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Did Condominiums Really Start In Rome?

Did Caesar and Nero really rule in a city filled with condominiums?

Search through the Internet and the unavoidable answer is largely yes, but in fact there were no condos along the Tiber or near the Coliseum at the height of the empire.

Don’t believe it?

Get out your copy of the Oklahoma City University Law Review, the one from Spring 1987 and there we can find a thorough examination of the subject by Professor Robert G. Natelson.


In an article entitled Comments on the Historiography of Condominium: The Myth of Roman Origin, Professor Natelson says “the truth of the matter has never been a secret to serious legal historians, and the works of those historians have been freely available in America for many years. What is astonishing is the extent to which American legal writers have overlooked the conclusions of those historians, neglected the original source materials, and cited each other back and forth in a curious roundelay of error. Those conscientious few who have been skeptical of the fable of Roman condominiums, and have cautioned against undue credulity, have in turn been misquoted and misunderstood themselves.”

Natelson says that while there was space occupancy by floors and apartments that does not mean there was space ownership by apartments or floors.

Natelson points out that “perhaps the most serious legal bar to condominium in ancient Rome was the juristic attitude toward horizontal property ownership. This attitude is summed up in the much-cited maxim ‘superficies solo cedit,’ which, translated literally, means ‘an improvement yields to the soil,’ and, translated freely, means ‘title to things connected to the ground is vested in the owner of the ground.'”

Brian Madigan, an attorney and real estate broker with Royal LePage Innovators Realty in Ontario, offers a similar view. In Condominiums: From Ancient Rome!, Madigan says:

  • “There were no condominiums in ancient Rome.”
  • “There was nothing like the horizontal ownership of real property.”
  • “No Latin scholars have found original sources to support the theory.”
  • “This type of property ownership was not used in the middle ages when Roman Law was the trend in Europe.”

Rome is a wonderful place with terrific art, lots of plazas, exceptional food and great monuments. The historical sites are remarkable. But was it the place where condos could be found many centuries ago? Nope. That’s just an old and untrue tale.

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1 Comment on "Did Condominiums Really Start In Rome?"

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  1. angel says:

    Nice to know article… thanks for sharing one. :)

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