In the Roman Twelve Tables, Table X states:-

Law X.

The body of no dead slave shall be anointed; nor shall any drinking take place at his funeral, nor a banquet of any kind be instituted in his honor.

Was there any particular reason for this, and why was it considered important enough to be included in the Twelve Tables?


I find at least two different sites that show different translations:

from here:

Anointing by slaves is abolished and every kind of drinking-bout. Let there be no costly sprinkling, . . . no long garlands, . . . no incense-boxes.

and here:

6a. ... Anointing by slaves is abolished and every kind of drinking bout ... there shall be no costly sprinkling, no long garlands, no incense boxes ...

These sources both list it as by slaves, not of slaves. I don't know which is the correct interpretation. You might list your source for reference.

  • 1
    Seems surprisingly hard to find the original Latin.
    – Marakai
    May 18 '16 at 4:32
  • 1
    archive.org/stream/remainsofoldlati03warmuoft/#page/500/mode/… (6a near the top) has "Anointing by slaves is abolished" as a translation of "Servilis unctura tollitur" though I would have thought "Anointment of a slave is abolished" might be a more literal translation
    – Henry
    May 18 '16 at 8:48
  • 1
    @Henry Good find. That entire section of rules seems to be referencing behavior at funerals, not concerning slaves rights to funerals. Funny how one world can cause completely different meanings.
    – justCal
    May 18 '16 at 12:22

Those laws are part of a whole set of sumptuary laws that applied not only to slaves, but to citizens as well. For example, another law was that you were not supposed to throw gold into the bier or dress the deceased in more than three robes.

If you read the section on Roman sumptuary laws in the link provided above it summarizes the Roman attitudes towards eschewing luxury.

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