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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The unfortunate son of Licinianus


[Footnote 1351: See, however, the two fragments of laws in the newly discovered extracts from the Theodosian Code, published by M. A. Peyron, at Turin. By the first law of Constantine, the legitimate offspring could alone inherit; where there were no near legitimate relatives, the inheritance went to the fiscus. The son of a certain Licinianus, who had inherited his father's property under the supposition that he was legitimate, and had been promoted to a place of dignity, was to be degraded, his property confiscated, himself punished with stripes and imprisonment. By the second, all persons, even of the highest rank, senators, perfectissimi, decemvirs, were to be declared infamous, and out of the protection of the Roman law, if born ex ancilla, vel ancillae filia, vel liberta, vel libertae filia, sive Romana facta, seu Latina, vel scaenicae filia, vel ex tabernaria, vel ex tabernariae filia, vel humili vel abjecta, vel lenonis, aut arenarii filia, vel quae mercimoniis publicis praefuit. Whatever a fond father had conferred on such children was revoked, and either restored to the legitimate children, or confiscated to the state; the mothers, who were guilty of thus poisoning the minds of the fathers, were to be put to the torture (tormentis subici jubemus.) The unfortunate son of Licinianus, it appears from this second law, having fled, had been taken, and was ordered to be kept in chains to work in the Gynaeceum at Carthage. Cod. Theodor ab. A. Person, 87--90.--M.]

Chapter XLIV: Idea Of The Roman Jurisprudence.--Part VI.

The relation of guardian and ward, or in Roman words of tutor and pupil, which covers so many titles of the Institutes and Pandects, [136] is of a very simple and uniform nature. The person and property of an orphan must always be trusted to the custody of some discreet friend. If the deceased father had not signified his choice, the agnats, or paternal kindred of the nearest degree, were compelled to act as the natural guardians: the Athenians were apprehensive of exposing the infant to the power of those most interested in his death; but an axiom of Roman jurisprudence has pronounced, that the charge of tutelage should constantly attend the emolument of succession. If the choice of the father, and the line of consanguinity, afforded no efficient guardian, the failure was supplied by the nomination of the praetor of the city, or the president of the province. But the person whom they named to this public office might be legally excused by insanity or blindness, by ignorance or inability, by previous enmity or adverse interest, by the number of children or guardianships with which he was already burdened, and by the immunities which were granted to the useful labors of magistrates, lawyers, physicians, and professors. Till the infant could speak, and think, he was represented by the tutor, whose authority was finally determined by the age of puberty. Without his consent, no act of the pupil could bind himself to his own prejudice, though it might oblige others for his personal benefit. It is needless to observe, that the tutor often gave security, and always rendered an account, and that the want of diligence or integrity exposed him to a civil and almost criminal action for the violation of his sacred trust. The age of puberty had been rashly fixed by the civilians at fourteen; [1361] but as the faculties of the mind ripen more slowly than those of the body, a curator was interposed to guard the fortunes of a Roman youth from his own inexperience and headstrong passions. Such a trustee had been first instituted by the praetor, to save a family from the blind havoc of a prodigal or madman; and the minor was compelled, by the laws, to solicit the same protection, to give validity to his acts till he accomplished the full period of twenty-five years. Women were condemned to the perpetual tutelage of parents, husbands, or guardians; a sex created to please and obey was never supposed to have attained the age of reason and experience. Such, at least, was the stern and haughty spirit of the ancient law, which had been insensibly mollified before the time of Justinian.


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