Russian Legal System and Use of Law
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Susan Haire and Laura P. Moyer
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Lisa M. Holmes
Because the modern legal system used in most western countries derives from ancient Rome, it is easy to assume that Roman courts (and the activities that took place before them) were the same as their modern descendants. However, differences exist—great enough in number and importance that all scholars of the ancient world must take care when drawing conclusions without solid evidence to support them. The history of Roman courts, in both the republican and imperial periods, shows the profound differences between Roman and modern courts in both their cultural and physical aspects.
Today, when we think of a court, we typically imagine a structure built in a style to impress passers-by, containing one or more rooms in which various officials move through a prescribed set of procedures, to either resolve a dispute between individuals or determine a penalty against an offender. Because the modern legal system used in most western countries derives from ancient Rome, it is not entirely wrong to assume that the ancient Roman courts were much the same as their modern descendants. However, differences exist—great enough in number and importance that all students of the ancient world must take care when drawing conclusions without solid evidence to support them.
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Isabele de Matos Pereira de Mello
Representations of Law, Rights, and Criminal Justice
legal procedure, Athens
The Athenians strongly believed in the rule of law and attempted to implement this ideal in their legal procedures. Every year there were six thousand judges, who swore an oath to vote according to the laws and decrees of the Athenian people and to vote only about the charges in the indictment. There was a distinction between private cases (dikai), which could be brought only by the person who was wronged, and public cases (graphai), which could be brought by any citizen and in some cases by metics and foreigners. All cases were tried in one day. There were certain special public procedures for specific types of cases.
The Athenians of the Classical period strongly believed in the rule of law. In his Funeral Oration delivered in 322
For men to be happy they must be ruled by the voice of law, not the threats of a man; free men must not be frightened by accusation, only by proof of guilt; and the safety of our citizens must not depend on men who flatter their master and slander our citizens but on our confidence in the law (trans. Cooper).