Law and Life of Rome J.A. Crook Synopsis of Text Allen Whittaker 100040272 Roman Law November 13, 2003 J.A. Crook does a wonderful job at bringing to life Roman law in an exciting way. Using quotes from real legal texts helps to add colour and give the book a more life like feel as we can read about real cases. From the laws of status in Roman society to the loop holes that were in many of the laws, J.A. Crook gives us an excellent overview of what life was like in Rome. Chapter 1 – Introduction: In the introduction we learn that just by looking at law of a society we can‟t get a whole picture, but it does throw some reflection on what roman society was like. With Roman law there is a large amount of information we have, not just from the upper classes but also the lower classes as well and from everyday things. Instead of discarding laws as time went on the Romans built up along side of the primitive system it already had. As well Rome did not destroy the laws her subjects had in place with respect for their own dealings, but also sometimes borrowed laws from them to incorporate into her own. When making acta, they would remain in place unless latter changed even if the emperor was hated. To help further preserve law, citizens were also asked to perform as judges, arbitrators and jurors. Chapter 2 – The Law of Status: This chapter looks at the importance of status in Roman society, but with particular attention paid to that of the slave. The author notes that it is hard for us to think of a time when men‟s rights and duties solely depended upon the differences of legal status. Thus this chapter breaks down the varying levels of legal status and provides an in-depth look at the interactions that they would take in regards to one another. One note I do find interesting in the chapter is this, “The slave is regarded by many historians as the determining factor in the economic, social and intellectual life of antiquity.” (p.55) This shows us to what degree the slave class was important in Roman society. Chapter 3 – The Machinery of the Law: In this chapter, the author looks at the structure of Roman law as it pertains to the civil and criminal laws and the differences between them. Also the book looks at the creation of the formula system and how flexible it was, and what it meant for the Roman citizens who had cases that were being tried. This chapter also looks at the roles and duties played by the various people involved in the law system itself. One of the most interesting jobs that the book points out is that of the judge, “It could be extremely arduous and complex task, and the judge who preformed it with prejudice or partiality was liable to legal action against him.” (p80). Towards the end of the chapter we see the slow degradation of the status of the Roman Citizen and the problems, namely the death penalty without appeal, they could now face in the courts. Chapter 4 – Family and Succession With the introduction of family, succession and wills, this chapter also looks at the two forms of marriage as well, manus and non-manus. Although not as official as manus, the non-manus marriage was more common in the early empire and continued to grow. This is interesting as although the husband had powers over the house, namely the children (Patri Potestas outlined on page 107), the wife still had some degree of power and authority over her property (p103). The chapter also goes onto discuss the fields of guardianship and caretaker ship, and who is responsible for the children and wife. This chapter ends with an in-depth look then at succession and inheritance. The last will and testament was one of the most important legal documents of the time; where slaves could be freed, as well as family inheritance could be given. We also learn of the problem of refusal (p 125) and what the Romans did the counter this. The author makes note of the soldiers will and how they had more freedom with the formality of the document. This however does not come as a surprise as the author points out this was to get more men to join the army. Chapter 5 – Property This chapter begins by looking at the problem of proving ownership over an object, and the degrees to which one can prove it. One quote I find interesting is, “Possession was „nine points of the law‟” (p145) and it has made me wonder if this is where the more modern term „Possession is nine tenths of the law‟ has come from. The problem faced is that if someone had an object in his possession it was hard to prove that he was not the owner of it. The „Vindicatio‟, was a powerful action that helps to explain ownership in legal terms (p144). The Author notes that land is the most valuable of property in the Roman world which is not surprising as he goes on to mention that a man could make a good living off the rent money from land. Lastly the chapter looks at damages and theft as the major cause of problems with land and property. Chapter 6 – Labour With the degree of slave labour that was being done in Rome its not surprising that they had laws on this subject. Though the author points out, “The upper class thought working for one‟s living at all rather sordid” (p180). This is interesting because the upper class created laws to govern labour, which showed they cared to some degree what happened to the lower classes as well as their slaves. This chapter also looks at the workings of buying and selling of slaves, with reference to surviving records (p185). This further proves the importance of slaves in Roman society. Chapter 7 – Commerce This chapter gives a very good overview of Roman law as it pertains to commerce, particularly the outline on commercial law on pages 206 and 207. The chapter also talks about high interest rates and the borrowing of money. One interesting quote from Atticus‟s uncle Caecilius, “not even his relations can squeeze a shilling at less than twelve per cant.” (p212) The chapter also talks about travel laws which I found of interest more so the laws pertaining to innkeepers and how they could post what they were not responsible for (p227). Most of the procedures that the Romans used in their laws can still be seen in one way or another today. Chapter 8 – The Citizen and the State The last chapter talks mainly about the loop holes in Roman law, with a very interesting tail of L.Veratius. This is a good way to end the book, after we have looked at the majority of laws, commenting on the problems faced with these laws and how they were exploited mainly by the rich. In the end however, Roman law makers recognize the loop holes in the system and correct it “The excellence of the Roman law is justly extolled.” (p281) The Roman attention given to conservation of laws makes their legal system some what cluttered, but very precise. In all we must, as the book states, be in awe of the Roman genius behind such a system.