Monday, April 10, 2006

The Roman Law Articles of Smith's Dictionary

The Roman Law Articles of Smith's Dictionary - This site has about 250 articles on Roman law of varying length originally published in 1875. These cover topics such as civil rights, codes and procedures, contracts and torts, officers and magistrates, and specific laws.

The actual title of the work is A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. It was compiled by William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.. The site notes, "This single volume, of 1294 pages in rather fine print set in two columns and amounting to well over a million words, is a treasure trove of information on the ancient world, and was for many years a standard reference work, carried thru several British and American editions from the first in 1842 to the last in 1890‑91 with relatively few alterations. It shares one of its selling points with the Web: many illustrations. They are woodcuts, but often rather good ones, and sometimes clearer than photographs could be."

This section of the work I am highlighting is a subpage that indexes the Roman Law articles in the work separately. The creator of the site notes, "In inputting the various articles in the Dictionary, I gradually realized that the Roman Law information in Smith's is qualitatively different from the other material: it's as if there were a second 'concealed' dictionary within the first. The law articles, almost all of them written by one man, George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, while constituting no more than a very basic primer of the subject, are considerably better and more scholarly than the average article on other topics; a fact that William Smith more or less acknowledges in his preface, where Mr. Long's contributions are specially mentioned at some length."

This is a great treasure trove of public domain information about Ancient Roman. It is nice that a scanner and someone with free time can make it available to the whole world.

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