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The Early Years of the Riccobono Seminar in America

This journal was founded partly for the purpose of promoting the study of Roman law in America, and over its sixteen years has published several pieces on significant persons and events with an American connection. A regular subject is the Riccobono Seminar, a series of lectures and debates on Roman law that took place in Washington DC from 1930 to 1956. Our very first volume (2002) included Salvo Randazzo’s Roman Legal Tradition and American Law: The Riccobono Seminar of Roman Law in Washington. There Prof. Randazzo reminded us that, during some of the most fraught decades of the twentieth century, international scholars gathered to promote their common (and diverse) legal heritage in Roman law. Prof Randazzo’s focus was the life of the Seminar from late 1934, but now Prof Timothy Kearley of the University of Wyoming has written in detail about the Seminar’s earlier, underreported meetings.

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Horace the Slave Seller

Logo TwoI teach a course in Roman law for final-year students, and I always set aside a few seminars to discuss the legal aspects of selling slaves: documents recording slave sales, the sale of free persons as if they were slaves, and of course slaves with “defects” or special qualities. Roman slave law is emotionally tough. We bring disciplined minds to the texts, but we can’t close our intellect to the human beings we’re discussing. We struggle most when we talk about the buyer’s protections against “faulty” slaves. The quotation marks defend our humanity; the Romans weren’t so queasy, probably because status-types were embedded in their thinking, and the legal incidents of status had to be meticulously explored. One inevitable incident was the fact that humans, as items of commerce, could have shortcomings. This led the Roman jurists enthusiastically to discuss limbs, senses, and dispositions. The discussion shocks us, but what shocks us further, as Prof. Carrasco reveals, is how deeply the specific rules on slave sales had penetrated the popular mind.

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Rehabilitating Cicero


This collection of essays from Edinburgh University Press, edited by Paul du Plessis, aims to bring Cicero more squarely in the sights of modern Roman lawyers. Scholars were formerly too focussed on system and doctrine, and became overly reliant on a core of ancient texts and a narrow scientific methodology. This rather left behind the broader legal culture and with it, Cicero.

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Refugee Scholar

Logo ThreeEighty years ago Salvatore Riccobono founded a congress at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, dedicated to Roman law. It ran for two decades and was chronicled in the Bullettino dell’Istituto di Diritto Romano and in publications of the CUA. The "Riccobono Seminar" was a remarkable event in the American academic scene, and for short time gave hope that Roman law might get real purchase in American law schools. Riccobono himself promoted the view that Roman law underlay the western legal tradition, and to that end invited scholars to address the seminar. Papers often departed from the general theme, but one class of participants had a special incentive to stay on point: refugee scholars. Among these was Fritz Schulz (1879–1957).

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