(451-450 B.C.)

This is the earliest attempt by the Romans to create a CODE OF LAW; it is also the earliest (surviving) piece of literature coming from the Romans. In the midst of a perennial struggle for legal and social protection and civil rights between the privileged class (patricians) and the common people (plebeians) a commission of ten men (Decemviri) was appointed (ca. 455 B.C.) to draw up a code of law which would be binding on both parties and which the magistrates (the 2 consuls) would have to enforce impartially.

The commission produced enough statutes (most of them were already `customary law' anyway) to fill TEN TABLETS, but this attempt seems not to have been entirely satisfactory--especially to the plebeians. A second commission of ten was therefore appointed (450 B.C.) and two additional tablets were drawn up. The originals, said to have been inscribed on bronze, were probably destroyed when the Gauls sacked and burned Rome in the invasion of 387 B.C.

The Twelve Tables give the student of Roman culture a chance to look into the workings of a society which is still quite agrarian in outlook and operations, and in which the main bonds which hold the society together and allow it to operate are: the clan (genos, gens), patronage (patron/client), and the inherent (and inherited) right of the patricians to leadership (in war, religion, law, and government).


TABLE IProcedure: for courts and trials
TABLE IITrials, continued.
TABLE IVRights of fathers (paterfamilias) over the family
TABLE VLegal guardianship and inheritance laws
TABLE VIAcquisition and possession
TABLE VIILand rights
TABLE VIIITorts and delicts (Laws of injury)
TABLE IXPublic law
TABLE XSacred law
TABLE XISupplement I
TABLE XIISupplement II

Government and Law
June 10, 2009 10:56 AM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional
Valid CSS!