Roman society – AGM and conference

The following conference notification has just been posted on the classicists list via Fiona Haarer. There is some law here so it will be of interest to our readers.

The Roman Society AGM will be held at 2pm on Saturday 4 June (Chancellor’s Hall, Senate House, London)

It will be followed by a colloquium on: Families and the Law in Rome

2.30 Dr Valentina Arena: Roman Family Between Private and Public
3.15 Tea
3.45 Professor Alison Cooley: Roman Families in the Ashmolean
4.15 Dr Margaret Mountford: The Apion Family Archive
5.00 Reception

On Tuesday 7 June, 6pm (Room G22/26 Senate House) we will be hosting a joint lecture with the Friends of the British School at Athens.
Professor Tim Whitmarsh: Historians Against Rome

All welcome.

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Conference notification

Readers of our blog may be interested in this conference notification. The conference, jointly organised by a number of colleagues in Münster, also features Dr. Kimberley Czajkowski, recently appointed to a lectureship in Roman history at the University of Edinburgh, as one of the organisers. This blogger is looking forward to this conference!

We are delighted to announce an international conference on “Law in the Roman Provinces” which will take place at the University of Münster next month, funded by the Thyssen Foundation. The conference gathers together experts to discuss how law, Roman or otherwise, was transmitted, used, neglected and transformed from the late Republic until the late third century CE in all regions of the empire.

All are welcome, but for reasons of space we ask those interested to register with the organisers at

Law in the Roman Provinces

June 22–24, 2016

Hörsaalgebäude des Exzellenzcluster “Religion und Politik”, Raum JO 101

Johannisstraße 4, 48143 Münster

Organisers: Kimberley Czajkowski (Münster), Benedikt Eckhardt (Bremen), Meret Strothmann (Bochum)

Day One (22/06/2016)


14.00-14.15 Welcome from the Organisers

14.15-14.45 Peter Gußen (Bochum)

Introductory remarks

The Iberian Peninsula

14.45-15.30 John Richardson (University of Edinburgh)

Roman law or Roman legal practice? A review of the evidence from the Iberian peninsula


16.00-16.45 Meret Strothmann (University of Bochum)

Roman City-Laws of Spain and their Modelling of Religious Landscape

Fragments of the West

16.45-17.30 Paul du Plessis (University of Edinburgh)

Roman Law in Roman Britain


18.00-18.45 Benedikt Eckhardt (University of Bremen)

Roman Law as Imperial Restriction, Useful Tool and Symbol of Identity: A Guided Tour through the Danubian Provinces


Day Two (23/06/2016)


9.15-10.00 Ilias Arnaoutoglou (Academy of Athens)

An Outline of Legal Norms and Practices in Roman Macedonia (167 BC – AD 212)

10.00-10.45 Lina Girdvainyte (University of Oxford)

Law and Citizenship in Roman Achaia: Continuity and Change


11.15-12.00 Ioannis Tzamtzis (University of Ioannina)

Intégration et perception de la règle de droit romaine en Crète, de la conquête de l’île à la fin du principat (67 av. J.-C. – 235 ap. J.-C.)

12.00-12.45 Athina Dimopoulou (University of Athens)

Law in Roman Lesbos


Asia Minor

14.15-15.00 Klaus Zimmermann (University of Münster)

Title TBC

15.00-15.45 Ulrich Huttner (University of Siegen)

Rechts- und Lateinkenntnisse im kaiserzeitlichen Kleinasien


North Africa

16.15-17.00 Anna Dolganov (University of Vienna)

nutricula causidicorum: The Forensic Profession in Roman Africa

17.00-17.45 Clifford Ando (University of Chicago)

The beginnings of public law in Roman North Africa


Day Three (24/06/2016)

Near East

9.00-9.45 Tiziana Chiusi (Saarland University)

Spuren des römischen Rechts in dem Archiv von Babatha

9.45-10.30 Kimberley Czajkowski (University of Münster)

On the Edges of the Empire: Law and Administration at Dura-Europos



11.00-11.45 Andrea Jördens (University of Heidelberg)

