Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


This unit introduces students to Roman private law, which has, for centuries, provided the conceptual foundation for legal science and legal problem-solving in the Western tradition. The unit is grounded in the Institutes of Gaius (second century CE) and the Institutes of Justinian (sixth century CE); the primary materials are studied in translation: no Latin is required.

While also noticing key concepts from the law of persons and from the law of actions, the unit engages with substantive Roman law in four principal areas: (1) sources; (2) property; (3) contracts; and (4) delicts. An additional theme is the Institutional taxonomy of private law, a reference point for the organisation of all subsequent systems, civilian and common law.

6 points
Not available in 2024OnlineOnline timetabled

Students are able to (1) demonstrate an understanding of the sources of Roman private law and of its evolution in response to constitutional, political and social change; (2) analyse fact patterns and apply principles, rules and sources of the Roman law of property, contracts and delicts; (3) demonstrate an understanding of legal rules and institutions, and their historical development; (4) demonstrate an understanding of a legal system in its entirety, including the relationship between the whole and the parts of that system; and (5) evaluate the comparative methods of common law and civil law reasoning.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) participation; (2) assignment; and (3) take-home test. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Benjamin Spagnolo
Unit rules
Enrolment in
20820 Juris Doctor
and LAWS4101 Foundations of Law and Lawyering and five Unit(s) ( LAWS4102 Criminal Law
, LAWS4103 Contract
, LAWS4104 Property
, LAWS4106 Torts
, LAWS4107 Land Law
, LAWS4108 Foundations of Public Law and ( LAWS4109 Legal Theory and Ethics
or LAWS4110 Interpretation
) )
Approved quota: 60—first come first serve
Contact hours
This unit will run as a mixture of online and in person classes.

PJ du Plessis, Borkowski’s Textbook on Roman Law (6th edn, Oxford University Press 2020)


Gaius, Gai Institutiones or Institutes of Roman Law by Gaius (E Poste tr, 4th edn, Clarendon Press 1904), available at:

Justinian, The Institutes of Justinian (JB Moyle tr, 5th edn, Clarendon Press 1913), available at:

Reference Books:

JAC Thomas, Textbook of Roman Law (North-Holland 1976 or reprint edn, Philip McDonald 2013)

WW Buckland, A Text-Book of Roman Law from Augustus to Justinian (PG Stein ed, 3rd edn, Cambridge University Press 1963)

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.