CLAS C308 Roman Law
Professor Cynthia J. Bannon
This course introduces the Roman legal system, and more generally the process and history of legal
thinking. We focus on the Roman law of delict, that is, wrongful damage to private property
(roughly equivalent to the modern law of torts). This topic allows us to investigate Roman ideas
about personal safety and personal space, product liability and employment ethics.
More broadly, this class investigates how law worked in Roman society, from trial procedures to the
limits of justice. We consider the sometimes competing interests that influence the law including
social status, economic goals, public safety, and cultural values. What happens when my neighbor
demolishes part of my house? Or when a doctor makes a mistake in surgery? Does it make any
difference if the patient was a slave or a free man? Why is it just (is it just at all?) to impose different
penalites on people guilty of the same offense?
We will explore the topic through the ‘case law’ method, analyzing Roman legal cases. Students
learn legal reasoning and practice them on Roman law. Modern legal cases are also be discussed for
comparison. Thus Roman Law is a good fit for students with varied interests including sociology,
economics, criminal justice, history, and psychology.
Written work includes quizzes, short essays, and a long paper. This class carries IW credit.