Roman law again: introducing BIA (2000)

By | 27 June 2008

BIA or Bibliotheca Iuris Antiqui is the work of the C.I.R. or Centro Interuniversitario per l’Informatica Romanistica , and the Law Library has purchased its second edition (2000). Please note that, as with FIURIS, you will need to ask a member of library staff for assistance as it cannot be networked.
In J. Caesar mode, BIA divides its material into 3 parts called “archives” – but before you plunge in via the big grey buttons, if (like me) you are more a mono- than a poly-glot, make sure English (or your strongest language) is selected from the choice of 5 on the right hand side. This makes the context related Help pages – via the [ ? ] button (top left within each archive) – more quickly meaningful!
Below is a basic outline of BIA – once in an archive, click the word Help, then English Summary to get a fuller description. (The fullest account of all is in the accompanying handbook, shelved at Ancient Gen 510 P155a, but this is in Italian only. )
1) FONTES The Romtext-Datenbank (1995) of the Institut fur Romisches Recht has been used as the principal source of  the e-texts (click herefor list), with some updating to reflect modern citation practices. The major exception is the e-text of Digesta, which is based on the editio minor of Mommsen-Krüger (12th ed (1954) but without the critical apparatus).
2) OPERA A bibliography of works published between 1940 and 1998 dealing with ancient legal systems (not just Roman) and the history of  the ancient world, principally from the journal IVRA. (The Law Library has IVRA from v.1(1950) to v.52(2001) at Roman 300 I40.) The OPERA archive contains about 40, 000 references.
3)THESAURUS A structured tree of some 8000 Roman law terms which allows you not just to find synonyms, quasi-synonyms, antonyms but also sets each term within the vocabulary of the legal system.
The joy of this resource is your ability to navigate across two databases, finding quickly, for example, any articles in OPERA which also discussed the specific piece of text you searched for in FONTES. The revelant button is found on the individual found document screen, 3rd from the left, looking a bit as if two card files are enjoying a ride on a ferris wheel! (See Navigation in the English Summary for help.)
Three general tips may be useful: active buttons are red on each search form; hovering your mouse over a button (whether live or not) makes a reasonably full description of its function appear in the gray status bar at the foot of the form; search results from all 3 archives can be printed. Finally, despite BIA being in second edition, you still have to transliterate any Greek terms you want to search – the database supplies a table of correspondences;  there are no surprises, it’s just a bit annoying!
Unfortunately, as with FIURIS, the terms of its licence mean that it cannot be networked, but it can be consulted via a computer in the Graduate Reading Room. This does not mean that undergraduates are precluded from using either of them, but they will need to speak to a member of staff first. In fact as already highlighted, to use BIA, everyone will need to collect the CD-Rom from the Law Reserve desk, before going down to the Graduate Reading Room. Insert the disk into the computer labelled BIA/FIURIS/SPSS, click on the shortcut icon and you should be away!

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