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Slave Agent and Roman Sea Trade in the Early Roman Empire

  • 중앙사론
  • 2010, (32), pp.307-335
  • Publisher : Institute for Historical Studies at Chung-Ang University
  • Research Area : Humanities > History
  • Published : December 1, 2010

CHA Young Gil 1

1경상대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

The Aims of this paper is to examine the role of the slave agent and Roman sea trade in the early Roman Empire. What I shall here suggest is that all some elements point to the importance of agent business activities conducted on a wide side scale by slaves, activities in which the peculium functions as a kind of apophora system in Roman sea trade. One of the most significant features of this system from the economic point of view was that it enabled a master to engage in sea trade business yet he could do so vicariously. In classical Roman law it is noteworthy how the early jurists had been most reluctant to admit that an agent could serve as a means of producing direct contractual relations between a principal and a third party. For by creating a series of relationships, based on the slave agent, between onself and one's various client freedmen and slaves, an hierachically controlled network of cooperation could be forged, and, unlike the oikos in its usual form, this organisation could be oriented exclusively to business purposes. A further feature suggested above was that the slave agent system allowed the master to operate his business to some degree with ‘limited liability’. Moreover here the business function of this system pointed out which made it so important. ‘How was a rich Roman to reconcile his desire to invest his money in commerce with his dislike himself to engage in sea trade?’ The institution of the peculim and actio de peculio exactly met the need. It was an slave agency with limited liability, since the master would not be liable beyond the peculium, even if he knew of the trade. It also follows that any agreement for the master to share with his slave or to promise an early manumission would have given the slave every incentive to work diligently and to pursue commercial success with ardour.

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