HISTORY 257 - Ancient Law
Fall 2016, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This course is an historical and comparative introduction to the study of ancient law across the globe. But this is not just an opportunity to learn about different ancient cultures and their laws. It is also chance to ask broader questions about the nature of law, fairness, “justice,” society, and authority. While travelling across the globe and investigating legal cultures from 1750 BCE to 200 CE from Mesopotamia to India to China to Greece, we’ll encounter many variations and commonalities across different periods and regions. As we continually pose the basic question “what is law?” we’ll learn to make considered comparisons, and also to reflect back on our own 21st century understandings of law. We’ll ask whether it even makes sense to talk of common, cross-cultural and temporal conceptions of law. We’ll also pose other questions to our sources including:

  • In what circumstances did ancient people encounter and create law?
  • What were the sources of law?
  • What was the justification of law and where did its authority reside?
  • Whose interests were enshrined in laws and were they enforced?
  • How were laws used to govern and regulate human social relations and transactions (agreements, contracts, disputes, transgressions, punishment, courts, judges etc.)?
  • Why law? Is there an alternative?

Our sources will include legal codes, case-law, narrative, drama, court speeches, inscriptions, histories,philosophical writings. Topics covered will include: property and economics, theft, violence, intimacy, jurisprudence, government and society, justice, and gender.

Course Requirements:

Lectures, readings, discussion, short written assignments, two tests.

Intended Audience:

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Class Format:



HISTORY 257 - Ancient Law
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM

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