2018-10-08Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/20039
Constitutionalism and antiquity transformation
Straumann presents a grand narrative: Roman constitutionalism in the West from the age of Cicero to the American Founding Fathers. His project is forensic, mounting a case framed in terms of a dichotomy between the Greek ethical and political tradition of Plato and Aristotle which emphasizes civic virtue (Pocock's classical republicanism), and the Roman-law based constitutionalism of Cicero (Skinner's version). But this is too easy. Cicero was heavily influenced by Aristotle; and the very survival of Western civilization depended on translation movements, Greek into Arabic and Arabic into Latin, under the Abbasid and Cordoba Caliphates, which preserved the classical Greek texts on which it rests, and recirculated them back to Europe. This had important implications for Islamic jurisprudence, which was the progenitor of medieval European jurisprudence and scholastic dialectic. Justinian's recovery of Roman Law and subsequent medieval codifications are related to the impetus for the Islamic translation movement and Islamic jurisprudence at one remove. Why are the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire (which saw a continuation of Hellenic culture), the Islamic empires (which saw a continuation of Hellenistic culture), and the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Peoples (which saw the recovery of Roman Law), missing from this account?
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This article was supported by the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.