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Twelve Tables

Twelve Tables, 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 plebeians' 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.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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