According to an 1881 law book written by Oxford University professor Thomas Holland on the Institutes of Justinian, law schools in Rome and at Beirut (then Berytus and now part of Lebanon), existed as of 450 B.C.

Berytus, from before the birth of Jesus Christ, was a Roman colony, attractive enough to two of the greatest and most quoted wise men of the Roman law, who traveled there to teach the law: Papinian (142-212) and his student Ulpian (circa 223).

Berytus was then a city-state of Phoenicia, an ancient indigenous settlement on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Phoenicia is often credited with the creation of the alphabet from which the Greek and later the Romans borrowed extensively to create their own. This legacy of language and the written word may have explained why the Romans accepted and then promoted Berytus as the site of the earliest law school.

These earliest law schools were recognized in state documents as early as 250 AD, said documents also referring to iuris professio (law professor).

Beyrtus coin circa 250 ADGeorge Rawlinson, professor of ancient history at the University of Oxford wrote, in his 1889 book:

"Towards the middle of the third century after Christ a school of law and jurisprudence arose at Berytus, which attained high distinction, and is said by Gibbon to have furnished the eastern provinces of the empire with pleaders and magistrates for the space of three centuries (A.D. 250-550).

"The course of education at Berytus lasted five years, and included Roman Law in all its various forms, the works of Papinian being especially studied in the earlier times, and the same together with the edicts of Justinian in the later.

"Pleaders were forced to study either at Berytus, or at Rome, or at Constantinople, and, the honours and emoluments of the profession being large, the supply of students was abundant and perpetual.

"External misfortune, and not internal decay, at last destroyed the school, the town of Berytus being completely demolished by an earthquake in the year A.D. 551. The school was then transferred to Sidon, but appears to have languished on its transplantation to a new soil and never to have recovered its pristine vigour or vitality."

By 1100, in medieval Italy, students of law would hire a teacher to teach them Roman Law, especially Justinian's Code Corpus Juris, where the contributions of Irnerius was renowned.


  • Cole, Fay-Cooper and Warren, Harris G., An Illustrated History of Mankind, volume 1 (New York: Grolier, 1965), page 41.
  • Rawlinson, George, History of Phoenicia (Longmen, Green & Co., 1889)