“Creepy” landlord …

Readers of various British newspapers will have come across this news item in the last few weeks:


Apart from the obvious social interest raised by this posting (especially with regard to the overheated rental market in London and the flourishing of unregulated tenancies), the legal issue behind this report is quite interesting, especially the notion of a peppercorn rent. The matter is quite complex in the civilian tradition owing to the existence of this text from the Digest:

D. 19, 2, 46 Ulp. 69 ad ed.
Si quis conduxerit nummo uno, conductio nulla est, quia et hoc donationis instar inducit.

It does not take a Latinist to work out that the last part of this text is shaky. Indeed, already in 1956, Theo Mayer-Maly pointed out that the above text was probably cobbled together from this one:

D. 41, 2, 10, 2 Ulp. 69 ad ed.
Si quis et conduxerit et rogaverit precario, uti possideret, si quidem nummo uno conduxit, nulla dubitatio est, quin ei precarium solum teneat, quia conductio nulla est, quae est in uno nummo: sin vero pretio, tunc distinguendum, quid prius factum est.

Once this is accepted, it becomes clear that Roman law did not prohibit a peppercorn rent per se. Indeed, there are a number of examples from legal practice where a peppercorn rent is charged.

So what was the problem, then? Clearly not the peppercorn rent as such. Instead, it was something more intangible. In the article, the moderators of the site removed the listing on account of its breach of ‘community regulations’ of the website.

No doubt, a Roman lawyer would have reasoned along similar lines, but would likely have approached the matter from the perspective of ‘good faith’, the underlying idea in letting and hiring, instead. It is, after all, not the charging of a nominal rent per se that causes the problem here. Rather, it is the sense that the charging of a peppercorn rent masked something altogether different.

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Law and Transaction Costs

Our blogger has been alerted to the publication of this important new work in the field of Law and Economics in the Ancient World by Dennis Kehoe et al. Details here:



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REDISCOVERING THE HIDDEN STRUCTURE: A new appreciation of Juristic texts and Patterns of thought in Late Antiquity A Workshop on the REDHIS Project

Our colleagues at REDHIS are organising a fascinating workshop next month in London:

REDISCOVERING THE HIDDEN STRUCTURE: A new appreciation of Juristic texts and Patterns of thought in Late Antiquity A Workshop on the REDHIS Project

Session one
Friday, 4 December 2015
Copies of classical Jurists’ legal writings

UCL Institute of Advanced Studies,
Seminar Room 11, First Floor, South Wing

09:30 Welcome / Coffee
10:00 Benet Salway (Volterra Project – University College London) Dario Mantovani (Redhis Project – University of Pavia) Introduction

Session chair
Consuelo Carrasco (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid/University College London)

10:30 Serena Ammirati (Redhis Project – University of Pavia) Law and legal literature in late antique West: some preliminary observations

11:30 Marco Fressura (Redhis Project – University of Pavia) Lettura e classificazione di ‘marginalia’ nei papiri giuridici

12:30 Luigi Pellecchi (Redhis Project – University of Pavia) Un Papiniano ritrovato

13:30 Sandwich Lunch

session chair
Gesine Manuwald (University College London)

14:30 Ernest Metzger (University of Glasgow) Revisiting P.Ant. I 22

15:30 Coffee / Tea Break

16:00 Bernard Stolte (University of Groningen) New readings and interpretations of the so-called ‘Dialogus Anatolii’

17:00 Dario Mantovani (Redhis Project – University of Pavia) Il paratesto nei libri dei giuristi romani

Session two
Saturday, 5 December 2015
Classical Legal Thought as a part of the Late Antique Legal Culture

Garden Room, Wilkins Building, UCL

09:30 Coffee

session chair
Paul Mitchell (University College London)

10:00 Salvatore Puliatti (University of Parma) Aspetti di continuità e distacco nell’attività normativa della cancelleria postclassica

11:00 Benet Salway (Volterra Project – University College London) Petitions and response: the interplay of private and imperial rhetoric

12:00 Simon Corcoran (University College London) The lives of the Codex Gregorianus

13:00 Sandwich Lunch

session chair
Simon Corcoran (Volterra Project – University College London)

14:30 David Johnston (University of Edinburgh) Scaevola and Ulpian: preliminary thoughts on two pseudepigrapha

15:30 Michael Crawford (University College London) Thierry of Chartres and Roman law

16:30 Benet Salway (Volterra Project – University College London) Dario Mantovani (Redhis Project – University of Pavia)

See http://redhis.unipv.it/index.php/workshop/23-4-e-5-dicembre-rediscovering-the-hidden-structure

It promises to be an important event.

