Property (Greek and Roman)
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ANCIENT HISTORY, Roger Bagnall, Kai Brodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine, Sabine Huebner, eds., Oxford: Wiley & Blackwell, 2011
4 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2011 Last revised: 17 Apr 2011
Date Written: January 12, 2011
"Property" is a legal concept that relates a person to an object in the sense that the person "owns" the object: it is legally his. Both Greek and Roman law are familiar with the notion of such a relationship. Greek law, however, did not develop a general consistent concept of ownership, yet we find things described as being allocated to one person, and the notion of a person having the capacity to use things unrestrictedly. The Roman dominium, the technical term for property and ownership, comprises both the aspects of allocation and the possibility of use, yet expresses, additionally, the idea of domination, of having power over something: the owner is dominus – the master. The ancient institutions governing the acquisition of ownership all refer to the hand (manus) as a symbol of apprehending, holding, and keeping (e.g. mancipatio, mancipium). Roman legal terminology also knows of proprietas, a term that signifies that an object is allocated to a person (as in proprius), while lacking the connotation of subjective power or domination so typical of modern concepts of property.
Keywords: Property, history of property, Greek law, Roman law, legal history
JEL Classification: K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation