On the other hand personal credit was guaranteed in the most summary, not to say extravagant fashion; for the lawgiver entitled the creditor to treat his insolvent debtor like a thief, and granted to him in entire legislative earnest what Shylock, half in jest, stipulated for from his mortal enemy, guarding indeed by special clauses the point as to the cutting off too much more carefully than did the Jew. The law could not have more clearly expressed its design, which was to establish at once an independent agriculture free of debt and a mercantile credit, and to suppress with stringent energy all merely nominal ownership and all breaches of fidelity. If we further take into consideration the right of settlement recognized at an early date as belonging to all the Latins,(8) and the validity which was likewise early pronounced to belong to civil marriage,(9) we shall perceive that this state, which made the highest demands on its burgesses and carried the idea of subordinating the individual to the interest of the whole further than any state before or since has done, only did and only could do so by itself removing the barriers to intercourse and unshackling liberty quite as much as it subjected it to restriction. In permission or in prohibition the law was always absolute. As the foreigner who had none to intercede for him was like the hunted deer, so the guest was on a footing of equality with the burgess. A contract did not ordinarily furnish a ground of action, but where the right of the creditor was acknowledged, it was so all-powerful that there was no deliverance for the poor debtor, and no humane or equitable consideration was shown towards him. It seemed as if the law found a pleasure in presenting on all sides its sharpest spikes, in drawing the most extreme consequences, in forcibly obtruding on the bluntest understanding the tyrannic nature of the idea of right. The poetical form and the genial symbolism, which so pleasingly prevail in the Germanic legal ordinances, were foreign to the Roman; in his law all was clear and precise; no symbol was employed, no institution was superfluous. It was not cruel; everything necessary was performed without much ceremony, even the punishment of death; that a free man could not be tortured was a primitive maxim of Roman law, to obtain which other peoples have had to struggle for thousands of years. Yet this law was frightful in its inexorable severity, which we cannot suppose to have been very greatly mitigated by humanity in practice, for it was really the law of the people; more terrible than Venetian -piombi- and chambers of torture was that series of living entombments which the poor man saw yawning before him in the debtors' towers of the rich. But the greatness of Rome was involved in, and was based upon, the fact that the Roman people ordained for itself and endured a system of law, in which the eternal principles of freedom and of subordination, of property and of legal redress, reigned and still at the present day reign unadulterated and unmodified.
Notes For Book I Chapter XI
1. This "chariot-seat"--philologically no other explanation can well be given (comp. Servius ad Aen. i. 16)--is most simply explained by supposing that the king alone was entitled to ride in a chariot within the city (v. The King)--whence originated the privilege subsequently accorded to the chief magistrate on solemn occasions--and that originally, so long as there was no elevated tribunal, he gave judgment, at the comitium or wherever else he wished, from the chariot-seat.
2. I. V. The Housefather And His Household
3. The story of the death of king Tatius, as given by Plutarch (Rom. 23, 24), viz. that kinsmen of Tatius had killed envoys from Laurentum; that Tatius had refused the complaint of the kinsmen of the slain for redress; that they then put Tatius to death; that Romulus acquitted the murderers of Tatius, on the ground that murder had been expiated by murder; but that, in consequence of the penal judgments of the gods that simultaneously fell upon Rome and Laurentum, the perpetrators of both murders were in the sequel subjected to righteous punishment--this story looks quite like a historical version of the abolition of blood-revenge, just as the introduction of the -provocatio- lies at the foundation of the myth of the Horatii. The versions of the same story that occur elsewhere certainly present considerable variations, but they seem to be confused or dressed up.
4. The -mancipatio- in its developed form must have been more recent than the Servian reform, as the selection of mancipable objects, which had for its aim the fixing of agricultural property, shows, and as even tradition must have assumed, for it makes Servius the inventor of the balance. But in its origin the -mancipatio- must be far more ancient; for it primarily applies only to objects which are acquired by grasping with the hand, and must therefore in its earliest form have belonged to the epoch when property consisted essentially in slaves and cattle (-familia pecuniaque-}. The enumeration of those objects which had to be acquired by -mancipatio-, falls accordingly to be ranked as a Servian innovation; the -mancipatio- itself, and consequently the use also of the balance and of copper, are older. Beyond doubt -mancipatio- was originally the universal form of purchase, and occurred in the case of all articles even after the Servian reform; it was only a misunderstanding of later ages which put upon the rule, that certain articles had to be transferred by -mancipatio-, the construction that these articles only and no others could be so transferred.
5. Viz. for the year of ten months one twelfth part of the capital (-uncia-), which amounts to 8 1/3 per cent for the year of ten, and 10 per cent for the fear of twelve, months.
6. I. VII. Relation Of Rome To Latium)
7. I. VI. Dependents And Guests.
8. I. VII. Relation Of Rome To Latium
9. I. VI. Class of --Metoeci-- Subsisting By The Side Of The Community)
The Roman world of gods, as we have already indicated,(1) was a higher counterpart, an ideal reflection, of the earthly Rome, in which the little and the great were alike repeated with painstaking exactness.