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The broad proliferation of these texts beyond the local confines of the major sea-ports and their wide-spread acceptance among the actors of maritime trade of the Middle Ages speak in favor of the existence of a lex mercatoria of the sea in those days.
6The early Egyptians, Phoenicians and Greeks had extensive commercial exchanges through sea transport over the Mediterranean Sea and established the first unwritten customs and rules of maritime transport. The first full-fledged compilation of maritime law principles was the Rhodian Sea Law (), a body of regulations governing commercial trade and navigation in the Mediterranean sea dating from 800-600 BC.
The citizens of this town were bound to these laws by an oath which they took annually.
On the other hand, the sea has been used from time immemorial by the vessels of all nations, in the absence of a commom superior, on terms of equality, without let or hindrance from one another, or where such let or hindrance has been attempted, it has been successfully resisted and put down...
a certain manner of acting towards one another on the part of seafaring men, when they met on the High Sea, grew up into a custom the origin of which is hidden in the darkness of a remote antiquity, as it was insensibly formed by a repetition of certain acts, which met a common want and reconciled in a simple and equitable manner interests, which threatened at first to conflict with one another.".
Traces of early written manifestations of sporadic rule-making in maritime trade are to be found in the Code of Hammurabi (ca. It has shaped maritime law over centuries and its influence is still felt today.
The text is lost, but during the expansion of the port of Rhodes in modern times, a granite column was found which carried an inscription related to the "), a rule of maritime law that still exists today under the name "general average".