The Roman jurists were the first known professional legal specialists and they were elegant. “enduring principles, institutions and rules that remain valid despite personal influence and power. The jurists are the custodians of this law, and to undermine their authority is to weaken law itself” (Frier 1985, 119). It was through the jurisdiction of the praetor peregrinus that the ideas of the ius gentium were first introduced into Roman Law.
Elegance in legal contexts is treated most frequently in discussions of Roman and Civil law and so we will begin with the Roman notion of elegantia. Sir Henry Maine, in a well-known passage in Ancient Law, described the Roman jurisconsults as surrendering themselves to their “sense of simplicity and harmony—of what they significantly termed ‘elegance’” (Maine 1935, chap. 4, 65).
The Roman jurists did not invent the idea of elegantia. It was already current in the schools of rhetoric. Rhetoric was the main training of the orators who did the actual pleading in Roman courts. So the elegant advocate at Rome was advised to avoid the exotic and ornamental in his choice of expressions, and rather seek to project his own personality through ordinary words properly used.