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Beyond DogmaticsLaw and Society in the Roman World$
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John W. Cairns and Paul J. du Plessis

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748627936

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627936.001.0001

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Roman Law Codes and the Roman Legal Tradition

Roman Law Codes and the Roman Legal Tradition

(p.84) (p.85) 4 Roman Law Codes and the Roman Legal Tradition
Beyond Dogmatics

J Harries

Edinburgh University Press

Roman legal history is framed by two codifications, the Twelve Tables, which limited its contents to initially ten and then twelve tablets, and the Corpus Iuris Civilis of Justinian, the compilers of which in 530 AD were confronted by a mass of material set out in (by their count) two thousand books, containing three million lines accumulated ‘since the days of Romulus’. Given that the two law codes are nearly a thousand years apart it should not surprise that these diverge in aims, length, content, and even material form. But are the words ‘law code’ as applied to the Corpus Iuris Civilis correct? This chapter asks what, in ancient terms, was a law code in a ‘real sense’? Who had the right to create them? Did they require some form of ‘official’ input or endorsement? What was the status of ‘interpretation’, when codified? And were their purposes and impact solely, or even primarily, ‘legal’?

Keywords:   Roman legal history, codifications, Twelve Tables, Corpus Iuris Civilis, Justinian, law code

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