Having an audience with the magistrate

Abstract

During the classical period of Roman law, civil lawsuits were divided into two proceedings: a brief proceeding before the magistrate, who decided certain preliminary matters, and a longer proceeding before a judge, who tried the case. The first proceeding is said to take place “in iure,” which roughly means in the magistrate’s court.” Unfortunately the figure “in court” has been understood too strictly to refer to the whole of the first phase, and this has given rise to the misunderstanding that the whole of the first phase took place in the magistrate’s presence. The better view is that the first phase took place both in, and around, the magistrate’s tribunal. This paper discusses several institutions of Roman civil procedure where the better view is evident. The paper concludes with a discussion of a first-century settle agreement from Puteoli; the settlement agreement illustrates the better view. This paper was given at the conference: “Spaces of Justice in the Roman World,” hosted by the Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, Columbia University, November 16-17, 2007.

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