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The impact of 'Justice' in the Roman Empire - 21-22-23-24/06/2017, Ghent (Belgium)

“There is a people on earth that fights for the freedom of others … so that there would be no unjust rule in the world and everywhere justice, and divine and human law would be strongest.” (Livy, 33,33)

‘Justice’ was the moral value that most legitimised Rome’s right to rule. It was the core political virtue that justified the power entrusted to a living emperor. Elites, city-dwellers, land-holders and peasants, from widely different cultural backgrounds, were addressed as—and millions believed themselves to be—stakeholders of a social order that was fundamentally governed by law and justice. And yet, the violence and brutality with which Rome conquered and subdued its empire was on a scale rarely witnessed before. Its rule relied on structural violence towards slaves and indigenous people. The ‘rule of law’ that Rome imposed, cannot have been perceived as just by all inhabitants of the empire. Nonetheless, millions of them did expect justice from Roman authorities, or local authorities backed up by Rome, and arranged their lives accordingly. For centuries, the magic worked.

In this workshop we wish to focus on how law and justice affected the creation and working of the empire’s social, economic and administrative system. Our emphasis will be on the workings of legal systems within imperial societies, rather than on jurisprudence as such

Many subjects can be favourably explored, but to ensure coherence we will limit our choice of proposals to the following topics

1. how the concept of justice resonated through the empire’s political culture(s) from the emperor down to local authorities (or how it was challenged by counter-cultures)

2. how dominant ideologies co-opted notions of justice as a means of legitimating the social power of civic and imperial elites, and of the emperor

3. how the concept of justice was perceived through and influenced by cultural manifestations

4. how and how far administration enforced the law

5. how legal institutions—those endowed with the authority to create and those with the authority to interpret and enforce rules—functioned and changed

6. how Roman law and other legal traditions (Greek, Punic, Jewish, Christian…) regulated and affected social and economic life

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 21-22-23-24/06/2017

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Koenraad Verboven; Olivier Hekster; Wouter Vanacker

INFO: call - web -



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