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" one of the brothers, the most cajDable, and, as a rule, the
eldest, by reason of the sacred privilege of his birth, regulated
the community and bore the expressive name of karLo-iràixwv,
the preserver of the hearth. Plutarch, in his Treatise on
Paternal Affection, shews that these communities played a
very important part in the ancient social condition of Greek
nations. They were probably the pivot of the family organization.
Partition among the children was only effected in exceptional
cases. In course of time this was reversed ; but then the
principle of compulsory partition was at variance with the
other institutions, all of which had in view the preservation of
the patrimony in the family. Hence arose the incoherence of
the Greek law, which Cicero notices, in comparison with the
Poman system based on the testamentary institution of an heir."

The sons and their male descendants completely excluded
the daughters, as at Athens and in other Greek states. The
testament here, as in all primitive Greece, was unknown.
Right and the interests of society, not the arbitrary will of the

1 Aristotlo, PoUlici, 11. 4, § -l;-!!. .3, § 7 ;— ii. 4, §§ 1, 2.


individual, fixed the succession. The constitution of property
was, therefore, the same at Sparta, as among the Southern
Slavs of the present day, or in the rural districts of France in
the middle ages.

The primitive community left deep traces on the social
organization of Sparta. Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus,
c. XVI., tells us that, at the birth of each child, the elders of
the tribe assigned to it one of the 9000 lots of land in the
territory of the state. The truth of this statement is denied,
because it would follow that there was no right of succession,
and that the earth was common, which is contrary to esta-
blished facts. But, side by side with the family patrimonies,
there may very well have existed a collective domain, like the
Germanic Allmend, in which every one obtained his share.

Sparta had a communal domain of great extent, the pro-
duce of which served in some measure to maintain the public
repasts. There, as in the majority of the other Greek states, it
comprised forests and mountain'. The public repasts, Syssi-
ties, which were arranged in messes of fifteen persons, were the
basis of the military and political organization, under the name
of Phidities and Andries. A similar institution existed in
almost all of the Greek states. Its economic importance Avas not
everywhere the same, but depended on the common revenue.
At Sparta every one had to contribute towards it a certain
number of measures of oil and barley. In Crete, according to
Aristotle, the Phidities contributed most to the maintenance
of equality.

Grote and other historians regard with doubt the famous
division of property into 9000 equal parts, which, according to
Plutarch, was effected by Lycurgus. There may be some
doubt with regard to the details, but the division, in itself, is
entirely in harmony with the spirit of ancient politics. A division
of property seems to have taken place at the time of the founda-
tion of the state, about the year 1000 b. c, and after the
conquest of Messenia under Polydorus (700 B.c.). However
this may be, Aristotle reproaches Spartan legislators for not

1 See Herodotus, vi. 57; Pausanias iii. 20; Plato, Laws, i. The Cretan
towns derived from their common lands, cultivated by a particular class of serfs,
sufficient to provide the public repasts. The citizens had therefore at least the
means of subsistence.


liaviûg taken efficient steps to maintain equality of condition.
The population, he says, was divided into rich and poor : all
the wealth was in the hands of a few individuals, possessed of
colossal fortunes. According to Aristotle this concentration of
landed property was carried so far, that in the time of Agis III.,
the w^hole of Laconia was the property of one hundred persons.
The population rapidly decreased. The number of men capable
of bearing arms was reduced from 10,000 to 1,000 even in the
time of Aristotle, and was only 700 in the time of Plutarch.
Aristotle saw no other remedy for the decay of the state than a
partition of lands, with a view to the re-establishment of
equality of property. The struggle between the rich and the
poor had already begun at the period when the Stagyritc
wrote. In several towns, he says, the rich had taken this
oath : " I swear to be the enemy of the people, and to do them
all the harm in my power \" At Sparta, and in many other
Greek states, tlie kings placed themselves at the head of the
people in opposition to the aristocracy. Osesarism was demo-
cratic and socialistic. Agis advocated a division of property,
but was killed. The king Cleomenes (288^222 B.c.) carried
out the popular programme : — the abolition of debts, the parti-
tion of property, and the grant of political rights to all who had
been deprived of them. Laconia was divided into 15,000 parts
allotted to the Periœci, and 4,500 to the citizens. Cleomenes,
overthrown in foreign war, was succeeded by other " tyrants,"
who continued to oppress and despoil the rich, to retain the
favour of the people. The economic history of Sparta, repeated
in the other Greek states, is very similar to that of Rome. So
long as equality was maintained by the families preserving
their patrimony, political liberty survived. When once the
rich usurped the soil, the struggle of classes began, and was
only ended by the establishment of despotism and the destruc-
tion of the state.

