unpaid work on public projects that is required by law. Under the Roman Empire, certain classes of the population owed personal services to the state or to private proprietors-for example, labour in lieu of taxes for the upkeep of roads, bridges, and dikes; unpaid labour by coloni (tenant farmers) and freedmen on the estates of landed proprietors; and labour requisitioned for the maintenance of the postal systems of various regions. The feudal system of corvee-regular work that vassals owed their lord-developed from this Roman tradition. (The term corvee, meaning contribution, is now often used synonymously with statute labour.)
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