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History And Sources Notes

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Supervision 1 Roman History & Sources

I. The Republic 509 BC - Republic established; only ius civile in operation, passed on orally between citizens.
- Plebeians secured publication of the XII Tables to avid arbitrary admin by consuls. This marked a vital development in Roman law.
- Established that one of the two consuls had to be plebeian.
- lex Hortensia removed the need for Patrician ratification of plebiscita; established plebeians as a power bloc in the State.

451-50 BC

367 BC 287 BC

II. The Empire Augustus established as Emperor; Rome grows in 27 BC -territory and population which necessitated a no. of changes in legal institutions. Marks the beginning of the Principate.
- Rome reached the zenith of its power and prestige; Republican constitutional framework remained but gradually their importance waned.
- Diocletian became Emperor; divided the Empire into East/West; beginning of the Dominate; removed the political power of the army and divided provinces.
- Civil war ends and Constantine becomes Emperor; converted the Empire to Christianity and built Constantinople as the capital of the Eastern Empire.

AD 0-200

AD 284

AD 324 AD 476

- Western Empire had been overrun; last Emperor of the West was deposed.

AD 500 - Eastern Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, experiences peace; prosperity and good government.

AD 527

- Justinian becomes Emperor; earned the title of the greatest Byzantine Emperor. His greatest achievement was the codification of Roman law; updated and pronounced the law of the past. Had a lasting and significant impact.

"Roman law was the greatest cultural legacy of the ancient Western world to its descendants" Constitutional Structure of the Republic


Consuls - 2 supreme magistrates, power extended over the whole government;

appointed by the comitia centuriata. Praetors - Created in 367 BC with the aim of reducing legal power of the consuls. The praetor urbanus and praetor peregrinus were created in 242 BC due to increasing foreigners. Created remedies not law. Quaestors - Responsible for financial matters; assisting consuls with fiscal admin. Censors - Compiled the census Tribunes - Magistrates who represented the plebeians; presided over the concilium plebis. Aediles - Exercised care over the city and inhabitants e.g. water supply; maintaining public buildings.

Senate: The consultative and advisory body of govt. magistrates had to consult the Senate on all important matters; but the Senate lacked authority to make law.


Comitia centuriata; comitia tributa; concilium plebis; had power to accept/reject Senateapproved proposals by vote, weighted so Patricians had majority.

Sources of Roman Law


Lex - An enactment of either comitia, giving assent to the proposal of a convening magistrate.

Played a limited role due to the intro of Praetorian edict. Plebiscite - An enactment of the concilium plebis, binding only on plebeians until 287 BC when they acquired general effect through the lex Hortensia XII Tables - A result of the plebeians demanding publication of the law; the first expression of law. Was not intended to create a new system, but publish the existing one. Senatusconsulta - The Senate's resolutions; rarely ignored. Merely advice to magistrates with no binding legal power, but usually took effect in the form of the edict. By Gauis' time (AD 160) the senatusconsulta had the force of lex. Used by Emperors in the 2nd Century AD to make laws. Waned as the Empire manifested its will in other ways.

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