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12. [26]

When this might have been well transacted thus—“The Sabine farm is mine.” “No; it is mine:”—then a trial; they would not have it so. “The farm,” says he, “which is in the territory which is called Sabine:”—verbose enough—well, what next? “That farm, I say, is mine according to the rights of Roman citizens.” What then?—“and therefore I summon you according to law, seizing you by the hand.”

The man of whom the field was demanded did not know how to answer one who was so talkatively litigious. The same lawyer goes across, like a Latin flute-player,—says he, “In the place from whence you summoned me having seized me by the hand, from thence I recall you there.” In the meantime, as to the praetor, lest he should think himself a fine fellow and a fortunate one, and himself say something of his own accord, a form of words is composed for him also, absurd in other points, and especially in this: “Each of them being alive and being present I say that that is the way.” “Enter on the way.” That wise man was at hand who was to show them the way. “Return on your path.” They returned with the same guide. These things, I may well suppose, appeared ridiculous to full-grown men; that men when they have stood rightly and in their proper place should be ordered to depart, in order that they might immediately return again to the place they had left. Everything was tainted with the same childish folly. “When I behold you in the power of the law.” And this—“But do you say this who claim the right?” And while all this was made a mystery of, they who had the key to the mystery were necessarily sought after by men; but as soon as these things were revealed, and were bandied about and sifted in men's hands, they were found to be thoroughly destitute of wisdom, but very full of fraud and folly. [27]

For though many things have been excellently settled by the laws, yet most of them have been depraved and corrupted by the genius of the lawyers. Our ancestors determined that all women, on account of the inferiority of their understanding, should be under the protection of trustees. These men have found out classes of trustees, whose power is subordinate to that of the women. The one party did not wish the domestic sacrifices to be abolished in families; by the ingenuity of the others old men were found to marry by the form called coemptio, 1 for the sake of' getting rid of these sacred ceremonies. Lastly, in every part of the civil law they neglected equity itself, but adhered to the letter of the law; as for instance, because in somebody's books they found the name of Caia, they thought that all the women who had married by coemptio were called Caias. And that often appears marvellous to me, that so many men of such ability should now for so many years have been unable to decide whether the proper expressions to use be the day after tomorrow or the third day, a judge or an arbiter, a cause or a proceeding.

1 Coemptio was “a ceremony of marriage consisting in a mock sale, whereby the bride and bridegroom sold themselves to each other.” Riddle in voce. “Coemptio was effected by mancipatio, and consequently the wife was in mancipio.”—Smith, Dict. Ant. p. 603, § v., v. Marriage, (Roman.)

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