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 to determine.
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 - Centumviri
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 breast. 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.