At any stage in the proceedings, "judgment could be entered by default, but it could also be set aside "…except in the case of perjury established by judgment of court" (Calhoun, 309-10). The incidents mentioned above pertain to civil law only, and reflect the intelligence of the ancient Greeks when it was obvious that trivial cases could be handled in "cheap and speedy" kind of justice (Calhoun, 310).
In the case of criminal law in ancient Athens, it also has similarities with modern Western law strategies and procedures. It was what Calhoun calls "logical, coherent," and it entailed a complete "body of statutory law, enforced by the processes very similar" to those described in the paragraphs above (310). Seven centuries before Christ, in ancient Greece, the Council of the Areopagus created a "customary criminal jurisdiction of nearly as advanced a type as that exercised much later in Rome," Calhoun explains (310). However this form of justice did not provide complete punishment for wrongdoing "against" individuals, the author continues.
And so in the beginning of the sixth century Solon introduced a "…simple, flexible and effective criminal process" that was capable of being relevant to -- and used in -- crimes "…of every description" (Calhoun, 310). This advancement in the criminal justice system in ancient Greece (in the 5th century B.C.) was "…far more orderly and scientific than that of Rome," Calhoun asserts (310). This law was called the Attic law, and Calhoun calls it a law that was not "entrusted to a trained professional class," but on the contrary, it was given for its administration to "a very large number of citizens of mature years, who, by reason of their constant preoccupation with legislative and judicial problems, cannot properly be stigmatized as laymen" (311).
What Influence Did Roman Law Have on English Law?
William Livesey Burdick writes that some scholars insist that English law is not in the least indebted to Roman Law while others believe English law has been "molded by the principles of the law of Rome" (Burdick, 2004, p. 56). Burdick mentions lecturer Blackstone -- Vinerian professor at Oxford -- who has spoken with "courteous diplomacy of the Civil law" and rejects the notion that much of English law came from ancient Rome. Blackstone asserted that English law came from the Pope and the Catholic Church more so than from Rome. William Stubbs, a former professor of history at Oxford (and a bishop in the Church of England) has said that "England has inherited no portion of the Roman legislation, except in the form of scientific or professional axioms… through the ecclesiastical or scholastic or international university studies" (Burdick, 58). But others, including Lord Holt, former chief justice of England, believed that "…the principles" of English law "…are borrowed from the Civil Law [of Rome]"; and even though very few lawyers in England will acknowledge it, the "Civil Law is the source of nearly all our English laws that are not of feudal origin" (Burdick, 58).
William Searle Holdsworth is quoted by Burdick on page 59: "It would not be true to say that English law owes nothing to Roman Law… in the age of Bracton, Roman Law taught the fathers of the Common Law the way to construct an intelligent legal system," Holdsworth explained (quoted by Burdick, p. 59). Roman Law helped to make English law "sufficient for the needs of the modern state" in the sixteenth century, Holdsworth argues (59). And in the eighteenth century Roman Law helped "Lord Mansfield to found our modern system of mercantile law," Holdsworth continued (Burdick, 59).
Holdsworth goes on to suggest that English Law has been influenced by Roman law in "small, homeopathic doses, at different periods, and as and when required" (59). Roman Law made "rapid strides in Britain during the second and third centuries A.D. As is attested by the writings of the roman jurists Javolenus and Ulpian," Burdick continues.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that ancient Greek and Roman laws -- especially Greek laws -- have had a powerful influence on the way Western societies carry out their law and their criminal procedures. Studying the history of how ancient civilizations dealt with law and with crime is important for today's students. Laws did not just appear out of thin air, they were launched, amended, discarded and picked up in different forms from those societies that came before the society of today.
Bartholomees, J. Boone. (2006). U.S. Army War College Guide to National Security Policy and Strategy. U.S. Army War College. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute.
Burdick, William Livesey. (2004). The Principles of Roman Law and Their Relation to Modern
Law. Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.
Calhoun, George Miller. (1923). Greek Law and Modern Jurisprudence. California Law Review,
Center for Thomistic Studies. (2000). Ius Gentium: Natural Law or Positive Law? Retrieved
October 19, 2011, from http://www.cts.org.au/2000/iusgentium.htm.