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Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Lehrstuhl Alonso

Digestenexegese: the Plautius Mystery

(Vst.-Nr. 3365)


Digestenexegese: The Plautius Mystery



The Seminar is intended for anyone interested in a closer look at the institutions of private law as discussed by the Roman jurisprudence. It will function as a classic 'Digestenexegese'. Each week, we will discuss a small group of texts. These will be provided in advance, with the aid of a few keywords and handbook references, so that each participant can arrive prepared and feel comfortable during the discussion. The texts will be provided both in the Latin original and in English translation. Assessment will be made on the basis of the participation in the discussion and of a final short paper. The discussion will take place mostly in English but the paper (Seminararbeit) can be written in German. 


The Seminar will not concentrate on a singular legal problem or institution, but on the work of an intriguing late first century author: Plautius. No title of any of his writings has arrived to us, no opinion of his is ever mentioned by any other Roman jurist, we do not even know his full name. And yet his work became for some reason an immediate reference for those that came after him. Books on Plautius were written by some of the most prominent Roman jurists: Neratius, Javolen, Pomponius, and Paul. In fact, Plautius appears to have been, together with the great Sabinus, the most commented author in the history of the Roman jurisprudence. In his Römische Rechtsgeschichte,  Franz Wieacker writes: 'Was Plautius das andauernde Interesse der vier Bearbeiter zuwandte, bleibt ungewiß' (p. 402 n. 160); 'Was ihm diese Bevorzugung eintrug und ob von den Späteren jeweils eine oder mehrere Schriften des Plautius kommentiert wurde, lassen die spärlichen Zeugnisse kaum erkennen' (p. 60). The seminar will reassess Wieacker’s pessimism. In parallel with the study of the legal problems that each text confronts us with, a 'red thread' throughout the discussion will be the elucidation of the Plautius mystery.


In general, this classical exercise of 'Digestenexegese' gives the chance of an unfiltered encounter with the sources around which our own legal tradition is built. Through the immensely rich casuistic of these sources, this exegetic works offers deeper insights in the institutions of private law than the one reachable through any other type of course. The often extreme concentration of the sources will sharpen your interpretative skills, helping you confront any legal text. Occasionally, we will also consider the history of a text's interpretation - in the Byzantine sources, the medieval Glosses and commentaries, the learned works of Cujacius and Faber: a text may in this way be turned into a vantage point from which to consider our entire legal history.


Basis of the evaluation is:

  1. regular attendance to the weekly seminar-meetings
  2. active participation in the discussion of the texts
  3. a written paper on the selected text (about 10-15 pages; 4'000-5'500 words); the paper ist only expected after the seminar has concluded, on the basis of the discussions held during the sessions. Deadline: June 30.


Date Wednesday, 16:00-18:00 (RAI-H-131)
Module see

Becker Christoph, Kurzanleitung zur Quellenexegese im Römischen Recht (PDF, 1 MB)

Participation to subscribe please contact direcly the chair via E-Mail:

Weiterführende Informationen

Link zur Evaluation

Mittels folgendem Link gelangen Sie zur Seite für die Evaluation des Seminars Digestenexegese. Herzlichen Dank für die Teilnahme!