Roman Law was the law that was in effect throughout the age of antiquity in the City of Rome and later in the Roman Empire. When Roman rule over Europe came to an end, Roman law was largely--though not completely--forgotten. (Ancient Rome, Compton's 96) The earliest code of Roman Law was the Law of the Twelve Tables. It was formalized in 451-450BC from existing oral law by ten magistrates, called decemvirs, and inscribed on tablets of bronze, which were posted in the principal Roman Forum. According to tradition, the code was drawn up to appease the plebes, who maintained that their liberties were not adequately protected by the unwritten law as interpreted by patrician judges. (Ancient Rome, Compton's 96) Originally ten tablets of laws were inscribed; two more tablets were added the following year. The tablets were destroyed in the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 390BC, but a number of the laws are known through references in later Latin literature. The Twelve Tables covered al!.
l categories of the law and also included specific penalties for various infractions. The code underwent frequent changes but remained in effect for almost 1000 years. In the 6th century a commission appointed by the Roman emperor Justinian consolidated all the sources of law, resulting in the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law). The Corpus Juris had no immediate effect in Western Europe, but in the second half of the 11th century it was rediscovered in Italy. The study of law based on the Corpus Juris was instituted at European universities, and the Corpus Juris became an important part of Continental law. (Ancient Rome, Compton's 96) Combined with canon law and the customs of merchants, they formed a body of law known throughout continental Europe. During the 17th and 18th centuries the authority of the Corpus Juris began to decline as it was reexamined. The stage was set for the codification of modern civil law.