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Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition

By Clifford Ando

Publication Year: 2011

The Romans depicted the civil law as a body of rules crafted through communal deliberation for the purpose of self-government. Yet, as Clifford Ando demonstrates in Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition, the civil law was also an instrument of empire: many of its most characteristic features developed in response to the challenges posed when the legal system of Rome was deployed to embrace, incorporate, and govern people and cultures far afield.

Ando studies the processes through which lawyers at Rome grappled with the legal pluralism resulting from imperial conquests. He focuses primarily on the tools—most prominently analogy and fiction—used to extend the system and enable it to regulate the lives of persons far from the minds of the original legislators, and he traces the central place that philosophy of language came to occupy in Roman legal thought.

In the second part of the book Ando examines the relationship between civil, public, and international law. Despite the prominence accorded public and international law in legal theory, it was civil law that provided conceptual resources to those other fields in the Roman tradition. Ultimately it was the civil law's implication in systems of domination outside its own narrow sphere that opened the door to its own subversion. When political turmoil at Rome upended the institutions of political and legislative authority and effectively ended Roman democracy, the concepts and language that the civil law supplied to the project of Republican empire saw their meanings transformed. As a result, forms of domination once exercised by Romans over others were inscribed in the workings of law at Rome, henceforth to be exercised by the Romans over themselves.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Empire and After


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The civil law was an instrument of empire. It was not, or was not simply, as Roman legal philosophers claimed, a body of rules crafted through communal deliberation and approved by the citizen body for use strictly over itself. On the contrary, many of its most characteristic features—the substructure of formal mechanisms whereby innovation was accomplished in practice ...

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Chapter 1. Citizen and Alien before the Law

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pp. 1-18

The object of this chapter is to excavate a body of law that does not exist, namely, the one that governed aliens, particularly aliens in dispute with citizens or with aliens of discrepant citizenship, before Roman courts. In doing so, I hope to advance four interrelated claims beyond the particular work of recuperation I shall perform in respect to legal practice. ...

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Chapter 2. Law’s Empire

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pp. 19-36

This chapter pursues several interrelated problems at the intersection of law and the articulation of the late ancient state. They may be framed as an inquiry into the consequences, intended and otherwise, of Caracalla’s decision to grant citizenship to all—or nearly all—freeborn residents of the empire. For the Antonine Constitution would seem to mark, or should have marked, a turning ...

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Chapter 3. Empire and the Laws of War

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pp. 19-36

Alberico Gentili’s extraordinary work De armis Romanis takes the form of a pair of speeches, the first an indictment of the injustices committed by the Romans in war, the second a speech of defense, on the justice of those same actions. The work lacks an introduction or conclusion in propria persona; the reader is thus left without guidance as to how to award the palm of victory. ...

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Chapter 4. Sovereignty and Solipsism in Democratic Empires

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pp. 64-80

In late medieval and early modern Europe, Rome existed as exemplar among empires in two guises: one tacitly pagan, polite and powerful, urbanized and urbane; the other Christian, at war against heretic and infidel within and without, the proud and sinful instrument of Providence. In elisions typical of historical memory, the major revolutions that produced the Christian empire ...

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Chapter 5. Domesticating Domination

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pp. 81-114

Chapter 3 urged that civil-law actions might usefully be situated in hermeneutic relation to international law in Roman antiquity, indeed, that civil-law forms and arguments played a paradeigmatic role in its initial elaboration. This chapter turns that historical argument back on itself: a principal claim of this chapter is that forms of domination that the Romans of the Republic ...

Appendix. Work-arounds in Roman Law: The Fiction and Its Kin

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pp. 115-132


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pp. 133-152


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pp. 153-162


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pp. 163-166

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pp. 167-168

This book has had a long gestation. It took final form in response to my election to a chaire d’État at the Collège de France, which I held in March 2010. The dedication to John Scheid is an expression of thanks not simply for that opportunity but for his conduct as friend and scholar across many years. I owe similar debts to Claudia Moatti and Yan Thomas, the former a ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812204889
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243543

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Empire and After