The most characteristic features, perhaps even the least intelligible to the scholar educated in Roman law, are in terms of rights over things. The concept of ownership is missing, as an elastic right that any limitation potentially leaves intact: κύριος, κυριεία, κυριεύειν indicate the situation that allows the owner, according to an economic evaluation, the prevalence over any other claimant. Therefore the creditor with a real guarantee is considered κύριος not only in the ancient system of the surrender sale (πρᾶσις ἐπὶ λύσει), which effectively attributed to him the full dominion of the thing from the moment of the agreement, but also in the evolved forms that until the expiry they leave the enjoyment to the debtor, like the ἀποτίμημα constituted as a guarantee of dotal and pupil assets and the ὑποϑήκη which became the usual form in the classical age. Goods are usually distinguished into visible (οὐσία ϕανερά) and invisible (οὐσία ἀϕανῆς), in relation to the impossibility or possibility of hiding them, especially from the tax authorities: the first category includes real estate, sometimes also slaves and livestock. In contrast to the Roman principle, which makes only the weights freely accepted by thedominus (conventional easements), Greek law has a system of legal easements: the most characteristic is that which authorizes the owner of a land without water to draw water from the neighbor’s source.
According to plus-size-tips, the transmission of real estate requires certain forms of advertising: a primitive system is to call neighbors as witnesses, handing them coins; elsewhere the transmission is announced several days in advance by the herald or by written proclamations for which the magistrate demands a fee; more perfect is the registry system, that is, the keeping of official registers of real estate and related transfers. The sale is made for cash in the sense that the property does not pass if the price has not been paid: a commitment to sell and buy can be created with the delivery of an deposit (ἀρραβών) but with the only result that in case of refusal the failure of the buyer to lose the arra or the failure of the seller to return a multiple.
Credit relationships have a twofold origin: on the one hand the accreditation of pecuniary settlements for crimes, on the other hand the subsidy that the owner farmer asked the wealthy when the bad year made his subsistence and the supply of seeds uncertain. In both cases, the debtor’s word was not enough: if the offender did not have the sum of the ransom ready, only a guarantor willing to bear the revenge in his stead could prevent him from immediately exercising it, and the peasant could not find help except by resorting to the hire purchase. It is well known how this system, made more serious by the high level of interest, used small property in ancient times: in some regions, such as Thessaly, the owners were transformed in this way into servants (πενέσται) of the landowners; and in Athens the debt relief (σεισάχϑεια) ordered by Solon was intended as a release of the small property. The distrust of credit negotiations still reverberates in theLaws of Plato, as well as in some particular custom that hid the mortgage under a theft that the borrower pretended to commit to the detriment of the lender. But in the most advanced city soon came to recognize the value to their word, in a way that was at first strictly formalistic (κυρίας εἶναι τὰς πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὁμολογίας, ἃς ἐναντίον ποιήσωνται μαρτύρων, Demosth., In Phaen., 12): When the Convention the oral document replaces the document, this often has a dispositive character, also obliging regardless of the cause. Only later is the ineffectiveness of consent given by mistake or violently extorted (characteristic Eurip., Cycl., 256 ff.), And the degrees of contractual responsibility are noted: in some countries, such as Athens, the broad interpretation of the common will of the parties is proceeding very far. The ancient personal execution, which reduced the defaulting person to slavery, was abolished in Athens by Solon: elsewhere it remained theoretically in force for a long time, but in practice various expedients almost always replaced the execution on the patrimony. The mortgage (δάνειον), with the subspecies of the ἔρανος, where the sum to be borrowed is collected between several friends, and the maritime loan, in which the lender of a commercial enterprise stands out among the credit negotiations bears the risk of the loss of the ship and cargo: this risk is compensated by the height of the interests, which on the other hand they have neither here nor elsewhere a legal limit (usually 12% is the land interest rate, 30% that of seafarers). The leasing of houses is very widespread in large cities, everywhere that of land: under the same name of μίσϑωσις are also collected employment contracts, internships, tenders.
The family, essentially monogamous (although it has been fabled to the contrary), was perhaps originally founded on a power as iron as the Roman one; but only a few traces of this remain in advanced times, and even the exposure of infants, practicable in the first days after birth, is a prius with respect to the entry of the newborn into the family. From the point of view of domestic discipline, the grave sanction of the ἀποκήρυξις remains, with which the unworthy son is solemnly banished from the family; an institution that also resisted the Roman domination, up to the Byzantine age and beyond. For patrimonial purposes, the parental authority over the children, comparable to a protection, ceases at the 18th year. The situation is quite different for the woman, who still in the Athens of the oratories can be a vehicle of transmission but not the owner of her own assets: her κύριος is not so much a guardian as a trustee of the assets to be passed on to her children. But the custom also intervenes here, first leaving to the will of the κύριος to leave the woman more freedom of disposition, until in almost all environments the function of the κύριος itself is reduced to the assistance to shops that the woman carries out in her own name. The orphan is subject to guardianship, with prevalence of the testamentary designation: originally the guardian (ἐπίτροπος) was also the trustee of the assets, and the trace has remained in his broad administrative power; he can free himself from the suspicion that often surrounds him by entrusting all his movable assets to a citizen who guarantees him a certain annual interest (μίσϑωσις οἴκου ὀρϕανικοῦ). Marriage is usually preceded by a contract, with which the κύριος promises the woman to the husband (ἐγγύησις), but in historical age this contract does not produce a legal obligation, and it is therefore natural that in Hellenistic circles the main content of the document has become the regulation of property relations between spouses. The married state is characterized by coexistence, when the ἐγγύησις or the dowry or other socially appreciable elements consecrate its legitimacy; and it ceases, as well as with death, even with prolonged absence and divorce (which for the husband is free, while the woman can only obtain it by addressing, for serious reasons, a special request to the magistrate).