After completing the course, students are able to:
- master the main principles of Roman private law;
- apply these principles to cases contained in the Corpus iuris civilis;
- understand why analysing Roman legal sources can provide valuable insights into Roman society;
- understand why Roman law must be considered as one of the most valuable Roman legacies to modern Europe.
There are more and more ancient historians who recognize the importance of legal rules and institutions for understanding the functioning of Roman society. However, using Roman legal texts for answering historical questions implies a "necessary grasp of legal technicalities" (Jill Harries). One of the main aims of this course is to introduce historians to the analytical methods that lawyers deploy when looking at Roman legal sources. On the basis of writings by Roman lawyers, we will discuss Roman legal institutions such as possession, ownership, mortgages, contracts and delicts. We will examine whether the 'law in books' (Corpus iuris civilis) corresponded with the 'law in action', as derived from epigraphic materials (e.g. writing tablets, papyri, inscriptions). In particular we will look at documents (loans, mortgages, auction announcements, writs of summons) from the so-called 'archive of the Sulpicii', the only surviving archive of a Roman bank. In doing so, we will also pay attention to the role of freedmen, slaves and women in the economic life of the first century AD.