Aequum et iustum – Prinzipien römischer Provinzverwaltung

11.45-12.30 Jose Luis Alonso (University of the Basque Country)

The Constitutio Antoniniana and the Private Legal Practice in the Eastern Empire


14.00-14.45 Jakub Urbanik (University of Warsaw)

Title TBC


15.15-16.00 Anna Plisecka (University of Zurich)

Longi temporis praescriptio in der severischen Gesetzgebung

16.00-16.45 Uri Yiftach (Tel Aviv University)

Administrative Terminology in Roman Egypt: Continuity and Change


17.15-17.45 Conclusion

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Workshop: Law, History and Human Rights in East Asia

We are delighted to announce a workshop on Wednesday 25 May by the subject area Asian Studies on the above topic. Venue: Elder room in Old College. For all enquiries, please contact Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins.

Workshop with Prof ONUMA Yasuaki

Law, History and Human Rights in East Asia

University of Edinburgh, Old College (South Bridge), Elder Room


9.30 – 9.45 Introduction

9.45 – 10.15 Urs Matthias Zachmann: Setting the Stage: Law, History and Human Rights in East Asia (Discussant: Stephen Neff)

– Coffee Break –

10.45 – 11.45 Konrad M Lawson: Trying the Atrocities of the Japanese Occupation as Treason in the Philippines, 1947-1953 (Discussant: Barak Kushner)

11.45 – 12:45 Lauren Richardson: Circumventing and Overturning Treaties: How Victims’ Lawsuits are Shaping International Relations (Discussant: Onuma Yasuaki)

– Lunch –

13.45 – 14.45 Ian Neary: Dowa Project Policies as Unfinished Human Rights Business – from Dotaishin to Ikengushin (Discussant: Urs Matthias Zachmann)

– Coffee Break –

15.00 – 16.00 Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins: Gender, Human Rights, and Japanese Law (Discussant: Ian Neary)


Prof Onuma Yasuaki, Tokyo University (emer.)

Dr Barak Kushner, Cambridge University

Dr Konrad M Lawson, St Andrews

Prof Ian Neary, Oxford University

Dr Stephen Neff, Edinburgh University

Dr Lauren Richardson, Edinburgh University

Dr Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins, Edinburgh University

Prof Urs Matthias Zachmann, Edinburgh University

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The European Union and the Roman Empire …

A contribution by one of our guest bloggers, Peter Candy, a PhD candidate in Roman law at the University of Edinburgh, School of Law:

The ‘artificial media twit storm’ generated by Boris Johnson’s recent comments seems to have arisen out of the prolonged spell of low (intellectual) pressure hovering over the EU referendum campaign. A lot of attention has been paid to the aptitude – or otherwise – of Boris’ comparison between the European Union and the Third Reich. The claim that the EU is yet another attempt to recreate the Roman empire has, however, hardly been scrutinised at all.

If making sweeping historical comparisons is a risky business, and interpreting history through the lens of present concerns riskier still (the fallacy nunc pro tunc, to coin a phrase of which Boris would approve), then his narration of long-term trends to supplement a political argument is a game of historical roulette. It seems wrong to accuse Johnson of Whiggery; his narrative of European integrationism recalls Yeats’ vision of the ‘widening gyre’ more than a game of happy families. Instead, we should look to A.J.P. Taylor’s description of ‘Toryism,’ which “rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, prefers the past to the future. It is a sentiment rather than a principle.” For better or worse, Johnson clearly trusts the longstanding (if imperfect) tradition of British parliamentary democracy more than any project, however well-intended, of European unification.

