Civics Education History

Causa Curiana – History of Western Law development

By Lloyd A. Conway

Causa Curiana – History and the Law

THE CAUSA CURIANA: SCAEVOLA, CRASSUS, and the LETTER of the LAW
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Seeing the law as a ‘living document,’ versus strict construction of the text, is not
new, nor is it, sui generis, an American phenomenon. America’s Founding Fathers
looked to the Roman Republic for guidance and inspiration; that Republic suffered a fatal
blow when it ceased to be a source to inspire republican sentiment in future generations.

This is the story of the beginning of that first Fall of Rome. Roman Law, as it has been
handed down to us, reached its final distillation in the Corpus Juris Civis and Digest of
Justinian, first published in 534, A.D. Therein was summarized the work of the Classical
jurists of the first three centuries of the Christian era. They in turn had drawn upon
sources dating to Republican times, which are now lost to us. These sources had their
own antecedents, stretching all the way back to the Decemvirs, Rome’s first lawgivers,
who set down the Twelve Tables in 451-450, BC. They had done this to end the
Secession of the Plebeians, whose demand was that the Law be written down, so that
everyone could know what it said.

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BIBLIOGRAPHYCicero, Marcus Tullius. (1960) The Brutus. Loeb Classical Library.
Cambridge, MA. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Inventione. (1960) Loeb Classical Library.
Cambridge, MA.Cicero, Marcus Tullius (Michael Grant, trans.). (1986) Murder Trials.
Dorset Press. New York.
YCicero, Marcus Tullius. (1960) Topica. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge,
MA.Plutarch. (1965) Makers of Rome. Penguin Books. New York. Schultz, Fritz.
(1946.) History of Roman Legal Science. Oxford.
Clarendon Press. New York. Wieacker, Franz. (1967) The Causa Curiana and
Contemporary Roman
Jurisprudence. The Irish Jurist, Vol. 2, #1, pp. 150-164.
ENDNOTES
i Wieacker, p. 151, note (1.)
ii Cicero, De Inventione, 122: Postea: Si filius ante moritur, quam in tutelam suam
enerit, um mihi dicet heres esto.
iii Schultz, p. 78

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