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Twelve Tables  

Carlos Amunátegui Perelló

According to the tradition, during the early Republic (451–450 bce), during the Struggle of the Orders, a commission was set up to make the laws for the Romans. After two years, the results of the commission’s work were published on twelve boards of wood, perhaps bronze. These were known as the “Twelve Tables.” Tradition says they became fundamental to Rome’s institutional frame. Unfortunately, this is not easy to prove, for the text was lost during the early Middle Ages. The reconstructed versions are due to the casual quotes of historians, jurists, and antiquarians from later times, who happened to call upon its authority while discussing other subjects. The Humanists (16th century ce) made several attempts to reconstruct it, and the versions now available are due to their efforts. Scholarship has debated almost every aspect of the text, from its origin, to its scope, its contents, and its grammar. Only a few conclusions are widely held. Most scholars believe the document was written during the 5th century bce under the influence of Greek models. Its importance seems to lie in the fact that it managed to merge law and legislation in a way that put statutes at the centre of the Roman legal system.


senatus consultum Pegasianum  

Benedikt Eckhardt

Senatus consultum Pegasianum is the name used by Gaius (2.256, 258, 286a) and the Institutes of Justinian (2.23.6-7) for a decree by the senate on fideicommissa, passed in the consulate of L. Cornelius Pusio and the jurist Plotius Pegasus, most likely in 72 ce (but dated to the time of Hadrian in some earlier scholarly literature).1 Gaius does not preserve the text, but gives a substantial report about its content. Some references to the decree, but not to its original designation are also preserved in the Digest; due to Justinianic modifications, the relevant content is there attributed to the earlier senatus consultum Trebellianum.The senatus consultum Pegasianum was one of several attempts to solve problems created by Augustus’ decision to make fideicommissa actionable like legacies. In 41 bce, the lex Falcidia had limited the amount to which an inheritance could be reduced through legacies: Heirs were allowed to keep a quarter of the inheritance, no matter how many legacies the testator had made to others.


senatus consultum Iuventianum  

Benedikt Eckhardt

senatus consultum Iuventianum is the modern designation for a senate decree passed on March 14, 129ce, in reaction to a legal case decided by Hadrian. The name is derived from P. Iuventius Celsus, one of the consuls who brought in the motion and a legal expert thought to be responsible in large part for the senatus consultum’s content. Ulpianus (15 ad ed., D.–21) preserves the text and gives a lengthy commentary, including discussion of treatments by other jurists of the 2nd and early 3rd century. While both the unity of the text (6a–d) and the authenticity of individual parts have been doubted in earlier scholarship, recent discussions tend to accept Ulpian’s text as it stands.1The regulation concerns the question of how compensation was to be made if an inheritance had been falsely claimed and then sold by the illegitimate possessor. The senatus consultum Iuventianum introduces two distinctions, one moral and one temporal.



Thomas Rüfner

In Roman law, the word actio refers to a civil lawsuit. At first sight, it seems obvious that actio derives from the verb ago, which has the basic meaning “to drive,” “to urge,” or simply “to act.” The Roman jurists themselves clearly regarded ago as the verb corresponding to the noun actio and meaning “to conduct a lawsuit” (cf. Festus, Gloss. Lat. 21, l. 15, s.v. agere). Hence, actio may be explained as referring to the claimant urging the judge (and/or the adversary) to do something,1 or simply to the claimant’s actions in court.2 Some scholars have proposed different etymologies. It seems possible that actio is not a derivative of ago (“to drive, to urge”), but of a root agjō meaning “to speak” (cf. the verb aio), and that the word was only later associated with ago.3 Alternatively, it has been argued that ago and aio have a common root that, in the context of archaic law, refers to a performative utterance which affects the Roman citizens collectively.


Constitutio Antoniniana  

Myles Lavan

An enactment (probably an edict) of Caracalla dating to 212 or early 213 that granted Roman citizenship to all or almost all free inhabitants of the empire who did not already have it. It is so called because constitutio is the technical term for an imperial decision and Caracalla’s name was M. Aurelius Severus Antoninus.

