Introduction: Themes and Literature

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In 1967, John Crook published Law and Life of Rome. Facing the first page of the introduction, he provocatively placed the invocation “Iuris consultus abesto”. The imperative has been as little obeyed as “vade Satana”. This said, at the time the book was not widely reviewed, and such reception as it had was mixed, despite the fact that in the 1960s, Roman law was a more active field in university law faculties than it has now become. It was thus largely ignored in the traditional journals devoted to Roman law, particularly in those countries where English-language literature was not commonly read. Franz Wieacker, however, reviewed it relatively sympathetically in the Savigny Zeitschrift, recognising the virtues of its interdisciplinary aims. On the other hand, J E Spruit was rather more critical, his review devoted to detailing specific misunderstandings of the law, while ignoring the book's wider interdisciplinary ambitions. Ancient historians were also critical of the book. Gail McKnight Beckmann thought it was too academic and that Crook had missed an opportunity to write a popular work. Works that transgress traditional disciplinary boundaries always attract criticism and challenge; complaints of error in specialist and particular subjects were and are easily made. It is also obvious that those who considered themselves as Roman lawyers did not like the way Crook had organised the material, ignoring traditional understandings of the structure of Roman law. They were uncomfortable with the way law was treated, not as a science of its own, with its own approaches and methodology, but, instead, simply as a branch of ancient history.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Dogmatics
Subtitle of host publicationLaw and Society in the Roman World
EditorsJohn W. Cairns, Paul J. du Plessis
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780748631773
ISBN (Print)9780748627936
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Studies in Law


  • Law Society, Rome, Alan Watson John Crook


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