• Vernon L. Smith
Part of the The New Palgrave book series (NPA)


Herodotus reports the use of auctions as early as 500 BC in Babylon (see Cassady, 1967, pp. 26–40 for references to this and the following historical notes). The Romans made extensive use of auctions in commerce and the Roman emperors Caligula and Aurelius auctioned royal furniture and heirlooms to pay debts. Roman military expeditions were accompanied by traders who bid for the spoils of war auctioned sub hasta (under the spear) by soldiers. In AD 193 the Praetorian Guard seized the crown from the emperor Pertinax and auctioned it to the highest bidder, Didius, who, upon paying each guardsman the winning bid, 6250 drachmas, was declared emperor of Rome. It would appear that the Romans used the ‘English’ progressive method of auctioning, since the word auction is derived from the Latin root auctus (an increase).


Combinatorial Auction Price Auction Multiple Unit Bidding Behaviour Winning Bidder 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1989

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  • Vernon L. Smith

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