Even so, the assertion that the current European project is yet another attempt to recreate the Roman empire is superficial at best. It is often claimed (even by modern scholars) that the pax Romana – the apparent antecedent of today’s pax Europaea – engendered the emergence of a market economy characterised by free movement, monetary union and a universally applicable system of laws (sound familiar?). No doubt centuries of enforced peace reaped benefits for Romans and provincials alike (or at least for those who were not enslaved). Nevertheless, if we are to avoid Whiggishness, or indeed Toryism, we ought to take heed of the words of Herbert Butterfield, an historian of the early twentieth century: his advice was to “evoke a certain sensibility towards the past, the sensibility which studies the past ‘for the sake of the past’, which delights in the concrete and the complex, which ‘goes out to meet the past’, which searches for ‘unlikenesses between past and present.’”
To highlight one unlikeness – which leads me to the point of this article – there is a marked difference between the way in which the official laws of the Roman empire operated and those of the European Union today. Most strikingly, Roman, unlike EU, law, was not ‘supreme;’ it was one set of rules among many, circulating in a plural system in which individuals might search for diverse solutions to their legal problems. Indeed, the ius civile – that part of the law reserved only for citizens – cannot have been used widely in an empire where probably no more than one third of the free population of the provinces held citizenship by the beginning of the third century A.D. In sum, the territorial imposition of a uniform system of law across the continent would have been be unrecognisable to a second-century Roman. Far from this author to discourage historical debate; instead, it is incumbent on scholars to shine a light on the rhetoric and scrutinise each claim as it comes. Nevertheless, sometimes one wishes that politicians would stick to more exciting subjects, like Roman roads.

Posted in Roman Law | 1 Comment

Aberdeen PhD Opportunity: Emergence of a Vernacular Legal Culture

A Translatio Studii within Late-Medieval Scottish Legal Literature? The Emergence of a Vernacular Legal Culture

Project Description

The medieval Scottish legal text, Regiam Majestatem, has been described as an enigma. It presents itself as an account of the laws used in the courts of King David I (r.1124-1153), and yet it was probably written in the first few decades of the fourteenth century. It claims to be a Scottish text, and yet it is substantially based upon an English treatise known as Glanvill. The decision of the presumably Scottish compiler of Regiam to base his work on an English text is even more puzzling in the context of the early fourteenth century, a period in which Scotland and England were almost constantly at war. Furthermore, its authorship is uncertain, and historians debate exactly why it was written. The original text itself was obscured through its transmission in a relatively uncritical manuscript tradition. No critical edition of the text exists, and those who wish to engage with Regiam are faced with the daunting task of studying the many surviving manuscript versions of the texts.

All of these problems surrounding Regiam are currently being debated by historians. Yet one particular aspect of the history of the text of Regiam has not been studied in great detail as of yet. In the mid- fifteenth century – and perhaps as a result of a parliamentary commission of 1469 – the Latin text of Regiam was translated into Scots. The translation is extremely curious. It is not word for word – in fact, its relationship with the original is in places quite loose; a cursory glance at the prologue of the Latin original, and the Scots translation, makes this quite clear.

The difference that the translator created between the Latin original of Regiam Majestatem and the vernacular text may tell us something about his purposes in writing. In turn, this may reveal something significant concerning the emergence of vernacular Scottish legal culture during the fifteenth century. In her book, Rhetoric, Hermeneutics and Translation in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1991), Rita Copeland draws attention to the hermeneutical practices that were used by medieval commentators seeking to interpret and transmit particular texts from the past into their own world. These hermeneutical practices – such as amplificatio and abbreviatio, the attribution of an intentio auctoris to a text by means of an accessio ad auctorem, and allegoresis – were frequently used by medieval commentators to create difference between the texts they produced and the originals. While in principle the commentators, and subsequently translators, claimed to serve the original texts, they worked “in effect to contest and supplant that text” (Copeland, 1991, p.94). To some extent, their aim in so doing was to rework the text “for changing conditions of understanding” (Copeland, 1991, p.64). This serves to explain something of how medieval critical practices worked through the disciplines of grammatical exegesis and rhetoric.

Is it possible to locate the loose translation of Regiam within such critical practices? If so, what does this tell us (if anything) about the development of vernacular Scottish legal culture, which is evinced in the statutory tradition from the late-1390s onwards? Can considering these questions shed light on why more and more Scottish clerks began to record legal disputes in the vernacular during the fifteenth century (for example in the Aberdeen Burgh Records)? In order to answer those questions, the candidate will need to study the translation of Regiam in light of surviving early manuscripts of the Latin original. He or she would also need to consider the translation of Regiam within the broader context of the development of Scottish vernacular culture.

