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Articles (Law)

The Roman state existed in practice for XIII centuries, being the power which was impacting the history. Therefore, I decided that I would tell the history of ancient Rome in the articles below, which will not necessarily cover only the Eternal City.

I encourage you to send articles and point out any corrections or inaccuracies.

Imperial legislation for protection of slaves

Slaves in ancient Rome were an extremely important social group from an economic point of view. The number of slaves peaked in the 1st century BCE, which also coincided with the famous uprising of Spartacus (73-71 BCE). The economic transformations of the fall of the republic, as well as the increased popularity of the custom of liberating slaves among their owners, led to a significant decrease in their number at the turn of the century, which threatened to upset the Roman economy based on slave labour.

The slave market, Gustav Boulanger

Literal contracts in the Roman law

Aside from verbal, consensual and real contracts there were also literal contracts in the Roman law, which means they were made in writing. Despite few sources we know that they were quite diverse. Due to their nature it was easy to use them as evidence. They were valued for their precision and the clarity with which they stated the obligations and they could refer to both the citizens as well as the peregrines, depending on which specific type of contract was used.

Court scene in old Rome expulsion of the Sophists

Perpetual lease in the Roman law

Perpetual lease, a type of limited property law, significantly evolved in Roman law with the passing time. Initially, a lease in the form of ius in agro vectigali has appeared as a law separate from the ordinary obligation agreement (locatio conductio). It happened because, in the case of locatio conductio rei (agreement to rent things, land in this case) the tenant was entitled only to short-term protection, which in some cases led to overexploitation of the farmlands.

Roman mosaic showing work in the field

Stipulation in Roman law

In the Roman law there were many kinds of agreements and contracts which could be used to bind sides. There were real, consensual, literal and verbal contracts. Among the verbal contracts, which were carried out by saying strictly defined words in strictly defined situations, there was a promise of a dowry (dotis dictio) and freedmen’s oath (iusiurandum liberti) but the most important was the stipulatio.

Court scene in old Rome expulsion of the Sophists

Senatus consultum Silanianum – resolution authorizing torture of slaves whose owner was murdered

During the existence of the Republic, the Senate had mainly an advisory function. However, after Octavian Augustus took power in 27 BCE, the role of the Senate changed. Since then, this institution had a legislative function, and the adopted resolutions had the force of binding law and often rewarding the upper classes. The resolution of the Senate was called Senatus consultum. In 10 CE, one of the most brutal resolutions was adopted – Senatus consultum Silanianum.

Manuel Domínguez Sánchez, Suicide of Seneca

Primary methods of ownership acquisition in ancient Rome

Apart from the derivative methods of transfer of ownership, requiring involvement from the previous owner (mancipation, in iure cessio, tradition), there were also primary methods recognised in the Roman law. Appropriation, accession, modification, acquisition of property from utilities, discovery of a treasure and usucaption all belong to this category. These methods were independent of the previous owner’s rights.

Court scene in old Rome expulsion of the Sophists, 1899, by Paget, Henry  Marriott

The notion and categories of things in ancient Rome

There used to be many categories a thing could belong to in the Roman law. The notion of thing itself was seen as very comprehensive and it contained both material things and various abstract concepts. A short description of the categories can help explain the extent of this notion and diversity of things in ancient Rome.

Law of twelve tables

Transfer of property ownership in ancient Rome

Every Roman owner was entitled to transfer his title to the property, however for the actual transfer to occur there were separate legal procedures required between the transferor and the buyer. Apart from the agreement between the parties involved there was also needed a visible and obvious act of transferring the control over any given thing. These requirements were abolished in 293 CE with an emperor’s act in accordance with simplifying the property trading.

A print showing Roman citizens at the Twelve Tables

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