The content of this article provides
interesting history, facts and information about life in
Ancient Rome including Roman Law.
Roman Law - Civil Law
Civil trials, or differences between private persons were
tried in the forum by the praetor. If no adjustment could be
made between the two parties, the plaintiff obtained a writ
from the praetor, which required the defendant to give bail
for his appearance on the third day, at which time, if
either was not present when cited, he lost his cause, unless
he had a valid excuse.
Actions were either real, personal, or mixed. Real, was for
obtaining a thing to which one had a real right, but was
possessed by another. Personal, was against a person to bind
him to the fulfilment of a contract, or to obtain redress
for wrongs. Mixed, was when the actions had relation to
persons and things.
After the plaintiff had presented his case for trial, judges
were appointed by the praetor, to hear and determine the
matter, and fix the number of witnesses, that the suit might
not be unreasonably protracted. The parties gave security
that they would abide by the judgment, and the judges took a
solemn oath to decide impartially; after this the cause was
argued on both sides, assisted by witnesses, writings,
&c. In giving sentence, the votes of a majority of the
judges were necessary to decide against the defendant; but
if the number was equally divided, it was left to the praetor
Roman Law - Criminal Law
Trial by jury, as established with us, was not known, but
the mode of judging in criminal cases, seems to have
resembled it. A certain number of senators and knights, or
other citizens of respectability, were annually chosen by
the praetor, to act as his assessors, and some of these were
appointed to sit in judgment with him. They decided by a
majority of voices, and returned their verdict, either
guilty, not guilty, or uncertain, in which latter instance
the case was deferred; but if the votes for acquittal and
condemnation were equal, the culprit was discharged.
Punishments in cases involving criminal law was in many
instances more severe than it is at the present day.
Roman Law Officers -
There were also officers called centumviri, to the number at
first of 100, but afterwards of 180, who were chosen
equally, from the 35 tribes, and together with the praetor
constituted a court of justice.
Candidates for office wore a white robe, rendered shining by
the art of the fuller. They did not wear tunics, or
waist-coats, either that they might appear more humble, or
might more easily show the scars they had received on the
For a long time before the election, they endeavored to gain
the favor of the people, by every popular art, by going to
their houses, by shaking hands with those they met, by
addressing them in a kindly manner, and calling them by
name, on which occasion they commonly had with them a
monitor, who whispered in their ears every body's name.