What were the important principles of Roman law?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Roman law is a huge topic. In other words, there are too many important laws/principles to mention. In light of this, let me give you a sample of some of the most important principles. 

First, the Twelve Tables, Rome's earliest laws were made public to give parity to all people. Before this time, only the elite of Rome knew the law. This situation obviously favored the aristocracy. The publishing of the Twelve Tables, therefore, was a  watershed moment. 

Second, the  Licinian Sextian Acts of 367 put an end to the struggle of the orders. This law allowed all classes of people to run for office and hold Rome's highest office. This fact helped to create equality. 

Another important principle of Roman law is that it took its shape from various sources.  For example, according to Cicero, equity, custom, decided cases, legislation of assemblies, resolutions of the senate, edict of magistrates, and the decision of the jurists can be sources of law. 

Finally, Roman law used social pressure to uphold the importance of law and order. In other words, it was the job of the pursuer to get the defendant to court and in a shame based society it is believed that the defender would come, even if he was more powerful to protect his reputation.  If this did not work, the Praetor could treat the defendant as in hiding and sell as his property

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The most important principle of Roman law was that it should be written and transparent.  That is, everyone should know what the law was and the law should not simply change based on the whim of a ruler or judge.  This idea of the rule of law was the basis of all Roman law.

Another major principle of Roman law was that it should apply to all aspects of life.  There would be laws about criminal acts and laws about contracts and laws about family life.

A third principle was that both government and tradition should be sources of law.  There were laws (jus scriptum) that were written and tended to come from governmental sources.  But there were also unwritten laws that had come from tradition and precedent.  These were called "jus non scriptum" and were similar to the later English tradition of the common law.

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