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CLAS 275 / Law and Trials in Ancient Society
Law, Justice and Society:
liberal arts approach
 “A Law, Justice and Society program helps us to move away
from just an exclusively vocational or pre-law orientation to
more consciously connecting law to the liberal inquiry and
critical thinking goals of undergraduate education. This is
a nationwide trend. Rather than seeing law as a technical
instrument, a tool to be manipulated, or as a set of facts
and supposedly self-evident truths, law programs study the
complex ways in which law works in society: how law
affects different communities differently, how law is
affected by social forces, and how law emerges out of
struggles over social, political and cultural values.”
See A. Sarat, “Situating Legal Scholarship in the Liberal Arts: An Introduction,” in Law in the Liberal Arts, ed. A. Sarat
(Cornell University Press, 2004).
What is Law?
 Several functions
 Crime & punishment
 Establish order / security:
Contracts, business, marriage, divorce, property, insurance
Constitutional law or administrative law (about the govt.)
 Law = A body of laws and a system of procedure
 Shapes and Reflects society, such as who has power
Who makes law (Sources of Law)?
Who judges?
 Gods
 Custom
 “natural law”?
(e.g. human rights, universal moral principles?)
 What is legal can be different from what is right or moral
(justice, equity).
 Government. Who has power?
 What is its source of authority? Who runs the government?
 Law is human, not logic; law reflects and shapes society.
 Plaintiff vs. Defendant
 Litigation = suing, bring a case
 adjective “litigious,” as in “the ancient Athenians were
very litigious as Americans are”
Some Terms
 Civil law (private) vs. Criminal law (public)
 Civil law: regulates relations between citizens [civis]
 Criminal law: the state vs. x.
(public law is larger than this, it also includes constitutional
and administrative law, about public institutions)
What Ancient Society will we have
in this course?
Where and when? Know where we are as we travel.
A Brief overview
Mediterranean Sea
Ancient Egypt: judging scene
Hammurabi, king of Babylon,
c. 1780 BCE
Code of Hammurabi.
a stele c. 7-1/2 ft. high;
in Louvre Museum; found 1901
Cuneiform writing
language: Akkadian.
Some of Hammurabi’s laws are also found on clay tablets
like this one in the Near East (one from c. 1700 BCE was
recently found in Israel, e.g.)
Old Babylonian Empire
Greece and Crete
Ancient Greece
 Bronze Age // time of Pharaohs in Egypt
 Greeks had myths about these early times
 8th century BCE (700s)– first literature: Homer
 The city-state (polis)
 CLASSICAL GREECE: 5th and 4th centuries BCE
 Time of democracy at Athens
Law Code of Gortyn (on Crete)
Athens -- oratory
Classical Athens – democracy
Jurors at Athens
 Republic 509-44 BCE
 Empire
31 BCE – ? 476 AD/CE
 Classical period of Roman Law: c. 31 BC – 235 AD
 Codified (collected in a law-code) by Justinian, 533 CE
106 – 43 BCE
Augustus, 31 BCE – CE/AD 14,
the first emperor
How was Jesus tried and executed?
Jesus before Pontius Pilate
Justinian (525-565)
codified Roman law
the Digest (law code): 533 AD/CE
Two major systems of law in the
world today
 Common Law tradition: especially Britain and U.S.
Based on judicial precedent (previous cases).
 Gives more discretion to judges in deciding (based on using
precedents of previous cases, and reasoning).
 Civil Law tradition: based on a code of laws, derived
from the Roman tradition of the ius civile (civil law),
especially from Justinian’s Code (Corpus Iuris Civilis).
 More authoritarian than the common law systems; tries to
spell out everything.
Civil Law and
Common Law systems today