science of the just and the unjust.
2. Having explained these general terms, we think we shall commence our exposition of the law of the Roman people most advantageously, if we pursue at first a plain and easy path, and then proceed to explain particular details with the utmost care and exactness. For, if at the outset we overload the mind of the student, while yet new to the subject and unable to bear much, with a multitude and variety of topics, one of two things will happen—we shall either cause him wholly to abandon his studies, or, after great toil, and often after great distrust to himself (the most frequent stumbling block in the way of youth), we shall at last conduct him to the point, to which, if he had been led by an easier road, he might, without great labor, and without any distrust of his own powers, have been sooner conducted.
3. The maxims of law are these: to live honesty, to hurt no one, to give every one his due.
4. The study of law is divided into two branches; that of public and that of private law. Public law regards the government of the Roman empire; private law, the interest of the individuals. We are now to treat of the latter, which is composed of three elements, and consists of precepts belonging to the natural law, to the law of nations, and to the civil law.
II. Natural, Common, and Civil Law.
The law of nature is that law which nature teaches to all animals. For this law does not belong exclusively to the human race, but belongs to all animals, whether of the earth, the air, or the water. Hence comes the union of the male and female, which we term matrimony; hence the procreation and bringing up of children. We see, indeed, that all the other animals besides men are considered as having knowledge of this law.
1. Civil law is thus distinguished from the law of nations. Every community governed by laws and customs uses partly its own law, partly laws common to all mankind. The law which a people makes for its own government belongs exclusively to that state and is called the civil law, as being the law of the particular state. But the law which natural reason appoints for all mankind obtains equally among all nations, because all nations make use of it. The people of Rome, then, are governed partly by their own laws, and partly by the laws which are common to all mankind. We will take notice of this distinction as occasion may arise.
2. Civil law takes its name from the state which it governs, as, for instance, from Athens; for it would be very proper to speak of the laws of Solon or Draco as the civil law of Athens. And thus the law which the Roman people make use of is called the civil law of the Romans, or that of the Quirites; for the Romans are called Quirites from Quirinum. But whenever we speak of civil law, without adding the name of any state, we mean our own law; just as the Greeks, when “the poet” is spoken of without any name being expressed, mean the great Homer, and we Romans mean Virgil.
The law of the nations is common to all mankind, for nations have established certain laws, as occasion and the necessities of human life required. Wars arose, and in their train followed captivity and then slavery, which is contrary to the law of nature; for by that law all men are originally born free. Further, by the law of nations almost all contracts were at first introduced, as, for instance, buying and selling, letting and hiring, partnership, deposits, loans returnable in kind, and very many others.
3. Our law is written and unwritten, just as among the Greeks some of their laws were written and others were not written. The written part consists of leges (lex), plebiscita, senatusconsulta, constitutiones of emperors, edicta of magistrates, and responsa of jurisprudents i.e., jurists.
4. A lex is that which was enacted by the Roman people on its being proposed by a senatorian magistrate, as a consul. A plebiscitum is that which was enacted by the plebs on its being proposed by a plebeian magistrate, as a tribune. The plebs differ from the people as a species from its genus, for all the citizens, including patricians and senators, are comprehended in the populi (people); but the plebs only included citizens who were not patricians or senators. Plebiscita, after the Hortensian law had been passed, began to have the same force as leges.
5. A senatusconsultum is that which the senate commands or appoints: for, when the Roman people was so increased that it was difficult to assemble it together to pass laws, it seemed right that the senate should be consulted in place of the people.
6. That which seems good to the emperor has also the force of law; for the people, by the Lex Regia, which is passed to confer on him his power, make over to him their whole power and authority. Therefore whatever the emperor ordains by rescript, or decides in adjudging a cause, or lays down by edict, is unquestionably law; and it is these enactments of the emperor that are called constitutiones. Of these, some are personal, and are not to be drawn into precedent, such not being the intention of the emperor. Supposing the emperor has granted a favor to any man on account of his merit, or inflicted some punishment, or granted some extraordinary relief, the application of these acts does not extend beyond the particular individual. But the other constitutiones, being general, are undoubtedly binding on all.
7. The edicts of the praetors are also of great authority. These edicts are called the ius honorarium, because those who bear honors i.e., offices in the state, that is, the magistrates, have given them their sanction. The curule aediles also used to publish an edict relative to certain subjects, which edict also became a part of the ius honorarium.
8. The answers of the jurisprudenti are the decisions and opinions of persons who were authorized to determine the law. For anciently it was provided that there should be persons to interpret publicly the law, who were permitted by the emperor to give answers on questions of law. They were called jurisconsulti; and the authority of their decision and opinions, when they were all unanimous, was such, that the judge could not, according to the constitutiones, refuse to be guided by their answers.
9. The unwritten law is that which usage has established; for ancient customs, being sanctioned by the consent of those who adopt them, are like laws.
10. The civil law is not improperly divided into two kinds, for the division seems to have had its origin in the customs of the two states, Athens and Lacedaemon. For in these states it used to be the case, that the Lacedaemonians rather committed to memory what they observed as law, while the Athenians rather observed as law what they had consigned to writing, and included in the body of their laws.
