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Article

actio  

Thomas Rüfner

In Roman law, the word actio refers to a civil lawsuit. At first sight, it seems obvious that actio derives from the verb ago, which has the basic meaning “to drive,” “to urge,” or simply “to act.” The Roman jurists themselves clearly regarded ago as the verb corresponding to the noun actio and meaning “to conduct a lawsuit” (cf. Festus, Gloss. Lat. 21, l. 15, s.v. agere). Hence, actio may be explained as referring to the claimant urging the judge (and/or the adversary) to do something,1 or simply to the claimant’s actions in court.2 Some scholars have proposed different etymologies. It seems possible that actio is not a derivative of ago (“to drive, to urge”), but of a root agjō meaning “to speak” (cf. the verb aio), and that the word was only later associated with ago.3 Alternatively, it has been argued that ago and aio have a common root that, in the context of archaic law, refers to a performative utterance which affects the Roman citizens collectively.

Article

Edward Harris and Anna Magnetto

One of the most important decisions a litigant could make was the choice whether to submit his dispute to a private arbitrator or to go to trial. Private arbitration had several advantages because it provided a more flexible procedure and afforded the possibility of compromise solutions aimed at promoting good relations between the parties. By contrast, a trial was an all-or-nothing procedure, which created winners and losers. Nevertheless, there were disadvantages to private arbitration: the arbitrators might be reluctant to vote against a friend, or one of the parties might not agree to arbitration. Because public officials were not involved, documents might be lost. The institution of public arbitrators retained the advantages of private arbitration but avoided several of the disadvantages. Above all, it aimed to promote good relations between the parties and to avoid a bitter fight in court.

Interstate arbitration is identified by the sources as a genuine Greek tradition, attested to be from the Archaic period, that was employed and fostered by other powers, such as the Hellenistic Kings and Republican Rome. It allowed two parties in conflict to solve disputes by resorting to the judgment of a third party agreed upon by both. Its use contributed to the establishing of forms of international law, encouraging the poleis to identify a set of shared principles and rules, at least for territorial disputes, the most common kind of controversy.