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Actes du Xe congrès international d’épigraphie grecque et latine

Michel Christol
Olivier Masson

IV. Tables-rondes, informations

Greek and Roman Juridical Epigraphy

Michael H. Crawford

Texte intégral

1It is now nearly sixty years since the first bibliographical survey «Epigrafia giuridica greca e romana» appeared above the signature of V. Arangio-Ruiz in the first volume of Studia et Documenta Historiae Iuris 1936, 2, 13-104 = 429-520. It seems to me that the time has come to open a discussion of what it is that juridical epigraphy is and more in particular what it is sensible to expect of the bibliographical tools which we use and indeed how they should be organised. My position can be stated quite simply: too much bibliography rots the brain. Please do not misunderstand me. I hold that it is an absolute obligation for a serious scholar to understand how her or his problem or subject got to where it is now, which may involve any or all of the medieval scribes who transmitted a text, the humanists who inserted it into a historical discourse, the travellers who first copied an inscription, the modem scholars who have worried away in print, etc., etc. But it is precisely for this reason that we should not impose unreasonable burdens either on those who compile bibliographies or on those who use them. To return to «Epigrafia giuridica i», I was interested to observe that G.I. Luzzatto was involved in its production as a young assistant; for I am afraid that my no doubt severe retrospective view of him would be that he never got into the habit of reading the sources properly. It will always be the case that those at the beginning of their academic careers will be vulnerable to suggestion and pressure and we must be very careful not to impose burdens that are unreasonable. We must also remember, as we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America and observe the creation of a single European market, that ours is a subject to which society is likely to devote a diminishing proportion of its resources. We must not fritter them away. And we must remember that the essence of our subject is thought and argument about evidence for problems. In what follows, then, I shall have occasion to refer to a number of recent discoveries and analyses; but I shall use them primarily to approach the twin problems of what juridical epigraphy is and what material should be collected by those who compile bibliographies in this field.

2First of all, two minor points, one negative and one positive. The negative point is this. In the analysis of an inscription, it is of course necessary to write about it. But the desirability of continuous prose in a bibliographical survey seems much less clear to me; for it is surely easier to look quickly through a clearly arranged series of headings than to pick out an institution in a continuous exposition. My positive recommendation is to beg the compilers of bibliographies to characterise an inscription which is cited by way of parallel or other; IG II-III2, 43, may mean little to most people; whereas IG II-III2, 43 (charter of Second Athenian League), despite the possible questionability of the terms «charter» and «league», is immediately identifiable.

3The first substantive aporia arises of course from the fact that the Ancient Near East has traditionally been excluded from bibliographies of and works on «epigrafia giuridica». The limitation of such works to material in Greek and Latin owes more to the traditions of schooling in Europe than it does to any rational decision. Both Greek and Roman civilisation developed in contact with other civilisations, from which they borrowed and to which they lent; and the Roman Empire was an amalgam of peoples from Iberian to Palmyrene.

4There are of course hopeful signs: the merging in 1952 (a union renewed in 1954) of the Archives d'histoire du droit oriental and the Revue internationale des droits de l'antiquité; and the Guide de l'épigraphiste, with its insistence on covering all the epigraphies of the ancient world.

5I do not for a moment underestimate the difficulty of all the specialisms present in the field I have characterised. Still less do I suppose that anyone could master the juridical epigraphy of the whole of the ancient world. And a comparative approach is both fraught with problems of method and in any case not a panacea.

6The problems of method should be obvious, but are in fact widely ignored, particularly where a comparative method is adopted unconsciously. A well-known Gallic inscription from Briona (I Galli e l'Italia, 1978, no 606) includes the word lekatos; this is pretty obviously a loan from the Latin legatus; but there is no warrant whatsoever for the assumption that the word in Gallic has all, or indeed any, of the bundle of meanings of the word in Latin (as supposed, e.g., by F. Càssola, in W. Eck and H. Galsterer (edd.), Die Stadt in Oberitalien und in den nordwestlichen Provinzen des römischen Reiches, [1991], 17-44, «La colonizzazione romana della Transpadana»), never mind the possibility that the word may be a name, Lekatos. (It is also about time that people stopped citing the Cogidubnus inscription from Chichester as a parallel: Cogidubnus was «rex magnus», J.E. Bogaers, Britannia 1979, 243, «King Cogidubnus at Chichester: another reading of rib 91»). Similarly with the terms praetor and magistratus in the Tabula Contrebiensis; contra C. Castillo, in Epigrafia hispánica de época romano-republicana, [1986], 141-50, «De epigrafia republicana hispano-romana», the institutions described with these names are likely to be at best distant approximations to their Latin counterparts. We simply do not know what lekatos means in Celtic and we have little idea of what praetor or magistratus meant at Contrebia.

