Ancient Law and Modern Understanding
At the Edges

Alan Watson


"The insights that Watson has into the workings of law and the legal mind are often brilliant, occasionally controversial, but never boring. It's a splendid book."
—M. H. Hoeflich, author of Roman and Civil Law and the Development of Anglo-American Jurisprudence in the Nineteenth Century

"It is sometimes said that 'law is too important to be left to the lawyers.' That should not become an excuse for not mastering the law, although this book shows it has sometimes been used that way. Moreover, it shows how often legal rules have simply been borrowed, without giving any thought to their economic or social consequences. This fact makes it doubly necessary for scholars in other fields to know something about law and comparative legal history."
—R. H. Helmholz, author of The Spirit of Classical Canon Law

In Ancient Law and Modern Understanding Alan Watson proposes that ancient law is relevant and important for understanding history, theology, sociology, and literature. "Law, though technical," he writes, "is not remote from scholarship on other matters, and law is a central element in society."

From Homeric Greece to present-day Armenia, Watson examines law's influence. Without a sensitivity to technical legal language, scholars of literature or history miss much: the use of puns in Plautus, Sulla's claim that Julius Caesar was descended from a slave, the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels. Legal history is an essential tool for understanding society, Watson argues, but it must be applied with knowledge of how law moves from one society to the next, legal reliance on authority, juristic concern with apparent trivia, and the impact on legal growth.

Page count: 168 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $22.95

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Alan Watson, Distinguished Research Professor and Ernest P. Rogers Chair at the University of Georgia School of Law, is regarded as one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman law, comparative law, legal history, and law and religion.