Rhodes maritime law

The text of Lex Rhodia the maritime law of Rhodes is lost.
The few fragments which exist were incorporated into Roman law.
The Rhodians were allies of the Romans and as per their normal way of doing business, the Romans borrowed from them.
It is estimated that the Rhodian Law was in force as early as 900 to 800 BC.

That part of the Maritime law of Rhodes which is remembered concerns the jettisoning of cargo.
When sailing and a large storm came up it was often necessary to jettison (throw overboard) cargo
to lighten the ship and save it from foundering (sinking).

Most of the time the cargo was owned by a merchant or a number of merchants, and when their cargo
was jettisoned they were legally injured. The law set up a way for them to be remunerated for their loss
and that remuneration be proportional to their loss. The remuneration being paid out from an assessment on
the remaining (safe) cargo aboard the ship.

In general jettisoning is done for the benefit of all and cost of restitution for the lost property of a merchant should be born by all.
If the ship was a total loss no restitution was owed.

Another fragment of Rhodian maritime law was referred to by Cicero (Roman orator) in a speech that if any ship
were discovered in port with a ram attached (beaked) and be ready for war, it shall be confiscated.

The complete Rhodian law covered much more than the law of jettison, but this part is all that is known of the ancient law.

There is a later maritime law code known as the Rhodian Sea Law, Greek law which was published in about 800 AD,
and was used in the Byzantine Empire it was based on a statute in the Code of Justinian as well as the more ancient Lex Rhodia.
This version of sea law, was in use through the 12th century AD.

Early maritime law index page on this server.

updated - May 2013 -