11. The laws of nature, which all nations observe alike, being established by a divine providence, remain ever fixed and immutable. But the laws which every state has enacted, undergo frequent changes, either by the tacit consent of the people, or by a new law being subsequently passed.
III. The Law of Persons.
All our law relates either to persons, or to things, or to actions. Let us first speak of persons; as it is of little purpose to know the law, if we do not know the persons for whose sake the law was made. The chief division in the rights of persons is this: men are all either free or slaves.
1. Freedom, from which men are said to be free, is the natural power of doing what we each please, unless prevented by force or by law.
2. Slavery is an institution of the law of nations, by which one man is made the property of another, contrary to natural right.
3. Slaves are denominated servi, because generals order their captives to be sold, and thus preserve them, and do not put them to death. Slaves are also called mancipia, because they are taken from the enemy by the strong hand.
4. Slaves either are born or become so. They are born so when their mother is a slave; they become so either by the law of nations, that is, by captivity, or by the civil law, as when a free person, above the age of twenty, suffers himself to be sold, that he may share the price given for him.
5. In the condition of slaves there is no distinction; but there are many distinctions among free persons; for they are either born free, or have been set free.
IV. The Free-born.
A person is ingenuus who is free from the moment of his birth, by being born in matrimony, of parents who have been either both born free, or both made free, or one of whom has been born and the other made free; and when the mother is free, and the father a slave, the child nevertheless is born free; just as he is if his mother is free, and it is uncertain who is his father; for he had then no legal father. And it is sufficient if the mother is free at the time of the birth, although a slave when she conceived; and on the other hand, if she be free when she conceives, and is a slave when she gives birth to her child, yet the child is held to be born free; for the misfortune of the mother ought not to prejudice her unborn infant. The question hence arose, if a female slave with child is made free, but again becomes a slave before the child is born, whether the child is born free or a slave? Marcellus thinks it is born free, for it is sufficient for the unborn child, if the mother has been free, although only in the intermediate time; and this is true.
1. When a man has been born free he does not cease to be ingenuus, because he has been in the position of a slave, and has subsequently been enfranchised; for it has been often settled that enfranchisement does not prejudice the rights of birth.
Freedmen are those who have been manumitted from just servitude. Manumission is the process of freeing from “the hand.” For while any one is in slavery, he is under “the hand” and power of another, but by manumission he is freed from this power. This institution took its rise from the law of nations; for by the law of nature all men were born free; and manumission was not heard of, as slavery was unknown. But when slavery came in by the law of nations, the boon of manumission followed. And whereas all were denominated by the one natural name of “men,” the law of nations introduced a division into three kinds of men, namely, freemen, and in opposition to them, slaves; and thirdly, freedmen who had ceased to be slaves.
1. Manumission is effected in various ways; either in the face of the Church, according to the imperial constitutiones, or by vindicta, or in the presence of friends, or by letter, or by testament, or by any other expression of a man’s last will. And a slave may also gain his freedom in many other ways, introduced by the constitutiones of former emperors, and by our own.
2. Slaves may be manumitted by their masters at any time; even when the magistrate is only passing along, as when a praetor, or praeses, or proconsul is going to the baths, or the theater.
3. Freedmen were formerly divided into three classes. For those who were manumitted sometimes obtained a complete liberty, and became Roman citizens; sometimes a less complete, and became Latini under the lex Julia Norbana; and sometimes a liberty still inferior, and became dedititii, by the lex Aelia Sentia. But this lowest class, that of the dedititii, has long disappeared, and the title of Latinus become rare; and so in our benevolence, which leads us to complete and improve everything, we have introduced a great reform by two constitutiones, which re-established the ancient usage; for in the infancy of the state there was but one liberty, the same for the enfranchised slave as for the person who manumitted him; excepting, indeed, that the person manumitted was freeborn. We have abolished the class of dedititii by a constitutio published among our decisions, by which, at the suggestion of the eminent Tribonian, quaestor, we have put an end to difficulties arising from the ancient law. We have also, at his suggestion, done away with the Latini Juniani, and everything relating to them, by another constitutio, one of the most remarkable of our imperial constitutiones. We have made all freedmen whatsoever Roman citizens, without any distinction as to the age of the slave, or the interest of the manumittor, or the mode of manumission. We have also introduced many new methods by which slaves may become Roman citizens, the only kind of liberty that now exists.
We now come to another division relative to the rights of persons; for some persons are independent, some are subject to the power of others. Of those, again, who are subject to others, some are in the power of parents, others in that of masters. Let us first treat of those who are subject to others; for, when we have ascertained who these are, we shall at the same time discover who are independent. And first let us consider those who are in the power of masters.
1. Slaves are in the power of masters, a power derived from the law of nations: for among all nations it may be remarked that masters have the power of life and death over their slaves, and that everything acquired by the slave is acquired for the master.
2. But at the present day none of our subjects may