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The Peculium

Andreas M. Fleckner

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Winter, Gift Giving and the "Embedded" Economy in the Ancient World, pp. 213-239, 2014

The peculium was the estate of sons, slaves, and other persons who were subject to the authority of someone else (personae alieno iuri subiectae). The peculium has two distinct facets: for those who were subject to another’s authority, the receipt of a peculium gave some degree of financial independence and autonomy, while for those who exerted authority, granting a peculium offered the prospect of participating indirectly, and therefore at lower risk, in business ventures that the recipient may conduct. So far, so good – that is the basic concept that emerges from the sources. But what was the peculium’s role, if any, in ancient society? Over the last couple of decades, one aspect of the peculium’s second facet – allowing the grantor of the peculium to team up with others and share in larger business ventures of the recipient – has become a more and more popular explanation. This assumption, however, faces two objections: first, no sources have come down to us that support the idea that the peculium was indeed used to organize larger business ventures, and second, the peculium’s legal regime seems less than optimal and in some respects even ill-suited to fund such enterprises. Therefore, if investing in business ventures is not the prime factor that drove the peculium’s development, its first facet comes back to the fore: was the peculium primarily a legal device for donations to personae alieno iuri subiectae?

Number of Pages in PDF File: 33

Keywords: peculium, theory of the firm, entity shielding, asset partitioning, Roman law, slaves, gifts

JEL Classification: D23, K11, K12, K22, L22, N40

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Date posted: August 23, 2013 ; Last revised: March 24, 2015

Suggested Citation

Fleckner, Andreas M., The Peculium. Winter, Gift Giving and the "Embedded" Economy in the Ancient World, pp. 213-239, 2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2313795 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2313795

Contact Information

Andreas M. Fleckner (Contact Author)
Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law ( email )
Mittelweg 187
D-20148 Hamburg
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