Jurisprudence already had this meaning in ancient Rome, even if at its origins the discipline was a monopoly of the college of the Pontiffs (Pontifex), which detained an exclusive power of judgement on facts, being the only experts (periti) in the jus[?] of traditional law[?] (mores maiorum, a body of oral laws and customs verbally transmitted "by father to son"). Pontiffs indirectly created a body of laws by their pronunciations (sententiae) on single concrete (judicial) cases.
Their sentences were supposed to be simple interpretations of the traditional customs, but effectively it was an activity that, apart from formally reconsidering for each case what precisely was traditionally in the legal habits, soon turned also to a more equitative interpretation, coherently adapting the law to the newer social instances. The law was then implemented with new evolutive Institutiones (legal concepts), while remaining in the traditional scheme. Pontiffs were replaced in 3rd century BC by a laical body of prudentes. Admission to this body was conditional upon proof of competence or experience.
Under the Roman republic, schools of law were created, and the activity constantly became more academic. In the age from the early Roman Empire to the 3rd century, a relevant literature was produced by some notable groups including the Proculians[?] and Sabinians[?]. The degree of scientific depth of the studies was unprecedented in ancient times and reached still unrivalled peaks of skill. It is about this activity that it has been said that Romans had developed an art out of the law.
After 3rd century, Juris prudentia became a more bureaucratic activity, with few notable authors. It was during the Byzantine Empire (5th century) that legal studies were once again undertaken in depth, and it is from this cultural movement that Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis was born.
In modern studies Jurisprudence is both the branch of humanist sciences that studies the law and the complex of legal principles that can be desumed by the sentences. Sentences are in this sense authoritative interpretations of the formal law that, starting from a concrete judicial case, usually contain general reflections on the sense and the scopes of the law, and on its potential extent.