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Babylonian and Assyrian laws online

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of Sennacherib receiving the tribute and submission of

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Lachish gives the contemporary representation of a hiaau
nimedhij but we cannot argue that every hus9& was of the
same pattern.

We may decline to attempt a solution and merely give
the original word, we may make a purely arbitrary rendering,
or we may accompany the original word with an approx-
imate indication of what is known of its nature. In neither
case do we translate, for that is clearly impossible. But
the reader needs a word of caution against the translations
which show no signs of hesitancy. They are not indica-
tive of greater knowledge, but of less candor. Further, to
scholars a reminder is needed that even the syllabaries and
bilingual texts do not give exact information. Thus along-
side 018'OU'ZA we find a number of other ideograms, all
of which are in certain connections rendered JcubsAj ade-
quately enough no doubt, but that they all denoted exactly
the same article of furniture is far from likely. A closer
approximation to an exact rendering may come with the
knowledge of a large number of different contexts, each of
which may shade off something of the rough meaning. One
of the great difficulties of the translator is that the same
word often occurs again and again, but always in exactly
the same context. This is especially the case in the legal
documents, filled as they are with stock phrases.
Dfsinheri- Accordiug to the Sumerian laws disinheritance appears
SMMTtan to have been simply the result of repudiation of a child by
a parent, who has said to him, " You are not my son." The
penalty for a child^s repudiation of parents is to be reduced
to the condition of a slave. There may also be a reference
to rentmciation on the part of an adopted child, but there
are no legal documents to clear up the point^
inthecode The Oodc is much clearer. Here the father is minded

of QanuQii.

^^ to cut off his son. But the disinheritance must be done in

^Seepage 39.

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l^al form. The father must say to a judge, " I renounce
my son.'' The judge must then inquire into the grounds of
this determination. A grave fault must be alleged. What
this was we are not told. But rebellious conduct, idleness,
and failure to provide for parents are probable. A parent
had the right to his son's work. An adoptive parent had a
right by the deed of adoption to maintenance. If the fault
could be established as a first offence, the judge was bound
to try and reconcile the father. If it was repeated, disin-
heritance took place legally. It was done by a deed duly
drawn up. The Sumerian laws show that a mother had
the same power as the &ther. Whether this was only
exercised when there was no father, or whether a wife
could act in this way independently of her husband in dis-
inheriting children, does not appear. But possibly she
had power in this respect only over her own property.*

It has been suggested that disinheritaDce sometimes took
place as a l^al form and with consent of a child, in order
to admit of his adoption into another family or to free the
parents from responsibility for the business engagements of
the son.

An adoptive parent, who had brought up a child and inuiecMe
afterwards had children of his own, could not entirely dis- «*»*^
inherit his adopted child. He was bound to allow him one-
third of a child's share. But he could not alienate to him
real estate.'

ig§168, 169. '§191.


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TheBiavea Ik modem thoaght slavery concerns personal rights.
But it was not thus regarded by the Babylonians, for the
slave was an inferior domestic, and, like the son in his
father's house, mmor ca/pitis. That he was actually a chat-
tel is clear from his being sold, pledged, or deposited He
was property and as such a money equivalent He might
be made use of to discharge a debt, according to his value.
Hence, while some account of slavery belongs with the dis-
cussion of the family, it is also a part of the section dealing
with property, since the slave was a piece of property.

Bigbttofa But the slave had a great amount of freedom, and was
in no respect worse off than a child or even a wife. He
could acquire property, marry a free woman, engage in
trade, and act as principal in contract with a free man.
Only, his property, at his death, fell to his master. He was
bound to do service without pay, though he had the right
to food and drink. He could not leave his master's service
at his own will, but he might acquire enough property to
buy his freedom. He was tied to one spot, not being
allowed to leave the city, but might be sent anywhere at

