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I would certainly believe that the most influential ancient law on the modern private law (law of contracts, especially) is roman law.

Roman law was mostly common law, but the decisions of the roman "judges" (praetors, etc.) were compiled in the eraly middle ages by scholars to form the pandects, which in turn formed a part of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, a collection of historic legal rules to be collected by order of Justinian I.

These rules then, on some way or another, found their way to the modern European and English law.

It must, however, be noted that there doesn't seem to be one single "red line" from Rome to modern law. Au contraire, there were various attempts to give up roman law in favor of natural law, most clearly in the "Preussisches Allgmeines Landrecht" (ALR, General state law for the Prussian states).

Nevertheless, Roman law did have a "comeback" and ended up forming part of many of the modern codifications and also of most western common law rules.

The influence of Roman law can still be seen in the usage of sentences (and also the underlying principles) such as "clausula rebus sic stantibus", "quae ad agendum temporalia", "falsa demonstratio non nocet" and many more.

(For an explanation of these sentences and many more visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Latin_legal_phrases)

In public law, the law and philosophy of Greece was of much influence. The principles formed by greek scholars and philosophers came into modern public law through enlightenment, followed by the French Revolution and the US declaration of indepenence, the last of which then led to the U.S. Constitution.

Common Law is 'law that had been handed down since time immemorial' These laws such as Murder (not a Statute aw in Australia and many other parts of the B.C.) and Theft can be traced back to many civilizations including the Australian Aboriginals of 40,000 years ago. Moderns Laws are basically derived from the French legal system. British, Australian and American Laws are rooted here. France was where all 'the best' legal scholars trained until the 1800s. The Napoleonic Code is still taught at many institutions by that name and the Code referred to by others. Confusion reigns with many legal terms being thought to be Latin. THese terms are actually French. Dieu et Mon Droit (Court motto of U.K. B.C. Aust etc) is French for God is my Right, the Police motto of Tenez Le Droit (Uphold the Right) is french, Corpus Delecti, Subpeona, Affidavit and so on. This is why legal terms are French and medical terms (teachings from italy) are in Latin. Whilst I was Studying law in Australia and later whilst in law enforcement (especially prosecutions) I was surprised at the French influence. The Greek and later Roman influence is more in our Court systems of judge and jury (and of course medicine, philosophy and democracy). Although the French (then Gaul) were influence by these cultures, they were also influenced very heavily by the Ten Commandments which (interestingly) in many countries have written their laws in much the same order.

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12y ago
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10y ago

They produced a system of advocacy and judgement where a trial was conducted before a jury, with equal time given to prosecution and defence. However it was dramatically different from today.

There was no judge, the jury was sole judge of both the case and the punishment awarded.

Trials were one day events, with equal time to each side. So evidence and oration had to focus on the important issues and be concise.

There were no rules of evidence, but advocates knew that telling obvious lies and gross exaggerations would turn the jury against them.

Juries were several-hundred strong, ad effectively were the equivalent of a modern opinion poll of the whole citizen body.

In sentencing, the jury was offered two choices - one by prosecution, one by defence. Jurymen had to select one or the other, no compromising alternative, which made both sides make very reasonable proposals to avoid alienating the jury from their proposal if it was too severe or too lenient.

There were no set scales of punishment, which allowed prosecution and defence to propose novel solutions which were just and appropriate. One defendant proposed paying for the upkeep of a state warship for a year, which was very attractive to the citizen jury.

Juries were selected by lot - random - and the jury was allotted to one of the courtrooms immediately before commencement - this avoided jury-rigging. The individuals were given two coloured marbles - yes and no, and placed them in and urn for counting. These measures avoided jury-rigging and vote-selling.

Looking at today's systems, it seems that they are so degraded from this precedent as to be unrecognisable - with courts dominated by judges and lawyers, legal tricks and manipulation, evasions of responsibility, delays, profiteering by the legal participants, and consequent lack of justice.

We today translate the ancient Greek word dike as justice. To them it really meant settlement - that disputes and crimes should be properly settled, avoiding vendettas and ongoing recriminations and disruption, thus being a proper stabilising element in the community and where necessary a warning to others. Their court cases aimed to settle problems, not as in today to create ongoing problems and precedents, and avenues to exploit weaknesses in a fabricated legal system where the rights of the wrongdoer are promoted over the rights of the victims.

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12y ago

Some of the basic Greek laws have had an impact on modern law. This was through its influence of Roman Law and then on French Law. Most people think that legal terms are written in Latin (Roman Law) whereas it is in fact written in French (the older more formal style). The confusion come about because Latin and French share common roots. The Napoleonic Code (from France ) is still taught in some institutes by that name, whereas in other institutes the Napoleonic Code is referred to. The British Legal System (as adopted by most of the British Commonwealth) uses the motto 'Dieu et Mon Droit' (God is my Right) this is directly from the french language. Much law is also based on the Ten Commandments and funnily enough the stautes of many countries follow the same order of rules (except the No Other God No Graven Image bit). The Greeks were better know for their legacy of Democracy, Medicine and Philosphy. Common Law (as used in many countries) is unwritten law 'handed down since time immemorial'. Some of these laws are similar to law or ideals held be the Greeks. However these same laws and ideals were also held by cultures which predated the Greeks. For example the Australian Aboriginals have had tribal laws against murder and theft for some 40,000 years.

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14y ago

With its tripart system.

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Q: How did ancient Greeks influence modern law?
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