Twelve Tables


Twelve Tables
Ancient Rome

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Ancient Rome


Periods
Roman Kingdom
753 BC – 509 BC

Roman Republic
508 BC – 27 BC
Roman Empire
27 BCAD 1453

Principate
Western Empire

Dominate
Eastern Empire

Roman Constitution

Constitution of the Kingdom
Constitution of the Republic
Constitution of the Empire
Constitution of the Late Empire
History of the Constitution
Senate
Legislative Assemblies
Executive Magistrates

Ordinary Magistrates

Consul
Praetor
Quaestor
Promagistrate

Aedile
Tribune
Censor
Governor

Extraordinary Magistrates

Dictator
Magister Equitum
Consular tribune

Rex
Triumviri
Decemviri

Titles and Honours
Emperor

Legatus
Dux
Officium
Praefectus
Vicarius
Vigintisexviri
Lictor

Magister militum
Imperator
Princeps senatus
Pontifex Maximus
Augustus
Caesar
Tetrarch

Precedent and Law
Roman Law

Imperium
Mos maiorum
Collegiality

Roman citizenship
Auctoritas
Cursus honorum

senatus consultum
(senatus
consultum
ultimum
)

Other countries · Atlas
Politics portal
view · talk · edit

The Law of the Twelve Tables (Latin: Leges Duodecim Tabularum or, informally, Duodecim Tabulae) was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum (custom of the ancestors). The Twelve Tables must be distinguished from the unrelated — and much older — "twelve shields" of King Numa Pompilius.

Contents

History

According to traditional, semi legendary historical accounts preserved in Livy, during the earliest period of the Republic, the laws were kept secret by the pontifices and other representatives of the patrician class, and were enforced with untoward severity, especially against the plebeian class. A plebeian named Terentilius proposed in 462 BC that an official legal code should be published, so the plebeians could not be surprised and would know the law.

Patricians long opposed this request, but around 451 BC, the first decemviri (decemvirate - board of "Ten Men") was appointed to draw up the first ten tables. They allegedly sent an embassy to Greece to study the legislative system of Athens, known as the Solonian Constitution, but also to find out about the legislation of other Greek cities.[1][2] Modern scholars believe the Roman assembly most likely visited the Greek cities of Southern Italy, and did not travel all the way to Greece.[citation needed] In 450 B.C., the second decemviri started work on the last two tables.

The first decemvirate completed the first ten codes in 450 BC. Here is how Livy describes their creation,

"...every citizen should quietly consider each point, then talk it over with his friends, and, finally, bring forward for public discussion any additions or subtractions which seemed desirable." (cf. Liv. III 34)

In 449 BC, the second decemvirate completed the last two codes, and after a secessio plebis to force the Senate to consider them, the Law of the Twelve Tables was formally promulgated.[3] The Twelve Tables were drawn up on twelve ivory tablets (Livy says bronze) which were posted in the Roman Forum so all Romans could read and know them. It was not a comprehensive statement of all law, but a sequence of definitions of various private rights and procedures. They generally took for granted such things as the institutions of the family and various rituals for formal transactions.

For such an important document, it is somewhat surprising that the original text has been lost. The original tablets were destroyed when the Gauls under Brennus burnt Rome in 390 BC. There was no other official promulgation of them to survive, only unofficial editions. What we have of them today are brief excerpts and quotations from these laws in other authors. They are written in a strange, archaic, laconic, and somewhat childish and sing-song version of Latin (described as Saturnian verse). As such, though we cannot tell whether the quoted fragments accurately preserve the original form, what we have gives us some insight into the grammar of early Latin. The belief is that the text was written as such so plebians could more easily memorize the laws, as literacy was not commonplace during early Rome.

Like most other early codes of law, they combine strict and rigorous penalties with equally strict and rigorous procedural forms. In most of the surviving quotations from these texts, the original table that held them is not given. Scholars have guessed at where surviving fragments belong by comparing them with the few known attributions and records, many of which do not include the original lines, but paraphrases. It cannot be known with any certainty from what survives that the originals ever were organized this way, or even if they ever were organized by subject at all.

Excerpts from the Twelve Tables or The Lex Talio

TABLE I (Civil procedure)

Si in ius vocat, ito. Ni it, antestamino. Igitur em capito.

If someone is called to go to court, he has to go. If he does not go, a witness should be called. Only then should he be captured.

Si calvitur pedemve struit, manum endo iacito. Si morbus aevitasve vitium escit, iumentum dato. Si nolet, arceram ne sternito.

If he shirks or flees, he should be captured. If illness or old age is an impediment, let him be given a carriage. If he does not want it, it should not be covered.

