Colonate (law)

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The (or the ) Kolonat (lat. Colonatus ) was a legally defined system for organizing a group of the population engaged in agriculture, which in the course of late antiquity in the Roman Empire developed and later part in the post-Roman kingdoms of the Goths, Vandals, Burgundy and Franconian was adopted. In the Eastern Roman-Byzantine Empire, the colony was continued into the Middle Ages according to the laws of the late antique emperors.

Colon economy in the time of the Principate

At first, colonus in Latin generally meant the farmer as opposed to the shepherd ( pastor ). In the Roman Empire (1st to 3rd centuries), the colonial economy originally referred to the status of small peasant tenants on large estates , especially those on imperial domains , as well as the comparable agricultural system, which at that time was possibly based on the Hellenistic model in Asia Minor and Egypt , perhaps also in view of a looming lack of slaves .

A free Roman citizen became a farmer ( colonus ) if he had signed a terminable lease ( locatio conductio rei ) with a landowner ( patronus , dominus ) . The colonel's duty was to till the land and to pay the rent. For this reason, the colonel had to pay a fine if he left the ground within the agreed lease time. Basically, this applied until the time of the Severan emperors (193 to 235) for the usually five-year term of the lease contract. After its expiry, the colonel could leave the country or sign a new fixed-term contract. However, it was in the interests of the landowners to ensure continuous development of the land in order to avoid loss of income and thus lease arrears and tax debts. This fact had a long-term negative effect on the legal status of the colonies when the general tax pressure increased considerably from the 3rd century on.

Origin and development of the colonate in late antiquity

In the year 332, Emperor Constantine the Great passed a law that shows that certain colonies were no longer allowed to leave the leased land:

"Emperor Constantine to the Provincials: Whoever comes across a colonist under foreign law not only has to return it to its place of origin, but also has to pay the poll tax for this time."

- Cod. Theod. 5.17.1 [332]

"Colons under foreign law" ( coloni iuris alieni ) are those colonies that originally belonged to a different or different manorial system than the one in which they were found.

From this a permanent soil binding developed in the 4th century, which was soon transferred to other groups of colonies (e.g. Cod. Theod. 10,20,10,1 [380]). The tendency to restrict the rights of the colonies continued and the circle of ground-based colonies expanded. At the beginning of the century, the group of imperial colonies had already been restricted in their capacity for office and marriage. H. they were not allowed to exercise any other state services and could only enter into marriages with free Roman citizens that favored the colony. In the further course the personal rights of the non-imperial colonies were further curtailed, for example in marriage law. After all, they could only enter into legally valid marriages with one another, always with the aim of binding the descendants to the colonate. Relationships with free and independent Roman citizens were not considered a legal marriage ( matrimonium iustum ); Children from this relationship fell to the landlord as labor. The colonies also had to accept restrictions in their litigation rights. Even in the imperial era, they could strive for regular litigation in accordance with their status as free. In the course of the 4th century their right of action against the landlord was restricted more and more. In the end they could only sue for excessive lease claims ( superexactiones ) and for injustices that had been committed ( iniuria ) (Cod. Iust. 11,50,2,4 [396]). Furthermore, the property rights of the colonies were curtailed, they could only dispose of personal property with the consent of their landlord (Cod. Theod. 5,19,1 [365]).

In research, however, the actual scope and scope of all these legal regulations is controversial: In the opinion of some scholars, it cannot be assumed that the status of the colonies was ever as uniformly and systematically regulated across the empire as the collections of laws of late antiquity suggest (e.g. B. Carrié 1982). In fact, the sources are partly contradicting. Overall, however, the evidence indicates that the colonate increasingly turned into a birth state ( condicio ). This was part of a general trend of tying people to certain professions by heredity, as it was also common practice for soldiers during this period. It remains to be seen to what extent this was implemented in practice.

Towards the end of the 4th century, the principle of binding the land was evidently replaced in many cases by the binding of the colon to the landlord. Escape could not free the colonies from their landlords' claims unless it was more than 30 years ago without a lawsuit for recovery. In this case the children of those who had fled were also not allowed to be involved (Cod. Theod. 5,18,1 [419]). In this way, however, it was not so much the colonies that were favored, but rather the right to flee colonies under the landlords. In any case, the legal position of most of the colonies had deteriorated massively in the 4th and 5th centuries. Without being their property in the legal sense, they were under the personal rule of the landlords. It was emphasized under Emperor Justinian that colonies were in principle not slaves, but free citizens ( Boudewijn Sirks 2008). Nevertheless, an approximation of the colonies to the legal status of slaves can hardly be overlooked: Socially, they were at a very low level within the class of free Roman citizens.

