This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol1 Introduction To The Study Of Law Legal History", by Albert H. Putney. Also see: Popular Law-Dictionary.
It would be hard to over-estimate the influence which Roman jurisprudence has exerted upon the legal history of the world. Rome's place in history is mainly based upon her two Titanic creations - the Roman Empire and the Roman Law. The first has long since fallen and lives only in history; the second, reaching its highest development only after the fall of the Western Empire, surviving the Teutonic conquests, and aiding in the civilization of the barbaric destroyers of the Empire, has year by year and century by century, increased its power and influence, until to-day it serves as the basis of practically all the legal system of two continents and of many of those of three others. Never losing its hold upon the territory of the old Roman provinces of Europe, it gradually worked its way to the north and east over practically the whole of this continent, meeting determined resistance only when it attempted to cross the channel to the British Isles. A few centuries later, in the colonizing movements which marked the dawn of modern history, it was carried over the seas and spread, not only over the greater part of the Americas, but also over portions of the old continents of Africa and Asia and even to the far off Philippine Islands. Even in our day we can see its constantly spreading limits in the influence it has exerted upon the laws of the new power which has just sprung into such prominence on the Asiatic shores of the Pacific.
Even in those countries where the Common Law of England is in force, many Roman Law principles are daily applied in the courts, although probably few judges, lawyers, or clients appreciate the fact. Section 13. Early Rome.
There is little that is striking or remarkable about the early history of Rome, or that would tend to foreshadow her future greatness. Her early institutions and history were merely a counterpart of those of hundreds of other cities of Greece and Italy. We find the same general family organization, and the same evolution of the State out of the family. As elsewhere, it is the union of families which constitute the gens or clans, the union of clans that creates the tribe, and the final union of the tribes that gives birth to the city and state. Here, too, we see the periods of the monarchy, the oligarchy and the republic. But while Rome passed through the same early stages as her neighbors, she continued to progress after they had ceased to advance. What, with the others, was the whole course of their career, was, with the future empire builder, merely a preparation for her real work.
The inhabitants of early Rome presented two prominent characteristics which, as has been shown, were among the most important causes of Babylonian greatness. The Romans, throughout their history, were pre-eminently both a cosmopolitan and a commercial people. The union of the three tribes which created the Roman State gave a mixed Latin and Sabellian origin to the race, while Rome's reputation as an asylum for refugees from all cities and countries, was the cause of the settlement in the city of a great multitude of people of all races. Rome's situation on the Tiber was responsible for extensive commercial dealings with foreign countries, and this in turn not only broadened her citizens by contact with other races and new ideas, but also occasioned the settlement in Rome of many foreign merchants. The large foreign element resident in Rome was destined later to play a most important part in the political struggles of the city and the evolution of her system of laws.
The Roman family was the typical Aryan family. Wife and children were alike absolutely under the control of the husband and father, who stood in the position of an absolute monarch on a small scale. In theory, at least, the father had the power of life and death over his children, even when the latter were of age. It was only on the death of the father that each son became himself the head of a family. Related families constituted the gens. In theory, all the families in each of the gens were thus related, but in reality, outside families would often be adopted. The binding ties in the gens were the common name and the common worship. Religion, government and family relations were all inseparably connected in ancient Rome. All grew out of the structure of the typical Aryan family, with its system of ancestor worship.
Marriage was originally by the confarreatio - a sale accompanied with religious rites. Only the patricians were at first capable of contracting a legal marriage.