Greeks wrote mostly on papyrus, but the Romans wrote solemn religious, public, and legal documents on wooden tablets often coated with wax. This book investigates the historical significance of this resonant form of writing; its power to order the human realm and cosmos and to make documents efficacious; its role in court; the uneven spread - an aspect of Romanization - of this Roman form outside Italy, as provincials made different guesses as to what would please their Roman overlords; and its influence on the evolution of Roman law. An historical epoch of Roman legal transactions without writing is revealed as a juristic myth of origins. Roman legal documents on tablets are the ancestors of today's dispositive legal documents - the document as the act itself. In a world where knowledge of the Roman law was scarce - and enforcers scarcer - the Roman law drew its authority from a wider world of belief.
From the hardback review: 'The subject itself, as well as the perspective from which the author approaches it, is fascinating, complex and unorthodox ... one of the virtues of this book is its clarity ...' Sehepunkte From the hardback review: 'Despite such minor quibbles, there is no doubt that this erudite and original study has taken us a long step towards a better understanding of tabulae as artefacts and symbols, and also shown how the 'hands-on' approach to Roman law provides not only new insights, but exciting new questions.' Scripta Classica Israelica