Course Objectives

Legal systems provide crucial insight into the political, social, moral, and economic foundations of society, ancient as well as modern. This course will provide a survey of Roman Law, from the Twelve Tables to the great codifications of the Late Empire, with special attention to the political, moral, and economic roles of law in ancient Rome. We will survey the basic categories of law (public law, contract, delict, status, etc.), as well as their historical development from the earliest times to their reception into the medieval and modern world. Examination of original source material will provide insights into the detailed social conditions of ancient Rome and their development through the centuries.


Our basic text will be J.A. Crook, Law and Life of Rome, 90 B.C. - A.D. 212 (Ithaca 1967), supplemented by handouts.

We will examine original Roman legal texts (in English), including the Law of the Twelve Tables, the Institutes of Gaius, and the Institutes of Justinian. Passages will be provided for discussion to deepen our understanding of how the Romans constructed their legal world.


A detailed syllabus of the class may be found here.

Assignments, Examinations and Grading

This course will consist partly of lectures, partly of discussion. The lectures will be supplementary to the readings. The discussions will be designed to probe various aspects of the law and the students are expected to have prepared (i.e., digested and pondered) the assigned legal text and to participate in a critique of its meaning and application. All views are welcome.

The students will also choose one article from a supplementary reading list (available here) and prepare a brief summary and critique of its contents. These articles are devoted to the "periphery" of Roman law, areas not well-covered in the standard texts. The critiques will be due approximately 2/3 through the semester. Students are welcome to suggest alternative readings if they have some special interest they wish to pursue. Suggested guidelines for the article critique may be found here.

There will be a mid-term and a final. These will consist of short essay and identification of substantive legal concepts. Students will choose their essay topics from subject matters announced in advance. The essays, accordingly, are expected to be well-organized and reasonably comprehensive. Guidelines for writing a good exam essay may be found here. The legal concepts (which students are expected to master) are found here. Those marked with one asterisk will be tested on the mid-term, those with two asterisks on the final. The exams will not be cumulative.

The article critique will count 20%, the mid-term 40% and the final 40%.

HONOR SYSTEM: George Mason University participates in an honor system which has existed in Virginia since 1842. The GMU Honor Code provides that a student's word is a declaration of good faith acceptable as truth in all academic matters. Specifically, the Honor Code applies to all your written work submitted for a grade. When you signed your application for admission to the university, you agreed to conform to its Honor Code. By putting your name to your exam, quiz, homework, or other written assignment, you certify that you are the only person who has produced the work you hand in. Both students and faculty are charged to report violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Committee. Enrollment in this class constitutes your acknowledgment that you have received fair warning that cheating, plagiarism, and other kinds of intellectual dishonesty will not be tolerated. In this course you are required to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the Honor Code by consulting the appropriate pages in the current Catalog.

The Instructor

William L. Carey, Esq.
Blankingship & Keith, P.C.
4020 University Drive, Suite 300
Fairfax, Virginia 22030


The Links

There will be many handouts in class. Those that I create myself will always be posted here.

The basic legal texts of Roman Law:
     The Law of the Twelve Tables
     The Institutes of Gaius
     The Institutes of Justinian

Here is our list of articles to choose from for your presentations:
     The Supplementary Reading list.

If I have the time I will hand out additional information sheets to be used as study aids. So far, we have:
     A Basic Glossary of Roman Legal Terms
     Chronology of the Landmarks of Roman Law
     A Short Chronology of Roman History
     Landmarks of the Republican Constitution

Finally, here is a collection of Useful Links to Roman Law Materials.

Additional Information

Course Number: Classics 330
Title: Roman Law and Society
Class Times: TBD
Class Location: TBD

Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474, All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.

Electronic Devices: Cell phones, pagers, and other communicative devices are not allowed in this class. Please keep them stowed away and out of sight. Laptops or tablets (e.g., iPads) may be permitted for the purpose of taking notes only.