12 Tables of Rome

  • Table I. “If he (plaintiff) summon him (defendant) into court, he shall go. If he does not go, (plaintiff) shall call witnesses. Then only he shall take him by force. If he refuses or flees, he (plaintiff) shall lay hands on him. If disease or age is an impediment, he shall grant him a team (of oxen). He shall not spread with cushions the covered carriage if he does not wish to.

  • Table II. “Whoever is in need of evidence, he shall go on every third day to call out loud before the doorway of the witness.” “Where anyone commits a theft by night, and caught in the act is killed, he is legally killed. If anyone commits a theft during the day, and is caught in the act, he shall be scourged, and given up as a slave to the person against whom the theft was committed. Stolen property shall always be his to whom it formerly belonged; nor can the lawful owner ever be deprived of it by long possession; nor can it ever be acquired by another, no matter in what way this may take place. He whose witness has failed to appear may summon him by loud calls before his house every third day.”[11]

  • Table III. “When a debt has been acknowledged or a judgment has been pronounced in court, 30 days must be the legitimate grace period. Thereafter, arrest of the debtor may be made by the laying on of hands. Bring him into court. If he does not satisfy the judgment (or no one in court offers himself as surety on his behalf) the creditor may take the debtor with him. He may bind him either in stocks or fetters, with a weight of no less than 15 lbs. (or more if he desires).” [After 60 days in custody, the case is returned to the court, and if the debt is not then paid, the debtor can be sold abroad as a slave, or put to death.]

  • Table IV. “A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed. If a father sell his son three times, the son shall be free from his father. A child born after ten months since the father’s death will not be admitted into a legal inheritance.”[11]

  • Table V. “Our ancestors saw fit that “females, by reason of levity of disposition, shall remain in guardianship, even when they have attained their majority.”

    • A spendthrift is forbidden to exercise administration over his own goods.

    • The inheritance of a Roman citizen-freedman is made over to his patron, if the freedman has died intestate (without a will) and has no natural successor.

  • Table VI. When a party shall make bond or conveyance, what he has named by word-of-mouth that shall hold good.

    • Marriage by ‘usage’ (usus): Where a woman, who has not been united to a man in marriage, lives with him for an entire year without the possession of her being interrupted for three nights, she shall pass into his power as his legal wife.

  • Table VII. Anyone who, by means of incantations and magic arts, prevents grain or crops of any kind belonging to another from growing, shall be sacrificed to Ceres.

    • “If any person has sung or composed against another person a SONG (carmen’) such as was causing slander or insult…. he shall be clubbed to death.”

    • “If a person has maimed another’s limb, let there be retaliation in kind, unless he agrees to make compensation with him.” (Lex talionis)

    • “If a patron shall defraud his client, he must be solemnly forfeited (‘killed’).

    • “Whoever is convicted of speaking false witness shall be flung from the Tarpeian Rock.”

    • Anyone who annoys another by means of magic incantations or diabolical arts, and renders him inactive, or ill; or who prepares or administers poison to him, is guilty of a capital crime,[1] and shall be punished with death.

  • Table VIII. A space of two feet and a half must be left between neighboring buildings.

    • Where a road runs in a straight line, it shall be eight feet, and where it curves, it shall be sixteen feet in width.

    • When the fruit of a tree falls upon the premises of a neighbor, the owner of the tree shall have a right to gather and remove it

    • When a man’s land lies adjacent to the highway, he can enclose it in any way that he chooses; but if he neglects to do so, any other person can drive an animal over the land wherever he pleases.

  • Table IX. “No person shall hold meetings in the City at night.”

    • “The penalty shall be capital for a judge or arbiter legally appointed who has been found guilty of receiving a bribe for giving a decision. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital punishment.” [11]

    • “Putting to death… of any man who has not been convicted, whosoever he might be, is forbidden.”

  • Table X. Women shall not during a funeral lacerate their faces, or tear their cheeks with their nails; nor shall they utter loud cries bewailing the dead.

    • The body of no dead slave shall be anointed; nor shall any drinking take place at his funeral, nor a banquet of any kind be instituted in his honor.

  • Table XI. “Marriage shall not take place between a patrician and a plebeian.”

    • Affairs of great importance shall not be transacted without the vote of the people, with whom rests the power to appoint magistrates, to condemn citizens, and to enact laws. Laws subsequently passed always take preference over former ones.

  • Table XII. If a slave, with the knowledge of his master, should commit a theft, or cause damage to anyone, his master shall be given up to the other party by way of reparation for the theft, injury, or damage committed by the slave.

 

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