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Renting Property, Ancient Greek-Style

Phil Hall
Oct 10, 2016
Ancient Greece

If today’s property rental agreements may seem burdensome, the situation was just as problematic back in ancient Greece.

According to a New York Post report, archeologists working in southwest Turkey at the site of the ancient Greek city of Teos have unearthed and deciphered 2,200-year-old scrolls that may be one of the oldest property leases in the history of civilization. The lease involved the loaning of land—including a gymnasium and holy altar—plus the rental of slaves to a local university. And while there was no ancient Greek equivalent of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looking over everyone’s shoulders, the transaction came with its own regulatory requirements.

“A guarantor was needed for the agreement,” said Dr. Mustafa Adak, head of Akdeniz University’s Prehistoric Languages and Cultures Department. “The names of the renter and his father were written in the agreement. Six witnesses were also necessary for this agreement to be valid, three of whom were the top administrators in the city.”

What is unusual about the scrolls was a vivid demand that the property be maintained.

“This is the first and only example in the ancient world,” Dr. Adak added. “Almost half of the inscription is filled with punishment forms. If the renter damages the land, does not pay the annual rent or does not repair the buildings, he will be punished.”

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