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Roman law, as revealed through ancient legal texts, literature, papyri, wax tablets and inscriptions, covered such facets of everyday Roman life as crime and punishment, land and property ownership, commerce, the maritime and agricultural industries, citizenship, sexuality and prostitution, slavery and manumission, local and state politics, liability and damage to property, and the preservation of the peace. Law was established through a variety of means, for example, via statutes, magisterial decisions, emperor's edicts, senatorial decrees, assembly votes, plebiscites and the deliberations of expert legal counsel and so became multi-faceted and flexible enough to deal with the changing circumstances of the Roman world, from republican to imperial politics, local to national trade, and state to inter-state politics.

One of the most important sources on Roman law is the Corpus Iuris Civilis, compiled under the auspices of Justinian I and covering, as its name suggests, civil law. One of its four books, the massive Digest, covers all aspects of public and private law. The Digest was produced in 533 CE under the supervision of Tribonian and is an overview of some 2000 separate legal volumes. These original sources were written by noted jurists or legal experts such as Gaius, Ulpian and Paul and they make the Digest one of the richest texts surviving from antiquity, as within there is a treasure trove of incidental historical information used to illustrate the various points of law, ranging from life expectancy to tax figures.

Other collections of laws include the Codex Gregorianus (issued c. 292 CE) and the Codex Hermogenianus (issued 295 CE), both named after prominent jurists in the reign of Diocletian and collectively including over 2,500 texts. There is also the Theodosian Code, a collection of over 2,700 laws compiled in the 430s CE and added to in subsequent years and, finally, the Codex Iustinianus (528-534 CE) which summarized and extended the older codexes.

Then, there are also specific types of legal documents which have survived from antiquity such as negotia documents which disclose business transactions of all kinds from rents and lease agreements to contracts outlining the transfer of property. Inscriptions too, can reveal laws and their implications, as placed on public monuments they publicised new laws or gave thanks for court victories to those who had aided the party involved.

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