Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

In Which Inscripturation (and Interpretation) Helps the Little People (Part 1)

This, from M.I. Finley’s Politics in the Ancient World:

One comparison between Athens (or indeed any Greek polis) and Rome is illuminating. In both, the archaic struggle for a written law code was rightly looked back upon as critical in breaking the power-monopoly of the old aristocracy; hence the Greek tradition of the archaic ‘lawgiver’, best known through the historical Solon and the legendary Lycurgus, and the long accounts (no matter how fictitious in the details) by the Roman annalists of the XII Tables and of the later ius Flavianum. But the application and efficacy of all law codes depend on the interpretation by magistrates and courts, and unless the right of interpretation is ‘demoncratized’, the mere existence of written laws changes little. (p. 30)

There’s an apt parallel somewhere or other later in history…

And Finley makes it himself, as we will see in part 2.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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