Roman law


It is known through ancient legal texts, literature, papyri, wax tablets and inscriptions, that Roman law was in charge of covering different facets of the daily life of the people of Rome , such as crime and punishment, land ownership, commerce , maritime and agricultural industry, citizenship, sexuality and prostitution, slavery and everything related to local and state policies, liability and property damage, and sought peace. The law was established through different methods , for example, statutes , decisions of the magistrates , edicts of the emperor, votes of the assembly, plebiscites.and the deliberations of expert legal advisers. They became multifaceted and flexible to deal with the different changes in the Roman world, moving from republican to imperial politics , from local to national and state trade to interstate politics .

What is Roman law?

The Roman law is the group of principles of law that are in charge of generations through traditions , laws and regulations Roman society since it was founded until he fell as an empire.

  • What is Roman law?
  • Characteristics
  • History of Roman law
  • Stages
  • Classification of Roman law
  • Sources of Roman law
  • Obligations
  • Utility
  • Importance

What is Roman law?

Roman law consisted of a series of different rules and regulations of a purely legal aspect, different types of principles and precepts that regulated the life of the Roman empire from when it was founded by Romulus until the people fell into the hands of the barbarians, and Spain , Italy, and southern Gaul were formed . These principles governed practically all aspects of the life of the town, from properties, inheritances, relations between relatives and commerce, to name a few of them.



Roman law was a totally traditionalist law that sought a way to preserve legal institutions from generation to generation, it did not seek to prevent the creation of new organizations, but it protected those that already existed. It had a plurality of sources so it had to be stratified and made a division between the systems that already existed, reducing the sources of production a little. It was based on three different precepts, which had been enunciated by Domicio Ulpiano , these were that: it must live so honest and moral , must not cause damageto other people and that each person had to comply with the law and recognize the right of the other. It was a highly formalistic law that gave great importance to its interpretation. It was strict and applied to both slaves, pilgrims and foreigners.

History of Roman law

The oldest history of Roman law has been lost. Rome already existed as a city during the 8th century BC . The earliest known source of Roman law is the Laws of the Twelve Tables that originated in the middle of the 5th century BC. After the period of the kings , two consuls and the Senate ruled Rome. Very few people knew anything about the law before the Twelve Tables were erected to provide some legal security . The praetor , one of the Roman magistrates, issued his edict every yearin which he announced how he would apply the laws. The censors had a legal task, also, the defense of customs. During the principality, the jurists were active, among them Ulpian, Papinian, Paul and Julian. The mysterious Gaius wrote an introductory law book , The Institutes , almost the only manual that managed to survive. During that time Emperor Theodosian tried to impose some legal order with his code of law . The imperial decrees were compiled and edited in a new Code.


The stages of Roman law are as follows:

  • Old law or quiritary law: it occurs in the year 753 a. C to 450 a. C. It spread throughout the entire Roman monarchy and established the principles of the Republic.
  • Preclassic law: developed between 450 BC. C. and 130 a. This stage began with the publication of the Law of the XII Tables in the years 451 BC and 450 BC.
  • Classic law: it occurred from the year 130 BC. C. to the year 230 d. C. It extended throughout the conclusion of the Republic until the end of the principality.
  • Postclassic law: this stage occurred in 230 AD. C. to 527 d. C. It spread throughout the dominated period having a great influence on the part of Christianity .
  • Justinian law: it occurred between 527 AD to 565 AD. Spreading through the eastern empire during the government of the famous emperor Justinian.

Classification of Roman law

  • Subjective and objective right: objective rights can be essential or accidental , permanent, temporary or transitory. Subjective rights express the order included in the codes , laws , regulations and customs established by public order or the people.
  • Natural and positive law : this type of law is subdivided into natural and positive . The natural is given by the reason of man and the positive are the set of rules that are established through a legislator.
  • Public and private law : the public refers to the proper government of the Romans and the private to the utility that individuals have.
  • Written and unwritten law: it refers to the custom according to the law, outside the law and that which is against the law.
  • Jus Civili and Jus Gentium: divided the foreigners into Latin pilgrims and ordinary pilgrims .

Sources of Roman law

Human right has a plurality of sources so it had to be stratified , the main ones are:

  • Custom
  • The law
  • The plebiscites
  • the jurisprudence
  • The edicts of the magistrates
  • Senate-consultations
  • The imperial constitutions


The term obligation comes from the Latin word ” ob-ligae “, which means to confront one person against the other. It is a legal bond in which a person, be it the active subject or the creditor , has the right to impose on another, the fulfillment of a certain benefit. It is a right that people have to demand from another called a debtor , the fulfillment of a certain benefit .


Roman law has a historical utility because knowing the antecedents of the law will raise the knowledge of this. It must be studied as a practical model to raise the levels of science and art . It is a powerful weapon to study the laws of America and Europe . It is important for the study of Roman history and literature.


Its influence has brought about a series of changes in history that have made it essential to current law, since it is considered the basis of practically all legal legislation. It is the basis of civil law in different countries benefiting the principles of culture , society, politics and economy .

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