Monday, January 23, 2012

Ando, "Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition"

Clifford Ando (image credit)
Clifford Ando, Professor of Classics, History, and Law at the University of Chicago, discusses his new book Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition (University of Pennsylvania Press) in a recent issue of Rorotoko.

On the book "in a nutshell":
For complicated reasons, Roman law as an academic discipline long remained fixated on describing its rules.  How did one write a will at Rome?  What was the age of marriage?  Books had titles like “The Roman law of slavery.” 
My book attempts to side-step questions about what Romans lawyers thought—in order to ask about how they thought.  Why did they think law changed?  How did they think change in the law could or should be justified?  And how did they think legal institutions could or should adapt to social change? 
For the fact of the matter was, Roman society was in constant flux. . . .
On how he came to the project:
Despite popular visions of Rome as a society of empire and of laws, this was not how professional historians saw the matter. For a generation at least, the dominant picture had instead been of ancient government as minimalist in its achievements and even its intents. 
I therefore embarked on a large-scale history of the role of government in social and cultural change. To do that, I had to take Roman law more seriously than I had in the past.
Ando concludes with some thoughts about the book's broader significance. He hopes it will "draw attention to the astonishing creativity of Roman lawyers," as well as to "an understudied problem in the history of the Roman law, namely, the historical priority of private law at Rome, in contrast to all other forms of legal thought."

Read on here.