Historical development of Roman Maritime Law during the Late Republic and Early Principate
Candy, Peter Frank
In the period between the end of the Second Punic War and the early Principate, several sources of evidence combine to indicate that the Roman economy experienced some measure of (probably real) growth. At the same time, this was also the period during which Rome’s legal institutions were most radically developed. The question that arises is, what part (if any) did the development of Roman law play in the city’s economic history during this period? This is a big question, which it is outside of the scope of this thesis to answer. Rather, the aim of this study is to take a first step in this direction, by providing an evidential foundation upon which to base hypotheses about the relationship between changes in the intensity of transactional activity and legal development in the context of the Roman world. One of the pillars for the case for growth is the observation that the evidence for the chronological distribution of shipwrecks located in the Mediterranean Basin indicates that there was a steep increase in maritime traffic in the second and first centuries BCE. In the first place, by studying the chronological development of Roman legal institutions relevant to the conduct of longdistance trade, this investigation shows that these developed in parallel with the increase in the intensity of maritime commercial activity. In the second, by constructing a model of the process by which long-distance trade was typically conducted, I demonstrate that the legal remedies that arose were specific to the relationships typically entered into by merchants in the course of transporting goods to their intended market. In this way, the pattern of legal change that emerges from the evidence is best understood as the development of Roman ‘merchant law’, even if the Romans themselves did not conceive of it as such.