Ancient Law

An official ruling does not always translate into practice, as legislation does not necessarily become the norm. Analyzing the gap between the official and the norm provides a lens for understanding processes of influence, impact and change, of polemic and discourse, and of power and authority. This project focuses on matrimonial law in non-legal Christian literature from the Eastern Roman Empire in comparison to Christian, Roman and Jewish legal literature, from the fourth to the sixth centuries CE. Its objectives are to describe matrimonial practices and laws of Christians living in the Eastern Roman Empire according to non-legal sources, to reveal the origin and sources of influence of these practices and law and, lastly, to draw conclusions about the relations between Christians, Romans and Jews, and the different legal concepts circulating about law, power and authority.

In order to achieve these goals, we are compiling a database of non-legal late-antique Christian sources which preserve information about legal thought and practice, and studying them in light of Jewish and Roman legal literature. This comparison will shed light on the origin of Christian legal practice and its sources of influence, on the possible relations between Christians, Romans and Jews in late-antiquity, and on the different legal concepts and attitudes concerning law, power and authority.


The project is supported by the Marie Curie Integration Grant of the European Commission and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem