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p207 Bona Vacantia

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p207 of

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

BONA VACANTIA were originally the property which a person left at his death without having disposed of it by will, and without leaving any heres. Such property was open to occupancy, and so long as the strict laws of inheritance existed, such an event must not have been uncommon. A remedy was, however, found for this by the bonorum possessio of the praetor.

It does not appear that the state originally claimed the property of a person who died intestate and without heredes legitimi. The claim of the state to such property seems to have been first established by the Lex Julia et Papia Poppaea. [Bona Caduca.] The state, that is, in the earlier periods the aerarium, and afterwards the fiscus, did not take such property as heres, but it took it per universitatem. In the later periods of the empire, in the case of a soldier dying without heredes, the legion to which he belonged had a claim before the fiscus; and various corporate bodies had a like preference in the case of a member of the corporation dying without heredes (Marezoll, Lehrbuch der Instit. des Röm. Rechts; Savigny, System, &c. vol. II p300).

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Page updated: 4 Feb 06