Aristotle, in his Politics, sums up in a few words the con-
clusion derived from the economic history of Greece. " For
them (the legislators) the crucial point seems to be the organi-
zation of property, the one source, in their opinion, of revolu-
tions. Phileas of Chalcedonia Avas the first to lay down the

1 Politics, viii. 7,
M. 11


principle that equality of fortune was indispensable among the
citizens." In fact, when the division of property is too unequal,
democracy leads to social revolution ; for the man who has the
suffrage, seeks also to have property. Democratic institutions
have only brought man peace, when, as in Switzerland and in
primitive time, manners are simple and conditions very equal.

In the other Greek republics we find the same economic
evolution as at Sparta, — the concentration of landed property,
the advance of inequality, cultivation by slaves, whose number
is continually increasing, and finally depopulation. When
Greece became a Roman province it was transformed into a
desert, where the flocks wandered at will, and wild beasts
lurked in the ruins of temples and cities. At the end of the
first century of our era, the population was so reduced that
the whole of Greece could hardly produce 3,000 fully armed
warriors, the number which Megara alone sent to the battle of
Platea. Equality was the basis of Greek democracies; in-
equality was their ruin\

^ See the instructive work of Karl Biicher, Die Aufstcinde der mifreien
Arbûiter, 1874, ch. iv.



The Romans, after passing the two successive stages of the
village community and the family community, -were the first to
establish exclusive, individual property in land ; and the prin-
ciples they adopted on this subject still serve as the basis of
law for continental states. Scarcely, however, was quiritary
dominion established, when it threatened the existence of the
democratic institutions and of the Republic, by its power of
encroachment. It was in vain to set limits to it : la grande
propriété consumed la petite. The economic history of Rome is
little else than a picture of the struggle against the encroach-
ments of quiritary dominion\

The philosophers and legislators of antiquity knew well, by
experience, that liberty and political equality can only exist
when supported by equality of conditions. The Politics of
Aristotle enumerates a number of means employed by the
Greeks to maintain this equality. At one time they limit the
maximum amount of land, which a citizen may possess ; at
another, they declare property inalienable to prevent its accu-
mulation ; at another, individual property is modified by
common repasts, of which all partake. There is one constant
struggle against inequality. "Inequality," says Aristotle- with
much perception, " is the source of all revolutions." According
to Bockh, the war between the rich and the poor destroyed
Greece I So long as landed property preserved its collective

^ See an interesting essay by G. Arendt, Du régime de la inopritté terri-
toriale, considéré dans ses rajyports avec le mouvement politique.

2 Politics, V. 1.

3 Staatsh. der Ath., i. p. 201.



character, equality resulted from the periodic partition, as we
still see in Russia. This was the golden age, of which the
ancients preserved a recollection and which continued to be
their ideal. Even later, when the several families lived on
their common, indivisible and inalienable patrimony, as in
Judaea or ancient Greece and Italy, at the time when the gens
and yéi^oç preserved its primitive character, inequality was
confined within limits. Bat at Rome, when quiritary, that is
to say, individual and exclusive property, capable of indefinite
extension, was developed, none of the precautions contrived by
the Greeks were adopted to limit it. On the contrary, every
newly conquered territory gave it a vast area over which it
could extend. Thus the inequality increased- which was to
destroy the Republic, and subsequently the whole Roman
Empire. We will state briefly the attempts made to check
its progress.

The writers of gTeatest authority think that in Latium the
soil was originally the collective property of the clan. At the
time when the history of Rome begins, we find, it is true, lands
belonging to citizens in private ownership, agri privati, as well
as extensive lands belonging to the people collectively, ager
2)opuU, ager puhlicus. But private property was of small extent.
It only comprised the space necessary for the house, court-yard
and garden, that is, two jugera \ This was the heredium, the
land which was transmitted hereditarily, while the rest of the
territory was collective property, ager puhlicus.

