Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 2.11-15
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[2.11] Now it should be seen what is a testament. A testament is a written document testifying the will of a dying householder, who desires to have a successor to his inheritance. An inheritance is money rightfully passing from the death of one person to another person. Every testament is confirmed by the death of the testator.1 Here is an example of such a charter containing a testament:

[2.12] Since we were born not only for our own sakes,2 our land of birth vindicates both our own part and the part of a friend. Therefore we consider it worthy that we not only advise the country's living citizens, but we also look forward to the future. Because every age from adolescence on is prone to evil,3 the impudence of men must be restrained by all means and their malice checked, lest it have free rein to ruin the state of good men. Therefore, lest by our carelessness a seedbed of discord be sown among friends close by nature and natural society be dissolved, we have written a testament with a dying hand and indeed we have bequeathed concerning our money and our family, as we have established to be right.

[2.13] Since we have legal sons, natural sons and an adoptive son, who for his own merits remains no less dear to us than those whom we fathered, besides a wife and freedmen, we have divided our money in five parts; we bequeath the first place to our legal sons, the second to our natural sons, the third part to our adoptive son, the fourth to our wife and the fifth part to our freedmen. We grant complete freedom to our two slaves, because they have served our needs faithfully, so that they may be released from all bondage of the servile condition and they may freely manage themselves and their possessions,4 in no way obnoxious to our heirs. For indeed we have differently divided the estate which is contained in fields and in woods and vineyards and other properties, besides the moveable property. We leave the entire aforesaid estate only to our legal sons and our adoptive son, to be divided with an equal measure.5 We commit to our wife and adoptive son the charge over our last rites and the management of a funeral and honest burial.

[2.14] We freely give the vineyard, which we purchased this last year for nine pounds, to the church N. for the necessary uses of the clerics serving God there, with the legal agreement of the present prelate of the church and of many canons of the same church, for the redemption of our soul, so that we may deserve to merit by their pious and assiduous intercession the forgiveness which we have always desired.

[2.15] In this manner we have written a testament, beseeching our heirs that they should omit nothing of those things which we have assigned to be done. But they should divide without contention and each should possess without restriction what shall come to him by the lot of distribution and they shall redeem our sins with alms. Which if they shall devotedly and faithfully carry out, they shall merit to become partakers in an eternal inheritance.


1 Hebr. 9.17.

2 Cicero De off. 1.7.22: ut preclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus. (Speaker is Marcus Cato.).

3 cf. Gen. 8.21. This phrase is repeated twice below, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 3a.40 and 3b.59.

4 For other charters granting freedom to serfs, see below Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 3a.19-22, 3b.55-57, 3b.62-63, 3b.68-70, 3b.74-77; for the release from numerous taxes for serfs of a certain village, below 3a.46-50; for a two year freedom from taxes for an entire province, below, 3a.51-54; for the enfranchisement of the city of Lyon, below 3a.29-35; liberty for the church of Chartres, below 3a.36-40. The penal clauses of Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 3a.35 and 3a.39 provide for the enslaving of persons violating those charters.

5 cf. Deut. 32.9.

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© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998
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