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Roman Marriage law

Our good friend, Professor Tom McGinn (Nashville), will be giving a series of lectures on Roman marriage law in their social context in Naples in the coming month. Details here:


Locandina McGinn

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“fouling charges” …

Readers of various UK newspapers may have seen this recent article. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/13/woman-gives-birth-in-addison-lee-taxi-cleaning-bill_n_8553646.html

A woman, who had summoned a taxi to take her to the hospital, gave birth to a baby in the back of a taxi. The driver demanded that she pay a “fouling charge” of £100.

This is an interesting notion and one wonders whether it lurks somewhere in the general conditions of carriage that no one ever reads. Judging from the eventual outcome, one suspects not.

Of course, the Romans dealt with a related issue:

D. 19, 2, 19, 7 Ulp. 32 ad ed.
Si quis mulierem vehendam navi conduxisset, deinde in nave infans natus fuisset, probandum est pro infante nihil deberi, cum neque vectura eius magna sit neque his omnibus utatur, quae ad navigantium usum parantur.

Ulpian is here more concerned with more passage money is owed for the infant, since it is no real drain on the resources prepared for the expected passengers.

One wonders what Ulpian would have made of this.

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Call for Papers: British Crime Historians Symposium 5

7-8 October 2016
University of Edinburgh

The British Crime Historians Symposium meets every two years as a forum for discussion, debate and the presentation of research for all aspects of the history of crime, law, justice, policing, punishment and social regulation.

Previous events (organised by the British Crime Historians Network) have taken place in Leeds, Sheffield, Milton Keynes (Open University) and Liverpool.

Our initial starting point, as in former years, is the British Isles and its former colonies. However we particularly encourage approaches that open up and develop comparative and transnational frameworks across period and place.

This year’s conference particularly welcomes proposals that engage with the following:

• Interdisciplinary perspectives
• Comparative, international and transnational histories
• The relationship between past and present

Confirmed Keynotes Speakers are: Professor David Garland (New York University) and Dr Julia Laite (Birkbeck, University of London)

We welcome proposals for individual papers as well as panels, which should be emailed as an attached Word document to BCH5@ed.ac.uk by 31 March 2016.

Each speaker whose proposal for a paper is accepted will be asked to speak for 20 minutes (to allow further time for questions and discussion). A panel should consist of three papers which together address an over-­‐arching theme or topic. We welcome proposals from scholars at all stages of their career including postgraduate students, and we encourage panel organisers to reflect this in any panel proposals.

For each individual paper proposed please include: title of paper; name, institutional affiliation (if any) and email address of speaker; abstract of 250 words.

Proposals for panels should also include: name, institutional affiliation (if any) and email address of the panel organiser; title of panel; summary of aims of panel (150 words); name of panel chair if known (if not included in the proposal a chair will be allocated by the conference committee); and full details of all papers and speakers (as for individual papers above).

The Conference Committee is: Chloe Kennedy (School of Law, University of Edinburgh); Louise Jackson, David Silkenat and Rian Sutton (School of History Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh).

Any queries should be addressed to: BCH5@ed.ac.uk



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Alan Rodger Postgraduate Visiting Researcher

The University of Glasgow School of Law invites applications from PhD students in Roman law/legal history for the post of Postgraduate Visiting Researcher, to be held during the 2016/17 academic year. The selected candidate will spend a term in Glasgow and receive a £2,000 award for support. The deadline for applications is 15 January 2016. Full details are available at


The post was established in memory of Lord Rodger of Earlsferry (1944-2011), Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and scholar of Roman law and legal history.

