agrarian laws

Also found in: Legal.

agrarian laws,

in ancient Rome, the laws regulating the disposition of public lands (ager publicus).

It was the practice of Rome to confiscate part of the land of conquered cities and states, and this was made public land. So long as it remained public land, it was occupied by tenants who paid rent, usually in produce, to the state. From the earliest times the patricians gained the largest part of the public lands, and the holding of public lands tended always in Italy to become the exclusive prerogative of the wealthy. There was also a tendency to consider land long occupied as real property of the occupier.

The agrarian laws resulted from the continued efforts of the poorer classes to gain some share in the public lands. Since these lands were occupied without lease, the strictly legal aspects were not difficult; but inasmuch as most agrarian legislation challenged the lucrative privilege of the powerful of retaining the lands they held, the agrarian laws were often flagrantly disobeyed or calmly ignored. In 486 B.C., Spurius CassiusCassius
, ancient Roman family. There were a number of well-known members. Spurius Cassius Viscellinus, d. c.485 B.C., seems to have been consul several times. In 493 B.C. he negotiated a treaty establishing equal military assistance between Rome and the Latin cities.
..... Click the link for more information.
 Viscellinus tried to pass a law assigning some new lands in Gaul to the poor of Rome and Latium, but Roman jealousy prevented its passage. The most famous of early agrarian laws were the Licinian Rogations (367 B.C.) of Caius Licinius Calvus Stolo (see under LiciniusLicinius
, Roman plebeian gens, of which several men were noteworthy. Caius Licinius Calvus Stolo, fl. 375 B.C., was tribune of the people with Lucius Sextius. Roman historians attributed to him a number of laws, but most of these were probably made at later dates.
..... Click the link for more information.
), which limited strictly the amount of land any citizen could hold and the number of sheep and cattle he could pasture on public land. These laws fell into disuse. About 233 B.C., Caius Flaminius succeeded in assigning some public lands to poor citizens.

The next serious attempt to rectify an increasingly difficult situation was the Sempronian Law of 133 B.C. devised by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (see GracchiGracchi
, two Roman statesmen and social reformers, sons of the consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and of Cornelia. The brothers were brought up with great care by their mother. Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, d.133 B.C., the elder of the Gracchi, fought at Carthage (146 B.
..... Click the link for more information.
). This reenacted the provisions of the Licinian Rogations and added to the maximum allowance an extra amount for each son. The occupants were to be reduced to the legal maximum and the surplus given to the poor. The occupants were to receive in compensation full title to the land they retained. A commission was set up to execute the law, but the senate by its obstructionist tactics weakened the commission, thus rendering the law ineffective. In 123 B.C., Caius Gracchus revived the Sempronian Law, but this time the senate ruined the reform by allowing the new tenants to sell their new land, which the wealthy bought up.

From time to time newly acquired lands would be assigned to the poor, but as a rule they simply passed into the hands of the wealthy landholders. In the 1st cent. B.C. there were several assignments of public lands to veterans in Italy as well as on the borders of the empire. The wholesale confiscation and reassignment of private lands by Sulla (82 B.C.) and Octavian and Antony (43 B.C.) were called agrarian laws. The first step in the final collapse of the democratic effort that had resulted in the agrarian laws was the edict of Domitian (c.A.D. 82) assigning the title of public lands in Italy to those who held them. The poorer classes were thus confirmed in a dependency on the powerful that foreshadowed the greater dependency of feudalismfeudalism
, form of political and social organization typical of Western Europe from the dissolution of Charlemagne's empire to the rise of the absolute monarchies. The term feudalism is derived from the Latin feodum,
..... Click the link for more information.

References in periodicals archive ?
The existence of agrarian laws insisting that the indigenous community have rights over land within their territory strengthened the position of M.
The consultants' conclusion appears to be based on the Basic Agrarian Law No.
An example of that evasiveness can be found in the agrarian law for Turkestan: the compiler of the law concluded that none of the terms described above accurately conveyed the meaning of agrarian relations in this region.
It resulted in an agrarian law of 1851 that, in expressions similar if not identical to the French Code Civil, proclaimed the inviolability of private property both for indigenous people and for foreigners and introduced a French-modeled organization of the public domain.
15) On the theory that dominated the study of agrarian law in Algeria in the 1830s-40s, see Ruedy, Land Policy in Colonial Algeria, 3.
God, it turns out, had himself given the Israelites something not unlike the Roman agrarian laws in order to ensure a rough equality of holdings in his Hebrew republic.
It was so during the times of the Agrarian Laws in Rome and for the long centuries of struggle in the Communal Age in Florence.
The latter kind of conflict was especially characteristic of the various struggles following the Agrarian law promulgated by the Gracchi.
And, though with this conclusion the result of the Agrarian Law may seem incompatible, I must confess that I am not on this account inclined to change my opinion, for, so great is the ambition of the greats [i grandi] that unless in a city they are kept down by various ways and means, that city will soon be brought to ruin.
Agrarian laws impose timelines in the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands, not to put an end to a continuing program but to compel implementers to expedite the process of land coverage for transfer to qualified beneficiaries, and to wield political will.
The agrarian laws we are enjoying today, although inadequate, [are] a result of this struggle.