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Ancient Roman Law Posted by on May 31, 2009 in Latin Language

Ancient Roman law rests upon Lex Duodecim Tabularum, or The Twelve Tables. Many Western countries have modeled their laws upon Ancient Roman laws. As a result, you might find some similarities between the laws of your own country and Ancient Roman law. I’ll give excerpts from some of the laws written in ancient times. This should be a good translation practice.

1) Table l : Has to do with civil procedure, or laws that set out the rules that courts have to follow. “Si in ius vocat, ito. Ni it, antestamino. Igitur em capito.” If someone is called to go to court, he has to go. If he doesn’t go, a witness should be called in his stead.

2) II : More on civil procedure: “…morbus sonticus…quid horum fuit unum iudici arbitrove reove, eo dies diffensus esto.” …Serious illness…if any of these is an impediment for the judge or any party on that day, proceedings must end.

3) III : Has to do with debt. “Aeris confessi rebusque iure iudicatis XXX dies iusti sunto.” A person who confesses to owning money must be given 30 days to pay it back.

4) IV : Has to do with family matters. “Cito necatus insignis as deformitatem puer esto.” A seriously deformed child must be put to death. (This will probably be revolting to modern sensibilities, but life was harsh in Ancient Rome. The social services that we have today was virtually non-existent in those days.)

5) V : Has to do with matters of inheritance. “Si furiosus escit, adgnatum gentiliumque in eo pecuniaque eius potestas esto.” If someone turns insane, his nearest male relative will have control over his estate.

6) VI : Has to do with property in general. “Cum nexum faciet mancipiumque, uti lingua nuncupassit, ita ius esto.” When someone swears an oath and announces it orally, the person that the oath was sworn to will get rights assigned to him.

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