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Gift-giving and inheritance strategies in late Roman law and legal practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In Roman law, an inheritance could be passed on according to the rules of intestate or testate succession. The Roman law of succession presents people with an enormous display of legal ingenuity. This chapter analyses some of the legal instruments and rules by which late Roman testators and donors were able to pursue making over bequests and inheritances to the institutional Christian church. It presents an overview of Roman family law and inheritance structures, paying particular attention to post-classical legal developments. The chapter explores donation and inheritance law in the specific context of the institutional Christian church from the age of Constantine onwards. It expands on this analysis via a focus on specific examples of strategic behaviour relating to Christian gift-giving and inheritance in the later fourth, fifth and sixth centuries AD. It shows that Roman legislators themselves engaged in strategic behaviour, attempting to use the Roman law of donation and inheritance as a means of socio-religious control.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDonations, inheritance and property in the Nordic and Western world from late Antiquity until today
EditorsOle-Albert Rønning, Helle Møller Sigh, Helle Vogt
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315182704
ISBN (Print)9781138195837, 9780367876999
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameRoutledge studies in cultural history

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