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Roman law was very influential in the development of law throughout Western civilization and some parts of the East. These influences continue to be seen in present day legal systems. It has formed the basis for law codes in the majority of countries of continental Europe as well as legal systems elsewhere in the world. Romans have handed down many legal terms that are used today in the field of law along with their attention to small detail and exact terminology to avoid misinterpretation of the law. Roman law was able to continue to influence the entire structure of the legal system and laws even after the fall of the Roman Empire. The legal system created in the Roman Empire has left a legacy that will never fade from the world.
The earliest written legislation of Rome was the Twelve Tables. They were allegedly written by ten commissioners at the insistence of plebians between 451 and 450 BC. The tables were formally published in the Roman Forum in 450. The tables let plebeians become familiar with the law and protect against patricians’ abuses of power. They also recognized the right of the patrician class and patriarchal family and validated punishments in civil cases. Today, only random quotations from the Twelve Tables remain, knowledge about their contents is largely derived from references in later juridical writings. The Twelve Tables were then used as the basis for all Roman laws developed after. Following the Twelve Tables was a few very important laws and overall developments. The jus civile (civil law) was developed, this law applied exclusively to Roman citizens. At this time foreigners had no rights unless protected by a treaty between their state and Rome.
Other major laws included Lex Canuleia, Leges Liciniae Sextiae, Lex Ogulnia, and Lex Hortensia. Lex Canuleia allowed marriage between patricians and plebeians, Leges Liciniae Sextiae put restrictions on possession of public lands and made sure that one of the consuls was plebeian, Lex Ogulnia allowed plebeians access to priest posts, and Lex Hortensia said that verdicts of plebeian assemblies bind all people.During the classical period of Roman law, Roman law and Roman legal science reached its highest level of sophistication. The many practical and literary accomplishments made by jurists in this time gave Roman law its unique shape. The jurists had many different jobs and were very important in management of the law. They gave legal opinions to private parties, they advised the magistrates entrusted with the administration of justice, and they helped the praetors draft their edicts. Within the Roman Republic, the are three branches that control everything; Assemblies, Senate, and Consuls. The Assemblies could decide between peace and war, the Senate had full control over the treasury, and Consuls, the most important branch, served as a board of advisers, commanded the Roman army, and had the highest juridical power.A very important part of Roman law is the substance, the laws and rules that it is composed of.
The two main concept laws are jus civile and jus gentium. Jus civile was the body of common laws that applied to Roman citizens and the Praetores Urbani. Jus gentium was the body of common laws that applied to foreigners, and their dealings with Roman citizens. Another law was ius singulare. This was a singular, special law for certain groups of people, things, or legal relations. Ius singulare was an exception from general rules of the legal system(ius commune). There was also a constitution of the Roman Republic. This constitution was an unwritten set of guidelines and principles passed down mainly through precedent. It was not formal or official and it was largely unwritten and constantly evolving.Finally, the most relevant part of Roman law is the legacy it left behind. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the centre of the Empire was moved to the Greek East in the 4th century, many legal concepts of Greek origin appeared in the official Roman legislation. Roman law as preserved in the codes of Justinian and in the Basilica remained the basis of legal practice in Greece and in the courts of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Code and the Institutes of Justinian were known in Western Europe, and along with the earlier code of Theodosius II, served as models for a few of the Germanic law codes.
In the Middle Ages, Roman law was very popular because it gave a way to regulate the legal protection of property and the equality of legal subjects and their wills. By the middle of the 16th century Roman law dominated the legal practice in a lot of European countries. In the years following, national codifications were made and now Roman law is no longer applied in legal practice. However, traces of Roman law is still seen today. For example, in areas where the legal practice is based on a code, many rules deriving from Roman law apply. Also, Roman law is often still a mandatory subject for law students in civil law jurisdictions.
To conclude, Roman law had a major impact in how law developed throughout both the eastern and western worlds. This impact is seen in today’s legal system, as well as the legal systems of the past. Roman law formed the basis by which most legal systems were developed. Romans handed down many important legal concepts and terms that make the law what it is today. Roman law was able to continue to influence the entire structure of the legal system and laws even after the fall of the Roman Empire. The legal system created in the Roman Empire has left a legacy that will never fade from the world.
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