Difference between ius and lex ?

By ronbarak, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Dec 14, 2010.

  1. ronbarak New Member

    Looking at a Latin dictionary, both "ius" and "lex" seem to refer to about the same things. From usage during the Roman republic, I know that lex refers to a law enacted at a certain place by a certain imperium holder (e.g., lex publilia).
    However, I'm unclear what "ius" means.

    Reading the sources (livius, cicero, pulivius, dionisiyus of halicarnasos, etc.), it seems at times that they use the terms interchangedly, but still I feel there's a difference.

    I've had it suggested that ius is being used to refer to abstract law (e.g., in the case of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_jure).
    However, there are examples where it's just not so, namely - ius is being used for concrete laws, e.g. ius flavianum (cf. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/top ... -Flavianum), ius trium liberorum, Ius Regale Montanorum, etc.

    Could anyone point me to the right explanation ?
  2. Imprecator Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    There is considerable overlap, however in general ius means "right, duty" in an abstract sense, for example the Ius Primae Noctis, the privilege of the first night (the lord's right), the Ius Latinum, the Latin right (all the benefits of citizenship except voting), etc. On the other hand, lex tends to refer to specific declarations like the Lex Iulia, Lex Claudia, Lex Acilia, etc.
  3. ronbarak New Member

    So, to see if I understand: ius is the Law, and lex is one of the laws ?
  4. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    • Civis Illustris
    A lex, in its broadest sense, is a contract (typically a written one). The word is derived from the same root as the verb ligare "to bind", the idea being that it is something which binds two parties in an agreement. It continued to be used in this sense for private business contracts and the like, but the prevailing legal signification of "law" came about from the idea of it being a contract between the sovereign and its subjects, which in republican Rome meant a bill proposed by a magistrate and passed by the comitia (popular assemblies).

    Ius, in its broadest sense, is law in general. It may be subdivided into particular systems of law, as ius civile, ius gentium, ius naturale, etc. The leges, or statute laws, were only a part of what was understood to be ius, and more particularly the ius civile, which Cicero divided into leges (statutory law and plebiscites), senatus consulta (recommendations of the Senate), res iudicatae (court decisions), iurisperitorum auctoritas (the expertise of jurists), mos (custom), and aequitas (fairness/justice).

    In a more limited sense, ius could mean a particular right or privilege understood as either a provision of law or a natural or customary right. So often in the plural iura meant rules of law as contained in the leges. The ius trium liberorum was just that, a legal provision contained within the Lex Papia Poppaea and a right granted by it. But a ius could still exist without ever having been codified, completely independent of written law.

    The Ius Flavianum, on the other hand, was neither a lex (i.e. a motion passed by a comitium) nor a particular rule of law or even a right. Rather, it is simply the title of a work written by the jurist Gnaeus Flavius, meaning little more than "the law as Flavius wrote it". It was meant to be an exposition of the legal procedures (legis actiones) of the Roman state, traditionally practised by the Patrician elite amongst themselves, which had theretofore not been made public. He published it in order to make the legal process more accessible to the common people.
  5. ronbarak New Member

    Thanks Imber, that's a great summarising, and things are much clearer now.
    Kudos and salutations.
  6. Emil Spieler New Member

    I know that discussion was long ago. I just stumbled over it, looking for the answer above.

    To add one thing: That distinction seems not clear in latin, as many authors where trying to distinguish both concepts on their own accounts, referring to that confusion.

    f.e. Hobbes writes in the Leviathan:
    "A law of nature, lex naturalis, is a precept, or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that which is destruc- tive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same, and to omit that by which he thinketh it may be best preserved. For though they that speak of this subject use to confound jus and lex, right and law, yet they ought to be distinguished, because right consisteth in liberty to do, or to forbear; whereas law determineth and bindeth to one of them: so that law and right differ as much as obligation and liberty, which in one and the same matter are inconsistent." (Hobbes Leviathan, XIV: Of the First and Second Natural Laws, and Of Contracts)
  7. heirtothewind Member

    Las Vegas NV
    Ius = a legal right [to marry, to sue, to make contracts, to own property]
    Lex = a written law or statute.

    Might be over-simplified.

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