Emory Report

February 28, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 23

Day-long conference explores ancient law

By Eric Rangus

From Perry Mason to The Practice, from Clarence Darrow to Johnnie Cochran, the law has been a constantly fascinating subject. If any more evidence is necessary, check out the swelling rosters of law schools throughout the country.

Ancient law is less well-known, which should make a day-long conference at Emory devoted to its study all the more interesting.

From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 4, Emory will host a conference on teaching ancient law in the modern university: Cupidae Legum Iuventuti,or "To Young Ethusiasts for Law."

"Anyone who has an interest in law, the way it's practiced now as well as the way it was practiced in antiquity, would be interested in this program," said Charles Pazdernik, who is administrating the conference through the Interdisciplinary Program in Classical Studies. He has previously taught a class in Roman law at the University.

The conference will bring together experts in ancient law and specialists in other fields who share an interest in the subject. The wide range of speakers includes Bruce Frier, law and classics professor at the University of Michigan; Edward Harris, a classics professor at Brooklyn (N.Y.) College and the graduate school of the City University of New York; Olivia Robinson, a member of the University of Glasgow Law School; and Alan Watson, a professor at the University of Georgia.

These professors' areas of expertise are as wide ranged as their geography. Frier has written several books and articles on social history, specifically Roman law; Harris has taught both Roman and Greek law and written extensively on the latter, his subjects ranging from rape and adultery to real security; Robinson, who has published books on European legal history and criminal law in ancient Rome, will be speaking on Roman law in a British context; and Watson's extensive publications include work on Roman law and its influence on later legal systems, American and British legal history, slave law and law in the Gospels.

"We have a terrific lineup of speakers," Pazdernik said. "Anybody who has studied ancient law would have come across these names."

The subject lends itself well to interdisciplinary study. Literature, history, sociology and anthropology are just a handful of subjects that can be studied within the context of ancient law.

Since many quality translations of ancient texts are available, the subject of ancient law can be sufficiently explained and taught, even to a lay audience. This forum offers an opportunity to discuss strategies for teaching ancient law in undergraduate and graduate setting and gives experts in the field a chance to share their expectations of students and methodological approaches to teaching.

"This is a way to see what we can learn from each other, what we can teach each other and what different resources we all use," Pazdernik said.

The conference has the potential for bringing together three varied dialogues: the place of ancient law in the classical studies curriculum, the contribution classical studies can make to the undergraduate pre-law field, and the role ancient law may play in bolstering the study of legal history and critical/comparative jurisprudence in graduate and professional schools.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact the classics department,

404-727-9363. Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are encouraged.

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