Gortyn laws – ancient inheritance laws etched in stone

The Great Inscription at Gortyn on the Island of Crete, Greece

Ancient inheritance law, Law code of Gortyn, inscription, law in stone, Ancient inheritance laws etched in stone walls

Some of the earliest known written inheritance and succession laws can be found at the archaeological site of Gortyn, on the southern side of the island of Crete, Greece.  Gortyn, Gortys or Gortyna was once a large, busy metropolis in Ancient Greece.
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Inheritance and the Twelve Tables, an ancient Roman statute

The Law of the Twelve Tables 451- 449 BCE

The Twelve Tables is a body of law, or a code, (although not likely in the strict sense of a code covering all topics), is widely accepted as forming the basis of Roman Law.  Consisting of mostly civil law it was important in codifying and publicising the customary laws of the predominantly agrarian community operating at that time.

Table V dealt with inheritance and guardianship.  Some excerpts follow:

” 4.  If anyone who has no direct heir dies intestate the nearest male agnate shall have the estate.”
” 5.  If there is not a male agnate the male clansmen shall have the estate.”
” 6.  Persons for whom by will…a guardian is not given, for them..their male agnates shall be guardians.”
” 9.  Debts of the estate of a deceased shall be divided, according to law, among the heirs, proportionally to the share of the inheritance that each acquires. “

 

An agnate was a relative from the father’s side, someone of the male lineage.

 Ancient Roman Statutes, The Corpus of Roman Law, A Translation, Volume II,
A C Johnson, P R Coleman-Norton, F C Bourne,
C Pharr & M B Pharr (Eds),
University of Texas Press, Austin, 1961

© BHS Legal
April 2014

Twelve Tables, Roman law, inheritance law