The Use of Real Estate for the Settlement of Claims in Roman Palestine

P. V. Viswanath
JEL codes: 

The Mishna in Tractate Gittin discusses land qualities, in a context where land is used to
settle monetary obligations. The law is that land of different qualities must be used to pay
claimants in different situations; in particular, claimants pursuant to a tort case have the
right to have their claim paid with land of the best quality. Creditors have the right to be
paid with land of medium quality, while women who are owed money as part of a ketuba
(marriage contract) claim may have to be satisfied with land of the lowest quality. However,
the total value of the land received by each claimant is just the amount they are owed it is
independent of the quality of the land that is used to pay them. This being the case, the
purpose of the legislation is unclear. In this paper, I explore the possibility that the law is
designed to minimize the total amount of transactions costs.