The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 10, No. 1 Spring 1983
Jeffrey L. Patterson PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONCEPT OF CORPORATION FROM EARLIEST ROMAN TIMES TO A.D. 476
Abstract: The idea of the "modern" business corporation is usually traced to England during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. However, many corporate attributes can be found in the Stoic's scientific theory of corpora. This theory permeated both Roman law and science and manifested itself in many of the Roman Empire's business and non-business entities. A historical and geo-graphical linkage is suggested between the concept's development in Rome and its eventual appearance in England.
This paper traces the concept of corporation back to its earliest known roots as found in Roman science and jurisprudence. A con-cise description of the history of the Roman empire and of the de-velopment of Roman law is given to provide the historical frame-work for the concept's development. An assessment is made of the concept's progress and spread up to the year attributed by his-torians to be the fall of the Western Roman Empire, 476 A.D. The conclusion of this paper, which serves as the starting point of a second paper, illustrates the various manners in which the remnants of Roman law survived the fall of the Western empire and were in-corporated into several Germanic and Saxon codifications; a subse-quent paper will detail the further development of the corporate con-cept in England up to the year 1500 A.D.
Periods in the History of Rome
It is common for present-day Roman historians to divide Roman history into three parts corresponding to the forms of government that prevailed at the time. Thus, many authors speak of Roman his-tory as divided into the Monarchy, the Republic, and the Empire (see Appendix).
No precise beginning date for the founding of Rome has yet been determined; Roman historians of the fourth century B.C. invented a