The heredium, like the lot assigned to the Spartans, was
regarded as inalienable, because it was the necessary home of
the family, and even to the last days of the Republic it was a
disgrace to sell it^. The heredium was not sufficient for the
support of a family^, and accordingly they had to obtain the
rest of their means of subsistence by cultivating portions of the
ager puhlicus, and by turning on to the common pasturage the
cattle, which was originally the principal form of wealth. This

1 Varro clearly marks tMs distinctive feature: Bina jugera a Bomulo imnium
divisa dicehantur viritim quce, qiiod heredem sequerentur, heredium vocantur.

* See Schwegler, Rdmische Gesch. Tubingen, 1856, ii. 6, 444: and Moritz
Voigt, die Bina jugera, Rhein. Museum fur Philologie, 1866.

^ The Bina jugera, which are about an acre and a quarter, according to
Mommsen, could only jield 800 kilogrammes of corn, or only 400 annually, as
they would have to He fallow every other year.


agrarian system is precisely similar to that of modern Russia
or primitive Germany, where the hereditary domain seems to
have been much the same in extent as the Roman herediuvi.
There is, however, this difference, that we do not find that the
collective domain was subject to periodic partition at Rome, as
among the Germans or Slavs, The custom, if it ever existed,
has left no traces in history. The afjiir puhlicus was subject to
the free right of occupancy, as in Java, or in Russia before the
partition was introduced to establish equality. Every member
of the populus — every patrician, that is — might occupy such
vacant portion as he found convenient, on the one condition of
conforming to the rules governing this method of occupation '.
This did not confer any right of jDroperty, but a mere possessory
right, in theory always revocable, which, however long it ex-
isted, was never transformed into full ownership, or dominium
ex jure Quiritium. As a matter of fact, however, the patricians
retained the enjoyment of the lands which they cultivated,
because there was no fixed period at which they were to return
into the common stock. The lands thus occupied by the patri-
cians became so extensive, that they surrendered a portion to
clients, precario, that is to say on 'the request of the clients, a
portion of the produce being reserved. Later on, when succes-
sive conquests increased the number of slaves, the patricians
cultivated by their labour the portions which they occupied of
the ager puhlicus.

They had also the right to depasture their cattle on the
public pasturage {pascua puhlica) on paying to the treasury a
rent, from which they soon freed themselves. The plebeians,
like the hintersasse7i of the Germanic marh had no right of
occupancy over the public domain. From time to time, how-
ever, lands were distributed among them, and their lots seem
to have been ordinarily about 7 jugera in extent^ The plebeian
lot was greater than the patrician heredium because it had to
suffice for the maintenance of a family, whereas the hlua jugera
merely comprised the hof or dwelling-house and its accessories,
the arable land and pasturage being taken from the ager

1 For proof sec Maynz' excellent work, Court (If droit romain, § 11 and § 82.
" See Ma.ynz. Varro, dc lie Eustica, i. 2, 9 : Livy, v. 24, 30 : Pliny, //. N.
xviii. 3, 4 : Columella, de Ee Eustica, i. 3.


pubUcus. As in early times agricultural labour is the sole
source of wealth, every free man must have a portion of land to
be able to subsist. Hence, in default of the periodic partition
which maintained equality in the German and Slavonic com-
mune, it was constantly necessary at Rome to have recourse to
distributions of land which the plebeians never succeeded in
retaining. According to the traditions collected by historians,
there was a division of the soil made by Romulus. He divided
the territory among the three tribes. Each tribe was divided
into curiœ, and each curia into centuries. The century, like the
Anglo-Saxon hundred, contained a hundred warriors or heads of
families, and each of them had a private domain of two acres.
This was, according to tradition, the quantity allotted to each
citizen by Romulus. Dionysius adds, that Romulus reserved a
portion sufficient for the maintenance of religious worship, and
that another portion remained the domain of the State. This
last portion was far the largest. Numa, Tullus Hostilius,
Ancus Martins made distributions of land viritim according to
Cicero, that is, in equal shares per head. Viritanus ager dici-
tur, says Festus, qui viritim populo distribuitur. Servius Tul-
lius orders all those who have taken possession of public lands
to restore them ; and gives those who have no land seven
jugera, in order, as he tells us in the speech attributed to him
by Dionysius, that the plebeians might no longer cultivate the
lands of other people, but their own, and might be so made
more courageous in the defence of their country. Under the
Republic there are constant efforts to keep the land in the
hands of the plebeia.ns. In 404 B.c. Spurius Gassius proposes
to distribute among them the conquered lands of the Herni-
cans ; but he lost his life for this proposition, which Livy calls
the first agrarian law : Turn primum lex agraria promidgata
est (ii. 41*). Some years later, the tribune Icilius effected the

