Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Roman Law 2

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit will focus on the core institutes of private law, ie the law of persons, property, obligations and succession as they existed in Roman law, particularly in the Classical period and as they were later to be found in Justinian’s Corpus Iuris. Students will be given an overview of the structure and functioning of key legal rules and doctrines, keeping an eye on their modern incarnations.

This study-unit can be conceived as divided into four parts:

(1) Roman Law of Persons: We deal with the three determining elements of status: freedom, citizenship and family and then go on to consider the topic of the family in greater depth and from all aspects, including the legal position of dependent persons and those of independent persons who, for some particular reason, are unable to look after themselves and their own interests properly. Here the influence of Roman Law, though still palpable, has been least pervasive, owing to the gradual evolution of new ideas and ideals.

(2) Roman Law of Property: We deal with ownership and its characteristics and modes of acquisition as well as with the other real rights (iura in re aliena), both those which are usually defined as “fractions of ownership” (praedial and personal servitudes, emphyteusis and superficies) and those which serve as security (Fiducia, pledge and hypothec). We also consider possession and its protection and bring out the clear distinction that is made between possession and ownership. Here the Roman foundations of our law are unmistakable and the influence of Roman Law is still very considerable.

(3) Roman Law of Obligations: In contrast with the previous section that deals with real rights, this section deals with personal rights (iura in personam). We consider obligations from all aspects, including their sources, their requisites and their modes of extinction, as well as the individual contracts, quasi-contracts, torts and quasi-torts. It is here that the influence of Roman Law is seen at its greatest and its best; so much so that it has been stated that the Roman Law of Obligations is the modern law – and a study of our Civil Code broadly confirms this statement.

(4) Roman Law of Succession: We deal with testamentary succession and intestate succession and consider in some detail the rules in respect of both kinds of succession, emphasising the vital distinction between the heir and the legatee. The Roman Law of Succession has profoundly influenced our law and most of the rules contained in our Civil Code can be traced back to Roman Law.

Study-unit Aims

This study-unit aims:
(1) To give students a broad overall understanding of the fundamental principles and major institutions of Roman law and of how they interact with one another;
(2) To introduce the study of civil law by giving an overview of the historical origins and evolution of the different institutes under Roman law;
(3) To train students in the logical and rigorous mode of legal reasoning characteristic of the Roman jurists.

Learning Outcomes

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

(1) Appreciate and understand the role played by Roman law within Maltese legal history and as the basis of our legal system;
(2) Undertake the detailed study of substantive Maltese Civil law, particularly law relating to Family, Property, Obligations and Succession;
(3) Appreciate the inner logic structuring Roman law and how it has manifested itself through enduring systems for understanding and classifying different kinds of legal relationships.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

(1) Read and consult scholarly texts (doctrine) stemming from the Civilian tradition;
(2) Analyze and compare different European legal texts and judgements from the standpoint of how they relate to Roman law;
(3) Study and connect different legal rules and institutes from a systemic perspective.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings

Main Text:
R. W. Lee. “Elements of Roman Law”.

Supplementary Readings:
H. F. Jolowicz. “Historical Introduction to the Study of Roman Law”.
V. Arangio Ruiz. “Istituzioni di Diritto Romano”.
William Warwick Buckland. “A Manual of Roman Private Law", Cambridge: University Press: 2012.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Tutorial

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Examination (3 Hours) SEM2 Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.