Sunday, May 6, 2012

Roman Women Created Own Credit System

Not the best translation into English, but it's readable.  Not sure of the date of issue, either!

From Universitat-Jaume
Women of ancient Rome prompted a similar system of microcredits to overcome legal exclusion

Some women in ancient Rome already implemented the concept of microcredit as a loan of small amounts of money that enables people without resources to develop work projects on their own. The study conducted by the professor of Roman Law at the Universitat Jaume I Carmen Lázaro shows how women managed to evade the legal rules that excluded them from activities related with the bank and exchange through credit contracts of small amounts of money made by and among women and guaranteed by pledge agreements in which they gave as collateral personal property of small value.
 The existence of this microcredit system is known through various sources, mainly epigraphic, such as the inscriptions found in Roman Granio House in Pompeii, which reflect legal transactions as the ones carried out among the moneylender Faustilla and other women with an interest at 6.25%, remaining as collateral for reimbursement by way of endorsement (through pignus-pawns) personal items such as earrings or coats. Lázaro points out that these loans were done legally and avoided the need to be approved by the tutor (according to the rules of the necessary intervention of a tutor in carrying out legal transactions performed by women) "since money was a fungible good and therefore, not subject to formalities for the transmission to provide legal effects." Moreover, as what was deposited was the capital of the pawnbroker, "the loan could have taken the form of an irregular deposit, imperfect bilateral agreement which in principle would only generate obligations to the depositary." The usefulness of the irregular deposit would only raise obligations, in principle, for a part, the deposit taker, so that the lender could also avoid the necessary intervention of the tutor.
Researches carried out by Carmen Lázaro also collect other evidence of business loans for women as the ones found in the Pompeian tablets of Murecine or at some literary sources. In short, the researcher points out that the epigraphic and literary sources show how, despite the prohibition on engaging in banking activities and exchange, women were an active and passive part of monetary obligations for loans and that they operated in the field of banking and credit.
Legal constraints, which suffered women in ancient Rome, were just, as the researcher says, what led to consolidate this system that without opposing the legislation, developed the right mechanism to allow women to make their transactions. In this regard, it should be noted that the law prevented women from having access to certain contractual arrangements that limited the performance of specific legal transactions without the presence of a tutor, for example, an application for a monetary loan or the possibility of become moneylenders. However, loans among women, formalized through legal concepts beyond common and customary limits and carried out because of the gender, allowed the mobility of small amounts of money, that is, the execution of loans operated by well-off lenders to borrowers supposedly poorer that could not obtain credit through traditional means. In short, as the researcher says, it is "a business that has the characteristics of what we know today as microcredit and allowed women to enjoy some freedom of action and avoid the prohibition in the rule of law".
Perhaps Roman women kept abreast of the current development of microcredit system driven by Nobel Peace Prize and honorary doctor from the Universitat Jaume I Muhammad Yunus, who started, through the Bank of Poor in Bangladesh, a system of small loans that allowed escape from poverty to millions of people, especially women. Moreover, the lenders were also women.
In addition, Lazarus states that the activity of women in the business sector in ancient Rome was beyond lending activity since there is written evidence of women participating in the world of commerce and business. Thus, women headed shipping, textile manufacturing and footwear companies, business aimed at providing embellishment to other women, traded luxury goods and food products or managed accommodation business, among other activities. "This freedom of women in the field of business despite the prohibitions was favored by the succession of periods of war. The lack of men, who died or were fighting in the front, made virtually impossible the exercise of parental authority, it is to say, women were independent de facto, at least in economic terms as they were the heirs (of husbands, fathers, brothers and sons who, sadly died during the war) in a system in which most marriages were celebrated sine manu, that is, a marriage that provides an economic regime that we believe precedent of separation of marital property" explains. A position of women that leads Carmen Lázaro to remember the quote of Rene Pichon which states "in a people, as the Roman, which is not exactly a feminist one, women have freedom, activity and influence, more than in other societies that boast about having it".
A note on the term pignus - pawn:
Pignus is the Latin word for pawn! Not to be confused with the Latin word for "foot soldier" (see below) that became the pawn in chess -- or could there possibly be a connection, hmmm...

Definition: Pawn, pledge, token, (in pl.) persons in pledges of

The Latin word for Pawn is Pignus, Pignus is defined as: pawn, pledge, token, (in pl) persons in pledges of. To view supplementary Latin Words that share homogeneous meanings with Pignus, please visit the: Pignus - Pawn Latin Word page.
Pawn - as in the sense of a pawn shop, where an item might be temporarily physically consigned as a pledge against repayment of a loan. 
• peon •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A person bound in servitude to someone else. 2. An unskilled or menial laborer (pronounced [pyun] in India). 3. A peasant, a member of the hoi-polloi, an insignificant member of lower class society.

Notes: If you choose to pronounce today's word the first way illustrated in the pronunciation, [pee-ên,], be careful not to confuse it with paean "hymn of praise", pronounced identically. This is a good reason to choose the second acceptable pronunciation of today's word, [pee-ahn], with a little more emphasis on the second syllable. The state of being a peon is peonage
In Play: In the Southwest US this word is still used in its Spanish sense of simply an unskilled laborer: "The US economy would falter without the undocumented peons in the workforce." However, peon is used most often simply to refer to people of little importance to someone: "The boss very seldom comes out to the floor; he tries to avoid contact with us peons."

Word History: Today's Good Word was originally Spanish peón "laborer, pawn" from Medieval Latin pedo, pedon- "foot soldier"; in fact, it originally meant "foot soldier" in Spanish. This word was reduced to paon in Old French whence it was borrowed as pawn by English. The French word for "foot soldier" became peonier, which slowly devolved into pionnier "pioneer". Somewhere in between, English borrowed it as pioneer. The Latin word originally referred to someone with wide feet, for pedo is derived from pe(d)s "foot", a root that became foot in English and pai "leg" in Persian. Now, the word for "garment" in Persian is jamah, so when Hindi borrowed the Persian word for "leg garment", the result was pajama. (Today we thank someone who is no peon at alphaDictionary, Susanne Williams, for suggesting this little word with such a large history.)

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