because history just ain't what it used to be

Similarities Between the Roman Legal and Political Systems and Modern Democracies

In History on March 3, 2010 at 17:15

by Bryan Fidler

Many elements of the Roman Republican political and legal system are present in modern democracies. In 450 BC the Twelve Tables were established to put in writing the procedure that was to be followed for various crimes. We have written laws in place today at the Federal, State, and local levels that dictate criminal procedures. Also, as is the case today, there were some Roman laws that were in the tables that fell into disuse, but were never repealed.

There were several Roman Courts, each dealing with a different statutory offense. Today we also separate courts and crimes, with Federal Courts that deal with federal crimes, Circuit Courts handling felony criminal cases and civil cases, and District Courts that have traffic court, and court for misdemeanor crimes. There were also prisons, capital offenses, and lawyers, but the definition of these things in Roman times was much different than today. Another similarity is that there were many frivolous lawsuits as people were awarded money and material goods when suits were won. This is still a problem within our legal system.

The government was in theory a participatory and representative democracy, as we have in modern times, but voting and offices were limited to certain people. There was a system of checks and balances in place, which we have now also. Furthermore, there often was a typical path of advancement in the political realm, starting with quaestor and moving on eventually to consul, just as we see local politicians progress to the State, and often Federal level, as they gain experience and exposure.

Jahnige, Joan. “The Roman Legal System.” Legal Latin. 2005. KET, Web. 2 Mar 2010. (http://www.dl.ket.org/latin3/mores/legallatin/legal01.htm).

McManus, Barbara. “Roman Cursus Honorum.” Roman Government. July 2003. The College of New Rochelle, Web. 2 Mar 2010. (http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/romangvt.html).

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