The Twelve Tables

The Twelve Tables was a time in the Roman history where Rome stopped being a kingdom.

This happened after there was much fighting and the last king, Tarquin the Proud of Rome, fought and then the Roman people won.

Tarquin the Proud

The king, Tarquin the Proud, was not a good king.  He was mean and stole things and was always fighting with people and the people hated him.

No one is really sure how Rome got rid of Tarquin but when people were finally free of him, this is when Rome decided to form a new government.

Laws and Rules

Starting a new government was very important for ancient Rome because this allowed the people to be treated fairly and to be considered equal.  Before this, people were not considered citizens and if someone was poor, they were not considered important.

With the new government, the people were treated good rather they were poor or rich.


The SPQR was the new government and it stood for Senatus Populus Que Romanusa or “Senate and the People of Rome.”  This new type of government was called a republic.

A republic is a government where people are able to vote and elect different government officials to be in charge of the government.

Roman Republic

The Roman Republic would allow Roman citizens to vote for whoever they wanted to be their leader.  The leader would then create laws for the people.

Roman Citizens

The only Roman citizens that were allowed to vote were free men.  Free men were the only ones that were considered citizens of Rome.

This meant that women, children and slaves were not considered to be Roman citizens and could not vote for anything.

Even though this seemed unfair, it was much better because the people were able to vote and no longer had to deal with a tyrant as their leader.

Some of the kings that they had lived under were very mean and made up their own rules and laws anytime that they wanted to.

Rome was now ruled by government officials called the Senators.


The senators created laws but not all of the laws were new but this time the laws were clearer and they were written down in books.  The new laws applied to all of the citizens and so no one was treated unequally.

There were some new laws such as the law where people are not considered guilty until there is proof, and another law was that all citizens could challenge the person that blamed them for something in court.

The law allowed judges to have power and to stop laws that were not fair.

Twelve Tables

These laws were so important to the Romans that they engraved the laws into tablets that were made of metal.  There were Twelve Tables which included twelve different sections of laws that were made for the Roman people.

The laws ere written on these tablets and they were about how to handle crime, property laws, marriage laws, inheritance laws.  These laws changed over time and kept up with the times in Rome as they changed.

The Twelve Tables stayed displayed the whole time that Rome was a Republic.

Roman Pride

The Romans were very proud of the laws that they made and that they allowed all of the citizens to be treated equally.  They believed that having laws was important and they said that “the law is the law.”

Facts About the Twelve Tables:

  • One reason the Romans made the laws and engraved them was over Julius Caesar. He said laws but then if he decided he didn’t like them; he would change them.
  • Julius Caesar was assassinated because he didn’t follow laws and the people didn’t like him for it.
  • The Romans followed laws much better than the Greeks.
  • Laws we have today are sometimes based on Roman laws.
  • One of the twelve laws was “if you are called to court, you must go. If you don’t show up, you can be taken to court by force.”
  • Another of the laws was about testifying for witnesses.
  • “A space of two feet and a half must be left between neighboring buildings,” was another law.
  • The other laws dealt with land laws, being guilty of false witness, having meetings in the city at night, killing people, what to do with dead people and marriage.

What Did You Learn?

  1. What are the Twelve Tables?  The Twelve Tables are laws that were engraved on metal tablets for the Roman citizens.
  2. Why did the Roman citizens want to get rid of having a king? The kings would come in and do what they wanted and would treat people unequally.
  3. Who was the last king of the Roman Kingdom ship? The last king was Tarquin the Proud.
  4. What was the new government called? SPQR or Senate and the People of Rome.
  5. What were the people called that made the new laws? The Roman Senate made the new laws.
  6. Who was allowed to vote in Rome? Roman citizens were allowed to vote which was only free men.