Catholic Dictionary


LAW OF NATIONS (jus gentium)


The common element, even though unwritten, in the actual laws of various peoples. Based on the natural law, the jus gentium is a synthesis of the legislation enacted by different countries which reflects a basic similarity in spite of the differences of culture and political structure.

First clearly distinguished from natural law by St. Isidore of Seville (560-636), the law of nations is not the same as international law. The latter aims to regulate the mutual relations of states as states. The jus gentium is a general law within all nations, not between nations, and deals with individuals without considering their nationality. It is supranational rather than international.