Review of Theodor Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht Band 1-3. on CD-ROM

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Römisches Staatsrecht

Mommsen¹s Staatsrecht (StR) was a milestone of the investigation into Roman institutions and the system of the Roman state.1 Although the work, which comprises 3 volumes (in 5), is more than 120 years old, it is the most comprehensive guide to the literary sources relevant to the Roman state:2

1. Die Magistratur. XXVI, 708 p. (1871), 3rd ed. 1887

2. Die einzelnen Magistraturen XV, XIV, 1171 p. (1871), 3rd ed. 1887

3. Bürgerschaft und Senat, XVIII, XIV, 1336 p. , 1887/88

A French edition was very soon published3, but no English translation was realized. The impressiveness of the whole work paralyzed research activities about the Roman constitution for quite some time. Täubler (1935) 4 and Siber (posthumously 1952)5 tried to revise Mommsen¹s concept with a stronger integration of the historical changes, but they produced something like an in Scheiben geschnittener Mommsen (M. cut in slices). 6 Since the 1950s, a lot of studies have been published, which were able to substitute some of Mommsen¹s research results. 7 Only W. Kunkel¹s project "Staatsordnung and Staatspraxis der römischen Republik" in the Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft tried to replace larger parts of the Mommsenian work. The second volume (Magistratur) was edited posthumously in 1995 8, the completion of the edition by a first and third volume remains undone.9

The CD-ROM contains the complete text of the 3 volumes (in 5 files). Every page has been scanned and organized in the Public Domain Format of Adobe¹s Acrobat Reader (PDF). The versions for Windows 3.11, Windows95, Mac OS and UNIX are included.10 The single pages of the StR have not been processed by optical character recognition (OCR) - that would have required much more work, since Mommsen¹s work has more than 3,000 pages. Consequently, the text search functions of Adobe Acrobat Reader are not usable; but the table-of-contents and the registers by Mommsen are completely reproduced. Unfortunately, the pages of the Adobe file do not correspond to Mommsen¹s volumes, because the pages with Roman numerals remain at the beginning of the files. Therefore it is necessary to convert the book pages into the file pages, whenever the indices are used. 11

The quality of the scanned pages is excellent, every page has about 110 Kbytes, the whole StR has 310 MB. Obviously, the presentation on a CD-ROM has many advantages. Printing of single pages or chapters is easy and the price of the CD-ROM is reasonable, because the reprint exceeds more than twice the price of the CD-ROM.12 The Mommsen-CD-ROM and forthcoming titles of Dührkohp & Radicke 13 are very useful tools for classical studies. They preserve standard works of the 19th and early 20th century, which are not available in every library. Besides, some German publishers (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft for instance) have reduced their reprint programme, so that many books will only be available as CD-ROM in the near future. CD-ROMs are more handy than microfiches and the Adobe PDF Format is a good choice. The alternative, FOLIO bound views, is not so useful.14 Still, for shorter works than Mommsen¹s StR OCR could improve the possibilities offered by the Acrobat Reader software.


After this review was submitted, another one was published online: Andreas Kohring, H-Soz-Kult, 9 Dec. 1998,

1Short survey of the whole work by Jochen Bleicken (Die Verfassung der Römischen Republik, Paderborn 7th ed.1995, p. 298-303) or Werner Dahlheim: Geschichte der Römischen Kaiserzeit, Munich 2nd ed. 1989, p. 147f. (Return to text.)

2Alfred Heuss, Theodor Mommsen und das 19. Jahrhundert, Kiel 1956, Stuttgart 2nd ed.1996, p. 44-57. This book gives an outline of the historical background of Mommsen¹s works from his youth to the time of his political commitment in the late 19th century. Cf. A. Demandt, "Th. Mommsen", in: W.M. Briggs / W. M. Calder III (ed.): Classical Scholarship. A biographical encyclopedia, New York/ London 1990, p. 285-309. (Return to text.)