Both Cassius Dio (78[77].9.5) and Ulpian ( Dig. 1.5.17) record that Caracalla granted citizenship to everyone in the Roman empire. Several later texts misattribute the act to emperors of better repute. The constitution itself may survive in Greek translation as the badly damaged first text on a famous papyrus held at the University of Giessen ( PGiss. 40). Following several decades of controversy, the identification is now widely accepted, though there remain several phrases in the papyrus that are hard to reconcile with this hypothesis. In any case, the lacunose text is so fraught with interpretive difficulties that it can provide little independent information about Caracalla’s grant.


criminal law, Roman  

Andrew M. Riggsby

“Crime” lacks a fully agreed definition across modern societies, but competing versions tend to stress notions like punishment, protection of public or collective interests, and a pervasive role for the state in proceedings. Over time the Romans used a series of different procedures (successively, trial before the assemblies, by specialized juries, or by imperial inquisitors) to try most of their offences that would be more or less recognizably criminal today. Substantively, the core of this group were offences against the state in an institutional sense (e.g., sedition, electoral malpractice, abuse of public office, forgery). Over time it also came to include an increasing number of (personal) crimes of violence. Some core modern criminal offences such as forms of theft and forgery of private documents came to be grouped in with these only at a very late date and incompletely. “Moral” offences that are treated as criminal more sporadically today (e.g., use of intoxicants, gambling, prostitution) were not criminalized. Penalties in earlier periods included fines, civic disgrace, and exile; later periods introduced finer differentiation of penalties, as well as execution. Imprisonment was not a formal penalty.


Isaeus (1), Athenian speech-writer, c. 420–340s BCE  

Brenda Griffith-Williams

Isaeus was a logographer (professional speechwriter) working for Athenian litigants in the 4th century bce. Eleven of his twelve extant speeches, and most of the surviving fragments, are concerned with disputed inheritance claims, while speech 12 is from a case of disputed citizenship. Hardly anything is known about Isaeus’s life; he was apparently never involved in any litigation on his own account, or in the political life of Athens, and it is not even certain whether he was an Athenian citizen or a metic. One of the ten “Attic orators” recognized in later antiquity as having classic status, he was reputed to have been a pupil of Isocrates and teacher of Demosthenes. For modern scholars his speeches are an important source of information on social history and family life in 4th-century Athens, as well as on Athenian inheritance law and legal culture, but in comparison with other Athenian orators, notably Demosthenes and Lysias, his work has been relatively neglected. Commentaries published in the last fifty years focus on individual speeches or selections, and the only comprehensive English language commentary on the entire Isaean corpus is still that of William Wyse, published in 1904. Wyse’s work remains influential, although more recent scholars have discredited his extreme scepticism about the reliability of Isaeus’s speeches as a source of Athenian law. Later research has also shed new light on the historical background to some of the speeches.



Kimberley Czajkowski

Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the 2nd century ce. Her documents were found wrapped up in a leather purse in the Cave of Letters, near the Dead Sea. Babatha’s archive is multilingual and dates from before and after the annexation of the region in 106 ce. It consists of legal and administrative documents, including marriage contracts, deeds of gift, land registrations, and two cases of litigation that were aimed at the court of the Roman governor. The archive therefore sheds light on various aspects of the life of one particular Jewish family in this era, particularly on everyday legal transactions in the newly annexed province and “on the ground” reactions of imperial inhabitants to the new ruling power.Babatha was a Jewish woman who lived in the province of Roman Arabia in the first half of the .


lex Iulia de Maritandis Ordinibus  

Jacob Giltaij

The law of Augustus concerning the regulation of marriage (18 bce), a plebiscite often treated in conjunction with the consular law of Papius and Poppaeus (lex Papia Poppaea, 9 ce, together as lex Iulia et Papia), primarily obliges all Roman citizens to enter into marriage with the purpose of producing legitimate offspring. With this goal, the law probably contained set age limits at which point one was expected to have been married, an age likely reflective of the fertility age, and an extensive list of rewards and privileges for those producing (legitimate) offspring.The literary sources of the 1st and 2nd centuries ce emphasize the reward structure the law contained. For example, Tacitus, in Tac. Ann. 2.51 suggests the number of children was crucial for the election of a praetor. The general overviews of the laws enacted by Augustus in Suetonius, Augustus 34 and Cassius Dio, Historia Romana.


lex de imperio Vespasiani  

Kaius Tuori

The Lex de imperio Vespasiani ( CIL VI 930, 31207=ILS 244) is an epigraphic text on a bronze tablet, now partially lost, containing part of a law that granted some or all powers of the emperor to Vespasian in the year 70 ce.1 The text appears to be a piece of comitial legislation. The extant text is on a large bronze tablet discovered by Cola di Rienzo in the 14th century and currently held at the Musei Capitolini in Rome. The text is fragmentary: because there is no introduction to the text, it is assumed that there would have been another tablet preceding the surviving one. Whether Cola di Rienzo saw the missing tablet is disputed. The commonly used title of the law is a modern reconstruction. The law was promulgated in Rome in January, before Vespasian had arrived from Alexandria.2

The surviving text of the law contains eight clauses and a sanction. The beginning of the text is missing, including the preamble.


