- Paul J. du PlessisPaul J. du PlessisProfessor of Roman Law, University of Edinburgh, School of Law
This chapter deals primarily with the various interests that could be acquired in property, particularly ownership, rights to servitudes, and possession. The Roman law of property is one of the lasting and important legacies of their legal order and has had a profound impact upon modern legal systems across the world. This chapter begins by considering the Roman classification of property. This was the intellectual starting point in the teaching manuals preserved from the classical period of Roman law. The purpose of this exercise in classification was to demonstrate that certain objects fell outside the sphere of private ownership. Apart from issues of classification, this chapter deals primarily with the various interests that could be acquired in property, particularly ownership, limited real rights over the property of others, such as rights to servitudes, and possession. It deals with the legal rules governing these institutions and their interrelationships. In theory, the interests in property may be divided into two broad categories, namely legal interests (ownership and limited real rights) and factual interests (possession). While such a division is useful, it should not be seen as absolute, since possession, though largely a question of fact, could also have certain legal consequences. But first the Roman classification of property must be considered.