Spain successfully claimed ownership of a sunk Spanish frigate from1804 loaded with treasure in intenational waters. How far back can these claims be upheld? If a 500 BC Roman or Greek ship is found in international waters can they still claim ownership?
Long answer, it’s complicated. Short answer it depends. Is the state in question a successor state to the original for this purpose. In this case, clearly Spain is. The Greek and RomN examples notes much.
I believe in Spain’s case there was a treaty with regards to the disposition of wrecks in or near U.S. waters. That treaty may have even been signed in the 1800s but is still in effect.
Yes I forgot to add that in my answer. There may be agreements, treaties and other legislation between countries which controls the issue above and beyond any issue of successor state.
In the case of the Roman Empire Turkey has about as much claim as Italy does to being the successor state. Which isn’t saying much. Hell, throw Austria and the Holy See in too.
I think the Spanish probably have the strongest legal claim. When the last imperial family was driven out of Constantinople they went on to become minor rulers of Morea and then later landless itinerants that eventually sold (for a small amount of money) their imperial title to the then monarch of Spain. I believe Spain’s current King could directly claim his right to that title.
Spain’s current status as a constitutional monarchy isn’t really relevant. The Spanish state, even if it were a republic or dictatorship (as it was under Franco), would still be the obvious legal successor to the Kingdom of Spain which commissioned and owned the sunken warship.
Here’s the Wiki article on the case:
And here’s the treaty which the U.S. courts have thus far found controlling, ruling against not only the treasure hunters but the government of Peru, where the silver was mined:
Or Germany. Or Bulgaria. Or Egypt.Or Saudi Arabia. After all they all control land which once belonged to the Roman Empire.
Successor state means a political entity which has inherited the obligations and rights of an earlier entity. It does not matter whether or not that there is any political continuation,control of the same land, the earlier state does not even have to cease to exist. Indeed Pakistan and India are the successor states to the UK for several issues (mostly treaties with neighbours) but the UK is still around.
What you are thinking is the case of a “rump state”. A rump state is different from a successor state (and incidentally your example is not something that would qualify as a rump state) in that an rump state is a political continuation of an earlier state or at the very least there is an unbroken political linkage. The Byzantine Empire was the rump state of the Roman Empire, it shared an unbroken continuation. A successor state need not have that.
For Greek and Roman treasures, well for the most part it is difficult finding modern entities which are successors or rump states from more than a few hundred years. In this case it would be the governed by any applicable treaty or convention or if its in territorial waters or EEZ, by the country whose waters it is in. A Roman wreck off Saudi Arabia belongs to the Saudis, not Italy.
Hi I saw this from searching because i just asked a question about a coin I got from my Grandfather. Its from one of Mel fishers salvages. And I am trying to figure out which one it is. You can read my other post or I will also re post it here. Thx!!!
Hi, I saw you had written something about a old Spanish coin from a ship wreck? I have one that my Grandfather gave to me. And Its got a Kings head on the front and on the back like a person with theire arms like an egyption with a bird on one arm. Can you tell me where it could be from?. I know it was gotten from Mel Fisher store in Florida.
I think if we find it I mean if a treasure hunter finds it and it’s off of Florida for example, then it should be the treasure seekers to have. They spent the time. Its not like they stole it like with nazi art.