The Wars of the Romans

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The Wars of the Romans

A Critical Edition and Translation of De Armis Romanis

Alberico Gentili
Edited by Benedict Kingsbury, Benjamin Straumann, and David Lupher

408 pages | 234x156mm

978-0-19-960051-9 | Hardback | November 2010 (estimated)


About the book

  • The first English translation of this classic work of international law, by one of its most influential figures
  • An important source of early-modern political thought, which provided the basis for many of the key questions of international law today
  • Presents both sides of the debate on the legality and justice of wars waged by the Romans, an approach which continues to influence modern debates about the morality of war

Was the Roman Empire just? Did Rome acquire her territories through just wars, and did Rome's rule exert a civilizing effect, ultimately beneficial for its subjects? Or was Roman imperialism a massive injustice - the bellicose conquest and absorption of countless peoples and large swaths of territory under false pretences, driven by greed and a lust for domination and glory? In The Wars of the Romans (1599), the important Italian jurist and Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford University Alberico Gentili (1552-1608) argues both sides of the debate. In the first book he lays out the case against the justice of the Roman Empire, and in the second book the case for.

Gentili's polemic and highly engaging work helped pioneer the use of Roman law and just war theory in what became a leading international law approach to the enduring questions of the justice of empire. Writing in the wake of the first wave of European colonial expansion in the Americas, and relying on models of the controversy about Roman imperialism from Cicero to Lactantius and Augustine, Gentili developed the arguments which were to become pivotal in normative debates concerning imperialism. In this work Gentili, a consummate Roman law scholar, frames the moral and practical issues in a combination of Roman legal terminology and the language of natural law, a combination which was to prove highly influential in the literature from Grotius onward on natural law, the law of nations and what eventually became international law.

Readership: Legal historians, historians of political thought, political theorists, and scholars of the classical tradition, as well as scholars of international law and international relations.


Author information

Alberico Gentili, Regius Professor in Civil Law at the University of Oxford (1587-1608)

Edited by Benedict Kingsbury, Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law at New York University, Benjamin Straumann, Alberico Gentili Fellow, New York University, and David Lupher, Chair of the Classics Department at the University of Paget Sound

Benedict Kingsbury is Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law at New York University. He specialises in the history and theory of international law, his chief publications in the field including Hugo Grotius and International Relations (OUP, 1990, with Hedley Bull and Adam Roberts) and United Nations, Divided World (OUP, 1993, with Adam Roberts).

Benjamin Straumann is Alberico Gentili Fellow at New York University. He is the author of Hugo Grotius und die Antike: Römisches Recht und römische Ethik im frühneuzeitlichen Naturrecht (Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2007) and co-editor (with Benedict Kingsbury) of The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations: Alberico Gentili and the Justice of Empire (OUP, 2010).

Professor David Lupher is the Chair of the Classics Department at the University of Paget Sound. He is the author of Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America (University of Michigan Press, 2003).


Table of contents

Translator's Introduction
Book 1
Indictment of the Injustice of the Romans in Warfare
Book 2
Defense of the Justice of the Romans in Warfare
Gentili's Dedicatory Epistle to Essex, in De iniustitia bellica Romanorum actio, Oxonii, Excudebat Iosephus Barnesius, 1590

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