lex (1), categories of Roman law  

Sven Günther

lex (plural: leges) is an important term of Roman law, describing statutory provisions as well as sets of legal regulations within the framework of public and private law (ius). Besides the mere legal sphere, leges affected the political, social, economic, religious, and cultural life of many people during the Roman Republic and Empire and were an important part of various discourse and communication practices. They are thus a mirror of the close entanglement of Roman law and society and its strong impact on the legal history from antiquity to today.It is helpful to divide the meanings of lex into ten categories:11. A statute passed by one of the assemblies (comitia) of the Roman people. The lex Hortensia of 287bce conferred the force of statute on plebiscites (plebi(s) scita), measures passed by a meeting of the plebs, and these came in time to be referred to loosely as .


lex Oppia  

Ville Vuolanto

The lex Oppia, decreed in 216 bce, regulated the use of wealth by the Roman women. There are different modern interpretative approaches to the law, dealing with its original contents and purpose (as a sumptuary law or as a wartime emergency measure), its abrogation in 195 bce with Cato the Elder’s speech and women’s demonstrations, and its uses in Livy and the debates in Rome in the late 1st century bce.The lex Oppia was a plebiscitum decreed after a proposal by the people’s tribune Gaius Oppius in 215bce; it was repealed in 195bce. According to Livy, it provided that no woman should have (habere) more than one half an ounce (semiuncia, c. 14 grams) of gold, wear luxuriously coloured (versicolor) clothing, or ride in a carriage (iunctum vehiculum) in Rome, in any town, or within a mile of the settlement in question, except in the performance of public religious rites (.


ius honorarium  

Callie Williamson

Ius honorarium (magistrate law), derived from honos (curule office), was a classification formulated by jurists of the Roman imperial period to distinguish the private law made by juridical magistrates of the Republic from ius civile (civil law) [Dig.1.1.7. (Papinian), Dig.1.1.11 (Paulus)]. The primary juridical magistrates were, in order of creation, the urban praetor (367bce), the curule aediles (367bce), and the peregrine praetor (c. 244bce), and later the provincial governors. None of these offices was created for the express purpose of judicial action, nor was this ever their sole function. As a corollary, they did not constitute a professional judiciary. The praetors’ basis of legal authority was imperium (the supreme power), a subset of which was iurisdictio, the authority to “speak the law,” and ius edicendi, the right to issue edicts.The curule aediles, whose sphere of operation was limited to the marketplace and city administration, had only iurisdictio and ius edicendi.


arbitration, Greek  

Edward Harris and Anna Magnetto

One of the most important decisions a litigant could make was the choice whether to submit his dispute to a private arbitrator or to go to trial. Private arbitration had several advantages because it provided a more flexible procedure and afforded the possibility of compromise solutions aimed at promoting good relations between the parties. By contrast, a trial was an all-or-nothing procedure, which created winners and losers. Nevertheless, there were disadvantages to private arbitration: the arbitrators might be reluctant to vote against a friend, or one of the parties might not agree to arbitration. Because public officials were not involved, documents might be lost. The institution of public arbitrators retained the advantages of private arbitration but avoided several of the disadvantages. Above all, it aimed to promote good relations between the parties and to avoid a bitter fight in court.

Interstate arbitration is identified by the sources as a genuine Greek tradition, attested to be from the Archaic period, that was employed and fostered by other powers, such as the Hellenistic Kings and Republican Rome. It allowed two parties in conflict to solve disputes by resorting to the judgment of a third party agreed upon by both. Its use contributed to the establishing of forms of international law, encouraging the poleis to identify a set of shared principles and rules, at least for territorial disputes, the most common kind of controversy.



Eyal Regev

The Pharisees (פרושים, Gk. Φαρισαῖοî) were one of the Jewish sects or philosophies in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods, along with the Sadducees and the Essenes. Explicit references to Pharisees are found in Josephus, in the New Testament gospels and Acts of the Apostles, and in Rabbinic literature.Their name, which may derive from the Semitic root prš (“separate”), was adopted by a large group, of whom some (in rabbinic terminology, ḥaberim, “fellows”) were particularly zealous about purity and tithing, while others were less so. The name may also derive from another meaning of the same root—“to interpret”—since the Pharisees were known for their interpretations of scriptural laws. The Pharisees’ interpretations were challenged by other groups but popularly accepted.Josephus describes the Pharisees as a religious and political party that existed since the days of Jonathan the Hasmonean (AJ 13.17–173). They taught that there is life after death and that man controls his own destiny, though fate also plays a role in human fortunes. In an effort to provide his Greek and Roman readers with a point of reference, Josephus compares them to the Stoics (.