Complexity His status was, however, a complex of seeming incon-
sistencies. Yet it was so well imderstood that we rarely
get any hints as to the exact details. It is only by collect-
ing a vast mass of statements as to what actually occurred


denoe re-

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that we can deduce some idea of the actual facts. Professor
Oppert in his tract, La GoridUion de% IkolameB a BahyloTiSj
Gomptes RendaeSj 1888, pp. 11 ff.; and Dr. B. Meissner, in
his dissertation, De Servitute JBabylondco-Asayriaca, have
gathered together the chief facts to be gleaned from the
scattered hints in the contracts. Professor Kohler and
Dr. Peiser discussed the question thoroughly in their Avs
Bahylormche Mecktsleben. Many articles discussing the
contracts, and most of the histories touch upon the subject.
We shall come back to it later under the head of Sales of
Slaves. It is very difficult to disentangle facts from the
mass of scattered hints, often consisting of no more than a
word or two in a long document.

The institution of slavery dates back to the earliest itsT^
times. We cannot in any way attempt to date its rise. «»<*

Already in the stele of Manistusu we find a slave-girl used
as part of the price of land and worth thirteen shekels;^
while nine other slaves, male and female, are reckoned for
one-third of a mina apiece. This remained a fair average
price for a slave in Babylonia down to the time of the
Persian conquest. For the variations, see later under Sales
of Slaves.* The Code shows that the slave was not free
to contract except by power of attorney,* and that it was
penal to seduce him from his master's service,* or to harbor
him when fugitive.* It fixes a reward for his recapture,*
makes it penal to retain a recaptured slave,^ and deals with
his re-escape.* It shows that he was subject to the " levy.'' •
It also determines the position of a slave-woman who bears
children to her master,^* or of a slave who marries a free
woman.^ In each case the children are free. It fixes the
fees to be paid by the slave's master for his cure,^ deals

m. E. p., ii., p. 95. s Chapter XXII. >g6. «gI5.

»§16. •§17. 7§i9. 8§2o.

•§16. w§n9. "§175. »§§918.MS.


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with injuries done to a slave,^ damages being paid to his
master;' enacts that if captured and sold abroad he must
be freed, if re-patriated,* and a native of Babylonia^ other-
wise he returned to his master.

Sale of By far the greatest number of references to the slave

condition occur in documents relating to the sale of slaves.
These may be sunmiarized here. One peculiarity always
marked the sale of a slave, it was not so irrevocable as that
of a house or field* For a slave might not be all he seemed.
He might be diseased, or subject to fits, he might have vices
of disposition, especially a tendency to run away. A female
slave might be defective in what constituted her chief
attraction* Hence there was usually a stipulation that if
the buyer had a legitimate cause of complaint he could
return his purchase and have his money back. In fact, an
undisclosed defect would invalidate the sale. These defects
might be physical, inherent, contingent, or legal

DieeasM re- Thcrc scems to have been a dreaded disease called the

garded as

fwiSSSi- J^w^- Professor Jensen* has shown how largely it bulks
^n°ract^ lu thc litcraturc, and what dire effects are ascribed to it.

bay a alave

But it was not the only severe disease from which men
suffered then. It is associated with several others as bad.
Hence in legal documents we may take it as a typical ex-
ample of a serious disease, which would so detract from the
value of a slave that the purchaser would not keep him. It
is evident that it was something that the purchaser could
not detect at sight. Perhaps it was a disease which took
some time to show itself. It is mentioned in the Code and
in the sales of slaves of the First Dynasty of Babylon. It
also occurs in Assyrian deeds of sale, down to the end of
the seventh century b.o. The Code and the contemporary
contracts allow one month within which a plea could be
raised that the slave had the hennu. The purchaser could

i§99. aCf. §251. "8280. <K.B.,vi.,p.889.

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then return him and have his money back. In the Assyr-
ian deeds one hundred days is allowed.