3 P.F. Girard (ed.): Th. Mommsen, Le droit public romain, Paris 1887-91, reprint 1984. The German and French research about the Roman state are compared by K.J. Hölkeskamp, "Zwischen System und Geschichte. Theodor Mommsens Staatsrecht und die römische "Verfassung" in Frankreich und Deutschland", in: H. Bruhns/ J.-M. David / W. Nippel (eds.), Die späte römische Republik. La fin de la re/publique Romaine, Rome 1997, p. 93-111. (Return to text.)

4E. Täubler, Der römische Staat. Anhang: Grundfragen der römischen Verfassungsgeschichte Mit einer Einleitung von J. von Ungern-Sternberg. Stuttgart 1985. Reviews: A. Heuss, Historische Zeitschrift 248 (1989) 265-303; J. Bleicken, Gnomon 65 (1993) 406-410. (Return to text.)

5H. Siber, Römisches Verfassungsrecht in geschichtlicher Entwicklung, Lahr 1952. (Return to text.)

6J. Bleicken, "Im Schatten Mommsens. Gedanken zu Wolfgang Kunkels Buch über die Magistratur in der römischen Republik", Rechtshistorisches Journal 15 (1996) 3-27, p. 9 (= Gesammelte Schriften I, Stuttgart 1998, p. 532). (Return to text.)

7E.g. J. Bleicken, Das Volkstribunat der Klassischen Republik (1955), 2nd ed. 1968; Senatsgericht und Kaisergericht , 1962; Lily Ross Taylor, The voting districts of the Roman Republic , 1960; Roman voting assemblies from the Hannibalic war to the dictatorship of Caesar , 1966; C. Meier, Res publica amissa. Eine Studie zur Verfassung und Geschichte der späten römischen Republik (1966), 3rd ed.1998; A. N. Sherwin-White, The Roman Citizenship , 2nd ed. 1973; K.J. Hölkeskamp, Die Entstehung der Nobilität. Studien zur sozialen und politischen Geschichte der Römischen Republik im 4. Jhdt. v. Chr., 1987. (Return to text.)

8Kunkel¹s death in 1981 slowed progress. An additional chapter for volume 2 about the tribunus plebis and the dictator was written by R. Wittmann, indices were prepared by A. Gräber. Cf. Bleicken¹s review [note 6]. (Return to text.)

9Volume 1 is to be dedicated to the sources of the Roman state, the beginnings of the republic, the comitia and the senate; Volume 3 is to deal with the late republic and the principate. (Return to text.)

10The Windows95 version has been tested on a Pentium-166 with 32 MB RAM and a slow CD-ROM (4x), but this configuration was sufficient for quickly moving about in the file. (Return to text.)

11The text of StR is divided into 5 files, the page numbers of which have to be altered in the following way: mombd1.pdf: add 22; mombd2-1.pdf: add 11; mombd2-2.pdf: subtract 730; mombd3-1.pdf: add 15; mombd3-2.pdf: subtract 821. Additionally, the printed indices of J. Malitz can be used (Th. Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht. Stellenregister, Bearb. v. J. Malitz, Munich 1979). (Return to text.)

12Th. Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht, Band 1-3 (in 5). Graz: adeva, 1952/53, 370,- DM. (Return to text.)

13CD-ROMs containing the following books are available: J. Overbeck, Pompeji in seinen Gebäuden, Kunstwerken und Alterthümern, Leipzig 4th ed., 1884; F. Imhoof-Blumer/ P. Gardner, A numismatic commentary on Pausanias , London 1885-1887; H. Nissen, Kritische Untersuchungen über die Quellen der vierten und fünften Dekade des Livius , Berlin 1863. For the forthcoming titles: (Return to text.)

14Cf. the example of the CD-ROM containing T.R. Glover¹s Democracy in the Ancient World , Cambridge 1927, by H-BAR enterprises: Oakman 1995. (Return to text.)

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