Roman law in Antiquity


Foundation of rome

753 BC

Rome is founded at the 21st of April in 753 BC. The Romans made up the story of Romulus and Remus because there was no real story about how Rome was created.


753 BC - 509 BC

The Kingdom had a rex (king) as the head of state with full imperium. The kingdom ended after the violent outburst of the last king Tarquinius Superbus. After 27 BC then myth of Lucretia and Sextus arised. According to this myth his son (Sextus) raped a woman called Lucretia this illustrated that the king and his family thought that they could do what they wanted.


509 BC - 27 BC

After the violent outburst of the last king, Tarquinius Superbus, the Republic was created. Now the imperium lied with 2 consuls (elected by the people's popular assembly). Both of these consuls had full imperium. WHY? Separation of powers, checks and balances, prevent abuse of power by one person/group etc.

Law of the 12 Tables

450 BC

In 450 the Law of the 12 Tables was promulgated. It came into being after the conflict between the patricians (upper class) and the plebeians (lower class, common people). The plebeians demanded that the law was recorder because the patricians had monopoly over the interpretation of the law. The law of the 12 Tables furthermore HALTS the development of the law by the priests.

Law of the 12 Tables: 2 more tables were added

449 BC

2 More tables were added to the previous 10.

Creation of praetor urbanus

367 BC

A new office with imperium is created. This is the praetor urbanus, which deals with disputes regaring Roman citizens. The praetor was a magistratus. In the in iure stage of the procedure per formulae the praetor was active.

One of the consuls now consisted of plebeians

367 BC

This decisions was one of the four developments that contributed to the emancipation of the plebeians. 1) Law of the 12 Tables, 2) Tribunal was created, the Tribunal consisted of the regular people and could VETO legislative decisions. 3) One of the consuls now consisted of plebeians & 4) As a result of the Lex Hortensia the Plebiscitum was promulgated. This was a law which was applicable to all (patricians + plebeians).

Lex Aquila

287 BC

In 287 BC, the best known addition to the 12 Tables was promulgated: the Lex Aquilia. This was a plebiscite on tort law.

Creation of Praetor peregrini

242 BC

In this year a second praetor was created: praetor peregrini. This praetor dealt with cases regarding non-Romans citizens.

Publication of Gaius's Instutions

160 BC

In 160 BC the Institutions of famous jurist Gaius was created published. These Institutions were a student textbook.

Julius Caesar is assassinated

44 BC


27 BC - 1453 AD

The period of the Roman Empire officially began when Augustus (Caesar's adopted son) obtained imperium and tribunicia potestas (for life).

Emerging of two main legal schools

35 AD

In 35 AD two main legal schools in the Roman Empire emerged:
1) Sabiniani school, which was the first to be granted the ius publice respondendi.
2) Proculiani school, which was granted the ius piblice respondeni in 36 and 37 BC. This meant that both of them had more influence and the the emperor had less power.

Fixation of praetor's edict by Julianus

137 AD

In 137 AD, emperor Hadrian ordered Julianus to fix the praetor's edict. This meant that the praetor's edict was actually laid down on stone, and could not be changed anymore. However, the praetors still changed after 1 year of office.

Procedure cognitio extraordinaire began to be used

167 AD

Abolishment of procedure per formulam

343 AD

Formal division of Roman Empire

395 AD

The Roman Empire was officially divided into: the Eastern Empire (Byzantium) and the Western Empire.

Law of Citations / Lex Citati

426 AD

The Law of Citations was intended to serve as a guide for the practicing jurists in determining what the law was > would be very difficult for the lawyers themselves: NO CODIFICAITON YET & there were numerous sources. So now only the laws of 5 jurists could be used:
1) Paninian;

DISAGREEMENT? > opinion of the majority would be followed.
TIE? > Papinian's opinions prevails. NO relevant opinion of Papinian? > iudex was free to choose from the works of the remaining 4 jurists.

Promulgation of The Theodosian Code

438 AD

The Theodosian code (Lex posterior derogat legi priori) was promulgated in 438 AD, it primarly contained rules of public law (!). Two earlier, unofficial collections were:
1) Codex Gregorianus
2) Codex Hermogenianus

Fall of the Western Roman Empire

476 AD

The fall of the Western Roman Empire meant that the Eastern emperor would now also be the emperor of the Western Empire. But this was not in practice.

Corpus Iuris Civilis is promulgated

533 AD - 543 AD

Justinian's Corpus consisted of:
1) Institutes; textbooks drawn up for teaching purposes, mainly those of Gaius Institutions. > 533 AD
2)Digesta / Pandectea; literature of classical jurists (often not in it's original form). > 533 AD
3) Codex + Revised Codex; contained imperial legislation, the Revised Codex contained the laws promulgated since 530. > 534 AD
((4)) Novallae; interpolations of constitutions of Justinian and his successors. > Post 535 AD

The Corpus Iuris Civile = a legal source (even the Institutions because they are included in this). So everything that was not included in the Corpus was not a legal source.

Basicila was promulgated

900 AD

The Basilica was a more organized and translated (into Greek) version of the Corpus.

Hexabiblos was promulgated

1350 AD

The Hexabiblos was the foundation of the Greek law until 1946. It was largely based upon the Basilica.

Fall of Eastern Empire

1453 AD

The fall of the Eastern Empire meant that the period of the Roman Empire had officially come to an end.

Types of Roman law

Archaic Roman law

753 BC - 340 BC

Pre-classical Roman law

340 BC - 50 BC

Classical Roman law

50 BC - 250 AD

MOST IMPORTANT TIME: because the most significant legal developments happend during this time. Most of the jurists were active during this period, including e.g. Ulpian and Gaius.

The death of the jurist Hermogenian marked the end of the classical period. He was the last jurist to live through the classical age.

Post-classical Roman law

250 AD - 476 AD

Types of legal procedure

Procedure per legis actiones

753 BC - 509 BC

This procedure was not abolished at 509 BC, it gradually went out of practice. So there was a period were the procedure legis actiones and per formulam overlapped.

Procedure per formulam

509 BC - 27 BC

This procedure was not abolished at 27 BC, it gradually was used less and less until it was finally abolsihed in 343 AD. So there was a period were the procedure legis actiones and per formulae overlapped.

Procedure cognitio extraordinaire

27 BC - 1453 AD

Just like the previous procedures this one was used more and more. This was done because cases could be brought that were not included in the edict of the praetor + higher appeal to the emperor was possible.

Periods (kingdom, empire etc.)


753 BC - 509 BC


509 BC - 27 BC

Early Republic

509 BC - 264 BC

Late Republic

147 BC - 30 BC


50 BC - 250 AD


27 BC - 1453 AD


284 AD - 476 AD