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Ancient Law in Context – Workshop 6 – “Procedure”

Readers of this blog may be interested to know of the next ALC workshop to be held on January 29 – 30, 2016 in Edinburgh. Programme below:

Ancient Law in Context: Workshop 6

29 – 30 January 2016

University of Edinburgh



Friday 29 January


Venue: Old College [Neil McCormick Room]


12.30 – 1pm: Arrival [Tea and Coffee]


Session 1


1 – 2pm: Jose Luis Alonso Rodriguez – “Etiam cum inique 

decernit: jurisdictional discretion in the Late Republic and the Early



2 – 3pm: Anna Dolganov – “Case-law and the work of judges in the Roman Empire.”


3 – 4pm: Jakub Urbanik – “Between arbitration and rescript procedure or the force of the imperial court.“


4 – 4.30pm: Tea, Coffee


4.30 – 5pm: Lina Girdvainyte – “C. Poppaeus Sabinus in Thessaly (IG IX 2.261, 15-35 CE): Territorial dispute resolution under Rome.”


5 – 5.30pm: Kimberley Czajkowski – “Trial narratives in Josephus.”


5.30pm – 6pm: Michael Crawford – “The Roman law of procedure, Ivo of Chartres, and the beginning of research on ancient slavery.”


6 – 7pm: Drinks


7.30 pm: Dinner at Ciao Roma



Saturday 30 January


Venue: HCA [G. 12, William Robertson Wing (The Old Medical School)]


9.30 – 10am: Tea, Coffee


Session 2


10 – 11am: Mirko Canevaro – “The Procedure of Demosthenes’ Against Leptines: How to Repeal (and Replace) an Existing Law.”


11 – 11.30am: Edward Harris – “The Legal Procedure of Demosthenes’ Against Meidias.”


11.30 – 12 noon: Pier Luigi Morbidoni – “Gaius, Inst. 3.55 and friends.”


12 noon – 12.30: Halcyon Weber – “The impact of the decisiones on the compilation of the Digest.”


12.30 – 1pm: Benedikt Eckhardt – “Manumissio per mensam.”


1pm: conclusion and lunch





Although this is a closed meeting, there are some spaces available for interested third parties wishing to join us for the sessions. Please email Paul du Plessis for more information.

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New Roman Law Textbook: Laurent Waelkens, Amne Adverso

Another textbook in English on Roman Law is always to be welcomed. A lively market in them indicates the continuing vitality of the discipline; good textbooks encourage students to learn and also to opt for the subject. It is also good to have diversities of approach. There is, for example, Borkowski’s Roman Law, in a new 5th edition, by this blogger’s colleague Paul du Plessis; our colleague in Glasgow, Ernie Metzger, has provided a new introduction to Barry Nicholas’s Introduction to Roman Law.

Leuven University Press has just published Amne Adverso: Roman Legal Heritage in European Culture by Laurent Waelkens. Your blogger should instantly admit that he has known Professor Waelkens for a good many years. Each textbook has its own unique point. That of Waelkens has a Belgian – even Leuven – focus, and pays a great deal of attention to the later development of Roman law. In this and in other ways it reflects Waelkens’ own scholarship. It has an interesting introduction on the science of Roman law, and a lengthy chapter providing an overview of the external history and sources of Roman law, that also deals with the history to the nineteenth century.

Each era produces different scholarship with a different focus. This book has a focus on human rights. It is a regular theme, after an interesting chapter. It has a good chapter on procedure, before turning to persons, inheritance, property, obligations, and socio-economic law. Thus traditional categories are interestingly mixed with modern.

Readers of this blog should not fear that scholarly rigour and historical understanding have been sacrificed for contemporary obsessions; they have not. And your blogger firmly believes that all true research should be useless! That is, research in historical and scholarly disciplines for some immediate practical purpose is nearly always poor research, motivated by the desire to please policy makers, rather than by the disinterested pursuit of knowledge and interpretation to which all scholarship should aspire; utilitarian research necessarily defeats its utilitarian aims. One does wonder to what extent in the modern world Alexander Fleming might not have been hailed as the discoverer of penicillin, but instead disciplined for having an untidy laboratory. This said, Waelkens’ book has the necessary uselessness to make it truly useful and insightful, and it can be recommended to all.

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Jobs are like buses …

Colleagues may also be interested to know of this vacancy. Since the elevation of Professor Dr. Wolfgang Ernst to the Regius Chair of Civil law at Oxford, his chair in Roman and Private law has fallen vacant at Zurich. Details here:


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