Friday, June 23, 2017

New Classics Course

CLAS309F / 688F: Roman Civil Law 
Prof. Gregory Bucher, Fall 2017, MWF 9:00-9:50

What is your status in your community?  Who are you eligible to marry, and who should have custody of the children if you divorce?  How do you go about making or challenging a will?  Fundamental questions such as these are of importance to all complex societies.  In this course, we focus on the answers the Romans gave.  

Using a case-study approach to Roman family law, we discover a large subset of the “underlying assumptions” of Roman society: no one can claim to understand Roman society without a grasp of Roman law. The focus on family law limits the scope so that we can discover, discuss, and argue about a reasonably self-contained body of case law. Our interlocked set of cases which increase in complexity requires us to draw more and more upon the basic concepts we develop in the earlier ones. We study the nature of rules and their interpretation, precedent and reasoning by analogy, sources of law and authorities, and other principles of legal reasoning. 

These skills and ways of thinking are as applicable to US law as to the Roman, and are recommended for pre-law students. A natural focus on the evolution of family law over time makes of our cases a laboratory for studying the forceful interplay of pre-legal tradition, the realities of the world law must confront (such as demographics), and ideas of social justice. At its best, this class should train you in traditional ways of thinking about the law while simultaneously leaving you astonished at examples of Roman laws that see the world in a fundamentally different way from ourselves. 

All readings in English.

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