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Roman Legal Codes

Twelve Tablestwelve tables

    Rome’s most famous and first set of laws, which governed the empire for many years, was known as the Twelve Tables. The Twelve Tables wer e written by the Decemviri Consula ri Imperio Legibus Scribundis,(the 10 Consuls) in 449 B.C.E. They were given unprecedented powers to draft the laws o f the young Republic.The laws were engraved in copper and permanently displayed to public view. Originally ten laws were drafted ; two l ater statutes were added pr ohibiting marriage between the classes and affirming the binding nature of customary law. The new code promoted the organization of public prosecution of crimes and instituted a system whereby injured parties coul d seek just compensation in civil disputes. The plebeians were protected from the legal abuses of the ruling patricians, especially in the enforcement of debts. Serious punishments were levied for theft and the law gave male heads of families enormous social power (patria potestas).The important basic principle of a wriiten legal code for Roman law was established , and justice was no longer based solely on the interpretation of judges. These laws formed an important part of the foundation of all subsequent Western civil and criminal law.

The Justinian Code

Return of Fugitive Slaves: We ordain that slaves, or tributaries, or inquilini shall remain with their lords. For, when, dismayed by a fear of Ioss, each landowner begins to drive away those who are unknown to him, the will to flight will not be with the slaves; for no one deserts his lord knowing that there is nowhere a refuge for him as a fugitive. But either each one will employ those known to be free men, or will dismiss him who feigns freedom, fearing that he will be liable to those punishments which are ordained by the law. If, therefore, any known fugitive be found anywhere, his detainer shall bring to our fisc twelve pounds of silver, but we decree that to him whose slave he is he shall bring another of the same value in addition to that same fugitive.

Children of the Unfree: Lest there be any further doubt, if any one is descended from a bondwoman and a slave or adscripticius and a female slave, who is (and this might be worse fortune) either of bond or of servile rank, we decree that those things which were provided in former laws for such offspring, born of bondwoman and freeman, shall be left in their present state, and the offspring procreated from such connection shall be of bond status. But if any one were born either of a slave and a bondwoman or of a female slave and a bondman, he should follow the condition of his mother and be of such condition as she was, either slave or bondwoman; which rule has hitherto been observed only in cases of marriage between free and servile.

Children of Mixed Marriages: If those, who are accounted adscripticii by whatever judgment or whatever artifice or with their lords' consent or in their lords' ignorance, take to themselves freewomen as wives, we decree that both those, as well as their offspring, which is known to have been born to them, shall remain in liberty; but without doubt this must be observed, that if from a free husband and a wife of adscripticius status a child is born, he shall follow not the free condition of his father but incur the infamy of his mother's condition. But lest adscripticii should think such effort would go unpunished, which is a thing well to be believed of them, and lest the condition of a freewoman should be depressed by marriages planned by men of this kind, we decree, if any such thing should be perpetrated by an adscripticius, that his lord shall have full power, either of himself or through the president of the province, to correct such man with a moderate punishment and to separate him from the woman. And let him know that if he fail to do this, the negligence of such a man will redound to his own disadvantage.

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