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Horst Steinke


To begin with an overall description, it is expressed succinctly

by Mazzotta:

Within the narrative economy of Book V the account of the


symmetrically reenacts and mirrors the general design of the whole of


New Science

. […] Book V starts with the theological age of the new

Christian history; it goes through the heroic medieval times, and it

ends with the modern age and the role of the

New Science

in Vico’s own




However, the chapter in the middle (§§ 1057-1087), by far the

longest of the three chapters, does not deal with cultural oscilla-

tions in their highest generality as the ages of “gods”, “heroes”,

and “men”, as one would expect, but, firstly, more narrowly with

juridical subjects, and secondly, within this already circumscribed

scope, an even more restricted legal domain, the law governing

Roman “clientes”


. medieval feudal law


. This recognition draws

us immediately into the recurrent themes of

Scienza nuova

, the

history of Rome and the history of law and the rule of law, both

on their own, and as inextricably intertwined. As is well known,

Vico was not interested in Roman history for its own sake, but

because he saw in it an actual historical instantiation of his phi-

losophy of history


. This is not the full story, however, behind

the pervasive presence of Rome, its body of law, its forms of

governance, in every one of the “books” that make up



It was Vico’s reflections on law, not in its positivistic sense,

to begin with, but rather in its reflection of equity and justice



that in the first place led him to the need to unearth its origins in

remote times, and with these sources of law, concomitantly the

sources of civilization itself in its fundamental structures and



. Or, as has been put even more pointedly:

El Derecho como expresión de la naturaleza humana, es uno de los

más elaborados [puntos], sin duda por los profundos y profusos

conocimientos que el italiano tenía del Derecho (

Law as an expression of