Roman Law

Course Description

Roman Law was once part of the standard law school curriculum but is now only studied by specialists (most of whom are not lawyers). What insight does it bring to our understanding of the law today? What can a law student learn from studying some of its core tenets?

Professor Richard Epstein argues that one can learn a great deal. Though an ancient system, it is an extremely comprehensive and sophisticated body of law. Many concepts in Anglo-American law have roots in ancient Rome, and other systems borrow even more from the structure and classification employed by the Roman lawyers.   

Roman law provides a second point of reference for critical problems arising in the law today. After understanding Roman Law, you will never look at the common law or American constitutional law again in exactly the same way. You have two points of reference for every particular problem instead of one.

This project has five parts:

This series takes place in ancient Rome. The main motif, running through the series, is the shift from modern the modern world to the ancient one. So we’d start with the ruins/dull marble look that ancient Roman buildings have today, then transition back to the brightly colored world of antiquity, when talking about actual Roman Law concepts. This shift underscores the enduring nature of the Roman legal system, how robust and elaborate it was when it governed a vast civilization and comparing and contrasting Roman Law v. modern Anglo-American law.  

The artistic realization of ancient Rome, showing how the civilization *looked,* picturing daily life therein, and creating visual interest with historical accuracy, illuminates the concepts described herein.

About this Course

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Roman Law

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Roman Law


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Frequently Asked Questions

Anyone who is curious about how the laws of ancient Rome affect Anglo-American law today.
Roman Law used to be a standard part of the law school curriculum, but has fallen out of favor. With the expertise of Professor Richard Epstein, a student of Roman Law for the last fifty years, students and lifetime learners alike get a glimpse of the complexity and durability of this ancient system.
Studying Roman Law provides a second point of reference for problems arising in the Common Law today. Having two reference points, not one, is a useful tool for figuring out how to solve legal problems.
Watch short, digestible videos - on the No. 86 website, on Youtube, or delivered to you in your email inbox!
A course is a full academic subject, and a module is a subsection of a course. Modules are composed of individual videos on related subjects.
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