to which one had to stick as close as possible. In a later phase one is able to choose one or more legal actions, a matter which called for interpretation: which action? Parties ruled their conflicts themselves. A judge only appeared in a final phase of the case. For centuries there were no courts. In the great public trials, like the ones in which Cicero became famous, his role was more akin to that of an orator than to the role of a modern solicitor.

Roman law is remarkable for the detailed yet succinct way one treated cases. One looked principally at things by dealing with concrete or imaginary cases. This casuistic aspect is more important than any systematic view. One did not write a theory of damage, but about a car hitting someone on the Capitol. Of course one has tried to systematize Roman law. The great Roman lawyers treated all kind of cases when writing on several subjects or commenting the edict of the praetor. The real heart of Roman law was hereditary law. Apart from legal procedure, family law, the law of goods, and the law of obligations are the other main areas. The juridical content and level of Roman law is of such a quality that it has deeply influenced directly and indirectly lawyers of all times and places. It brought with it a great prestige because of Roman history.

 

Task 3. Answer the following questions:

1. What is the first known source of Roman law?

2. Who governed Rome after the period of the kings?

3. Did somebody know something of the law before the Twelve Tables were erected?

4. What were the Twelve Tables erected for?

5. Who gave juridical advice when asked for?

6. How often did the praetor publish his edict?

7. What did the praetor announce in his edict?

8. What legal task did the censors have?

9. What did the mysterious Gaius do?

10. When did Justinian try to unify law by codification on all levels?

11. What Roman law is concerned with?

12. What is less important in relation to Roman law?

13. When did great Roman lawyers treat all kinds of cases?

14. What did Justinian do to crown his achievement?

15. Who held great power over their wives, children and slaves?

16. What was the archaic Roman law characterized by?

 

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