Greece, Rome, and the Bill of Rights / Edition 1

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Susan Ford Wiltshire traces the evolution of the doctrine of individual rights from antiquity through the eighteenth century. The common thread through that long story is the theory of natural law. Growing out of Greek political thought, especially that of Aristotle, natural law became a major tenet of Stoic philosophy during the Hellenistic age and later became attached to Roman legal doctrine. It underwent several transformations during the Middle Ages on the Continent and in England, especially in the thought of John Locke, before it came to justify a theory of natural right, claimed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence as the basis of the "unalienable rights" of Americans.

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Editorial Reviews

Amendment by amendment, Wiltshire (classics, Vanderbilt U.) assesses the ancient parallels for the 20-odd provisions of the Bill of Rights. She does not claim that it is directly influenced by Greek and Roman political practice. Rather, she examines classical efforts toward assuring such guarantees as freedom of speech, religious toleration, and trial by jury, as well as early experiments in limiting search and seizure, the billeting of soldiers, and the right to bear arms. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806124643
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Series: Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.82 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Ford Wiltshire is Professor of Classics and Chair of Department of Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of Public and Private in Vergil's Aeneid and the editor of The Usefulness of Classical Learning in the Eighteenth Century.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Pt. 1 From Athens to America: The Evolution of the Idea of Rights
1 The Origins: Greek Philosophy and Roman Law 9
2 Law, Individual, and Church in the Middle Ages 30
3 English Beginnings: Common Law and Magna Carta 51
4 Enlightenment Humanism and the "New Thought" 62
5 The Bill of Rights 89
Pt. 2 Greek and Roman Antecedents to the Bill of Rights
6 Amendment I: The Basic Freedoms 103
7 Amendments II and III: Bearing Arms and Quartering Soldiers 132
8 Amendment IV: Search and Seizure 146
9 Amendments V, VI, VII, and VIII: Judicial Process 150
10 Amendments IX and X: Retained Rights and Reserved Powers 168
Conclusion 184
Notes 187
Sources Cited 215
American Political Thought and the Classics: A Bibliography 229
Index 239
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