Twelve Tables

Encyclopædia Orbis Latini


Latin: Lex XII Tabulârum.

Early code of Roman law. Most modern authorities accept the traditional date of 450 B.C., but several place the work later. The tables were supposedly written in response to the plebeiansí protest that the patrician judges were able to discriminate against them with impunity because the principles governing legal disputes were known only orally. Two decemvirs [10-man commissions] were appointed to state the law in writing, and they first produced 10 tablets, probably wooden, with laws inscribed thereon; in the next year they produced two more. Exact quotations of the Twelve Tables are rare, but from references in later Latin writings their content has been approximately reconstructed. They appear to have been an exceedingly formalistic statement of the customary law.

In later times the Twelve Tables were regarded with reverence as a prime legal source. As Cicero wrote, (De Oratore, I.44): Though all the world exclaim against me, I will say what I think: that single little book of the Twelve Tables, if anyone look to the fountains and sources of laws, seems to me, assuredly, to surpass the libraries of all the philosophers, both in weight of authority, and in plenitude of utility.

See the extant passages with their English translation.
 
 

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

General References Main Page
Orbis Latinus Main Page

This page is part of Orbis Latinus
© Zdravko Batzarov