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4 B. C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 257 (1981)
The Importance of Roman Law for Western Civilization and Western Legal Thought

handle is hein.journals/bcic4 and id is 263 raw text is: The Importance of Roman Law for Western
Civilization and Western Legal Thought
by Franz Wiemcker*
Part One: Ancient Roman Law
I have been asked to speak about the importance of ancient and medieval
Roman law for western civilization and western legal thought. After a general
introduction, my first lecture will deal with the relevant characteristics of an-
cient Roman law. The subject of the second lecture-will be the forms in which
these elements were adopted by western society and the continuing presence of
these roots in the modem legal systems of the European-Atlantic world.
The large amount of material which has been handed down to us and which
we encompass in the term Roman law forms a constituent part of the oc-
cidental world. It formed nations and legal systems and allowed them to
become aware of their own identity. It provided the basis for the rational
character of the systems and the legalism of the western nations. Further, even
the very principle.of'settling social and economic conflicts not only by force,
authority or compromise, but also by the application of general conceptual
rules - which is the characteristic feature of western legal thought - became
possible on the basis, and perhaps only on the basis, of Roman law, or what
was thought to be Roman law. In reality, to use the fine words spoken in
* Emeritus Professor of Roman Law and [German] Civil Law, University of G~ttingen,
Federal Republic of Germany. The text of this article is taken from lectures given by Professor
Wieacket at the Harvard Law School on April 8 and 9,1980. Because the lectures are a synthesis
of Professor Wieacker's works, it seemed best to leave the article in the lecture form in which it
was given and not to provide a full complement of footnote support. The reader who wishes some
further introduction in English to the material treated here might wish to consult H.,JoLoWiCz &
Roman law, and W. ULLMANN, LAw AND POLITIcS IN THE MIDDLE AGES (1975), for the medie-
val developments, both of which contain up-to-date bibliographies. For an elaboration of Pro-
fessor Wieacker's ideas and references, the reader is referred to three of his works: VOM
DES WESM6MISCHEN REICHS (lus Romanum Medii Aevi No. I, 2, a, 1963); PRIVATRECHTS-
GESCHICHTE DER NEUzErT (2d ed. 1967).

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