7Equally, when we cite the evidence of other legal Systems, we must be very clear what we are doing: arguing for the borrowing of an institution or seeking to understand one institution by the analogy of another. In the first case, we must be clear that words rarely pass with their bundle of meanings intact and that institutions rarely pass without undergoing changes of description. The statement, «certain legal traditions that were widespread throughout the Ancient Near East found their way into the earliest Roman law» (R. Westbrook, in P. Birks (ed.), New Perspectives in the Roman Law of Property, [1989], 207-13, «Restrictions on alienation of property in early Roman law») begs almost every imaginable methodological question. (In any case, whatever, nexum mancipiumque means in the Twelve Tables, it does not mean «pledge and sale»; and the precise meaning of uenum dare in the Twelve Tables is unknowable).

8If on the other hand we are seeking to understand one institution by the analogy of another, we should realise that what we are doing is showing how fragmentary and isolated testimonia may just possibly form a coherent structure.

9In any case, if we were in the habit of assuming that it might always be worthwhile Crossing a boundary, of course with the appropriate guides, we should be better at it when we try and we should certainly be entertained. I shall do the best I can; but I hope that the Rapport on juridical epigraphy for the next congress will be a collaborative piece of work.

10To hazard then a programmatic statement. In my view, what juridical epigraphy should concern itself with is: (1) explicit normative legal statements; (2) documents actually or potentially relevant to judicial proceedings; (3) records of judicial proceedings (for which see the remarks of W. Kunkel, VI Cong.Epig. [1973], 203-4, on the Herculaneum tablets), rather than Arangio-Ruiz' wide category of «testi di diretto interesse giuridico» (14 = 430). Engagingly at the margins is «a lead curse tablet concerning law-suits with the dedication ΔΑΜΑΤΡΟΣ» (Arch.Rep. 1990-1, 62, Mytilene).

11Of course, «ben poche epigrafi non sono utilizzabili per indagini di ordine giuridico» (M. Amelotti, SDHI 53, 1987, 378, «L'epigrafia giuridica in Italia nell'ultimo decennio»; a similar approach is adopted by G. Alföldy, in Novedades de epigrafía jurídica romana, [1989], 9-24, «Consideraciones sobre el concepto de "epigrafía jurídica" y novedades en las provincias del Noroeste, 1978-1986»). Well, it's a free world, or at any rate much of it is; but it seems to me absolute lunacy to reduplicate the work of L'Année épigraphique, the Bulletin Epigraphique and the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, and end up in 1987, the actual date of publication, with xx + 360 pages covering 1978-81, as with the bibliography by Andreina Magioncalda (SDHI 51, 1985, Supplementum). There is no sign of a sequel and I'm not surprised.

12A second problem is the handling of Greek material. Again it is worth returning to Arangio-Ruiz, since he illustrates to perfection one of the ways in which things in my view have gone wrong. In general, Greek material is discussed before Roman, but in Roman categories. And at 71-2 = 487-8, talking of the will of Ptolemy of Cyrene, he remarks, «Abbiamo dunque un testamento che formalmente è un testamento ma di fatto contiene norme destinate ad avere efficacia attuale in vita del testatore». That is only a problem if you start from the assumption that this Greek «will» should be like a Roman one.

13The simple, material-led, classification adopted for the Bulletin Epigraphique is probably as close to the ideal as one can get; note however 1990, 292, «Ce décret [of Keos] (ce n'est pas une loi)... ». The distinction is of course valid for fourth-century Athens; are we sure that it made sense on Keos? A similar, material-led, approach marks the collection of texts of Arangio-Ruiz and Olivieri, though the use of Latin (understandable at the time) is in the end unfortunate: donationes, obligationes, lex collegii, locationes; and of Dareste, Haussoullier and Reinach: «lois et décrets», «contrats», «jugements», even simpler; and of Guarducci, though the category of «editti» is, I think, inappropriate to Classical and Hellenistic Greek material.

