Historical story

From Bartering to Trading


Mariangela Lavecchia, a girl with a degree in Law, sent Pills of History an article that briefly traces the salient stages between the barter and the sale.

Happy reading.

Barter in antiquity

In our legal system the sales contract is governed by art. 1470 cc, pursuant to which a part of the so-called seller transfers ownership of a good or other right to the so-called party buyer, against payment.

The fundamental characteristics of the sale are:the necessary onerousness and consensuality between the parties, being the "consensus principle" one of the cardinal principles governed by Article 1376 of the Civil Code, pursuant to which the contract is perfected upon the simple achievement of an agreement, which in itself turns out to be sufficient for the valid conclusion of it even before the delivery of the thing.

These elements derive from more ancient times.

Historically the sale dates back to the dawn of human civilization and was preceded by the barter consisting in the exchange, between two or more subjects, of thing against thing, a legal event that is currently at the basis of the exchange contract.

In responding to the new needs of a society that was developing more and more, use was born of the coin, as an instrument for measuring the exchange value, thus representing a single commodity and becoming the main means of every single relationship.

It follows in Roman Law a sort of trade-barter the so-called “mancipatio ”, Consisting of a solemn transaction of the transfer of ownership.

The buyer did his utmost to make a solemn declaration about his purchase in front of:the seller, five witnesses, all Roman citizens, pubers and a public weigher with the task of verifying the value of the bronze or copper, as consideration used as such before the coin, the property passed to the buyer with the completion of the deed.

Central moment in the history of the sales contract sees the passage from the archaic real sale to the consensual sale, deriving from facing the needs of international trade in order to speed up commercial exchanges even between the Romans themselves, a principle that is still current, obviously with the necessary changes, so much so that in Italian law the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer takes place solely by the fact that they give their consent ( Article written by: Mariangela Lavecchia )