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date: 01 February 2023

ownership, Greek ideas aboutlocked

ownership, Greek ideas aboutlocked

  • Robin Osborne


There was no Greek term for ‘ownership’. For *Aristotle (Rhet. 1361a21) the mark of a thing being one's own is that one is free to give or sell it, but under Classical Athenian law a man could sell property which he could only give in bequest if he had no surviving legitimate son. While a distinction between ‘ownership’ and ‘possession’ was recognized, the distinction was not elaborated in the body of law at Athens, or, as far as we know, elsewhere.The sense in which an individual could be said to ‘own’ property depended on what that property was. There are traditions which attest inalienable, heritable but not marketable, grants of land to individuals; in Classical Athens, there was no bar on the sale of land, but the regulation of bequests and the aspersions cast in court on those who sell ancestral land suggest that in some sense land was held to belong to the family and not simply to the individual. Regulations about dowries (see betrothal; marriage law), which passed through the husband to the wife's children and could be used but not alienated by the husband, similarly suggest a sense of ‘family’ property.


  • Greek Law

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