Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    In Roman law. "Of cutting a debtor In pieces." This was the name of a law contained in the Twelve Tables, the meaning of which has occasioned much controversy. Some commentators have concluded that it was literally the privilege of the creditors of an insolvent debtor (all other means failing) to cut his body into pieces and distribute it among them. Others contend that the language of this law must be taken figuratively, denoting a cutting up and apportionment of the debtor's estate. The latter view has been adopted by Montesquieu, Bynkershoek, Heineccius, and Taylor. (Esprit des Lois, liv. 29, c. 2; Bynk. Obs. Jur. Bom. 1. 1, c. 1; Heinecc. Ant. Rom. lib. 3, tit. 30, § 4; Tayl. Comm, in Leg. Decemv.) The literal meaning, on the other hand, is advocated by Aulus Gellius and other writers of antiquity, and receives support from an expression (semoto omni cruciatu) in the Roman code itself. (Aul. Gei. Noctes Atticæ, lib. 20, c. 1; Code, 7, 7, 8.) This is also the opinion of Gibbon, Gravina, Pothier, Hugo, and Niehbuhr. (3 Gib. Rom. Bmp., Am. Ed., p. 183; Grav. de Jur. Nat. Gent, et XII. Tab. § 72; Poth. Introd. Pand.; Hugo, Hist, du Droit Rom. tom. i., p. 233, § 149; 2 Neibh. Hist. Rom. p. 507; 1 Kent, Comm. 523, note.) Burrill.