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 p3  Accessio

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on p3 of

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

ACCES′SIO is a legal term which signifies that two things are united in such wise that one is considered to become a component part of the other; one thing is considered the principal, and the other is considered to be an accession or addition to it. Sometimes it may be doubtful which is to be considered the principal thing and which the accession. But the owner of the principal thing, whichever it is, became the owner of the accession also. The most undisputed kind of accessio is that which arises from the union of a thing with the ground; and when the union between the ground and the thing is complete, the thing belongs to him who is the owner of the ground. Thus if a man builds on the ground of another man, the building belongs to the owner of the ground, unless it is a building of a moveable nature, as a tent; for the rule of law is "superficies solo cedit." A tree belonging to one man, if planted in the ground of another man, belongs to the owner of the ground as soon as it has taken root. The same rule applies to seeds and plants.

If one man wrote on the papyrus (chartulae) or parchment (membranae) of another, the material was considered the principal, and of course the writing belonged to the owner of the paper or parchment. If a man painted a picture on another man's wood (tabula) or whatever the materials might be, the painting was considered to be the principal (tabula picturae cedit). The principle which determined the acquisition of a new property by accessio was this — the intimate and inseparable union of the accessory with the principal. Accordingly, there might be accessio by pure accident without the intervention of any rational agent. If a piece of land was torn away by a stream from one man's land and attached to the land of another, it became the property of the man to whose land it was attached after it was firmly attached to it, but not before. This must not be confounded with the case of Alluvio.

The person who lost his property by accessio had as a general rule a right to be indemnified for his loss by the person who acquired the new property. The exceptions were cases of mala fides.

The term accessio is also applied to things which are the products of other things, and not added to them externally as in the case just mentioned. Every accessio of this kind belongs to the owner of the principal thing; the produce of a beast, the produce of a field, and of a tree belongs to the owner. In some cases a man may have a right to the produce (fructus) of a thing, though the thing belongs to another. [Usus fructus.]

The term accessiones was also applied to those who were sureties or bound for others, as fidejussores (Dig.45 tit. 1 s91; Puchta, Cursus der Institutionen, II. p661; Dig.41 1; Gaius, II.73, &c. (Confusio.)

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Page updated: 26 Jan 20