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in a number of ancient states, including Hellenistic Egypt, Greece, and Rome, a type of long-term lease of tracts of land. The emphyteusis gave the lessee the right to use the land productively and harvest crops, to transfer the land through inheritance, to mortgage the land, and, under certain conditions, to give it away or sell it. The lessee was required to pay the owner an annual rent that had been set in advance and to pay state taxes. The tracts that were leased in this manner were usually uncultivated lands that belonged to the emperor, the state treasury, or a community.
The concept of the emphyteusis was applied in a modified form in Byzantium and a number of feudal states in Western Europe (seeHEREDITARY FEUDAL LEASE).