Denariatio is back. The drinking game, first reported in the 2010 Oxford v Cambridge Clifford Chance LLP Roman Law Moot Court Competition, was again at the centre of the annual contest, this year held in Cambridge on Monday 15 June and judged by Professor David Ibbetson (Regius Professor of Civil Law in Cambridge) and Professor Wolfgang Ernst (whom the Queen has been pleased to appoint as Regius Professor of Civil Law in Oxford from October 2015).
At an extravagant dining club in the sixth century, the practice of denariatio – which would, in centuries to come, be prohibited by Deans and Censors in halls of learning in what was once the province of Britannia – led to claims for theft and damage to property between the members of this dissolute society of freedmen and slaves. The Oxford team, comprising Madeleine Burrell (Hertford), Matthew Chan (Exeter), Marius Gass (St John’s) and Ellen Tims (St John’s), represented Leno, the owner of the Pro Libertinis club, Priscus, the owner of the drunken slave Areobindus, who was injured when he slipped on the stairs after a night’s revelries at the club and Diogenes, another member of the club, who had inadvertently deposited a gold solidus instead of the usual, and much less valuable, denarius into Areobindus’s goblet during a game of denariatio.
The claims invited close argument in terms of the delicts of furtum and damnum iniuria, as well as the Roman law of conveyance by traditio. Mooters responded by unearthing analogous texts from Justinian’s Digest – including the defendant who hands a sword to a madman, the pruner who cuts a bough over a walkway and the senator who throws coins to the crowd ahead of an election. These claims were incisively probed by the iudices in the course of the traditional double moot, which drew a substantial crowd – despite the May Week afternoon sunshine – and involved five representatives of the Moot’s steadfast sponsor, Clifford Chance LLP, whose ongoing support has ensured the continuing success of this contest, now in its ninth year. So intense is the competition for places on each team that both Universities could easily have fielded three teams in 2015.
The Faculty is delighted to report that, after delivery of judgment on the law, the judges awarded the 2015 Varsity Roman Law Moot to the Oxford team; we offer Ellen, Maddie, Marius and Matthew our warmest congratulations on their outstanding advocacy and analysis. We also congratulate Cyrus Chua of Cambridge, who won the Best Oralist Award. This year’s victory puts Oxford in front on the overall list of winners, and we look forward to defending the shield at the tenth anniversary Moot in 2016.
(l to r) Professor David Ibbetson FBA; Madeleine Burrell (Hertford), Marius Gass (St John's), Matthew Chan (Exeter), Ellen Tims (St John's) and Professor Wolfgang Ernst with the Oxford v Cambridge Clifford Chance LLP Roman Law Moot Court Competition shield