Patty Baker

Complex perceptions existed about abortion in the ancient world, indicated by different medical definitions of what constituted an abortive, contraceptive, and expulsive. According to Soranus (1st/2nd century ce) an abortive was “that which destroys what has been conceived”; a contraceptive (atokion) was something that prevents conception, and an expulsive (ekbolion) could be defined in two ways (Gyn 1.59–65). Some thought it was synonymous with an abortive because both resulted in the termination of a pregnancy. In contrast, others defined an expulsive strictly as shaking and leaping to dislodge the fetus from the womb. In explaining this, Soranus (Gyn 1.60) repeats a story told in the Hippocratic work (see hippocrates) Nature of the Child (13, L7.488–490; late 5th bce) about a dancing girl thought to be six days pregnant. She was told to expel the seed by jumping up and down so her heels touched her buttocks. After the seventh leap, the fetus dropped from her body. This technique for early-stage abortion was preferable to termination caused by pharmaceutical preparations and surgical intervention, which could cause harm to the mother. Therefore, Soranus stated that it was safer to prevent pregnancy than to perform an abortion (Gyn 1.


Demosthenes (2), Athenian orator  

Edward Harris

Though he had many detractors, Demosthenes was often ranked in antiquity as the greatest of the Greek orators. Demosthenes lost his father at an early age, and his estate was mismanaged by his guardians, whom he later sued in an attempt to recovery his inheritance. He began his career in the assembly in 354 bce, speaking about public finances and foreign policy, and wrote several speeches for important public cases. Starting in 351 he warned the Athenians about the dangers of Macedonian expansionism. Even though he helped to negotiate the Peace of Philocrates, he later attacked the treaty and contributed to the breakdown in Athenian relations with Philip II which led to the battle of Chaeronea in 338. Despite this defeat, he remained popular and was able to defend his reputation against the attacks of Aeschines at the trial of Ctesiphon in 330. Later convicted of bribery in the Harpalus affair, he went into exile. He subsequently returned but fled abroad again and committed suicide to avoid capture by his Macedonian pursuers.


Aeschines (1), c. 390–c. 322 BCE  

Edward Harris

Aeschines was an Athenian politician and orator. He came from a respectable family but was not a member of the wealthy elite. He worked as a secretary for the Council and Assembly, then as an actor. He participated in the embassies that negotiated the Peace of Philocrates with Philip II and argued for its ratification. After the Second Embassy to Philip, Demosthenes and Timarchus accused Aeschines of treason. Aeschines convicted Timarchus of being a homosexual prostitute, which discouraged Demosthenes from bringing his accusation to court until 343/342. Aeschines was acquitted by a narrow margin, but lost influence. He defended the Athenians against the charges of the Locrians at a meeting of the Amphictyons in 339. He accused Ctesiphon of proposing an illegal decree of honours for Demosthenes in 336, but he lost the case by a wide margin at Ctesiphon’s trial in 330.Ancient critics consistently included Aeschines in the canon of the ten great Attic orators. Cicero ranked him second only to .



Edward Harris

The Areopagus council was the most respected court in Classical Athens. It had jurisdiction in trials for intentional homicide, intentional wounding, poisoning, and arson. The Areopagus could launch investigations into crimes on its own initiative or at the command of the assembly and exercised surveillance over religious matters. The assembly might also delegate specific tasks to the Areopagus. There is no reason to think that the Areopagus acquired additional powers during the Persian Wars later removed by the reforms of Ephialtes. During the Roman period, the Areopagus was the leading political body alongside the council and assembly, and the herald of the Areopagus one of the most prestigious offices.The Areopagus was the most respected political institution in Classical Athens and retained its prestige down to the Roman Empire. Lycurgus(Leoc. 12) called it the finest example of justice in all of Greece. Demosthenes(23.65) claims that “in this tribunal alone no defendant who has been convicted or accuser who has lost has even proved that his case was wrongly decided.” .


lex (Rubria) de Gallia Cisalpina  

Georgy Kantor

The lex de Gallia Cisalpina is the usual modern title given to the fragment of a Roman statute on a bronze tablet found at the ancient town of Veleia in 1760, the surviving part of which deals with provisions for and restrictions on local jurisdiction in Cisalpine Gaul (CIL XI 1146; I2 592; FIRA I 19; Roman Statutes, no. 28).1 An additional small fragment found at Veleia (CIL XI 1144; I2 601, included in the Roman Statutes edition) is usually associated with it, and it remains a matter of debate whether the so-called fragmentum Atestinum (CIL I2 600; Roman Statutes, no. 16) represents a copy of a different part of the same law.2 The main tablet from Veleia is numbered IV and contains chapters 19–23 of the law. The law of the Veleia tablet is usually, though not entirely securely, associated with the otherwise unattested tribunician lex Rubria, which is twice mentioned in the sample formulae for local trials included in it (col.