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 utility.
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 him.
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 forever.
1. A dreadfully deformed child shall be
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 year.
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 that tree.
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 rightly slain.
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
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 come
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
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 decision.
5. Treason: he who shall have roused up a public
enemy or handed over a citizen to a public enemy must suffer
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
1. Marriages should not take place between plebeians
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.