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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:
The Theory of Property Rights, including the rules of acquisition, transfer, and protection
The Roman Law of Delict (forthcoming)
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.
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A discussion of natural and positive law in Roman texts with an eye to more modern debates on the subject, including the relevance of studying Roman law.
In Roman Law, the rights of individuals were inextricable from the context of the family unit. Modern family law and even corporate law can trace roots back to the Roman institutions that governed marriage, guardianship, and business partnerships.
What can we learn from the Roman framework for property law? The Roman system had a more nuanced understanding of the interplay between private, common, and public property.
How the Romans developed a system of contracts with basic premises that could be applied to complex exchanges.