Rome the Law-Giver

Rome the Law-Giver

Rome the Law-Giver

Rome the Law-Giver

Excerpt

In the preface to La Pensée grecque et les origines de l'Esprit scientifique, we felt justified in making the following remark: "no universal history exists where the history of ideas has the place that it will hold in this work or has been made so essentially a part of it." At the beginning of this volume we can say as much as regards Law which, if it is a product of social life, is at any rate ultimately associated with the history of ideas.

To devote a whole volume in the series to Roman Law is in strict accord with the nature of things. We need not insist here on the part played by Rome as organizer of human society in general, on what may be called quite literally the Roman "miracle:" see the preface to vol. xvi. It is the activity of Rome as conscious originator of Law that we must emphasize, that the present volume tries to make clear, as she elaborates its details and makes its general principles stand out in the full light of reflexion.

We know that, as societies become organized, the politicojuridic function--which, with the economic function, meets the needs of the group considered as such and forms the strictly social factor in history--gradually breaks up into various institutions. "Custom" is the undeveloped, or little developed, seed of all juridic development: morality and Law grow out of it. These institutions are distinguished from one another by the different nature of the sanctions by which they are maintained: an internal imperative in one case, coercion in the other. Law may be defined as the minimum of morality that is indispensable for life in society and is imposed by material sanctions.

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