Adsiduo vindex adsiduus esto. Proletario iam civi quis volet vindex esto.

Only a landowner should be surety for another landowner. But any citizen can be surety for a proletarian.

Rem ubi pacunt, orato. Ni pacunt, in comitio aut in foro ante meridiem caussam coiciunto. Com peroranto ambo praesentes. Post meridiem praesenti litem addicito. Si ambo praesentes, solis occasus suprema tempestas esto.

When parties have made an agreement, announce it. If they do not agree, they shall state their case in the Forum before noon. They shall plead together in person. After noon, let the judge pronounce. If both are present, the case shall end at sunset.

TABLE II (Civil procedure)

...morbus sonticus... aut status dies cum hoste... quid horum fuit unum iudici arbitrove reove, eo dies diffensus esto. Cui testimonium defuerit, is tertiis diebus ob portum obvagulatum ito.

Serious illness... or else a day appointed with an enemy; ... if any of these is an impediment for the judge or any party, on that day proceedings must end. One who seeks the testimony from an absent person should wait before his doorway every third day.

TABLE III (Debt)

Aeris confessi rebusque iure iudicatis XXX dies iusti sunto.

1. In case of an admitted debt or of awards made by a court, 30 days shall be allowed for payment.

Post deinde manus iniectio esto. In ius ducito. Ni iudicatum facit aut quis endo eo in iure vindicit, secum ducito, vincito aut nervo aut compedibus XV pondo, ne maiore aut si volet minore vincito. Si volet suo vivito, ni suo vivit, qui eum vinctum habebit, libras faris endo dies dato. Si volet, plus dato.

After then, the creditor can lay hands on him and haul him to court. If he does not satisfy the judgement and no one is surety for him, the creditor may take the defendant with him in stocks or chains with a weight of no less than 15 lbs. (or more if he desires). The debtor may live where he wishes. If he does not live on his own, the creditor must give him a pound of wheat a day. If he wants to he may give more.

Tertiis nundinis partis secanto. Si plus minusve secuerunt, se fraude esto.

On the third market day, (creditors) may cut pieces. If they take more than they are due, they do so with impunity.

Adversus hostem aeterna auctoritas esto.

Against a foreigner, the right of property is valid forever.

TABLE IV (Parents and children)

Cito necatus insignis ad deformitatem puer esto.

If a child is born with a deformity he shall be killed.

Si pater filium ter venum duit, filius a patre liber esto.

If a father sells his son into slavery three times, the son shall be free of his father.

TABLE V (Inheritance)

Si intestato moritur, cui suus heres nec escit, adgnatus proximus familiam habeto. Si adgnatus nec escit, gentiles familiam habento.

If a person dies intestate without heirs, the nearest [male] kinsman shall inherit. If there is no near [male] kinsmen, his clansmen shall inherit.

Si furiosus escit, adgnatum gentiliumque in eo pecuniaque eius potestas esto.

If someone goes mad, his nearest [male] kinsman shall have authority over his property.

TABLE VI (Property)

Cum nexum faciet mancipiumque, uti lingua nuncupassit, ita ius esto.

When someone makes bond or conveyance and announces it orally, right shall be given.

Tignum iunctum aedibus vineave sei concapit ne solvito.

No one must displace beams from buildings or vineyards.

TABLE VII (Real Property)

Viam muniunto ni sam delapidassint, qua volet iumento agito.

[A property owner must] build a road [if there is a right-of-way]; if they become dilapidated, passersby can drive their beasts where ever they want.

Si aqua pluvia nocet… iubetur ex arbitrio coerceri.

If runoff [from someone else's property] does damage, he shall be made to fix it by the judge.

TABLE VIII (Torts)

Qui malum carmen incantassit…

Those who have incanted an "evil song"... (interpreted by Cicero as slander, in De re publica, Book IV)

Si membrum rupsit, ni cum eo pacit, talio and esto.

If one has maimed another and does not buy his peace, there be retaliation in kind.

Manu fustive si os fregit libero, CCC, si servo, CL poenam subito si iniuriam faxsit, viginti quinque poenae sunto.

Someone who breaks another's bone by hand or club must pay 300 sesterces; for a slave, 150; if he has done simple harm against another, 25.

Qui fruges excantassit… neve alienam segetem pellexeris

Someone who kills crops with a spell, or another's corn…

Patronus si clienti fraudem fecerit, sacer esto.

If a patron defrauds his client, let him be outlawed.

Qui se sierit testarier libripensve fuerit, ni testimonium fatiatur, inprobus intestabilisque esto.

If one has been called to witness, or hold the scales, unless he gives his testimony, let him be dishonoured and incapable of further testimony.

Si telum manu fugit magis quam iecit, arietem subicito.

