Protection was in like manner provided for the estate of persons not capable of bearing arms and therefore not capable of protecting their own property, such as minors and lunatics, and above all for that of women; in these cases the nearest heirs were called to undertake the guardianship.
Law Of Inheritance
After a man's death his property fell to the nearest heirs: in the division all who were equal in proximity of relationship--women included--shared alike, and the widow along with her children was admitted to her proportional share. A dispensation from the legal order of succession could only be granted by the assembly of the people; previous to which the consent of the priests had to be obtained on account of the ritual obligations attaching to succession. Such dispensations appear nevertheless to have become at an early period very frequent. In the event of a dispensation not being procured, the want of it might be in some measure remedied by means of the completely free control which every one had over his property during his lifetime. His whole property was transferred to a friend, who distributed it after death according to the wishes of the deceased.
Manumission was unknown to the law of very early times. The owner might indeed refrain from exercising his proprietary rights; but this did not cancel the existing impossibility of master and slave coming under mutual obligations; still less did it enable the slave to acquire, in relation to the community, the rights of a guest or of a burgess. Accordingly manumission must have been at first simply -de facto-, not -de jure-; and the master cannot have been debarred from the possibility of again at pleasure treating the freedman as a slave. But there was a departure from this principle in cases where the master came under obligation not merely towards the slave, but towards the community, to leave him in possession of freedom. There was no special legal form, however, for thus binding the master--the best proof that there was at first no such thing as a manumission,--but those methods were employed for this object which the law otherwise presented, testament, action, or census. If the master had either declared his slave free when executing his last will in the assembly of the people, or had allowed his slave to claim freedom in his own presence before a judge or to get his name inscribed in the valuation-roll, the freedman was regarded not indeed as a burgess, but as personally free in relation to his former master and his heirs, and was accordingly looked upon at first as a client, and in later times as a plebeian.(7)
The emancipation of a son encountered greater difficulties than that of a slave; for while the relation of master to slave was accidental and therefore capable of being dissolved at will, the father could never cease to be father. Accordingly in later times the son was obliged, in order to get free from the father, first to enter into slavery and then to be set free out of this latter state; but in the period now before us no emancipation of sons can have as yet existed.
Clients And Foreigners
Such were the laws under which burgesses and clients lived in Rome. Between these two classes, so far as we can see, there subsisted from the beginning complete equality of private rights. The foreigner on the other hand, if he had not submitted to a Roman patron and thus lived as a client, was beyond the pale of the law both in person and in property. Whatever the Roman burgess took from him was as rightfully acquired as was the shellfish, belonging to nobody, which was picked up by the sea-shore; but in the case of ground lying beyond the Roman bounds, while the Roman burgess might take practical possession, he could not be regarded as in a legal sense its proprietor; for the individual burgess was not entitled to advance the bounds of the community. The case was different in war: whatever the soldier who was fighting in the ranks of the levy gained, whether moveable or immoveable property, fell not to him, but to the state, and accordingly here too it depended upon the state whether it would advance or contract its bounds.
Exceptions from these general rules were created by special state-treaties, which secured certain rights to the members of foreign communities within the Roman state. In particular, the perpetual league between Rome and Latium declared all contracts between Romans and Latins to be valid in law, and at the same time instituted in their case an accelerated civil process before sworn "recoverers" (-reciperatores-). As, contrary to Roman usage, which in other instances committed the decision to a single judge, these always sat in plural number and that number uneven, they are probably to be conceived as a court for the cognizance of commercial dealings, composed of arbiters from both nations and an umpire. They sat in judgment at the place where the contract was entered into, and were obliged to have the process terminated at latest in ten days. The forms, under which the dealings between Romans and Latins were conducted, were of course the general forms which regulated the mutual dealings of patricians and plebeians; for the -mancipatio- and the -nexum- were originally not at all formal acts, but the significant expression of legal ideas which held a sway at least as extensive as the range of the Latin language.
Dealings with countries strictly foreign were carried on in a different fashion and by means of other forms. In very early times treaties as to commerce and legal redress must have been entered into with the Caerites and other friendly peoples, and must have formed the basis of the international private law (-ius gentium-), which gradually became developed in Rome alongside of the law of the land. An indication of the formation of such a law is found in the remarkable -mutuum-, "the exchange" (from -mutare- like -dividuus-)--a form of loan, which was not based like the -nexum- upon a binding declaration of the debtor expressly emitted before witnesses, but upon the mere transit of the money from one hand to another, and which as evidently originated in dealings with foreigners as the -nexum- in business dealings at home.