The First Law School – Berytus c. 250

The First Law School – Berytus (today Beirut, Lebanon).

The First Law School - Berytus
The First Law School – Berytus

Formal legal education flourished in the law school of Berytus (today Beirut, Lebanon) in the Roman province of Syria centuries before the first Western law school opened its doors at the University of Bologna (about 1088) and the first American law school in Litchfield, Connecticut (1784). Anton-Hermann Chroust, a classics and legal scholar, identifies the institution as the leading Roman law school from Diocletian’s (284–305) to Justinian’s (527–565) reigns, calling it “the midwife of all laws” by the latter emperor, despite the fact that Rome and Constantinople (after 425) had their own law schools.

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The Talmud c. 180

The Talmud c. 180

The Talmud Hour (c. 1900) by German painter J. Scheich
The Talmud Hour (c. 1900) by German painter J. Scheich

The Torah, which consists of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is the cornerstone of Jewish law. Jews meditated on and discussed the Torah and its lessons until the sixth century BCE, creating and preserving an oral legacy that supplemented the written word. Then came a protracted period of Jewish subjugation and exile, which began with the Babylonians and ended with the Romans. As the survival of an oral tradition became more precarious, sages and academics began to record it, eventually resulting in the Talmud.

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The Trial of Socrates 399 BCE

The Trial of Socrates is a story about Socrates which took place in the year 399 BCE

Trial of Socrates
Trial of Socrates

Socrates (c. 470–399 BCE) was a Greek philosopher who lived from c. 470 to 399 BCE.

Socrates’ trial pitted a “squat, unattractive, barefoot man… with bulging eyes, large lips, and a pot belly” against Athenian democracy’s tenets. The renowned teacher and philosopher was accused of “impiety,” for neglecting to recognize the Athenian gods, for creating new deities, for corrupting the youth, and for putting the state in jeopardy.

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The Twelve Tables 450 BCE

The Twelve Tables 450 BCE

The Twelve Tables
The Twelve Tables

Roman law, like that of other ancient civilizations, sprang from an oral heritage of customs passed down down the generations. The nobility and commoners of Rome agreed to a commission of ten jurists, the decemviri, to consolidate and codify the laws in the mid-fifth century BCE. As a result, the Twelve Tables, the earliest documented Roman laws, were created.

The Twelve Tables were inspired by the ongoing feud between Rome’s patrician and plebeian classes, who objected to the patricians’ arbitrary interpretation and execution of the law, hoping that a written rule would temper, if not eliminate, such behaviors.

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The Gortyn Code c. 480 BCE

The brief history of The Gortyn Code.

The Gortyn Code
The Gortyn Code

Prior to the Roman conquest of Greece in 67 BCE, Gortyn, which was located near modern-day Heraklion, was one of Crete’s most powerful cities. Archaeologists excavating in the area began uncovering limestone blocks in and around a stream in the 1850s. The Gortyn Code was written in Doric inscriptions on the blocks, which date from approximately 480 and 460 BCE.
The entire Code was engraved on twelve huge columns that formed part of a circular wall of a building that was thought to have been a court, totaling around 600 lines of text. The Code, which dealt mostly with family law, includes old laws, amended laws, and new laws, representing the evolution of legislation over time. It dealt with marriage, property rights, including those of a divorced wife and the sale of family property, children of mixed marriages, adoption, succession (though not testamentary succession), rape, seduction, and adultery, slave ownership and slave marriages, and heiresses’ marriage and inheritance (those women who were the sole descendant of a deceased father).

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The Laws of Solon – 594 BCE

This is the brief history of the Laws of Solon

Laws of Solon
Laws of Solon

Nearly thirty years after Draco established Greece’s laws, Attica, the wider region that includes Athens, was still experiencing instability and the threat of civil war. Middle-class merchants and tradesmen resorted to the statesman Solon in the hopes of resolving the conflict between the aristocracy and the commoners. Solon’s character and reputation earned him the faith and confidence of commoners and nobles alike, despite his noble lineage. The “high class consented to his appointment because he was wealthy, and the lowly because they knew he was honest,” according to Plutarch. Solon was appointed archon, or magistrate, of Athens in 594 BCE.

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The Draco Code – 621 BCE

Brief history of the The Draco Constitution – The Draco Code.

The Draconian Code
The Draconian Code

People relied on memory and oral tradition for the transmission of customs and laws from generation to generation before the emergence of written laws. The law, according to legal historian and scholar William Seagle, is “the science that lives on the written word,” where “the words themselves are the topic of the study, the words are the law.”

In 621 BCE, Draco, an Athenian statesman and archon, or magistrate, introduced to Athens and the Ancient Greeks what some regard to be the first written laws.

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