Published at 37 Arizona State Law Journal 831 (2005)

Document Type



The Institutes of Justinian and other Graeco-Roman recitations of tort-type delicts and remedies are recognized as root stock of modern western tort law, common law, or civil code-based alike. Long before these sources, however, both ancient and primitive cultures adopted norms and customs which defined permissible individual and group conduct, and which provided for remedies ranging from money damages to banishment. Among the surveyed examples of ancient cultural responses to tort-type delicts were numerous instances in which both the civil wrong identified and the remedy provided for can be harmonized readily with modern tort law, whether it is practiced in common law or civil code nations or throughout the world. A broad range of such examples can be found not only in the nations or regions in which such norms obtained, but also in their specific subject areas: public nuisance, manslaughter, assault, trespass, conversion, negligence, strict liability, deceit, defamation, and even invasion of privacy. Indeed, a review of ancient tort-type law dispels any Euro-centric claim that western Europeans led in the conception and nurturance of tort principles at any point in history.