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p137 Arra

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p137 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ARRA, A′RRABO, or ARRHA, A′RRHABO, Gaius (III.139) says: "What is given as arra, is a proof of the contract of buying and selling;" but it also has a more general signification. That thing was called arrha which one contracting party gave to another, whether it was a sum of money or any thing else, as an evidence of the contract of sale being made: it was no essential part of the contract of buying and selling, but only evidence of agreement as to price (Gaius, Dig. 18 tit. 1 s35). An arrha might be given before the completion of a contract, when the agreement was that some formal instrument in writing should be made, before the contract should be considered perfect. If he who gave the arrha refused to perfect the contract, he forfeited it: if he who had received the arrha, refused to perfect the contract, he was obliged to return double the amount of the arrha. If the arrha was given as evidence of a contract absolutely made, it was evidence of the unalterable obligation of the contract, which neither party alone could rescind; unless the arrha was expressly given to provide for the case of either party changing his mind, on the condition that if the giver receded from his bargain, he should forfeit the arrha, and if the receiver receded from his bargain, he should forfeit double its value. When the contract was completely performed, in all cases where the arrha was money, it was restored, or taken as part of the price, unless special customs determined otherwise; when the arrha was a ring or any other thing, not money, it was restored. The recovery of the arrha was by a personal action.

The arrha in some respects resembles the deposit of money which a purchaser of land in England generally pays, according to the conditions of sale, on contracting for his purchase; and the earnest money sometimes paid on a sale of moveable things.

The term arrha, in its general sense of an evidence of agreement, was also used on other occasions, as in the case of betrothment (sponsalia). [Matrimonium.] Sometimes the word arrha is used as synonymous with pignus (Terent. Heautont. III.3.42), but this is not the legal meaning of the term. (Thibaut, System des Pandekten-Rechts, § 144; Inst. III tit. 23; Dig. 18 tit. 1 s35; tit. 3 s6; 14 tit. 3 s5 § 15; 19 tit. 1 s11 § 6; Cod. 4 tit. 21 s17; Gellius, XVII.2; compare Bracton, II. c27, De acquirendo Rerum Dominio in causa Emptionis, and what he says on the arrha, with the passage in Gaius already referred to.)


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Page updated: 20 Sep 07