The Emperor of Law: The Emergence of Roman Imperial Adjudication (Oxford Studies in Roman Society & Law)

December 9, 2020
The Emperor of Law: The Emergence of Roman Imperial Adjudication (Oxford Studies in Roman Society & Law)

In the days of the Roman Empire, the emperor was considered notonly the ruler of the state, but also its supreme legal authority,fulfilling the multiple roles of supreme court, legislator, andadministrator. The Emperor of Law explores how the emperor came toassume the mantle of a judge, beginning with Augustus, the firstemperor, and spanning the years leading up to Caracalla and theSeveran dynasty.While earlier studies have attempted to explain this change eitherthrough legislation or behaviour, this volume undertakes a novelanalysis of the gradual expansion and elaboration of the emperor'sadjudication and jurisdiction: by analysing the process throughhistorical narratives, it argues that the emergence of imperialadjudication was a discourse that involved not only the emperors,but also petitioners who sought their rulings, lawyers who aidedthem, the senatorial elite, and the Romanhistorians and commentators who described it. Stories of emperorssettling lawsuits and demonstrating their power through law,including those depicting 'mad' emperors engaging in violentrepressions, played an important part in creating a sharedconviction that the emperor was indeed the supremejudge alongside the empirical shift in the legal and politicaldynamic. Imperial adjudication reflected equally the growth ofimperial power during the Principate and the centrality of theemperor in public life, and constitutional legitimation was thuscreated through the examples of previous actions - examples thathistorical authors did much to shape. Aimed at readers of classics,Roman law, and ancient history, The Emperor of Law offers afundamental reinterpretation of the muchdebated problem of the advent of imperial supremacy in law thatilluminates the importance of narrative studies to the field oflegal history.