03 March 2020

BOOK: Sinclair W. BELL and Paul DU PLESSIS, eds., Roman Law before the Twelve Tables - An Interdisciplinary Approach (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020). ISBN 9781474443968, £85.00

Edinburgh University Press is publishing a new book on Roman law before the Twelve Tables.


Bringing together a team of international experts from different subject areas – including law, history, archaeology and anthropology – this book re-evaluates the traditional narratives surrounding the origins of Roman law before the enactment of the Twelve Tables. Much is now known about the archaic period, relevant evidence from later periods continues to emerge and new methodologies bring the promise of interpretive inroads. This book explores whether, in light of recent developments in these fields, the earliest history of Roman law should be reconsidered.

Drawing upon the critical axioms of contemporary sociological and anthropological theory, the contributors yield new insights and offer new perspectives on Rome’s early legal history. In doing so, they seek to revise our understanding of Roman legal history as well as to enrich our appreciation of its culture as a whole.


Sinclair W. Bell is Professor of Art History at Northern Illinois University. His research interests include art and archaeology of the Etruscans, spectacles in the Roman imperial period and the visual representation of slaves and foreigners in Roman imperial art. Sinclair currently the Editor of the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. He is co-editor of 12 books, including Companion to the Etruscans (Wiley, 2016) and Free at Last: The Impact of Freed Slaves on the Roman Empire (Bloomsbury, 2012).

Paul J. du Plessis is Professor of Roman Law at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses predominantly on the multifaceted and complex set of relationships between law and society in a historical context. Paul is an experienced editor and author. He is co-editor of the following publications: The Making of the Ius Commune: From Casus to Regula (EUP, 2010), Beyond Dogmatics: Law and Society in the Roman World (EUP, 2007), Reassessing Legal Humanism and Its Claims (EUP, 2015) and The Oxford Handbook of Roman Law and Society (OUP, 2016). He is also editor of New Frontiers: Law and Society in the Roman World (EUP, 2013), Cicero's Law: Rethinking Roman Law of the Late Republic (EUP, 2016) and Borkowski's Textbook on Roman Law (OUP, 2015).


Introduction: The Dawn of Roman Law
Paul J. du Plessis and Sinclair W. Bell
Part I: The Materiality of Roman Law: New Archaeological Discoveries
1. Roman Law in its Italic Context
James Clackson
2. Central Italian Elite Groups as Aristocratic Houses in the Ninth to Sixth Centuries B.C.E.
Matthew Naglak and Nicola Terrenato
3. Authority and Display in Sixth-Century Etruria: The Vicchio Stele
P. Gregory Warden and Adriano Maggiani
Part II: Constructing Early Roman Law: Sources and Methods
4. The Twelve Tables and the Leges regiae: A Problem of Validity
Carlos Amunátegui Perelló
5. The Leges regiae in Livy: Narratological and Stylistic Strategies
Marco Rocco
6. The Leges regiae through Tradition, Historicity and Invention: A Comparison of Historico-Literary and Jurisprudential Sources
Rossella Laurendi
7. The Laws of the Kings – A View from a Distance
Christopher Smith
8. Beyond the Pomerium: Expansion and Legislative Authority in Archaic Rome
Jeremy Armstrong
Part III: Roman Law in Historiography and Theory
9. Niebuhr and Bachofen: New Forms of Evidence on Roman History
Luigi Capogrossi Colognesi
10. Finding Melanesia in Ancient Rome: Mauss’s Anthropology of nexum
Alain Pottage

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