Call for papers: SIHDA 2023 Materiality and immateriality of ancient law

SIHDA 2023, 76e session de la Société Internationale Fernand De Visscher pour l’Histoire des Droits de l’Antiquité, Materiality and immateriality of ancient law, August 22-26 Helsinki.

The study of ancient law is distinguished from nearly all other fields of law in that its sources are divided sharply between sources that are intensely material, local and casuistic as opposed to sources that are transmitted almost exclusively through a textual tradition and which have spread over national boundaries and over time to have an almost global reach. For example, Roman law is known through documentary sources from all around the ancient world, from inscriptions and manuscripts, wax tablets and papyri, telling of the law of everyday life and how law was used in conflict resolution. On the other hand, the Justinianic compilation and other manuscripts have enabled Roman law to have an immense influence in later legal cultures, spreading far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, to places like Japan or America.


The aim of this conference is to explore the implications of this dichotomy. We invite papers that study how archeological excavations and the meticulous study of ancient sources have transformed our idea of ancient law, bringing with it ideas such as diversity or legal pluralism, but equally investigations on how the very act of reception and impact on modern legal cultures has subtly influenced our understanding of ancient law.


The key words are materiality and immateriality, the juxtaposition of a material object such as an inscription and the immaterial ideas of law and jurisprudence.