A candidate who tackles these questions properly will develop a pre-existing expertise in Latin, Scots and palaeography to a very high standard. Such skills would enable the candidate to go on to work on manuscript culture and textual transmission and criticism of ideas in the medieval period out-with the field of Scottish legal history.

PLEASE NOTE: We require a research proposal to be included in your application, for more details:

If you are interested in this topic then please apply online. It is not necessary to email unless you have a specific question.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, whether Home, EU or Overseas. This scholarship will not cover living expenses.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate must be able to read Latin and Scots. He or she must also be prepared to undertake extensive archival research that will call for significant paleographical skills.

(With thanks to Ross Macdonald for alerting the ELH Blog to this opportunity.)

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“reasonable chastisement”

For anyone working on the lex Aquilia, the following text will be well familiar:

D. 9, 2, 5, 3 Ulp. 18 ad ed.
Si magister in disciplina vulneraverit servum vel occiderit, an Aquilia teneatur, quasi damnum iniuria dederit? et Iulianus scribit Aquilia teneri eum, qui eluscaverat discipulum in disciplina: multo magis igitur in occiso idem erit dicendum. proponitur autem apud eum species talis: sutor, inquit, puero discenti ingenuo filio familias, parum bene facienti quod demonstraverit, forma calcei cervicem percussit, ut oculus puero perfunderetur. dicit igitur Iulianus iniuriarum quidem actionem non competere, quia non faciendae iniuriae causa percusserit, sed monendi et docendi causa: an ex locato, dubitat, quia levis dumtaxat castigatio concessa est docenti: sed lege Aquilia posse agi non dubito:

It recounts the grisly tale of a teacher knocking out the eye of a lazy pupil and the jurist, Julian, discussing the matter whether this counts as wrongful damage to property (the text contains two scenarios, a slave pupil and a freeborn one).
For all the theoretical complexity of this text, it should of course not be forgotten that the example was rooted in the Roman experience where teachers did strike students “monendi et docendi causa”.
A good example of this can be seen from the following grave marker for a teacher (below) located in the archaeological museum in Milan. The grave is notable for two reasons, first, the teacher was a freedwoman and secondly, at the bottom, there is clearly a depiction of a teacher striking an idle pupil with a strap of some sort. While this blogger of course does not condone this type of activity, it does show that the examples from the Digest should be read in context. They are, after all, Roman examples.


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Here lies a lawyer and an honest man …

Readers of this blog will know that this blogger is keenly interested in representations of Roman legal practice. To that end, the following tomb of a court lawyer from the Imperial period might be of interest in terms of iconography. It currently resides in the archaeological museum in Milan. Three pictures below. The first shows the lawyer reclining while being attended by a young assistant who is bringing him books or tablets. The second shows the lawyer appearing in front of a magistrate. Note the figure behind the lawyer, commonly believed to have been his father, a man of high status. The final picture is a not so good depiction of the inscription.

IMG_1003 IMG_1004IMG_1005

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A very British pursuit – Studies in the lex Aquilia

Readers of this blog may be interested to learn of a forthcoming workshop on the lex Aquilia, arguably one of the most important topics in the study of Roman law in the United Kingdom. The aim of the workshop is the following:

The lex Aquilia has had a significant impact on the study of Roman law in Britain during the last century. The relevant titles in Justinian’s compilation have been translated into English more than once and, judging by recent Festschriften for Alan Rodger and Boudewijn Sirks, the lex Aquilia continues to be studied in great depth by a number of British Romanists. The aim of this workshop is to assess the reasons for the peculiarly British fixation with wrongful damage to property in Roman law against the backdrop of the development of Roman law in Britain during the last century. Broader themes that will be addressed include the significance of the lex Aquilia for the Oxford and Cambridge curricula, the impact of F.H. Lawson’s work on tort liability and the contribution of German émigré lawyers on the study of Roman law during the course of the twentieth century.

