Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Beyond Dogmatics

Beyond Dogmatics: Law and Society in the Roman World

J W Cairns
P J du Plessis
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Beyond Dogmatics
    Book Description:

    This book provides a survey of the debate about the relationship between law and society in the Roman world.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3177-3
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    J W C and P J du P.
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)

    • Introduction: Themes and Literature
      (pp. 3-8)
      J W Cairns and P J du Plessis

      In 1967, John Crook published Law and Life of Rome. Facing the first page of the introduction, he provocatively placed the invocation “Iuris consultus abesto”. The imperative has been as little obeyed as “vade Satana”. This said, at the time the book was not widely reviewed, and such reception as it had was mixed, despite the fact that in the 1960s, Roman law was a more active field in university law faculties than it has now become. It was thus largely ignored in the traditional journals devoted to Roman law, particularly in those countries where English-language literature was not commonly...

    • 1 Law and Society
      (pp. 9-36)
      A Watson

      I have long been fascinated by the relationship between law and society. My book, Legal Transplants (Edinburgh, 1974) was written in 1970 but despite my best efforts I could not find a publisher until 1974. Then the book fell stillborn from the press. It took more than a decade before it attracted attention. The main theses are simple:

      1 There is no necessary correlation between law and the society in which it operates. Of course, there is some connection but precisely what that is is not inevitable, and may often be tenuous. Law is very much the culture of the...


    • 2 Legal Pluralism and the Roman Empires
      (pp. 39-52)
      K Tuori

      Absurd as it may sound, during the last few decades the image of the Roman Empire has undergone a noticeable change. The unitary model of the Roman Empire, in which laws issued by the emperor were followed equally from Egypt to Spain after AD 212, has been crumbling. Instead of this model of a quasi-modern state, historical studies based on sources found in the provinces offer a model of a heterogeneous empire, in which local rules and customs are more prominent. This chapter seeks to offer some insights into the implication of this development, proceeding from a juxtaposition of contemporary...

    • 3 Diplomatics, Law and Romanisation in the Documents from the Judaean Desert
      (pp. 53-82)
      E A Meyer

      Romanisation, although the word is now unfashionable, is the umbrella term for complex and centuries-long phenomena of cultural exchange that created a diverse but recognisably similar Mediterranean world by AD 250. Ancient legal documents and their physical forms can shed light on this process, especially in important aspects like the degree and speed of the spread of Roman legal practices and the Greek language in the Roman East, the number of local components retained, and how (possibly even why) neighbouring peoples reacted differently to Roman examples. In (1) choice of tongue, (2) dating formulae, (3) physical construction, and (4) modes...


    • 4 Roman Law Codes and the Roman Legal Tradition
      (pp. 85-104)
      J Harries

      From the mid-fifth century BC, if not earlier, when law was first set out in writing, the Romans were interested in the creation of systems. The act of writing down the law that became known as the “Twelve Tables” in c 450 BC was the result of a process of selection and arrangement, carried out, according to later tradition, by Boards of Ten, whose rule degenerated into tyranny. The relationship between what was included and what was left out is largely lost to us. Understanding is not helped by the assumption of the later authors, such as Cicero and Livy,...

    • 5 Diocletian and the Efficacy of Public Law
      (pp. 105-122)
      R D Rees

      Early in his speech to the Roman emperor Maximian, probably delivered in Trier in the spring of AD 289, a Gallic orator catalogued the duties of imperial office.¹ Maximian had been appointed co-emperor by Diocletian four years earlier, and in keeping with the conventions of the genre of panegyrical oratory, is said to have fulfilled his responsibilities with distinction. Those responsibilities are:

      admittere in animum tantae rei publicae curam et totius orbis fata suscipere et oblitum quodammodo sui gentibus vivere et in tam arduo humanarum rerum stare fastigio, ex quo veluti terras omnes et maria despicias vicissimque oculis ac mente...


    • 6 The Dutiful Legatee: Pliny, Letters V.1
      (pp. 125-138)
      A D E Lewis

      Around AD 100, on the death of Asudius Curianus, Pliny received a legacy, worth unknown, in Curianus’ will. There was a history. Some three years previously Curianus had been disinherited by his mother’s will which distributed her fortune between a number of distinguished Romans, including Pliny himself. Curianus was a wealthy man in his own right and had no children. Clearly mortified by his mother’s actions Curianus asked Pliny to give him his share, promising to return its capital value in due course. Pliny declined to do so but rather offered to refuse his share, to Curianus’ eventual benefit, if...

    • 7 The Hereditability of Locatio Conductio
      (pp. 139-154)
      P J du Plessis

      What is the relationship between Roman law and the society which produced it? The answer to this question is in fact much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. There are two divergent academic views on the issue. On the one hand, Alan Watson has argued that it is too simplistic to assume that a close link between law and society should necessarily exist.¹ Although some connection is bound to be present, the precise nature of it often remains obscure and cannot by definition be used to explain the nature of specific rules of law. On the other...


    • 8 Dealing with the Abyss: The Nature and Purpose of the Rhodian Sea-law on Jettison (Lex Rhodia De Iactu, D 14.2) and the Making of Justinian’s Digest
      (pp. 157-172)
      J-J Aubert

      The apostle Paul’s journey from Caesarea to Rome did not stop with that. Drifting at sea for two weeks, the travellers, all 276 of them, ended up swimming to shore on the island of Malta after part of the crew had tried to leave in smaller boats and the food had eventually been thrown overboard in a last effort to rescue the ship from final destruction as it was run aground. If the description of Paul’s shipwreck is remarkable in its detail, the event it covers must have been rather banal throughout history. There was a lot of shipping carried...

    • 9 Suing the Paterfamilias: Theory and Practice
      (pp. 173-184)
      D Johnston

      “Roman law: reality and context” was the theme of the conference at which this chapter was given as a paper. It discusses briefly only two remedies in Roman law in relation to slaves and their legal capacity to contract and hold property. The reason for doing so is that this is a topic which focuses sharply the divergent pressures of legal doctrine (on the one hand) and economic utility (on the other).

      At the most general level it is quite clear that within this area pure legal doctrine did give way to some extent to the demands of practicality. Legal...


    • 10 Lawsuits in Context
      (pp. 187-205)
      E Metzger

      The study of Roman civil procedure has benefited enormously from the discovery of the Murecine archive, a collection of first-century documents belonging to a banking family in Puteoli.¹ Lawyers and historians are indebted to Giuseppe Camodeca for his exceptional care in editing and presenting the archive and interpreting its contents. Opinions differ on questions of interpretation, but this is inevitable: the sources on procedure available to date have not adequately prepared us to interpret the Murecine archive. The literary sources tend to mention rules of procedure only in passing, and the juristic sources (to recall perhaps Watson’s “law in books”)²...

    • 11 The Role of Delators
      (pp. 206-220)
      O F Robinson

      Delatores are a vivid part of the image of imperial Rome;¹ it is probable that they feature in any history covering the Principate. The picture is of low-born men, who had contrived to rise in the world through the rewards of their informing, pandering to the fears of imperial tyrants with unjustified accusations of treason, thus putting at risk the lives and estates of those honourable senators who scorned sycophancy; the implications are of calumny and greed. These men – accusers, informers – fall into the interesting area where law and history touch, and the word identifying them has even been accepted...

  12. Index
    (pp. 221-223)