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The Roman Legal Structure for Territories

How did the Romans oversee ordinary daily transactions within their large empire? Professor Richard Epstein explains that the Empire was divided into territories which were governed locally. Indigenous people were allowed to remain on their land and engage in local business transactions under Roman rules. Professor Epstein also discusses rules that governed long-distance commercial transactions throughout the Empire, based on simple contracts of sale. https://youtube.com/watch?v=ozQQzDgmtPQ


What happens when you start to leave native Rome on the one hand, and start to acquire conquest by conquest, properties elsewhere. This presents very serious problems of judicial and legal administration for the state to handle. And essentially, unless you have a more or less honest system of taxation and governance, you cannot rule for a very long period of time. What you have to do is to create some kind of substructure of land, which will allow indigenous people to continue to live in their own territories and to be able to trade land with one another and so forth. The farmer and so on, and for that, what you have to do is to treat your titles a bit aloof. To create the subordinate set of rights, sooner or later, what you have to do is to make the distinction ironclad. Have sovereignty be perfectly consistent with small property rights, and then you have a system of regulation which explicitly asks when you can regulate, when you can tax, when you can confiscate through eminent domain powers and so forth, but that lies pretty much in the future from this system, and what we don't know about Roman law is how this thing actually played out in different territories. Gaius gives you about 10 lines on the whole subject. There's nothing whatsoever about this by the time you get to Justinian, because the provincial gap between the original Romanists and the territories was ended when everyone became a Roman citizen several hundred years before Justinian worked. The theory was that we're gonna protect our empire, and we have second-class people resolving and it's not going to work very well, so in an effort to get support, they expand the citizenship accordingly. So that's one area. The second area, which a great important, is what do you do with commercial transaction. The trading relationships of spices from one location to finished product in another location. And the dominating contract that one has to deal with in these cases turns out to be sale, and if you're dealing with sales, than distance, they tend to be very simple transactions in the sense that I give you complete ownership of this particular thing and you give me a price. Since we're gonna be 4,000 miles apart, or 200 miles apart when it all ends, the idea that I sell you something with some residual rights in the thing that I sold doesn't make any sense. So by the time you get to the formulation in Gaius, essentially sale is listed as the first and probably most important of the consensual promises, a contract, and the only thing that it requires is an agreement between the two parties about the thing to be sold and the price to be paid.

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