Obligation (Greek and Roman)

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ANCIENT HISTORY, Roger Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine, Sabine Huebner, eds., Oxford: Wiley & Blackwell, 2011

5 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2011

See all articles by Helge Dedek

Helge Dedek

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Martin Schermaier

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität - Institute of Roman Law and Comparative Legal History

Date Written: January 4, 2011

Abstract

Justinian’s Institutes defined the concept of obligation as follows: Obligatio est iuris vinculum quo necessitate adstringimur alicuius solvendae rei secundum nostrae civitatis iura (Iustinian Institutiones 3.13.pr): The obligatio is a "legal tie" (iuris vinculum) that binds us to render a performance to another person according to our laws. This definition timelessly expresses the nature of an obligation: a debtor owes a duty to the creditor. The content of such a duty, and exactly how it may or must be performed, are infinitely variable and determined by the event that gives rise to the obligation, not by the concept of obligation itself. When we examine the idea of an obligation, it is possible to distinguish between the debtor’s duty and the debtor’s potential liability. The concept of "duty" expresses that someone (the debtor) owes something to another (the creditor). The concept of "liability" adds that the debtor can be held responsible if he breaches such a legal duty: the creditor can seek the assistance of the courts if he does not receive what was owed to him.

Keywords: Obligation, duty, liability, contract, tort, Greek law, Roman law, legal history

JEL Classification: K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Dedek, Helge and Schermaier, Martin, Obligation (Greek and Roman) (January 4, 2011). ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ANCIENT HISTORY, Roger Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine, Sabine Huebner, eds., Oxford: Wiley & Blackwell, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1807242

Helge Dedek (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
Canada

Martin Schermaier

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität - Institute of Roman Law and Comparative Legal History

Regina-Pacis-Weg 3
Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

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