This volume presents the best papers of a conference held in October 2012 in Budapest, investigating the tensions and connections between sale (the legal framework for exchanging goods) and community (the public interest represented by state authorities). The research is part of a series scrutinizing documentary sources from ancient societies. Legal documents open a special sight to legal cultures, using different languages and writing material. Despite basic disparities it is fascinating to discover deep functional relations mirroring the social and economic context.
Éva Jakab is professor for Roman law at the University of Szeged, Hungary. Her research is focused on comparative ancient contract law from the approach of every day legal life (law in action).
She is the author of Praedicere und cavere. Sachmängel im griechischen und römischen Recht (1997) and Risikomanagement beim Weinkauf. Periculum und Praxis im Imperium Romanum (2009). She edited
Usus Antiquus Juris Romani. Antikes Recht in lebenspraktischer Anwendung (2005) and Kaufen nach Römischem Recht. Antikes Erbe
in den europäischen Kaufrechtsordnungen (2008).
She is corresponding member oft he Austrian Academy of Sciences, member of the Legal Commission of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, member of the Main Board of the Hungarian Research Funds and of the Jury‚ Consorzio Interuniversitario Gérard Boulvert, Comitato Scientifico Internazionale, Naples.
Browsing 02. Sale and Community Documents from the Ancient World by Issue Date
The Ptolemies, the last Pharaohs, took over a country with a high standing
civilization and a mighty clergy, receiving at the same time numerous Greek
immigrants. They were able to maintain the control over Greeks and Egyptians
by balancing between innovation and tradition and by bargaining with
the elite groups (Greek and priestly elite).1 This paper on selling procedures
is a test case for this general statement. Evidence of the Egyptian chora will
be discussed, constituting mainly of Greek and Demotic sale contracts and of
sales tax receipts; official correspondence and lawsuit records add crucial additional
By using the evidence of the local record-office archive, this paper examines the role and importance of formally contracted sales and cessions in the economy and society of first-century Tebtunis, in the Fayum, Egypt. The aim is to determine to what extent and how reliably fluctuations in sales and cessions trends reflected changing market conditions and hence had an impact on the local village community.
As the Greek law of sale was based on the principles of the cash purchase, according to Plato,
Aristotle or Theophrastus credit buying did not cause any legal effect. The Greek system of
contract law, which – in contrast to classical Roman law – did not know consensual contracts,
invented other possibilities how to perform sale on credit: The papyrological evidence shows that this was transacted with the help of fictitious loans; but only a few documents can be
identified as proving loans that in reality had not been concluded to lend money but to defer the purchase price.
The role of royal fiscal authorities in the taxation of sale is examined in Hellenistic Greece and the Near East. By and large, the royal role seems to have been markedly minimal, as the kings ceded to cities sovereignty over sales tax. However, a royal role can be discerned on the borders between the many fiscal zones within the kingdom: taxes were gleaned from the movement of goods destined for sale, on mobility in the service of sale.
Contracts of sale are amongst the most common types of legal documents in Demotic. They are often combined with another type of document, the so-called cession or quitclaim, which confirms that the sale has transferred the ownership of the item. Sale documents could also be used, however, as security for other transactions, such as loans, and in this case the transfer was conditional only. Finally, some external features of the documents are discussed.
The article deals with the bureaucratic procedures by means of which the Roman administration of Egypt used to sell arable land placed at the disposal of the state by way e.g. of confiscation. The land was sold at a fixed price and under the condition that the buyer was granted a period of tax exemption after the acquisition. One of the most important categories of land sold in this way was the „land of reduced revenue“ (hypologos) because it had not been cultivated for some time. By establishing the procedure described above the government aimed at attracting potential buyers by reducing their investment costs for the recultivation of
the land in order to resume the collecting of the taxes. Besides the analysis of the bureaucratic procedures which were necessary on the various level of the administration for the execution of such sales the contribution also investigates the problems connected to the fixing of the purchase price of the land in question.
The extent of the legal framework of the economic institution of sale in the Old Babylonian period that can be derived from normative texts as well as from texts from the legal practice refers to very basic structures and a smaller number of special cases. The allocative function of law for economic behavior has therefore to be described as limited. Nevertheless, the rather liberal economic system was restricted by normative measures such as debt release which were closely connected to the idea of justice as a universal concept and thus ensured social and political stability of the community.
The paper discusses the role of the Ptolemaic state in the selling of immovables in private possession and focuses on the transaction costs, the legal protection of the contract and of the parties involved. The paper illustrates the bureaucratization process or the growing governmental involvement, resulting in a diminishing role of the temples and the clergy. At the same time, the Ptolemies respected ancient Egyptian traditions of private landownership, taxation and contract habits.