Li the Assyrian deeds fibtu is also allowed a hundred
days. This is often associated with bermu in the mytholog-
ical texts as equally dreaded. It affected the hands or the
moutL We may render it " seizure," and think of some
form of " paralysis.*'

The objections which come tmder the head of legal de-
fects are sunmied up in the Code as a Jxtgruj or "com-
plaint'* In the contracts and Code this could be pleaded
at any time. So in Assyrian times a mrPUj " a vice," could
be the ground for repudiation at any time. This might
arise from the disposition of the slave. The sale might
also be invalidated by a claim on him for service to the
state ; by a lien held by a creditor ; by a claim to free
citizenship. But we are not yet in a position to state defi-
nitely what was the exact nature of these claims. Doubt-
less the recovery of further codes will fix them finally.

In later Babylonian times Law B specially provides for
the return of the slave at any time, if a claim be made
on him.

In Assyrian times sales of slaves are very frequent, and we
learn much more about the status of the slave. The slave
was certainly a social inferior, but probably had more free-
dom than any other who ever bore the name. He certainly
had his own property and could contract like a free man.
A young slave lived in his master's house up to a certain
age, when his master found a wife for him. This was usu-
ally a slave-girL The female slaves remained in the house
as domestic servants to old age, unless they were married to
a slave. Married slaves lived in their own houses for the
most part Many such men seem to have taken up out-door
work, gardening, agricultural labor, or the like, on their
master's estates. Others engaged in business on their own

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account. Bat from all the master had a certain income.
This was, within a little, the average interest on the money-
value of a slave. And that interest was usually twenty-
five per cent per annum in Assyria.
Right of a Theoretically a master owned his slave's property. What
of^S^rop. *^ ownership amounted to is hard to say. But the slave
fSify ^ was rarely separated from it. His family at any rate was
sacred. When sold, he was sold with his family. This, of
course, does not exclude the sale of a young man at a time
when he would naturally leave his father's home. Young
women were taken into domestic service, and after a time
sold. But there was none of that tearing of children from
parents, which so shocked people in the modem examples.
It is probable that a slave could not marry without his mas-
ter's consent. He certainly could not live where he liked.
But he was free to acquire fair wealth, and his property was
so far his own that he could buy his own freedom with it.
The MrfB In Assyria there was a large body of serfs, glehae adsoripti.
They could be sold with the land. But they were free to
work as they chose. Usually they cultivated a plot of their
master's, but often had lands and stock of their own. They
were not free to move, and probably paid a rent, one or two
thirds of their produce. But they were mostly on the me-
tayer system, and could claim seed, implements, stock, and
other necessary supplies from their master. This class evi-
dently possessed privileges highly esteemed, for their ranks
were recruited from all classes of artisans in the towns,
cooks, brewers, gardeners, washermen, and even scribes.
Some of these were probably free men, others certainly
had been slaves.
Adranuges The thrcc classcs, domestic slaves, married slaves, and
serfe, were continually exchanging their condition. Not a
few free men, whether from debt, judicial sentence, or choice,
were added to these classes. For these men, if dependent,

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were cared for and provided with the necessaries of life.
They were, if domestic, clothed, housed, and fed ; if they
married and lived out, they were given a house, and either
were provided with land that brought them a living, or
engaged in business.
The army and corv6e, or levy for forced labor, were chiefly Lubmtyfor

*! ^ J y J forced labor

obtained from the slaves, and above all from the serfs. A
head of a family, or mother, was not liable. But young
men and women had to serve a certain number of terms of
service, seemingly six.^ Hence it was of importance to the
buyer of a slave to receive a guarantee that this claim had
been satisfied.

We have many examples of slaves who were skilled ar- opportnn-
tisans. They had been taught a handicraft. Later we shall Jg'JStoSI
come across cases of apprenticeship of slaves to learn a craft
But all the artisans were not slaves. Indeed, some of the
craftsmen, as goldsmiths, silversmiths, carpenters, were
wealthy persons.

As a rule, though the slave is named, his father is not TbesiaTe
But, just as in medisdval times, a serfs father is named. ^^^
The serfs holding seems to have been hereditary. But we
have too few examples to be sure of our ground here. The
slave's father was not concerned in the sale, and that may
be the sole reason why he is not named. - Fathers sometimes
sold their children to be slaves, then they are named. Such
sales are not so unnatural as they appear. It was a sure pro-
vision for life for a child to sell him as slave to a family in
good position.

