The most ancient courts known, e.g., those of Egypt and Babylonia, were semiecclesiastical institutions that used religious rituals in deciding issues. In Greece the functions of a court were chiefly undertaken by citizens' assemblies that heard the arguments of orators. In Rome there was a clear evolution of the court system from priestly beginnings to a wholly secular, hierarchal organization staffed by professional jurists (see Roman law). Western Europe (after the collapse of Rome) and Anglo-Saxon England had mainly feudal courts of limited territorial authority, administering customary law, which differed in each locale.
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