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Ancient Legal Thought
  • Larry May, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee

  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: July 2019
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online ISBN: 9781108670012

Book description

This is a study of what constituted legality and the role of law in ancient societies. Investigating and comparing legal codes and legal thinking of the ancient societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, India, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and of the ancient Rabbis, this volume examines how people used law to create stable societies. Starting with Hammurabi's code, this volume also analyzes the law of the pharaohs and the codes of the ancient rabbis and of the Roman Emperor Justinian. Focusing on the key concepts of justice equity and humaneness, the status of women and slaves, and the idea of criminality and of war and peace; no other book attempts to examine such diverse legal systems and legal thinking from the ancient world.


‘Larry May's monumental achievement, astonishing in scope, depth, and insight, offers a rich historical mosaic of understandings of law, justice and equity and their interrelationships. It is essential reading for any legal or political philosopher and invaluable for any serious student of law and justice. May writes with a historian's keen eye for detail and context and a philosopher's eye for conceptual nuance, networks of concepts, and intersecting lines of argument.'

Gerald J. Postema - Cary C. Boshamer Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

‘In this magisterial book, Professor May manages to combine sweeping coverage with fascinating details about ancient legal thought on justice, equity, fairness, mercy, and principles of morality and right embodied within law. He makes a convincing case that legitimacy has long been fundamental to legal authority.'

Brian Z. Tamanaha - John S. Lehmann University Professor, Washington University


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