Rome`s Twelve Tables Summary of Law

It is clear, however, that the Twelve Tablets established standard rules and procedures for the administration of justice in early Rome, and placed authority for the settlement of disputes in the hands of civil officials. This provides insight into the nature of early Roman society and suggests that it valued the development of a coherent justice system that sought to respond to conflict and misconduct with some sense of fairness. The tables show that Rome sought to offer a civil approach based on notions of justice to disputes between individuals, such as the question of debt. They also indicate how much credit and debt were part of Roman society, as well as the attitude of the Romans towards these practices. This section of the tables makes it illegal for anyone to define what a citizen of Rome is, except for the largest assembly or maximus comitatus. It also prohibits the execution of persons who have not been convicted, the bribery of judges and the extradition of a citizen to hostile powers. [15] Historians do not know exactly what impact these laws had on early Roman society. The existence of these tables reflects growing support for codified laws and processes. What the tables do not cover might be more important. There is little legislation on the structure of government or the roles of different parts of government. It is possible that these fragments of the tables were lost, but it seems more likely that the tables were designed primarily for the purpose of preserving social order, rather than establishing rules for government. As one of the first codified laws, these fragments have attracted the interest of scholars over the centuries.

They contain the seeds of ideas that later became fundamental to many Western societies. Table VII gives the rules for road maintenance and the settlement of disputes between neighbours. In disputes over common boundaries, if the owners cannot agree, the boundaries are marked by three arbitrators. As with other tables, it follows that parties should try to resolve these disputes and problems themselves before approaching a designated officer to find a solution. There are other regulations concerning the width of streets and the height of perimeter walls. This table also illustrates the difficulty of interpreting an old and incomplete text that is only available through fragmentary copies and translations. These fragments have been combined into their respective paintings, which are based on the works of ancient and modern scholars. The fragments sometimes seem to contradict each other. For example, if a debtor is still unable to repay a creditor after the 30-day period, Schedule III allows the creditor to hold the creditor captive for up to 60 days.

After this period, the creditor may attempt to repay the debt by selling the debtor in bondage outside Rome. However, the table also prescribes the death penalty for debtors who are unable to meet their obligations after the expiry of the 60-day period. Among scholars, one wonders whether the death penalty here means execution, a less severe form of corporal punishment, or loss of citizenship. In any event, it is not entirely clear what circumstances might have determined the next steps if a debtor did not pay after the 60-day period. Another example can be found in perhaps the most famous fragment of Table III. He suggests that debtors can ultimately be cut into pieces by their creditors. However, this understanding could be attributed to a mistranslation of the phrase partis secanto by various ancient Roman commentators. Although it has often been translated as “cut into pieces,” some scholars argue that the original meaning refers to the division (or dismemberment) of debtors` assets, rather than their bodies.

The fragments of Table XII were also written according to the original 10 tables and contain additional laws. In particular, the painting attempts to clarify the responsibility of a master for the actions of his children and slaves. Around 450 BC. AD, the first decemviri (decemvirate, head of the “Ten Men”) are responsible for creating the first ten tablets. According to Livy, they sent an embassy to Greece to study the legislative system of Athens, known as the Solonian Constitution, but also to inquire about the legislation of other Greek cities. [7] [8] Some scholars deny that the Romans imitated the Greeks in this regard[9] or suspect that they only visited Greek cities in southern Italy and did not travel as far as Greece. [10] In 450 BC. AD, the second decemviri began work on the last two tables. Most scholars believe that the Twelve Tablets were a concession of the Roman upper class, the patricians, in response to the intense agitation of the lower class, the plebeians, who demanded consistent application of the laws. However, some scholars claim that efforts to create the tables were also led by patricians who tried to hold each other accountable.

In any case, writing and posting the laws was an attempt to prosecute violations of the law, even by patricians. The tables reflect the concern to ensure fair treatment for all citizens, at least to some extent. However, it is important to note that ancient Rome did not aspire to be an egalitarian society guaranteeing equal status and treatment for all. The Code of Law recorded on the Twelve Tablets maintained clear distinctions between plebeians and patricians, including repeated references to wealth and social hierarchy. In addition to these early problems, some specific laws in the original tables did not last very long, such as the one prohibiting mixed marriages between patricians and plebeians. This law was repealed in 445 BC. J.-C. with the promulgation of the lex Canulea. Other laws within the Twelve Tablets were modified over time and gradually replaced by laws more relevant to the development of Roman society and the spectacular expansion of the Republic from the 3rd century BC.

Later, Roman historians claimed that the Twelve Tablets were created for the purpose of suppressing a growing conflict between the lower (plebeian) and upper (patrician) classes of Roman society over questions of fundamental equality and the administration of justice. Table XI, drawn up one year after the first 10 tables, contains a direct and unequivocal prohibition of marriage between the plebeian and patrician classes, which gives credibility to the patrician idea as an exclusive class. Table V deals mainly with inheritance. These laws shed light on attitudes towards women in early Roman society. Based on the available evidence, it seems clear that it would be difficult for a woman from ancient Rome to achieve complete legal independence. The first fragment of Table V explains that women continue to live even after the age of 25. remain under male guardianship. A woman would need such a guardian to perform basic legal tasks and many business transactions. The male head of household has the ultimate right to make decisions concerning marriage for the women in his care. The paintings suggest that a woman from the early Roman Republic could expect to live her life as a ward of the male head of her family of origin, and then as a husband chosen for her. Other sources suggest that a woman could eventually become independent after the death of the last husband entitled to her household, but the other legal texts of this period do not mention this possibility. The new Roman Republic wanted to ensure that every citizen knew the laws.

So they carved the laws on metal shelves and placed them in the Forum in Rome for everyone to read. These laws were called the Twelve Tablets because there were twelve different sections. These laws dealt with criminality and property and family issues such as marriage and inheritance. Laws, like all laws, have been adapted over time. But the most important laws, whatever they were, were posted on the Forum throughout the period when Rome was a republic. Duodecim Tabularum. Tradition tells us that the codex was written by a commission of ten and then twelve men in 451-450 BC. A.D., ratified by the Assembly of the Centuriates in 449 BC. AD, engraved on twelve tablets (hence the title) attached to the Rostra in front of the Curia in the Forum of Rome. These two paintings deal with Roman court cases. Table I covers proceedings between the defendant and the plaintiff, giving reactions to possible situations such as: If age or illness prevents the defendant from appearing, transportation must be arranged to assist him. [14] It also deals with: The Twelve Tablets are said to have been written by 10 commissioners (decemvirs) at the insistence of the plebeians, who felt that their legal rights were hindered by the fact that court judgments were rendered according to unwritten customs, which were preserved only to a small group of learned patricians.

The first group of commissioners began their work in 451 and produced 10 tables, which were later supplemented by 2 additional tables.

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