Sumptuary law

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Sumptuary laws (from Latin sumptuariae leges) are laws that attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black's Law Dictionary defines them as "Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc." Traditionally, they were laws that regulated and reinforced social hierarchies and morals through restrictions on clothing, food, and luxury expenditures. In most times and places, they were ineffectual. Throughout history, societies have used sumptuary laws for a variety of purposes. They attempted to regulate the balance of trade by limiting the Export marketing or market for expensive imported goods. They were also an easy way to identify social rank and privilege and often were used for social discrimination.


This frequently meant preventing commoners from imitating the appearance of aristocrats and sometimes also to stigmatize disfavored groups. In the Late Middle Ages, sumptuary laws were instituted as a way for the nobility to cap the conspicuous consumption of the prosperous bourgeoisie of medieval cities, and they continued to be used for these purposes well into the 17th century.


Classical World

Ancient Greece


The first written Greek law code (Locrian code), by Zaleucus in the 7th century BC, stipulated that "no free woman should be allowed any more than one maid to follow her, unless she was drunk: nor was to stir out of the city by night, wear jewels of gold about her, or go in an embroidered robe, unless she was a professed and public prostitute; that, bravos excepted, no man was to wear a gold ring, nor be seen in one of those effeminate robes woven in the city of Miletus." (Quoted from Montaigne, see below.) It also banned the drinking of undiluted wine except for medical purposes.


References:

1.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumptuary_law


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