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Roman Law and EconomicsInstitutions and Organizations Volume I$
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Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci and Dennis P. Kehoe

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198787204

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198787204.001.0001

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Law-Making and Economic Change during the Republic and Early Empire

Law-Making and Economic Change during the Republic and Early Empire

(p.85) 4 Law-Making and Economic Change during the Republic and Early Empire
Roman Law and Economics

Luuk de Ligt

Oxford University Press

When the Law of the Twelve Tables was promulgated, the Roman economy was overwhelmingly agricultural. As social and economic conditions became more complicated, the formalistic law of early republican times no longer sufficed. The rise of the ius honorarium can be seen as a response to these new circumstances. While scholars have tended to assign all important developments to the praetors of the second and first centuries BC, at least some important changes in the law took place earlier. The bigger picture that emerges is that, contrary to the tenets of institutionalism, Roman law developed pari passu with the economy. Roman law functioned as an autonomous discipline, governed by its own rules and principles. Law-making magistrates and jurists certainly responded to new juridical challenges created by the emergence of an increasingly sophisticated economy, but their principal aim was not to create legal rules that were conducive to economic development or growth but to find practical solutions to juridical problems created by economic developments. Finally, the Principate, to which a large proportion of the surviving evidence belongs, saw far fewer legal innovations than the last centuries of the Republic. The explanation must be that there was less need for legal innovation because most of the economic developments creating a need for new legal remedies had already taken place. Ironically, the period in which the pace of legal change had slowed down has produced most of the surviving evidence.

Keywords:   economics of ancient law, economics of ancient societies, economic analysis of law, economic methods, economics of Roman law, Roman history, Roman Republic, Roman Empire, legal evolution, Principate

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