If an object flies unaimed from your hand rather than aimed [and causes injury], you will owe a ram.[4]

TABLE IX (Constitutional principles)

Privilegia ne irroganto.

4. Private laws (that is, laws against one individual) will not be proposed.

It is forbidden to propose laws against one single individual.

TABLE X (Funeral regulations)

Hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito neve urito.

No dead man may be cremated nor buried in the City.

Qui coronam parit ipse pecuniave eius honoris virtutisve ergo arduitur ei…

When a man wins a crown, or his slave or cattle win a crown for him,…

Neve aurum addito. At cui auro dentes iuncti escunt. Ast in cum illo sepeliet uretve, se fraude esto.

No one must add gold (to a funeral pyre). But if his teeth are held together with gold, and are buried or burnt with him, it shall be disconsidered.

TABLE XI (Marriage)

Conubia plebi cum patribus sanxerunt.

Marriages between plebeians and patricians are prohibited.

Men in the army may not wed until training is complete.

TABLE XII (Crimes)

Si servo furtum faxit noxiamve noxit.

If a slave has committed theft or harm…

Si vindiciam falsam tulit, si velit is… tor arbitros tris dato, eorum arbitrio… fructus duplione damnum decidito.

Someone who has brought a false claim shall be brought before three judges, and shall pay a double penalty or be sent to death if he cannot do the time.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Livy, 2002, p. 23
  2. ^ Durant, 1942, p. 23
  3. ^ McCarty, Nick "Rome The Greatest Empire of the Ancient World", The Rosen Publishing Group, 2008
  4. ^ See A Stephenson, A History of Roman Law with Commentary on the Institutes of Gaius and Justinian (1912) 132

References

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Twelve Tables — Twelve Twelve, a. [OE. twelve, twelf, AS. twelf; akin to OFries. twelf, twelef, twilif, OS. twelif, D. twaalf, G. zw[ o]lf, OHG. zwelif, Icel. t[=o]lf, Sw. tolf, Dan. tolv, Goth. twalif, from the root of E. two + the same element as in the second …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Twelve Tables — plural noun The earliest code of Roman law, civil, criminal and religious, made by the decemvirs in 451–449BC • • • Main Entry: ↑twelve …   Useful english dictionary

  • Twelve tables — Table Ta ble, n. [F., fr. L. tabula a board, tablet, a painting. Cf. {Tabular}, {Taffrail}, {Tavern}.] 1. A smooth, flat surface, like the side of a board; a thin, flat, smooth piece of anything; a slab. [1913 Webster] A bagnio paved with fair… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Twelve Tables — The earliest statute or code of Roman law, framed by a commission of ten men, B.C. 450, upon the return of a commission of three who had been sent abroad to study foreign laws and institutions. The Twelve Tables consisted partly of laws… …   Black's law dictionary

  • Twelve Tables — /twɛlv ˈteɪbəls/ (say twelv taybuhls) plural noun the, the tablets on which were engraved short statements of Roman law most important in the affairs of daily life, drawn up by the decemvirs in 451 and 450 BC …   Australian English dictionary

  • Twelve Tables, Law of the — Earliest codification of ancient Roman law, traditionally dated to 451–450 BC. They were purportedly written at the demand of the plebeians, who felt that their legal rights were hampered by the fact that court judgments were rendered according… …   Universalium

  • Twelve — Twelve, a. [OE. twelve, twelf, AS. twelf; akin to OFries. twelf, twelef, twilif, OS. twelif, D. twaalf, G. zw[ o]lf, OHG. zwelif, Icel. t[=o]lf, Sw. tolf, Dan. tolv, Goth. twalif, from the root of E. two + the same element as in the second part… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Twelve-men's morris — Twelve Twelve, a. [OE. twelve, twelf, AS. twelf; akin to OFries. twelf, twelef, twilif, OS. twelif, D. twaalf, G. zw[ o]lf, OHG. zwelif, Icel. t[=o]lf, Sw. tolf, Dan. tolv, Goth. twalif, from the root of E. two + the same element as in the second …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tables of a chord — Table Ta ble, n. [F., fr. L. tabula a board, tablet, a painting. Cf. {Tabular}, {Taffrail}, {Tavern}.] 1. A smooth, flat surface, like the side of a board; a thin, flat, smooth piece of anything; a slab. [1913 Webster] A bagnio paved with fair… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tables of a girder — Table Ta ble, n. [F., fr. L. tabula a board, tablet, a painting. Cf. {Tabular}, {Taffrail}, {Tavern}.] 1. A smooth, flat surface, like the side of a board; a thin, flat, smooth piece of anything; a slab. [1913 Webster] A bagnio paved with fair… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.