^ For the agrarian laws, consult Eomische Rechtgeschichte of A. F. Eudorfif,
p. 38 ; Dr Willielm Ihue, Forschunricn auf dem Oebiete der Rimischen Verfas-
svngsgeschichtc, p. 75. Iline shews that if the plebeians were constantly indeoted
to the patricians, it was not from having borrowed money of them ; but because
they had obtained lands from them, for which they owed rents, which they were
often unable to pay. Ludwig Lange, Romische Alterthûmer, p. 140. The first
volume of the Corjjus inscriptionum latinarum : de agro publico popuU romani
(Mommsen). Laboulaye, I)cs lois agraires chez les Romains. Revue de
législation, vol. n. p. 385 and vol. m. 1 ; and esjiecially Autonin Macé, Histoire
de la propriété, du domaine public et des lois agraires chez les Romains;


partition of the lands of the Aventine {Lea) Icilia de Aventino
puhlicando). During the century which elapsed between Spu-
rius Cassius and Licinius Stolo, M. Antonin Mace reckons
twenty- eight bills (rogationes) of the tribunes to obtain an
assignment of lands in favour of the plcbs. The patricians,
however, defeated them, or else rendered them ineffectual. The
continual wars tended more and more to the ruin of the small
proprietors, and at the same time tended to favour the accumu-
lation of land and wealth, by increasing the extent of land
taken from the enemy, which the patricians took possession of
and cultivated by the labour of the conquered inhabitants, who
were reduced to slavery. The famous Licinian laws were
intended to limit the advance of inequality, by checking the
diminution in the number of freemen which had become alarm-
ing. The Lex Licinia forbade any one to possess more than
500 jugera of public land : ne quis 'plus quam quingenta jugera
agri possideret, are the words of Livy (vi. 35). The Greek his-
torian, Appian, gives the other clauses of the law: "No one shall
depasture on the ager puhlicus more than a hundred head of
large cattle, or more than five hundred sheep on his own land.
Every one shall support a certain number of free men. The
portion of the public land taken from those who have more
than 500 jugera, shall be distributed among the poor." The
Republic was saved for a time by the better distribution of the
soil, which increased the number of free proprietors and of
soldiers. Historians are unanimous in commending the good
effects of the Licinian laws. " The century which follows the
Licinian laws," says M. Laboulaye, "is the one in which the
soldiers of Rome seem inexhaustible. Varro, Pliny, and
Columella continually refer to these great days of the Republic,
as the time when Italy was really powerful by the richness of
its soil, and the number and prosperity of its inhabitants. The
law of the five hundred jugera is always quoted by them with
admiration, as being the first which recognized the evil, and
sought to remedy it by retarding the formation of those vast

Savigny, Traité de la possession d'après les principes du droit romain;
Giraud, Recherches stir le droit de propriété chez les Romains sous la république
et sous Vempire; Niebuhr, History of Rome; Antonin Macé, Histoire des
lois agraires ; W. Drumann, Die Arheiter und Communisten in Grieclœnland
iind Rom.


domains, or latifundia, whicli depopulated Italy, and after Italy
the whole empire." [Des lois agraires chez les Romains.) Un-
fortunately, after the conquest of Macedonia, the clauses of the
Licinian law were no longer enforced. Shortly after the first
Punic war, the tribune C. Flaminius demanded the distribution
of the lands recently taken from the Gauls, to relieve the
misery of the plebs, which had again become excessive. The
small proprietors had disappeared, and their property had gone
to swell the latifundia,.

In the country, free men were no longer employed for the
cultivation of the soil. In consequence of the foreign wars,
slaves were sold at a lovt^ price, and free men could not compete
with them. The latter lived in idleness on distributions of
corn, and made a traffic of their votes or their evidence.
Pasturage replaced agriculture \ and Sicily and Africa were
made to provide the corn supply as their tribute.

