Roman Law Development until the Byzantine Era

The book is divided into 11 chapters. In, the book traces the development of Roman law from the foundation of Rome to the formulation of the Justinian Code (Byzantine Era). Chapter one of the book discusses the location of Roman law in three periods. The three periods are as follows: 1) The Monarchy – from the foundation of Rome in 753 B. C. to the end of the 6th century B. C. , 2) The Republic – from the end of the 6th century B. C. to the battle of Actium (where Marc Anthony’s forces were defeated by Augustus), and 3) The Empire – from the reign of Emperor Tiberius to the rule of Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

The division of the history of Roman law into three periods is not clear cut. Chapter 2 discusses the development of Roman law during the Roman Monarchy. The author begins by relating the history of the Etruscan people to the development of archaic Roman law. In 753 B. C. Rome was founded. It was inhabited by Etruscans; a group of people from Lydia (in Asia Minor) which immigrated to Italy somewhere between 1000 and 800 B. C. The author also discusses the foundation of Greek colonies in southern Italy. According to the author, the Greeks contributed heavily to the development of Archaic Roman law.

Chapter 3 describes the foundation of the Roman Republic – from Rome’s last king to the foundation of the consulship. During this period, laws on citizenship were formulated by the Roman Senate. The consuls (two) executed the acts of the senate. A semi-permanent constitution was designated for the Roman government. Archaic laws on property were also established. All these developments were matched by Roman expansionism in Southern Italy resulting to several wars, first against the tribes in the south; next against the powerful African state, Carthage. Rome, however, was able to defeat all its enemies.

Some tribes were permitted to vote for some Roman positions, resulting to partial incorporation to the Roman social and political systems. Chapter 4 describes the archaic period of Roman law. The first signs of unification of Italian tribes were imminent owing to the fact that the first secular laws were established by the Roman magistrates. The author notes that Roman society at that time continued to grow more complex. Thus, the need to enact social regulations was necessary (to reduce the influence of customs). In the same chapter, the author also describes the history of Roman legislation.

For example, the power of the king to create laws during the monarchial period (and his power as supreme judge) was based primarily on Roman religion. The king also held the position of Pontifex Maximus or Supreme Religious Head. Hence, the term “law” was closely associated with “religious customs. ” In the same chapter, Roman family laws were on its early development. The father (pater familias) and at times the eldest son, held the authority in the family. The Law of the Twelve Tables was also formulated. Chapter 5 discusses the situation of Roman law during the Later Republic.

The Roman expansion in the Mediterranean put pressure on the Roman government to initiate complex reforms in the republic; most of which were about restructuring previous laws on taxation, citizenship, and voting. The Roman Republic also defeated Carthage in the Second Punic War. Rome was able to secure Sardinia and some parts of Spain as sources of slaves and new taxes. During this period, Rome began to intervene in the affairs of Asia. Several Greek colonies became insecure of the position of Rome in Southern Italy. Thus, another war erupted resulting to Rome’s victory.

Chapter 6 deals with Roman law during the pre-classical period of Roman law. The author notes that Roman law during the archaic period was built around simple rules for a community of farmers and landowners. The author notes that the expansion of Roman power in the Mediterranean had a profound effect on the reconstruction of Roman law. Roman law had to be remodeled in order to suit the new conditions of the republic. Complexity and centralization of authority would be the primary measurements of further legislations of the Roman Senate. The comitia centuriata enacted laws that were binding to Roman citizens.

In addition, the passage of lex Hortensia made the legislative assembly the main assembly of Roman citizens. The proposing of a law was bestowed on the magistrate who had the right to summon the assembly. Hence, most of the laws passed during this period were political in nature; that is, pertaining to the powers and nature of the various bodies in the Roman government. The parts of the law were also structured during this period. Chapter 7 deals with the condition of Roman law during the Principate (during the reign of Emperor Augustus). When Augustus defeated Marc Anthony in Actium in 31 B.

C. , he became the supreme leader of the “Roman Republic. ” He was declared by the Roman senate as imperator (general) and first citizen of the republic. Corollary to his position as princeps, he had supreme authority over all other executive offices of the state. He also had the power to initiate legislation. Some of the important provinces of the Republic were also placed under his control. A significant portion of the Roman army was put under his command. Thus, the laws passed by both the Roman Senate and Augustus pertained to the reinforcement of the position of the latter in the “Republic.

” He was elevated to the position of Pontifex Maximus (the religious head of the Roman republic) and later to Divus which meant “a deceased emperor. ” Because of problems of succession, Augustus passed a law which declared his nephew (adopted son) as his heir to his position. In addition, Augustus also passed a series of laws that consolidated the empire under the joint rule of the principate and the senate. Thus, Roman law during this period assumed a semi-autocratic form; although this period Roman law reached its highest point of development.

Chapter 8 discusses the condition of Roman law during the Classical period. During this period, jurists grew in importance primarily because of the prevailing need of the empire of qualified interpreters of law. The jurists were bestowed the right to carry the imperial authority. The jurists also became the administrative apparatus of the emperor. The concentration of power rested on the hands of the emperor, especially after the passage of constitutions principum which gave the emperor power to issue decrees.

Sources of law were also enumerated as part to ensure the functioning of the Roman justice system. Some laws operative during the Republican period were abolished. Chapter 9 deals with the development of Roman law during the reorganization of the empire. With the assassination of Emperor Septimius Severus in 235 A. D. , the Roman Empire disintegrated temporarily. Diocletian restored peace and order throughout the empire. The empire was divided into four parts (ruled by two Augustus and two Caesars). This was done to improve efficiency in the administration of the Roman government.

A law on succession was passed during Diocletian’s reign, although some provisions of the law were vague in application. Chapter 10 is entitled “the Post-Classical Period of Roman Law. ” The old divisions of Roman law faded away during this period as well as its associated traditions. Law simply belonged to one category, although the jurists had the authority to redefine provisions of a law. Added to that, the making and enforcement of law during this period was bureaucratic and authoritarian in nature. The emperor had the power to alter and recreate laws.

The Roman senate almost lost its power to legislate. Chapter 11 pertains to the decline of the Roman Empire (and its corresponding fall) and the rise of the Byzantine Empire. During this period, the study of law disintegrated in the West. Emperor Justinian restored the beauty of Roman law by issuing the so-called “Justinian Code. ” This set of laws was a reaffirmation and recreation of Roman law, although the Code in general assumed a Greek identity. The author accurately traced the development of Roman law from the Roman monarchy to the foundation of the Byzantine Empire.

It was able to point out the specific factors which transformed Roman law into more complex forms (like Roman expansion in the Mediterranean and the restructuring of Roman society). The author though failed to take into account the relative degree of influence of these factors; that is, the author failed to identify the most influencing factor in the transformation of Roman law into more complex forms. Rather than stating a general hypothesis for the genesis of Roman law, the author was content in analyzing the periodic developments of Roman law.

If this was the case, then it would be very difficult to draw conclusions from the book. And second, the development of Roman law was associated almost permanently on the development of Roman government. The author assumes that the creation of the Roman monarchy and republic was essentially the result of the development of law (which was also the result of social and political stimulants). It is possible that the reconstruction of the Roman government was the cause of the development of Roman law.

Note that in the study of government, it is precisely the institution that usually paves the way for the development of actions (legislative, executive, and judicial). Thus, we can trace the development of Roman law as follows: predisposing conditions (social, economic, and political), change in government, and necessary actions in the forms of laws to reinforce the present structure and powers of government. Reference Mousourakis, George. (2003). The Historical and Institutional Context of Roman Law. Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Company.