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The Roman Legal Principles and Their Influence On The World

Updated on August 22, 2012

It is of no surprise that even the most modern ideas, ideals and inventions have their roots from as far as the ancient times.

The Roman thinkers and philosophers are the people who would form the first legal system, create the its principles and shaped its spirit into something very familiar to today’s legal system.

For the study of law everyone needs a strong background in Latin, which along with the Latin culture are the foundation of nowadays scientific integration. A large portion of the law terminology in the roman as well as the English, German and the Slavic languages comes from more or less from Latin.

In fact, the Latin language started leaving the boundaries of the roman empire, and it is in this time that the Europe was for the first time spiritually connected by a language. It was the language chosen by the scholars and the church in the middle ages.

It is said tat the Roman empire ruled over the world three times, first by the might of its legions, the second with prosperity of its republic, and the latter - the Latin language.

The tree main principles of roman law are:

  1. honeste vivere - live honestly,
  2. alterum non laedere - don’t do harm to others; and
  3. suum cuique tribuere - give a person what’s he has earned.

Out of those came out "bon fides" - the principle of the fair roman citizen: "nemo plus iuris in alium transferre potest quam ipse habet" no one person can give another more right, than he himself possess, this is one of the many roman sayings that are actual to date.

It's an interesting fact that entire Europe and the western world were influenced by the Roman principles and law system.

The immortality of the classical roman legal system is hidden in the clearness of it’s principles and institutes, as well as in it’s logic.


In ancient Rome, there was a duality on the matter with law. On one hand it was something, not dependent on the people, separately even and yet it was the one thing that controlled society. It was thought that the law didn’t represent the moral principles, it was somewhat less fair to the people.

Civil and prosecution legal systems foundation also come out of these principles. The first civil courts were established. The competitive character of the system, the immunity of the courts, the prosecution, strength of the verdict, the pleading and many more. As for the prosecution, there was a rule which stated that there can't be a crime and a punishment if they are not viewed in front of the law:

"Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege praevia"

This principle we can find today in the codex’s of the modern European countries.


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