ROMAN FORM FILES. Mary Beard had a review in the New York Review (August 18) of three new books on Roman archaeology, each of which books discusses a notable find made in 1994—a contract from around 90 AD. The contract provided the terms by which a slave girl was sold in London to a purchaser who was described in the contract as a slave who was the slave of another slave. Aside from noting what seems astonishing—that slaves could own slaves who could themselves own slaves—Beard says that: “…the most important point about this document is just how ordinary it is in Roman terms….the phrases used in the contract come straight from legal handbooks.” The phrases are found “word for word” in contracts found all over the Roman world, “from the Bay of Naples to Syria and modern Romania.”
To me, as a lawyer, evidence of what we might call “form files” shows a remarkable sophistication in commercial activity in the ancient world.