14Briefly, then, there is much recent material on:

procedure: M. Gagarin, grbs 1988, 335, «The first law of the Gortyn code»; Bull.Ep. 1988, 400 (G. Thür, «Neuere Untersuchungen zum Prozessrecht der griechischen Poleis: Formen des Urteils»); Bull.Ep. 1988, 401 (G. Stumpf, «Zwei Gerichtsurteile aus Athen»);

property and sale: M.B. Hatzopoulos, Actes de vente de la Chalcidique centrale, 1988 (compare Bull.Ep. 1990, 481, for another text); Actes de vente d'Amphipolis, 1991; G. Manganaro, PdelP 1989, 189, «Case e terra a Kamarina e Morgantina»;

minig contracts: Bull.Ep. 1988, 402 (B. Palme, «Ein attischer Prospektorenvertrag?»);

labour contracte: Bull.Ep. 1988, 405 (G. Thür, «Bemerkungen zum altgriechischen Werkvertrag»);

wills A. Wittenburg, Il testamento di Epikteta, 1990 (deservedly criticised in Bull.Ep. 1991, 426).

15It seems to me that the ways in which Greek poleis structured their populations and organised their politics form a subject of enquiry with largely different sources and problems from those of Greek legal Systems. Atimia stands on the margins (e.g., Bull.Ep. 1988, 380, J.M. Rainer, «Ueber die Atimie in der griechischen Inschriften»); but it might seem less interstitial if one could think away the complexities and relationships of the Roman law of persons. There is a stimulating piece by K.-J. Hölkeskamp, PCPhS 38, 1992, 87-117, «Written law in archaic Greece», wantonly reduced to near-illegibility by the System of annotation; it draws attention to the contingent nature of all early Greek legislation that survives and goes on to consider the nature of the society which must have existed for this legislation to work.

16Greek legal Systems. The urge to classify Greek legal inscriptions, too often on Roman lines, seems to me to be associated with a belief in the unity of Greek law, asserted without serious argument by H.J. Wolff (VI Cong.Epig., [1973], 131-44, «Die Bedeutung der Epigraphik für die griechische Rechtsgeschichte», also proposing a «Corpus der griechischen Rechtsinschriften, dieser Ausdruck im weitesten Sinn zu Verstehen»). Such a belief is now unfashionable, in my view rightly: see for instance D. Cohen, Theft in Athenian Law, 1983; and the forthcoming book on the shape of Athenian law by S. Todd.

17Understandably, such work tends to concentrate on literary evidence. But it should not ignore the evidence of the inscriptions, if E.M. Harrison is right to argue (CQ 1988, 351, «When is a sale not a sale? The riddle of Athenian terminology for real security revisited») that hypotheke and prasis epi lysei are the same, orators using the former, but also talking of debtors «selling» security, the inscriptions using mostly, but not always, the latter.

18In the Roman world, the completion or near-completion of a number of projects may be announced. First, J.H. Oliver, Greek Constitutions of Early Roman Emperors from Inscriptions and Papyri, 1989, alas deeply flawed in general and in particular. Reading it, one realises why America is not full of epigoni who know how to edit an epigraphic text; and note, e.g., that the commentary on no. 91 argues for a different restoration from the one printed, among other bizarreries. The re-publication of the Murecine archive proceeds, by G. Camodeca in Puteoli, 6, 1982, 3; 7-8, 1983-4, 3; 9-10, 1985-6, 3; 12-13, 1988-9, 3; and by J.G. Wolf and J.A. Crook in Abhandlungen der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, beginning with Rechtsurkunden in Vulgärlatein, 1989; the world of learning would undoubtedly be served best by an eventual corpus in collaboration, for these are texts which require many different kinds of expertise. And the corpus of Roman statutes passed through the assemblies whose ipsissima uerba survive at least in part, the work of the Roman Laws Group, should be finished by 1995. After that, unless there are more discoveries, the flurry of articles on the Lex Irnitana should have died down enough by the late 1990s to make it sensible to produce a Consolidated edition of the Flavian municipal statute. (Note F. Fernández Gomez and M. del Amo y de la Hera, La Lex Irnitana y su contexte arqueológico, Seville, 1990, republishing the six main tablets and publishing the three small fragments for the first time). And senatus consulta and normative statements by magistrates and emperors could then do with a full edition.

19But meanwhile, a piece of news to end with. On Tuesday 12 May, 1992, Dr Renata Cantilena, Director of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, authorised the removal of two small pieces from the brass sheet in which the fragments of the Tabula Bembina are set, in order to permit the making of casts of the edges at those points. There is no doubt that there is a small, but perfect, join between the bottom of the B Fragment and the top of the D Fragment, a join which resolves at last all uncertainty, in favour of the reconstruction proposed by H.B. Mattingly, JRS 1969, 129, «The two Republican laws of the Tabula Bembina».

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