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When we consider the subject of law, we tend to think about police departments, court systems, attorney firms, and legislatures. Some of these agencies and entities are dedicated to enforcement while others focus on the administration, application, analysis, and creation of laws. What they all have in common is a framework that dates back to the ancient Egyptian civilization. The first codification of laws was probably contained into a dozen books utilized more than 4,000 years ago, but the first archeological evidence is the Codex Hammurabi of Babylon, which was engraved into stone tablets and displayed in public places sometime around the year 1760 B.C.

Five centuries after Hammurabi, the early writings of the Old Testament served as the legal code in the region known as the Promised Land. By the year 800 B.C., Athens was ruled by philosophical treatises that incorporate religious, social, and customary doctrines. The Roman Empire was more comprehensive in its codification approach and administration of justice with the development of courts and implementation of legal maxims that served as rules of procedure.

The canon of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, would become the basis of legal systems around the world. The other major legal system, known as common law, is mostly practiced by member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, which are English-speaking jurisdictions ruled by parliamentary democracies. Common law follows the doctrine of legal precedent, which means that court cases can be decided on the basis of jurisprudence and by a jury. In legal systems that follow Roman law, courts may only decide cases based on the facts that apply to the law, and rulings come from the bench instead of jury panels.

It should be noted that religious law can still be found in modern national legal systems where there is no clear separation of church and state. Similar to the Promised Land, once being ruled by the Old Testament, the legal systems of Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran are ruled based on the Muslim holy book of the Qur’an. Canon law, which is based on Christian ecclesiastical codes, rules the Vatican, but many of its precepts and principles have been codified into the democratic legislatures and constitutions of Roman and common law jurisdictions alike.