The influence of Roman law far exceeded the spatial and temporal limits of the Republic and Empire that produced it. Concepts and doctrines from the Roman legal tradition have informed how subsequent societies have understood the idea of private property, for instance, and they have also played a role in the evolution of the law of the sea, international law, and human rights law. In this course, we will study this important legal tradition through sources that date from 450 BC to 533 AD, including the Law of the Twelve Tables; Cicero’s speeches and treatises; the histories of Sallust, Livy, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian; the Institutes of Gaius; and the Digest of Justinian. We will use these texts as resources for exploring the ways in which the law both reflected and shaped ethical, social, and political systems within Rome. Throughout the course, we will be especially attuned to the meanings that law and justice held for the Romans, the diverse sources of law in Rome, the forms of power that the law secured within the Roman socio-political order, the ways in which Romans sought to use the law to resolve problems that arose within the Republic and the Empire, as well as the relationship between law and rhetoric. Among the specific laws that we will examine are those concerning landholdings, theft, citizenship, slaves, marriage, and the family.
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor S. Johnson.