Lives behind the Laws

Lives behind the Laws

The World of the Codex Hermogenianus
Serena Connolly
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/18/2010
ISBN: 978-0-253-00412-3
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In this exploration of the administration of law and its role in the lives of ordinary people in the northern provinces of the Roman Empire, Serena Connolly draws upon a rich but little-known legal collection from the late 3rd century known as the Codex Hermogenianus. The codex is composed of imperial responses to petitions sent to Rome, written by a team of the emperor’s legal experts. These petitions and responses provide a wealth of information about provincial legal administration and the lives of the non-elite petitioners. The man who prostituted his wife, the mother whose malicious son undersold her farm, and the slaves who posed as free men to get a loan are just a few of the lives to encounter. Lives behind the Laws makes a valuable contribution to Roman social, political, and legal history.

Author Bio

Serena Connolly is Assistant Professor of Classics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick.


"A very interesting contribution to our picture of the imperial system of petition and response. . . . Connolly gives us . . . a synoptic view of what was arguably the most important role of the Roman emperor during the Early Empire." —Michael Peachin, New York University

"This is truly a fine book, as readable and engaging as it is insightful. . . . [I]t should surely be on the shelves of every Roman social and legal historian" —
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"The clear analytical design, up-to-date and well-researched bibliography, and demonstrated capacity for logistic analysis make this a valuable contribution to the social and administrative history of the later Roman Empire." —American Historical Review , 116.1, February 2011

"[A] highly thought-provoking as well as finely written and carefully argued work, which will doubtlessly prove useful to those studying the Roman legal system and Diocletian's reign." —

"The diverse material from the CH, its description, analysis, and proposed contextual explanation, will pique different curiosities in different readers, and Connolly’s carefully argued and overall persuasive book will satisfy them all to some extent." —The European Legacy

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Table of Contents

1. Seeking Justice in the Roman World
Petitioning in the Roman World
2. The Rescript System
The Codex Hermogenianus
The Rescript System in Motion
The Work of the scrinium libellorum
3. The Rescript System in Context
4. Using the System
“With the Law”
“Before the Law”
“Against the Law”
5. The Emperor and his Petitioners
Petitioners in Need: The New Understanding of Poverty
The Roles of the Emperor
Limits on the Emperor
The Nexus of Power: Emperor, Officials, Petitioners
Appendix 1
Appendix 2