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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER VIII - Law, Religion, Military System, Economic Condition, Nationality


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Page 10

Changes in Procedure

In civil procedure (which, however, according to the ideas of that period included most of the crimes committed against fellow-citizens) the division of a process into the settlement of the question of law before the magistrate (-ius-), and the decision of the question of fact by a private person nominated by the magistrate (-iudicium-) --a division doubtless customary even in earlier times--was on the abolition of the monarchy prescribed by law;(14) and to that separation the private law of Rome was mainly indebted for its logical clearness and practical precision.(15)

14. Cf. II. I. Restrictions on the Delegation of Powers

15. People are in the habit of praising the Romans as a nation specially privileged in respect to jurisprudence, and of gazing with wonder on their admirable law as a mystical gift of heaven; presumably by way of specially excusing themselves for the worthlessness of their own legal system. A glance at the singularly fluctuating and undeveloped criminal law of the Romans might show the untenableness of ideas so confused even to those who may think the proposition too simple, that a sound people has a sound law, and a morbid people an unsound.

Apart from the more general political conditions on which jurisprudence also, and indeed jurisprudence especially, depends, the causes of the excellence of the Roman civil law lie mainly in two features: first, that the plaintiff and defendant were specially obliged to explain and embody in due and binding form the grounds of the demand and of the objection to comply with it; and secondly, that the Romans appointed a permanent machinery for the edictal development of their law, and associated it immediately with practice.

By the former the Romans precluded the pettifogging practices of advocates, by the latter they obviated incapable law-making, so far as such things can be prevented at all; and by means of both in conjunction they satisfied, as far as is possible, the two conflicting requirements, that law shall constantly be fixed, and that it shall constantly be in accordance with the spirit of the age.

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