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Exit bos frisica, The Tolsum tablet and Roman law

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image of Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review

The text of the Tolsum tablet, discovered in a Frisian mound in or about 1905, was first published by C.W. Vollgraff in 1917. His reading became the standard text for all subsequent editions of the tablet, for example in Arangio-Ruiz's edition of Roman legal documents in FIRA. Thanks to the efforts of A.K. Bowman, R.S.O. Tomlin and K.A. Worp (and the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden), we now have a new (and totally different) reading, indicating a money loan, rather than the sale of a Frisian ox. This article contains a first assessment of the value of the new reading for the discipline of Roman law. It is contended that the standard clause vel ei ad quem ea res pertinebit in documents like this relates to a possible assignment of the debt, since in Roman commercial practice money debts were assigned by transferring the cautio representing the debt.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Legal History, Leyden University, Faculty of Law, Postbus 9520, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands;, Email:


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