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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Are ascribed to the untutored wisdom of Romulus


[Footnote

5: Our original text is a fragment de Origine Juris (Pandect. l. i. tit. ii.) of Pomponius, a Roman lawyer, who lived under the Antonines, (Heinecc. tom. iii. syl. iii. p. 66--126.) It has been abridged, and probably corrupted, by Tribonian, and since restored by Bynkershoek (Opp. tom. i. p. 279--304.)]

The primitive government of Rome [6] was composed, with some political skill, of an elective king, a council of nobles, and a general assembly of the people. War and religion were administered by the supreme magistrate; and he alone proposed the laws, which were debated in the senate, and finally ratified or rejected by a majority of votes in the thirty curiae or parishes of the city. Romulus, Numa, and Servius Tullius, are celebrated as the most ancient legislators; and each of them claims his peculiar part in the threefold division of jurisprudence. [7] The laws of marriage, the education of children, and the authority of parents, which may seem to draw their origin from nature itself, are ascribed to the untutored wisdom of Romulus. The law of nations and of religious worship, which Numa introduced, was derived from his nocturnal converse with the nymph Egeria. The civil law is attributed to the experience of Servius: he balanced the rights and fortunes of the seven classes of citizens; and guarded, by fifty new regulations, the observance of contracts and the punishment of crimes. The state, which he had inclined towards a democracy, was changed

by the last Tarquin into a lawless despotism; and when the kingly office was abolished, the patricians engrossed the benefits of freedom. The royal laws became odious or obsolete; the mysterious deposit was silently preserved by the priests and nobles; and at the end of sixty years, the citizens of Rome still complained that they were ruled by the arbitrary sentence of the magistrates. Yet the positive institutions of the kings had blended themselves with the public and private manners of the city, some fragments of that venerable jurisprudence [8] were compiled by the diligence of antiquarians, [9] and above twenty texts still speak the rudeness of the Pelasgic idiom of the Latins. [10]

[Footnote 6: The constitutional history of the kings of Rome may be studied in the first book of Livy, and more copiously in Dionysius Halicarnassensis, (l. li. p. 80--96, 119--130, l. iv. p. 198--220,) who sometimes betrays the character of a rhetorician and a Greek. * Note: M. Warnkonig refers to the work of Beaufort, on the Uncertainty of the Five First Ages of the Roman History, with which Gibbon was probably acquainted, to Niebuhr, and to the less known volume of Wachsmuth, "Aeltere Geschichte des Rom. Staats." To these I would add A. W. Schlegel's Review of Niebuhr, and my friend Dr. Arnold's recently published volume, of which the chapter on the Law of the XII. Tables appears to me one of the most valuable, if not the most valuable, chapter.--M.]


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