Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Twelve Tables

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TWELVE TABLES, the name given to the earliest code of Roman law, civil, criminal, and religious, made by the decemvirs in 451-449 B. C. These, originally comprised in 10 tables, to which next year two others were added, were supposed to form the basis of all Roman law, and in Cicero's time were still committed to heart by boys at school. But they were very far from being a complete system. The occasion for them arose in the constant complaints made by plebeians of oppression by patricians; and the principal aim of the tables was to define rights, fix penalties, and prevent oppression under legal forms. Some of them were based on Greek models; most of them were derived from earlier Roman legislation. Many older laws were left intact by them, and reappear in Justinian's code. To the original tables commentaries were from time to time added.