Early Middle Ages

If one follows the sparse sources, the (one?) Colonate in the Franconian Empire existed until the 9th century and, together with the so-called patronage of the landlord and the real bondage of the colonies, became one of the most essential pillars of the medieval social order, whereby the question the direct continuity of these forms in the latest research, as mentioned, is controversial.

Development up to modern times

While today the farms are usually fully owned by the owner, this was not the case in the Middle Ages and until the 19th century (see Free Pen and Long Lease ). The estates were often lent to the peasants by the landlords applying feudal principles and the rights of the owners were therefore to be judged according to feudal law; here and there the Roman legal institute of the Emphyteuse (sd), especially for church property, was used.

In addition, however, there were numerous rights of use to farm estates, which were to be assessed according to land law, and which are summarized under the collective name of colonate.

The exact legal provisions and designations were very different from region to region: the hereditary Laten or Hobgüter on the Lower Rhine and in Westphalia, the hereditary Meiergüter in Lower Saxony and Westphalia, the Schillingsgüter in Lüneburg and in the county of Hoya, the hereditary leases in Saxony, Thuringia and Austria, the Festegüter in Schleswig-Holstein, the non-hereditary case goods or Schupflehen in Swabia, the death stocks in Baden, the Leibrechtsgüter in Bavaria and Austria (the latter two also not hereditary), the Landsiedelleihen in Upper Hesse (not hereditary in Solms), the Lassgüter in the Mittelmark (not hereditary in Saxony) and the so-called. Gentlemen's favor in Bavaria; the latter the name for goods that were awarded at the free revocation of the landlord.

The legal relationship between landlords and colonists for all of these goods was determined in detail by the documents recorded at the time of the award (loan letter, Meier letter) as well as by regulations (Meier, leasehold regulations) issued from the 18th century onwards, as well as according to local and particular customary law. The main features of the legal institution are by and large the same everywhere: a so-called Upper property ( Dominium directum) of the landlord, usable property of the colonel (Dominium utile); the colonel had to carry the burdens on the estate; Divestments without the consent of the landlord were void; the estate was not readily liable for the Colon's debts; he was obliged to carefully manage the property and in the opposite case could be "disguised" (see Abmeierung ). Usually the colonel had to pay a fee (hand wages , laudemium , wine purchase , honor treasure ) to the lordship when the inheritance took place ; sometimes there was also a so-called Building development usual; also here was the so-called. Interim economy in use. However, modern legislation has with the former legal view of the so-called. shared property is broken and the peasant rights of use are replaced by the owner's full property rights (see redemption , peasant exemption ).

More examples and offshoots

Comparable feudal or feudal-like patronage systems of peasant manorial rule existed in many parts of the world well into modern times. In the Spanish colonial empire in America, where the enslavement of natives was initially only permitted during war, the management of mines and country estates was established by subjugated indigenous peoples with the long-lived encomienda and repartimiento system . The resulting equiline economy in Chile , for example, existed well into the second half of the 20th century. The same applies to the latifundia economy in southern Spain, which towards the end of the Franco era still resembled late antiquity and medieval models with regard to the personal dependence of the inmates. A similar system, which also used the term "colonate", was used by the Portuguese government in Angola after 1945 to encourage the immigration of whites into newly created "model villages" ( colonados ).

See also


  • J.-M. Carrié: Le 'colonat du Bas-Empire': un mythe historiographique? . In: Opus 1, 1982, pp. 351ff.
  • R. Clausing: The Roman Colonate. The Theories of Its Origins . New York 1925.
  • Michael Rostowzew (Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff): Studies on the history of the Roman colonies , Teubner, Leipzig 1910, reprint: Vieweg-Teubner, Wiesbaden, ISBN 978-3-663-15804-2 ( outdated, but worth reading ).
  • A. Sirks: The Colonate in Justinian's reign . In: The Journal of Roman Studies 98, 2008, pp. 120ff.
  • Charles R. Whittaker: Colonate . In: Glen Warren Bowersock, Peter Brown, Oleg Grabar (eds.): Late Antiquity. A guide to the postclassical world . Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 1999, ISBN 0-674-51173-5 , pp. 385f.
  • Oliver Schipp: The Western Roman Colonate from Constantine to the Carolingians (332 to 861) , Kovač, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8300-4575-5 (= studies on historical research of antiquity, volume 21, also a dissertation at the University of Trier 2007).
  • Otto Seeck : Colonatus . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume IV, 1, Stuttgart 1900, Col. 483-510.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Max Weber (1896): The social reasons for the decline of ancient culture. In: Max Weber: Collected essays on social and economic history. Edited by Marianne Weber. Tübingen 1988 ( full text online )