Cicero, De Oratore, I.44: Though all the world exclaim
against me, I will say what I think: that single little book of the
Twelve Tables, if anyone look to the fountains and sources of laws,
seems to me, assuredly, to surpass the libraries of all the
philosophers, both in weight of authority, and in plenitude of
1. If anyone summons a man before the magistrate, he must go.
If the man summoned does not go, let the one summoning him call the
bystanders to witness and then take him by force.
2. If he shirks or runs away, let the summoner lay hands on
3. If illness or old age is the hindrance, let the summoner
provide a team. He need not provide a covered carriage with a pallet
unless he chooses.
4. Let the protector of a landholder be a landholder; for one
of the proletariat, let anyone that cares, be protector.
6-9. When the litigants settle their case by compromise, let
the magistrate announce it. If they do not compromise, let them state
each his own side of the case, in the comitium of the forum
before noon. Afterwards let them talk it out together, while both are
present. After noon, in case either party has failed to appear, let
the magistrate pronounce judgment in favor of the one who is present.
If both are present the trial may last until sunset but no later.
2. He whose witness has failed to appear may summon him by loud
calls before his house every third day.
1. One who has confessed a debt, or against whom judgment has
been pronounced, shall have thirty days to pay it in. After that
forcible seizure of his person is allowed. The creditor shall bring
him before the magistrate. Unless he pays the amount of the judgment
or some one in the presence of the magistrate interferes in his behalf
as protector the creditor so shall take him home and fasten him in
stocks or fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen
pounds of weight or, if he choose, with more. If the prisoner choose,
he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give
him a pound of meal daily; if he choose he may give him more.
2. On the third market day let them divide his body among them.
If they cut more or less than each one's share it shall be no crime.
3. Against a foreigner the right in property shall be valid
1. A dreadfully deformed child shall be quickly killed.
2. If a father sell his son three times, the son shall be free
from his father.
3. As a man has provided in his will in regard to his money
and the care of his property, so let it be binding. If he has no heir
and dies intestate, let the nearest agnate have the inheritance. If
there is no agnate, let the members of his gens have the inheritance.
4. If one is mad but has no guardian, the power over him and
his money shall belong to his agnates and the members of his gens.
5. A child born after ten months since the father's death
will not be admitted into a legal inheritance.
1. Females should remain in guardianship even when they have
attained their majority.
1. When one makes a bond and a conveyance of property, as he
has made formal declaration so let it be binding.
3. A beam that is built into a house or a vineyard trellis
one may not take from its place.
5. Usucapio of movable things requires one year's
possession for its completion; but usucapio of an estate and
buildings two years.
6. Any woman who does not wish to be subjected in this
manner to the hand of her husband should be absent three nights in
succession every year, and so interrupt the usucapio of each
1. Let them keep the road in order. If they have not paved it,
a man may drive his team where he likes.
9. Should a tree on a neighbor's farm be bend crooked by the
wind and lean over your farm, you may take legal action for removal of
10. A man might gather up fruit that was falling down onto
another man's farm.
2. If one has maimed a limb and does not compromise with the
injured person, let there be retaliation. If one has broken a bone of
a freeman with his hand or with a cudgel, let him pay a penalty of
three hundred coins If he has broken the bone of a slave, let him have
one hundred and fifty coins. If one is guilty of insult, the penalty
shall be twenty-five coins.
3. If one is slain while committing theft by night, he is
4. If a patron shall have devised any deceit against his
client, let him be accursed.
5. If one shall permit himself to be summoned as a witness,
or has been a weigher, if he does not give his testimony, let him be
noted as dishonest and incapable of acting again as witness.
10. Any person who destroys by burning any building or heap of
corn deposited alongside a house shall be bound, scourged, and put to
death by burning at the stake provided that he has committed the said
misdeed with malice aforethought; but if he shall have committed it by
accident, that is, by negligence, it is ordained that he repair the
damage or, if he be too poor to be competent for such punishment, he
shall receive a lighter punishment.
12. If the theft has been done by night, if the owner kills
the thief, the thief shall be held to be lawfully killed.
13. It is unlawful for a thief to be killed by day....unless he
defends himself with a weapon; even though he has come with a weapon,
unless he shall use the weapon and fight back, you shall not kill him.
And even if he resists, first call out so that someone may hear and
23. A person who had been found guilty of giving false
witness shall be hurled down from the Tarpeian Rock.
26. No person shall hold meetings by night in the city.
4. The penalty shall be capital for a judge or arbiter legally
appointed who has been found guilty of receiving a bribe for giving a
5. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public enemy or
handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer capital
6. Putting to death of any man, whosoever he might be
unconvicted is forbidden.
1. None is to bury or burn a corpse in the city.
3. The women shall not tear their faces nor wail on account
of the funeral.
5. If one obtains a crown himself, or if his chattel does so
because of his honor and valor, if it is placed on his head, or the
head of his parents, it shall be no crime.
1. Marriages should not take place between plebeians and
2. If a slave shall have committed theft or done damage with
his master"s knowledge, the action for damages is in the slave's name.
5. Whatever the people had last ordained should be held as
binding by law.