Government & PolicyLaw

CLST 221 – Law, Politics & Order in the Ancient World

Legal texts–law codes, decrees, and edicts, juristic discussions, law court cases–help us understand the history of legal thinking and strategy, and the construction of constitutional frameworks. Yet Greek and Roman legal sources offer something more than a history: Although these texts in many ways served as the foundation for European legal systems, they nonetheless offer radically different ways of thinking about concepts such as private and public, rights versus responsibilities, and the possibility of freedom and happiness–some more progressive than our own. In an era when many of our institutions and conventions appear open to challenge, the classical sources offer alternate legal and social ways of thinking, and new tools for understanding our own time. This course will provide an introduction to legal thinking in classical antiquity and, drawing from a range of sources, will speak to the intersection of constitutional frameworks with political theory. Through narratives and case studies, we will examine Greek and Roman approaches to thorny legal issues that are still contested today: women’s rights, wartime codes, the right to trial, torture, capital punishment, and immigration and citizenship, among others. The ancient sources will be brought into dialogue with current cases and debates. We will also explore the construction of constitutional frameworks and see how these are deployed alongside religious beliefs and collective mores to cultivate “civic thinking.” For CLST Major requirements and for Classics/CCIV Major requirements, this course falls under the History, Politics, and Social Justice track.

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