Speculum Iuris

Roman Law as a Reflection of Social and Economic Life in Antiquity
Jean-Jacques Aubert and Boudewijn Sirks, Editors
A multidisciplinary examination of various social, economic, and legal issues in ancient Rome


Roman public and private law regulated many aspects of life in Late Antiquity. Legal sources, statutes, juristic opinions, textbooks, documents, and reports preserve a wealth of information shedding light on little-known areas of Roman society and its economy, but the use of this kind of evidence is often difficult, either technically or methodologically. Through a series of case studies dealing with luxury consumption, gifts between spouses, legal aspects of sea and land transportation, marriage practices among the elite, and double standards in the application of the death penalty, an interdisciplinary group of classicists, historians, and legal scholars propose various approaches to integrate Roman legal evidence with other kinds of sources in ancient social and economic history.

Specvlvm Ivris considers the complex relationship between law and social practice from the particular angle of Roman legislation and jurisprudence as conditioned by or reacting to a specific social, economic, and political context. Various strategies can be used to mine a huge body of texts in order to determine facts and to study attitudes and behaviors of upper-class Romans, whose social concerns are reflected in the way legal rules developed. Close readings of juristic opinions and Republican or imperial legislation allow the contributors to find the rationale behind rules and decisions in order to explain practices and mentalities of the elite within a larger social context. From these independent case studies, the editors draw the conclusion that Roman law was not divorced from the realities of daily life, even though some jurists might have been working with hypothetical cases.

Specvlvm Ivris: Roman Law as a Reflection of Social and Economic Life in Antiquity addresses the thorny complexities of a broad range of critical legal issues. It will be a valuable tool for classicists and ancient historians alike, as well as for legal, social, and economic historians, sociologists, and anthropologists.

Jean-Jacques Aubert is Professor of Classical Studies and Tradition, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Boudewijn Sirks is Professor for the History of Ancient Law, for the History of European Private Law, and for German Civil Law, J. W. Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Praise / Awards

  • "Speculum Iuris is in every respect an outstanding work of scholarship. Both ancient historians working on legal documents and legal historians alike stand to gain from the methodology applied by the authors and the warnings against the pitfalls they expose."
    L'Antiquite Classique

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Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 216pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11251-7

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  • $84.95 U.S.