Montesquieu
 

XXIX.14 That laws must not be separated from the circumstances in which they have been made

When the city was under siege, a law of Athens cal­led for put­ting to death eve­ryone who was not use­ful.1 This was an abo­mi­na­ble poli­ti­cal law, which was a conse­quence of an abo­mi­na­ble right of nations. Among the Greeks, the inha­bi­tants of a cap­tu­red city lost civil liberty, and were sold as sla­ves. The cap­ture of a city entai­led its entire des­truc­tion, and that is the ori­gin not only of those obs­ti­nate defen­ses and inhu­man actions, but also of the atro­cious laws that were some­ti­mes made.

Roman laws cal­led for phy­si­cians to be lia­ble for punish­ment for their negli­gence or lack of skill.2 In these cases they sen­ten­ced to depor­ta­tion the phy­si­cian of fairly high stan­ding, and to death one who was of lower stan­ding. By our laws things work other­wise. The laws of Rome had not been made in the same cir­cum­stan­ces as ours ; in Rome, whoe­ver wan­ted to could meddle in medi­cine, but here phy­si­cians are obli­ged to study and take cer­tain degrees : they are the­re­fore expec­ted to know their art.

Inutilis ætas occidatur (Syrianus in Scholia ad Hermogenis).

Law Cornelia, De sicariis, Institutes, book IV, tit. 3, De lege Aquilia, §7.