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The evolution of pignus in classical Roman law
Ius honorarium and ‘ius novum’

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The Roman pledge (pignus) developed from a possessory pledge on a single physical asset owned at the time of pledging by the debtor into a versatile security interest that could be created as a non-possessory security interest over all the debtor’s present and future tangible and intangible assets. This evolutionary process was triggered by transactional practices which were recognised by the ius honorarium. At a later stage the Severan rescript practice (‘ius novum’) took over the leading role in developing the law of pledge. While the ius honorarium generally recognised party autonomy, by upholding transactional practises, the ius novum placed limitations on it, in particular in order to protect the debtor. 


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