Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers? Byzantine Shipwreck and Salvage in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

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Travelling by sea in the medieval Mediterranean was associated with many risks and dangers. Journeys were long, heavy storms or pirates lurked and in a worst-case scenario the ship was wrecked. A shipwreck could give rise to disputes and conflicts amongst various parties. The Byzantine legislator had to deal with these conflicts. What happened to the goods of the wrecked ship? Who was considered owner of these goods? How was the situation complicated when the ship was of foreign origin and what role did customs play in resolving these issues? In this paper I will attempt to highlight shipwreck and salvage questions in Byzantine legislation and practice. Aside from the traditional Byzantine legal sources, examples from treaties between Byzantium and the Italian city-republics will be examined from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConflict Management in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, 1000-1800
Subtitle of host publicationActors, Institutions and Strategies of Dispute Settlement
EditorsLouis Sicking, Alain Wijfels
PublisherBrill / Nijhoff
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-38063-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameLegal History Library
ISSN (Print)1874-1793
NameStudies in the History of International Law


  • Rhodian Sea-Law, Byzantine law, shipwreck and salvage law, Medieval Mediterranean

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