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Bill Thayer

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The Roman Law Articles of Smith's Dictionary


[image ALT: A 2‑story porticoed building with a sloping roof, depicting an ancient Roman basilica; on either side, a bundle of wooden rods tied around an axe, depicting the fasces, or symbol of state power in ancient Rome. On this site, the image serves as an iconic representation of Roman law.]

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
John Murray, London, 1875.

For general information about Smith's Dictionary, and entries other than law (currently numbering about 200), including articles in the related fields of political life and government, see its homepage.

This index page collects the law articles in the Dictionary, for two reasons. The first is almost trivial: you now have here a more manageable index in the field of law, unobscured by all the other material.

The second reason is more interesting. In inputting the various articles in the Dictionary, I gradually realized that the Roman Law information in Smith's is qualitatively different from the other material: it's as if there were a second 'concealed' dictionary within the first. The law articles, almost all of them written by one man, George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, while constituting no more than a very basic primer of the subject, are considerably better and more scholarly than the average article on other topics; a fact that William Smith more or less acknowledges in his preface, where Mr. Long's contributions are specially mentioned at some length.

Now I came to George Long's articles completely ignorant of Roman law and may thus be utterly mistaken in my assessment of them. I should also point out that while the archaeological and other articles in this edition of the Dictionary seem to have been written, or at least revised, close to the year in which it was published, the law articles seem to have been written in around 1845 and undergone no revision. They are thus 30 years older than the rest of the Dictionary, which itself is no spring chicken: the study of Roman Law has much developed since, and continues to develop.

Those of you who know Roman Law are therefore kindly requested to do no more than smile at my appreciation of these articles, and write me to correct it if you feel so inclined; those of you who come to the subject for the first time should certainly not take my opinion for gospel.

Roman Law Articles republished on my site
(major articles are in boldface)

A reminder also that new law articles continue to be added from time to time:
the What's New Page is here.
Topic Areas Entries
crimes and torts

Crimen Calumnia Culpa Damnum Injuria Datum Falsum (fraud) • Furtum (theft) • Incendium (loosely: arson) • Injuria Latrocinium (robbery) • Lenocinium (pimping) • Majestas (treason, sedition, etc.) • Peculatus (embezzlement) • Plagium (slave kidnapping) • Repetundae (bribery) • Sacrilegium Veneficium (poisoning) • Vis (inciting, planning, or abetting violence)

government & magistrates
land & property
laws & codification
officers
persons
practitioners
procedure
rights and powers
succession

Ambitus (electioneering) • Cista (ballot box) • Diribitores (election officials) • Situla Suffragium (voting) • Tabella (ballot) • Tabellariae Leges (ballot laws)


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Site updated: 17 Jul 14