The Rise and Fall of Communal Liability in Ancient Law

21 Pages Posted: 6 May 2004

See all articles by Francesco Parisi

Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School; University of Bologna

Giuseppe Dari‐Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute


In ancient societies, rules of communal responsibility permitted the imposition of retaliatory sanctions on a wrongdoer's clan. These rules followed the collective ownership structure of early communities. Over time, notions of personal responsibility emerged, terminating the transfer of responsibility from one member to the whole clan. This paper intends to provide an economic explanation for this transition.

Keywords: communal liability, tort, ancient law, primitive society, group liability

JEL Classification: K13, K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Parisi, Francesco and Dari-Mattiacci, Giuseppe, The Rise and Fall of Communal Liability in Ancient Law. International Review of Law and Economics, Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 489-505, December 2004, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 03-44, Available at SSRN:

Francesco Parisi (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 1
40126 Bologna, fc 47100

Giuseppe Dari-Mattiacci

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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