Law of the Roman Republic and Empire. Roman law has influenced the development of law in most of Western civilization. It dealt with matters of succession (or inheritance), obligations (including contracts), property (including slaves), and persons. Most laws were passed by assemblies dominated by the patrician families, though the rulings of magistrates were also important. Later emperors bypassed these forms and issued their own decrees. The interpretations of jurists also came to have the weight of law. Though various attempts were made to gather and simplify existing laws (beginning with the Law of the Twelve Tables), by far the most successful effort was that of Justinian I, whose code superseded all previous laws and formed the Roman Empire's legal legacy (see Code of Justinian). Roman legal procedure is the basis for modern procedure in civil-law countries. In the early Republic, the plaintiff was required to call the defendant to court or to bring him by force. A magistrate then decided whether the case should go before a judex, or prominent layman. The judex heard arguments from advocates and questioned witnesses; he made a decision but had no power to execute it. In the later Republic, much greater power was placed in the hands of the magistrates and courts: the summons was issued by the court, the trial was held only before a magistrate, and the court became responsible for the execution of the sentence.
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