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[111] 31. But of all that is thus praiseworthy in the1 conduct of Regulus, this one feature above all others calls for our admiration: it was he who offered the motion that the prisoners of war be retained. For the fact of his returning may seem admirable to us nowadays, but in those times he could not have done otherwise. That merit, therefore, belongs to the age, not to the man. For our ancestors were of the opinion that no bond was more effective in guaranteeing good faith than an oath. That is clearly proved by the laws of the Twelve Tables, by the “sacred” laws,2 by the treaties in which good faith is pledged even to the enemy, by the investigations made by the censors and the penalties imposed by them; for there were no cases in which they used to render more rigorous decisions than in cases of violation of an oath.

1 The most striking lesson in the story of Regulus.

2 “Sacred” laws, according to Festus (p. 318), were laws that placed their transgressor, together with his household and his property, under the ban of some divinity; other authorities limit the term to the laws enacted upon the Sacred Mount (B.C. 394).

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