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Unit information: Roman Law in 2021/22

Unit name Roman Law
Unit code LAWD20046
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Chathuni Jayathilaka
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Roman Law is arguably the most significant aspect of the classical world’s influence on Western civilisation. To a greater or lesser extent it has affected every modern legal system and it still provides a globally-recognised set of ideas. This unit aims to introduce students to the basic elements of Roman Law as set out in the Institutes of Gaius and Justinian. It seeks to do so in a way which combines (1) the analytical reconstruction of Roman Law’s conceptual system with (2) the recognition of change and development over the course of Roman Law’s long history, and (3) the role of law in the varied economic and social contexts of the many places it touched.

In particular this unit covers the history and sources of Roman Law; the law of persons: status, citizenship and slavery, marriage, family and children; the law of things: interests in property, the acquisition and loss of proprietary interests, and the law of death and inheritance; the law of obligations: contract and delict; the law of actions: litigation and the legal system; and Roman Law in the modern world.

No prior knowledge of Latin is required. Students will not be asked to translate original texts or comment on sections of original material. However, they should expect to become familiar with Latin basic technical terms and be able to explain their meaning (see Learning Outcome (1) below).

Intended Learning Outcomes

By studying this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain and illustrate the main concepts of Roman Law;
  • Identify and use effectively the main historical sources of Roman Law;
  • Show how Roman Law developed from its earliest origins to the definitive restatement in Justinian’s corpus iuris civilis;
  • Give examples of the operation of Roman Law in practice;
  • Explain the modification of Roman Law principles in different economic and social contexts;
  • Trace the influence of Roman Law on European legal systems to the present day;
  • Engage critically with the role of Roman Law in sustaining ancient and modern legal cultures.

Teaching Information

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Information

1 x summative assessment: coursework with a specified word count (100%)

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. LAWD20046).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.