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

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 12, 2011

Abstract

"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

Dedek, Helge and Schermaier, Martin, Property (Greek and Roman) (January 12, 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=1807243

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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