Agrarian laws, or laws relating to land. Such laws were enacted at various times by the Romans to regulate the ager publicus or public domain. At the foundation of Rome, when the city was very limited in extent, the whole land was ager publicus, that is, unappropriated public property, every citizen receiving, however, an interest in it as atenant at will of the State. As time progressed the descendants of the original founders, or patricians, transformed these primitive concessions into absolute rights (termed in the Roman law de jure quiritio). This principle prevailed during the whole time of the Republic, and all property acquired by conquest was acquired for the State, and could only become the property of individuals by concession from the State. The class of the plebeians was subsequently founded, when conquests had increased, and lands were given as private property conditional on the payment of a tribute or undertaking public services; but the patricians always retained their ancient right of receiving in possession and using parts of the public domain on paying to the public treasury a tithe of the product. Lands thus held could pass by inheritance, and were sold, notwithstanding that the State could always resume possession.
In almost all countries the land has been originally vested in the sovereign or chief, or the people at large. Similarly, the land of a conquered country was held to be transferred to the sovereign power of the conquering State, and to be subject to the laws for its regulation from time to time enacted concerning it by such State.