The workshop is hosted by Dr. Paul J. du Plessis as part of the activities of the Edinburgh Roman law Group.


8 July 2016


Elder Room, Old College


8:30 – 9.00: Arrival and welcome

9.00 – 10.00: John W. Cairns “The historiography of the lex Aquilia in Britain”

10.00 – 11.00: Paul Mitchell “‘This pursuit of patterns’: F.H. Lawson on Negligence.”

11.00 – 11.30: Tea and coffee

11.30 – 12.30: Robin Evans-Jones/Helen Scott “The Roman-law origins of the foreseeability test for the duty of care adopted in Donoghue v Stevenson”

12:30 – 1:30: David Ibbetson “Buckland and the lex Aquilia”

1.30 – 2.30: Lunch

2:30 – 3.30: Joe Sampson “Revisiting Rodger on damages under the lex Aquilia”

3.30 – 4.30: David Johnston “Causation and remoteness: British steps on a Roman path”

4.30 – 5.00: Tea and coffee

5:00 – 6.00: Benjamin Spagnolo “Students’ Digest: IX.2 in Oxford, 1893-2004”

6.00 – 7.00: Giuseppe Valditara “Wrongful loss, interesse and the lex Aquilia”

7.00 – 7.30: Alberto Lorusso “The rediscovery of Daube’s legacy in Southern Europe”

7: 30: Dinner


This is a closed workshop.


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Sins of the Fathers: Reparations for Slavery

Regular readers of the this Blog are aware of its interest in slavery. One much debated issue is the question of reparations for the descendants of the enslaved. This raises what are really quite complex issues, which your blogger does not propose to debate here, involving liability for what one’s ancestors have done. How can I be personally liable for what my great-grandmother did? There is much more to it than this, of course. And your blogger is not to be understood as airily dismissing the issue.

The argument is rather easier, however, when it comes to institutions; they have continuity as legal persons. Very interesting questions arise out of the recent reporting in the New York Times about Georgetown University. In 1838, the Jesuit fathers who ran it sought to save it from ruin by the sale of 272 slaves. The University had acquired slaves and plantations in Maryland in a variety of ways, often by legacy; it now sold the slaves “down the river” (though not literally in this case, as they went by sea) to Louisiana to be sold in New Orleans. Louisiana was a great consumer of slaves in its sugar plantations. See Rachel L. Swarns, “272 Slaves were sold to Save Georgetown. What does it Owe their Descendants?” (16 April, 2016); Editorial, “Georgetown and the Sin of Slavery” New York Times, 23 April, 2016. Thanks to detailed records it has proved possible to start to trace these slaves and their descendants.

Slave-ownership in the West Indian plantations was widespread in the Scottish population, as the project on the compensation records carried out at University College London has confirmed. This raises a number of issues. But one Scottish institution that was a slave-owner in Jamaica was of course the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. It had received by way of legacy a plantation and slaves under the will of Dr Archibald Ker. The records relating to its slaves are to be found in the archives of the Lothian Health Board.

It is interesting to note that internet searches reveal that every few years the Scottish newspapers discover this “shame”, as they like to call it, yet anew as if never known before! But this says more about newspapers and the desire of thrusting academics for “impact” than anything else. See, e.g., “Shame of City’s Slavery Profits”, The Scotsman, 2 Dec. 2006; “Scotland’s Slaving History Revealed”, Edinburgh Evening News, 22 Oct. 2013.

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Relaunched American Journal of Legal History

Readers of this blog will already be are of the relaunch of the American Journal of Legal History now published by Oxford University Press and edited from Europe by Stefan Vogenauer, sometime Professor of Comparative Law at Oxford, and now one of the Directors of the Max-Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt-am Main and from the USA by Alfred L. Brophy of the University of North Carolina School of Law. See

Founded in 1957, the Journal has the distinction of being the oldest English-language journal specialising in legal history. For many years it was published by Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia, and served as the Journal of the American Society of Legal History until 1982.

There was recently a small reception in Frankfurt, which your blogger attended, to mark this new lease of life. A photograph records the occasion:


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