Twelve Tables

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Twelve Tables, early code of Roman law. Most modern authorities accept the traditional date of 450 BC, 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.

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Twelve Tables Laws engraved on wooden tables representing the earliest codification of Roman law, traditionally dated 451–450 bc. They were written by decemviri (committee of 10) at the probable instigation of the plebeians. They codified the existing laws and customs of ancient Rome thereby providing a measure of certainty in the administration of the law.