Some constitutions (such as the constitution of the United Kingdom) are uncodified, but written in numerous fundamental Acts of a legislature, court cases or treaties.
Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign countries to companies and unincorporated associations.
Some of the better-known ancient law codes include the code of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin, the code of Hammurabi of Babylonia, the Hittite code, the Assyrian code and Mosaic law.
In 621 BC, a scribe named Draco codified the cruel oral laws of the city-state of Athens; this code prescribed the death penalty for many offences (nowadays very severe rules are often called "Draconian").
The Romans first codified their constitution in 450 BC as the Twelve Tables.
They operated under a series of laws that were added from time to time, but Roman law was not reorganised into a single code until the Codex Theodosianus (AD 438); later, in the Eastern Empire, the Codex repetitæ prælectionis (534) was highly influential throughout Europe.
Perhaps the earliest prototype for a law of government, this document itself has not yet been discovered; however it is known that it allowed some rights to his citizens.
For example, it is known that it relieved tax for widows and orphans, and protected the poor from the usury of the rich.
According to Scott Gordon, a political organization is constitutional to the extent that it "contain[s] institutionalized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority".
Activities of officials within an organization or polity that fall within the constitutional or statutory authority of those officials are termed "within power" (or, in Latin, intra vires); if they do not, they are termed "beyond power" (or, in Latin, ultra vires).