What Was the First Written Law of Rome?

The first written law of Rome is called the Law of the Twelve Tables, or Lex XII Tabularum in Latin, and is dated between 451 and 450 B.C. The Twelve Tables were written by 10 commissioners, or decemvirs, at the insistence of the working class people, plebeians, who felt that their rights were being ignored by the upper class patricians.

The Twelve Tables record the laws pertaining to procedures for courts and trials, the rights of the father over the family, inheritance and legal guardianship, possession and acquisition, land rights, torts and delicts, public law, sacred law and two supplements to the law. Initially there were only 10 tablets, or tables. The plebeians were not entirely appeased by these ten, so a second group of 10 commissioners was appointed and the final two tablets, the supplements, were written. Prior to the Twelve Tables, all Roman law was unwritten and carefully guarded by a small group of patricians, leading to the plebeians being tried in a court of law without knowing what their rights were. The Twelve Tables did not amend Roman law; they simply put down in writing what the current laws were. Later written changes in Roman law effectively superseded the laws of the Twelve Tables even though the Tables were never formally abolished.