Tiberius Gracchus reproduced almost exactly the Licinian
law^ The father of a family could retain, this time on a com-
plete title, 500 jugera of public land ; with half that amount in
addition for each son. For the lands which he had to restore,
he received an indemnity proportional to the improvements he
had executed. The lands taken back by the State were to be
distributed among the poorer citizens, who were already for-
bidden to alienate their share. The law was passed, but its
execution was, m great measure, eluded. Caius revived it with
the same result. It was almost impossible for the State to
recover possession of lands which had been occupied for so long
as to be indistinguishable from private property. It could only
have done so successfully by a great effort based on some secure
support. Tt is well known with what skill the patricians,
using fraud and violence by turns, managed to rid themselves
of the Gracchi, the greatest citizens and most clear-sighted
statesmen that Rome produced.

1 Varro, ii. 10. Caacilius Claudius suffered great losses during the Civil
wars, and yet left at his death 3,600 yoke of o^en, and 257,000 head of other
cattle (PHny, xxxiii. 47).

2 In the magnificent harangue put into his lips by Plutarch, after saying
that one might travel for several days in Italy without meeting a single free
man, he exclaims: "The wild beasts have dens and lairs to retreat to, while
those who fight and shed their blood iai the defence of Italy, have nothing of
their own but the hght of the sun and the air which they breathe ; houseless,
and homeless, they wander in all directions with their wives and children."


But, for tlie salvation of Rome, an agrarian law was not suf-
ficient. It required a series of such measures and a consistent
policy, having in view the suppression of large properties, and
the re-constitution of small ones. Unfortunately, fresh con-
quests were continually putting new lands, and slaves for the
cultivation of them, at the disposal of the rich; and conse-
quently it was impossible to stop the growth of latifundia.

After the death of the Gracchi, the higher classes succeeded
in passing three agrarian laws, between the years 121 and
100 B.c., which Appian makes known to us. All three were
intended to be — and were effectually — favourable to the in-
crease of large estates. The first, contrary to the laws of the
Gracchi, allowed every one to sell the portion of land which he
had received. The result was that the poor sold their shares,
which they often did not know what to do with ; and the rich
gradually monopolised the whole of the ager puhlicus. The
second law forbade any new division of the public land. It
was to remain in the hands of its present holders, a rent beino-
paid by them, the amount of which was to be distributed
among the citizens. The latter, therefore, received in the place
of the land which would have compelled them to labour, an
allowance in money, which induced them to remain idle and
live at the expense of the public treasury. Finally, the third
law abolished even the rent ; so that there remained nothing of
the laws of the Gracchi but a single clause, favourable to the
aristocracy, which gave a definite title to the possession of pub-
lic land. Independently of these agrarian laws, an attempt was
made to re-establish the class of proprietors by settling citizens
and soldiers on the conquered lands. In 422 B.C. when a
colony was founded at Labici in Latium, 1,500 plebeians, fathers
of families, were sent out, and each obtained the hina jugera
(Liv, IV. 47, 5). Eighty-nine years later, 300 colonists sent to
Terracina receive similar lots (Liv. Vlil. 21, 11) ; and the maxim
is proclaimed that lots of two jugera each are to be given to
plebeians in all conquered lands\ In 369 B.c., 2,000 colonists
established at Satricum in Latium obtain 2^ jugera apiece

^ Livy, VI. 36, 11, Auderentne posttilare patres ut aim bina jugera agri
plebi dividerentur ipsis plus quinqnngenta jugera habere Uceret? — Sic'ul. Fhicc.
edit. Lachm, p. 153, Antiqui agrum ex hoste captum victori populo per bina
jugera partiti sunt.


(Liv. VI. 16, C); in 359 B.c., 3,000 colonists sent to the Volscian
country receive Sj^ jugera (Liv. V. 24, 4) ; and after the victory
of Yeii, which doubled the territory of Rome, the Senate allotted
to every colonist 7 jugera (Liv. v. 30, 8). Pliny tells us that
the consul, Manius Curius, after his victory over the Samnites,
accused every one who was not content with seven jugera as
being a dangerous citizen : — 'perniciosurii intelligi civem, cui sep-

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