Civil law's very name indicates where it started. Called Latin: jus civile is was the civil law during the Roman Republic and the later Roman Empire. It started in the 2nd century BC. By the end of the Republic, about 27 BC, a number of experts in the law called jurists (not to be confused with judges) became prominent. They were mostly members of the upper classes. Jurists provided their services to counsel people and advise judges who presided over trials. An important feature of Roman law was it did not depend on legal precedent by earlier cases but on the facts and merits of the current case.
In the 6th century, Justinian compiled the
Corpus Juris Civilis, a simplified code of Roman laws. It was used by the Byzantine Empire. The medieval Church based much of its Canon law on Roman law.
Germanic law, known as leges barbarorum, written between the 5th and 9th centuries borrows from the Roman civil law.
Civil law developed in Europe during the middle age, about the same time common law developed in England. During the Renaissance, England's common law system borrowed from civil law. While the common law was the traditional law system in England by this time, Equity is based on civil law. Other features were borrowed and used in
maritime law and in wills, trusts and
estates. The Napoleonic Code, which borrowed much from Roman law, influenced many of the legal systems in Europe and was the foundation for Prussian civil law.