We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Law and the Rural Economy in the Roman Empire

Dennis P. Kehoe

Publication Year: 2007

The economy of the Roman Empire was predominantly agrarian: Roman landowners, agricultural laborers, and small tenant farmers were highly dependent upon one another for assuring stability. By examining the property rights established by the Roman government, in particular the laws concerning land tenure and the contractual relationships between wealthy landowners and the tenant farmers to whom they leased their land, Dennis P. Kehoe is able to demonstrate how the state fostered economic development and who benefited the most. In this bold application of economic theory, Kehoe explores the relationship between Roman private law and the development of the Roman economy during a crucial period of the Roman Empire, from the second to the fourth century C.E. Kehoe is able to use the laws concerning land tenure, and the Roman government's enforcement of those laws, as a window through which to develop a more comprehensive view of the Roman economy. With its innovative application of the methodologies of law and economics and the New Institutional Economics Law and the Rural Economy in the Roman Empire is a groundbreaking addition to the study of the Roman economy. Dennis P. Kehoe is Professor of Classical Studies at Tulane University. He is the author of several books, including Investment, Profit, and Tenancy: The Jurists and the Roman Agrarian Economy(University of Michigan Press, 1997). "Kehoe brings his deep expertise in Roman land tenure systems and his broad knowledge of the methodologies of New Institutional Economics to bear on questions of fundamental importance regarding the relationship of Roman law and society. Was governmental policy on agriculture designed to benefit large landowners or small farmers? What impact did it have on the rural economy? The fascinating answers Kehoe provides in this pathbreaking work should occasion a major reassessment of such problems by social and legal historians." ---Thomas McGinn, Department of Classical Studies at Vanderbilt University, and author of The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World: A Study of Social History and the Brothel and Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome "A ground-breaking study using the principles of New Institutional Economics to analyze the impact of legal policy in balancing the interests of Roman tenant-farmers and landowners in the 2-4 centuries C.E. Kehoe's book will be essential reading for historians of the Roman Empire, demonstrating how the government overcame challenges and contradictions as it sought to regulate this enormous sector of the economy." ---Susan D. Martin, Department of Classics, University of Tennessee "In Law and the Rural Economy, Kehoe brings to life the workings of the ancient economy and the Roman legal system. By analyzing interactions between the imperial government, landlords, and tenant farmers in provinces across the Empire, Kehoe opens insights into imperial economic policy. He handles a variety of challenging sources with mastery and wit, and his knowledge of scholarship is extensive and thorough, covering ancient history, textual problems in the sources, legal history and, perhaps most impressively, the modern fields of economic theory and 'law and economics.' Kehoe's innovative and sophisticated methodology sets his work apart. The book will make an important contribution to our understanding of access to the law and the effectiveness of the legal system, important topics for scholars of law, ancient and modern." ---Cynthia J. Bannon, Department of Classical Studies, Indiana University

Published by: University of Michigan Press


pdf iconDownload PDF

p. xi


pdf iconDownload PDF

p. xiii

read more

Introduction: Legal Institutions and the Roman Economy

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-27

In this book, I explore the relationship between Roman private law and the development of the Roman rural economy at the height of the Roman Empire, during the first three centuries CE, as well as in the fourth century, when the institutions of the later empire began to develop. In recent years economic historians have used many different methodological approaches to assess the performance of the Roman economy, with...

read more

1. The New Institutional Economics and Roman Legal Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 29-52

In this chapter, I explore in greater detail the methodology that I use to analyze the role of law and legal institutions in the Roman agrarian economy. My purpose is to apply this methodology to understand better how the legal policies of the Roman state affected incentives for productive investment in the rural economy. Accordingly, I am concerned with tracing whether the Roman state’s policies in creating and enforcing property...

read more

2. The Creation of Rights in the Countryside

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 53-91

We can appreciate the capacity of the Roman government to develop legal policies for land tenure by considering its efforts to manage the well-documented imperial estates in North Africa and Asia Minor. These estates are known to us from a series of inscriptions from the second and third centuries CE . The inscriptions include regulations defining land tenure as well as petitions to the imperial government from ...

read more

3. Roman Legal Policy and Private Farm Tenancy

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 93-129

The formal and informal institutions surrounding farm tenancy played a fundamental role in shaping the Roman agrarian economy, in particular, the distribution of wealth between large landowners and the small farmers who cultivated the bulk of the land. In this chapter, I clarify the likely economic effects engendered by the Roman government’s legal policies surrounding farm tenancy by analyzing how the jurists dealt with two ...

read more

4. Legal Order in the Rural Economy

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 131-161

My investigation of the law of farm tenancy in the previous chapter suggests both the flexibility of the Roman legal institutions and the limits of their authority in defining the conditions under which landowners and tenants participated in the agrarian economy. The Roman government displayed considerable flexibility as it endeavored to accommodate within the conventions of Roman private law a wide variety of...

read more

5. Late Antique Tax Policy and Incentives for Investment

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-191

The reliance of the Roman state and of many private landowners on the continued production of tenants in long-term tenure arrangements created a degree of institutional path dependence with important consequences for the empire’s agrarian economy. This institutional path dependence is especially apparent in the fourth century and later. In this period, the difficulty of altering fundamental institutional arrangements...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 193-199

The purpose of this book is to offer an economic analysis of Roman legal policy rather than a comprehensive account of land-tenure arrangements in the Roman Empire. My concern is thus to trace the overarching considerations—legal and economic—that guided the Roman legal authorities in dealing with issues involving land tenure, and then to discuss the likely effects of Roman policy on economic performance, primarily in ...


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 201-233


pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 235-251

General Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 253-259

Index of Ancient Sources

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 261-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025350
E-ISBN-10: 047202535X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472115822
Print-ISBN-10: 0472115820

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 615635606
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Law and the Rural Economy in the Roman Empire

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- Rome.
  • Land tenure (Roman law) -- Economic aspects.
  • Farm tenancy (Roman law) -- Economic aspects.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access