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Ancient texts

Liv. (3.33)
Dion.(10.55)

The Decemvirate

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    2nd plebeian secession

451-450bc

Written laws
After years of struggle between the orders a decemvirate was appointed to write the laws.

Struggle of the orders
The years before the decemvirate had shown all the same pattern:
The plebeian tribunes tried to pass a law that granted the plebeians more rights. Then the consuls tried to hold a levy, because once in the army outside the gates of Rome, the power of a consul was without limits and no appeal was possible. The man who refused to be levied would be punished by the consul and then aquitted by the people. This would often be accompanied by a lot of violence.

The next year the consul, then again common citizen, would be tried by a peoples tribune and fined by the people of Rome.

Study of Greek laws
A committee was sent to Athens in Greece because there were written laws. The committee was to study and copy them, so Rome could create her own written laws. When they returned, a committee of ten men was appointed to create and write the new laws. Not only that this tenmenship (decemvirate) was also given the power over the city and the already elected consuls were not installed in office, but both men were also appointed decemvir instead.

Terror of the decemvirs
In this second year the decemvirs were not as nice as in the first year. Livy speaks of terror. A bit strange is that after that second year only almost two tables would have been produced. These men had to be forced to lay down their function of decemvir.Sure is there was a lot of tension in that period.

  Bronze table
Laws engraved in bronze.
(The Roman tables were robbed by tbe Gauls in 390 bc)
Museo Aqueologico Sevilla
Ten tables In the first year they produced ten tables with laws and the people were happy about the way they ruled the city. At the end of the year the decemvirate agreed, another decemvirate was nesessairy, because not all the work was done.
detail bronze table

Verginia
Verginius killes his daughter Again an Ap.Claudius played a remarkable role. He was appointed decemvir twice. The second time he behaved like a tyrant. He fell in love with Verginia,the young daughter of a plebeian, Verginius and decided to kind of steal her and make her his slave. Her father Verginius couldn'd accept this, prefered a dead daughter over a dishonoured one and killed her in public. It was , as a pater familias, his right to do this. There are historians who doubt the historicity of this story. But a powerfull clan like the Claudii, would very much be capable of getting a blaming story like this, out of the annals. Especially if it were not true.

The laws on the twelve tables
were mainly laws in the private atmosphere. As to be expected in this time, there were no laws with a social character. The end of debt slavery was not in sight yet.

Verginius kills his daughter
Museo Nazionale Roma









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    2nd plebeian secession


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