A Council of Ten were appointed to draw up a code of laws, and, at the same time, to carry on the government and administer justice. This code of Law came to be called the Twelve Tables. They entered upon their office at the beginning of B.C. 451. They were all Patricians. They drew up a Code of Ten Tables, in which equal justice was dealt out to both orders, the Patricians and the Plebeians. The Ten Tables was sanctioned and became law. A new Council of Ten was elected, of whom Appius Claudius alone belonged to the former body as he had been seen as fair and just. But this only an act and he turned into a tyrant. Under his direction two new Tables were added to the Code, making twelve tables in all; but these new laws were of the most oppressive kind, and confirmed privileges of the Patricians.
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to Debtors
By the laws of the twelve tables, it was ordained, that insolvent debtors should be given up to their creditors, to be bound in fetters and cords, and although they did not entirely lose the rights of freemen, yet they were in actual slavery, and often more harshly treated than even slaves themselves. To check the cruelty of usurers, a law was afterwards made that no debtors should be kept in irons, or in bonds; that the goods of the debtor, not his person, should be given up to his creditors. The people, not satisfied with this, as it did not free them from prison, demanded an entire abolition of debt, which they used to call new tables; but this was never granted.
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to Inheritance
Each clan and family had certain sacred rights, peculiar to itself, which were inherited in the same manner as effects. When heirs by the father's side of the same family failed, those of the same gens succeeded in preference to relations by the mother's side of the same family. No one could pass from a Patrician family to a Plebeian, or from a Plebeian to a Patrician, unless by that form of adoption which could only be made at the comitia curiata as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables..
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to Marriage
No Roman citizen could marry a slave, barbarian or foreigner, unless by the permission of the people as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables..
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to the Rights of a Father
A father among the Romans had the power of life and death over his children. He could not only expose them when infants, but when grown up he might imprison, scourge, send them bound to work in the country, and also put them to death by any punishment he pleased as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables.
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to Property
A son could acquire no property but with his father's consent, and what he thus acquired was called his peculium as of a slave. Things with respect to property among the Romans were variously divided. Some were said to be of divine right, and were held sacred, as altars, temples, or any thing publicly consecrated to the gods, by the authority of the Pontiffs; or religious, as sepulchres—or inviolable, as the walls and gates of a city. Others were said to be of human right, and called profane. These were either public and common, as the air, running water, the sea and its shores; or private, which might be the property of individuals.
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to a Will and Testament
None but a Roman citizen could make a will, or be witnesses to a testament, or inherit any thing by it. The usual method of making a will after the laws of the twelve tables were enacted, was by brass and balance, as it was called. In the presence of five witnesses, a weigher and witness, the testator by an imaginary sale disposed of his family and property to one who was called familiae emptor, who was not the heir as some have thought, but only admitted for the sake of form, that the testator might seem to have alienated his effects in his life time. This act was called familiae mancipatio. Sometimes the testator wrote his will wholly with his own hand, in which case it was called holographum, sometimes it was written by a friend, or by others. Thus the testament of Augustus was written partly by himself, and partly by two of his freedmen. Testaments were always subscribed by the testator, and usually by the witnesses, and sealed with their seals or rings. They were likewise tied with a thread drawn thrice through holes and sealed; like all other civil deeds, they were always written in Latin. A legacy expressed in Greek was not valid. They were deposited either privately in the hands of a friend, or in a temple with the keeper of it. Thus Julius Caesar is said to have entrusted his testament to the oldest of the vestal virgins.
Twelve Tables - Guardians
In the Twelve Tables a father might leave whom he pleased as guardian to his children; but if he died, this charge devolved by law on the nearest relation by the father's side. When there was no guardian by testament, nor a legal one, the praetor and the majority of the tribunes of the people appointed a guardian. If any one died without making a will, his goods devolved on his nearest relations as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables.
Twelve Tables - Laws relating to a Women
Women could not transact any business of importance without the concurrence of their parents, husbands, or guardians as decreed by the laws in the Twelve Tables.
The Twelve Tables
The Twelve Tables contain Debtors Laws, Inheritance Laws, Marriage Laws, Rights of a Father, Property Laws, Will and Testament and Laws relating to Women.
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