What were the important principles of Roman law?

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mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There were several principles of Roman law. One principle was that the law should treat all people equally. The Romans wanted everybody to know what the laws were so they could be applied to everybody equally. As a result, Roman laws were written so people would know what they were. The Twelve Tables was one of the first sources of Roman law. The rule of law was important to the Romans.

Another principle of Roman law was that is was acceptable to add to or to replace any law. If a law was deemed to be unfair, that law could be replaced. Roman laws were cumulative in nature.

There were two other principles that are somewhat related. One of these principles is that a person was considered to be innocent until proven guilty. Also, the person who accused somebody of crime had the responsibility to prove that the person he was accusing was guilty of the crime.

Some principles of Roman law are still used today.

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readerofbooks's profile pic

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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