This whole body of law was called the Twelve Tables and formed the basis of the most remarkable legal system the world has ever seen. However, there was nothing strange about the XII tables themselves. They contained nothing particularly new. The old debt law remained as it was, and the distinction between patricians and plebeians was not destroyed. The XII tables were important because they put the law before the eyes of the people; and the plebeians and patricians could know what their rights were. This code was so appreciated that it was part of Roman education, and boys in school were forced to memorize it. ~ Lawyers performed a variety of functions: they issued legal opinions at the request of individuals. They advised judges responsible for the administration of justice, especially lenders. They helped the praetors to draft their edicts, in which they publicly announced at the beginning of their mandate how they would exercise their functions and the formulas according to which certain procedures were carried out.
Some lawyers have also held senior judicial and administrative positions themselves. Michael Van Duisen wrote for Listverse: “Mos maiorum was an unwritten code that referred to behavioral customs that came mainly from the traditions of the ancestors of the Romans. Just like the Jews in Fiddler on the Roof`s first song, the Romans loved tradition and believed that moral decadence would occur if they deviated too much from the ideals of the past. Therefore, obedience to the mos maiorum was considered synonymous with the maintenance of an orderly civilized Rome and received an almost legal status. [Source: Michael van Duisen, Listverse, p. 13. February 2014] One of the special collections of the Jacob Burns Law Library is the Roman Law Collection. As the basis on which many legal systems in Western Europe have been developed, our Roman Law Collection supports a number of our other special collection strengths, including the French and canonical legal collections.
Roman law was established by a variety of means, such as statutes, magisterial decisions, imperial decrees, senate decrees, assembly votes, referendums and deliberations of expert legal advisers, and thus became sufficiently multifaceted and flexible to cope with the changing circumstances of the Roman world, from republican to imperial politics, from local to national trade, and from one state to another. intergovernmental policy. By the middle of the 3rd century, the conditions for the flourishing of a refined legal culture had become less favorable. The general political and economic situation deteriorated as the emperors took more direct control of all aspects of political life. The political system of the principality, which had retained some features of the republican constitution, began to transform into an absolute monarchy of the rulers. The existence of jurisprudence and jurists who regarded law as a science, not as an instrument for achieving the political goals set by the absolute monarch, did not fit well into the new order of things. The literary production ended as it was over. Only a few lawyers after the middle of the 3rd century are known by name.
While jurisprudence and legal education persisted to some extent in the eastern part of the empire, most of the subtleties of classical law were ignored and eventually forgotten in the West. Classical law has been replaced by so-called vulgar law. Then there are also certain types of legal documents that have survived since ancient times, such as negotiation documents that disclose business transactions of all kinds, from rents and leases to contracts that describe the transfer of ownership. Inscriptions can also reveal laws and their effects, as they were placed on public monuments, issued new laws, or thanked those who had helped the party involved in the legal victories. “As a legal system based on principles and not on jurisprudence, it was revived by Napoleon and remains in this form the basis of the legal system of most of continental Europe, as well as the former colonial dependencies of these European countries [including most of Africa, China, Latin America and Japan]. It is also the basis of law in Louisiana and Quebec. In fact, the only legal systems that compete with the Roman law in use are the Anglo-American tradition of common law and Islamic Sharia. In practice, a dispute was very often avoided by the counterparties who took an oath or insiurandum, but if such an agreement was not concluded, a court case followed, in which the plaintiff summoned the defendant before a court (civil cases: iudicia publica or, for criminal cases: quaestiones). The first phase of most legal cases was when the parties involved appeared before a judge who established the present legal question and either dismissed the case as a matter of legal intervention (denegatio actiomis) or appointed an official (iudex datus) to hear and evaluate the case.