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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 34: The Laws of the Ten Tables.[451 BC]
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Whilst highest and lowest alike were enjoying their prompt and impartial administration of justice, as though delivered by an oracle, they were at the same time devoting their attention to the framing of the laws. These eagerly looked for laws were at length inscribed on ten tables which were exhibited in an Assembly specially convened for the purpose. After a prayer that their work might bring welfare and happiness to the State, to them and to their children, the decemvirs bade them go and read the laws which were exhibited. "As far as the wisdom and foresight of ten men admitted, they had established equal laws for all, for highest and lowest alike; there was, however, more weight in the intelligence and advice of many men. They should turn over each separate item in their minds, discuss them in conversations with each other, and bring forward for public debate what appeared to them superfluous or defective in each enactment. The future laws for Rome should be such as would appear to have been no less unanimously proposed by the people themselves than ratified by them on the proposal of others." |
When it appeared that they had been sufficiently amended in accordance with the expression of public opinion on each head, the Laws of the Ten Tables were passed by the Assembly of Centuries. Even in the mass of legislation today, where laws are piled one upon another in a confused heap, they still form the source of all public and private jurisprudence. After their ratification, the remark was generally made that two tables were still wanting; if they were added, the body, as it might be called, of Roman law would be complete. As the day for the elections approached, this impression created a desire to appoint decemvirs for a second year. The plebeians had learnt to detest the name of " consul" as much as that of " king," and now as the decemvirs allowed an appeal from one of their body to another, they no longer required the aid of their tribunes.