Distribution, Competition, and Antitrust / IP Law

Ancient Rome Had Competition Law

Ancient Rome

Sometimes we think that competition law is new-fangled.  Or maybe we think it’s a 20th century phenomenon.

Clearly it’s developed the most over the past 100 years.  But did you know that the Romans had competition law?

According to Wikipedia,

“The Lex Julia de Annona was enacted during the Roman Republic around 50 BC. To protect the grain trade, heavy fines were imposed on anyone directly, deliberately and insidiously stopping supply ships. Under Diocletian in 301 AD an edict imposed the death penalty for anyone violating a tariff system, for example by buying up, concealing or contriving the scarcity of everyday goods. More legislation came under the Constitution of Zeno of 483 AD, which can be traced into Florentine Municipal laws of 1322 and 1325. This provided for confiscation of property and banishment for any trade combination or joint action of monopolies private or granted by the Emperor. Zeno rescinded all previously granted exclusive rights. Justinian I subsequently introduced legislation to pay officials to manage state monopolies.”

I wonder if Roman magistrates ever adjudicated product ties or exclusive dealing.

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About Howard Ullman

Antitrust, competition, and IP law enthusiast.


  1. […] my recent post on Roman competition law, a reader sent in this link about an economic study of the Athenian grain merchants in the 4th […]

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