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In the old Roman legal system the solemn process on entering upon a relationship of debtor and creditor under the form of mancipatio (q.v.). In the formula used therein the borrower gave the lender, in case of non-fulfilment of the obligation incurred, the right to seize him without more ado as his bondsman. There was no limit in respect of time to the right of the creditor over a debtor whose person thus became forfeit to him: it consisted in the fact that the creditor could keep the nexus in prison and make him work as a slave for him. The latter, however, continued to be a citizen; but, as long as the debt existed, was considered dishonoured, and was accordingly excluded from service in the legion and voting in the assemblies of the people. After the Lax Poethlia Papiria of 326 B.C. had, in the interest of the plebeians, for the most part abolished personal security, the nexum gradually passed into a mere contract of loan. [In Prof. Nettleship's Lectures and Essays, pp. 363-6, there is a note showing that the proper meaning of nexum is "a thing pledged (bound)," and of nexum -i, "a prisoner"; that the evidence for making nexum mean "a solemn process is very weak; and that nexus -us is the proper word for the contract or bond between debtor and creditor. In almost all the passages where nexum -i is supposed to mean "a process," it might as well come from nexus -us. Cicero, however, in Pro Coecina 102, has nexa atque hereditates; and in De Rep. ii 59, propter unius libidinem omnia nexa civium liberata nectierque postea desitum.]
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