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Inscriptions

The Twelve Tables

(...)In general, the code of the Twelve Tables is spoken of by ancient writers in terms of admiration. The eleventh and twelfth tables, the work of the unpopular Second Decemvirate, are called by Cicero ( Rep.ii. 37 Rep., 63) duae tabulae iniquarum legum; but the chief ground for this estimate of them appears to be the law, afterwards annulled, forbidding the intermarriage of patricians and plebeians. It must not be supposed that these two tables were an afterthought; it is clear from the language of Livy and Dionysius that the first ten tables, at the time of their adoption, were understood to be only a partial code, and that further legislation was expected. It is a noteworthy fact that the remarkable set of laws discovered in 1884 at Gortyna in Crete is cut upon a wall in twelve columns. We cannot exactly define the relation of the Twelve Tables to preexisting Roman law. But it is certain that they contained both new and old elements. There existed already a body of legal usages, and some of these had been formulated in maxims, known as leges regiae. Some of these maxims would seem from the language of Livy (vi. 1) to have existed in written form. The Twelve Tables were based in part on this older law of custom (ta patria ethe, Dionys.x. 55; hoi para sphisin autois agraphoi ethismoi, ibid. 57). At least one of the leges regiae, relating to the patria potestas, was embodied in them ( Dionys.ii. 27). On the other hand, they contained new features, and some of these were certainly derived from Greek sources. Thus we are told in particular by Cicero (De Leg. ii. 23, 59; 25, 64) that certain clauses restricting expense at funerals were taken almost word for word from the laws of Solon. Like statements are made by Gaius (Dig. x. 1, 13; xlvii. 22, 4) about two other laws. An Ephesian Greek named Hermodorus is said to have aided the decemviri in their work ( Strab. p. 642; Pliny , Pliny H. N.xxxiv. 5Pliny H. N., 11). The fact of Greek influence in the decemviral legislation is further brought out by striking resemblances between the Twelve Tables and the inscriptional code of Gortyna just mentioned--resemblances extending even to particular expressions (se fraude esto=apaton emen).

This extract is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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