In the later Babylonian times, the almost total disappear- The later
ance of the serf has been noted as very remarkable. But M»c«<rf^e
this may be entirely due to the nature of our documents.
The temples owned a great deal of land and their slaves
were in the condition of serfs.

^ See A$$yri(m Docmaday Bookt p. 94.

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In later Babylonian times we liave a very large num-
ber of examples of slave sales. So far as the formula of a
deed of sale is concerned, there is nothing to distinguish
from a sale of the ordinary type, thus marlring the slave
as a chattel

But there are several clauses, which directly illustrate
the possession of slaves, their position and liabilities. One
clause, frequent when slaves were either pledged or sold,
was a guarantee on the part of the owner against a number
of contingencies. These are not easy to understand.

First we have the amSLu ai^H. Silyu means rebellion or
civil war. Sennacherib was slain in such an uprising.^ It
may be that then the slave would be impressed for defence of
law and order. Or it may be that amel/a 8t^ is the rebel,
or mob, who might carry off the slave. Or the contingency
contemplated may be that the slave should turn rebel and
refuse to do his master's bidding. The fact that a ship was
also guaranteed against amSlu sHyA^ renders this less likely.
A ship could not turn rebel It is not unlikely that slaves
often joined in the rebellions.

That a slave would escape by flight was always a danger.
The slave had great freedom and many opportunities of get-
ting away. The only security was that wherever he went
he was likely to be recognized as a slave and anyone might
recapture him. However, the captor had a right to a re-
ward and so the owner would have to pay to get him back,
besides losing his services for a time. Hence a slave who
had a fancy for running away was likely to be troublesome
and costly. That might lead to his being sold. But the
purchaser protected himself by a guarantee on the seller's
part that the slave would not run away. Then if the slave
fled and was brought back, the captor gave a receipt for the
sum paid him, and the owner reclaimed it from the seller.

IK. B.. ii., p. 282. 2Cyr. 310, Nbk. 201.

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The captor might retain the slave until he was paid.^ In
other cases the seller had to recover the slave for the
buyer. In Assyrian times the seller guaranteed also Against

. ^ untimely

against death. Here it has been argued that the guarantee ^^*^
meant only that the slave had not fled or was not dead at
the time of sale. This is not likely in the case of death.
Surely no man could buy a slave who was dead. He
would not pay, if the slave was not delivered. But he
might bargain for recompense, if the slave died within a
short time after purchase, as the seller might have had
reason to know that he was ill.

A guarantee was also given against the pcJcvrdm,u. This Against
is literally "the claimant '' What claim he had is not *^""
stated. When the slave was pledged, this might be a cred-
itor to whom he had previously been pledged. But it
covers all claims on the slave.*

Another indemnity is the ao'ad Sa/rrAhL or in the case of Against
female slaves, the amat iarr&tu. This was the status of an ^Site iS-!
a/rad Sarriy or amat Sarriy king's man or maid. The king,
or state, had a right to the services of certain slaves. How
long this was for, how it was discharged, and how a private
person could give a guarantee against it, we do not exactly
know. It may have been limited to slaves taken in war ; it
probably consisted in forced service ; it may have been for
a limited period, so that the guarantee amounted to an as-
surance that it was over. But it is possible that it would
be compounded for, or a substitute provided. At any rate
the seller held the buyer indemnified against this claim.'

There was also a guarantee against mdrbanutu^ the status .^saioBt
of a mdr hanuy or "son of an ancestor." The difficulty •*?Siiy
which this raised was that, if a man was a scion of a noble
family, he might be redeemed by it. The same result
would follow from his being adopted. Hence some con-

iZ. A., UL. p. 86. ^Cyr. 146. »Cyr. 146 ; Camb. 15.

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aider mii/r hcm/A to mean "adopted son.^ But it does not
always mean that. We have no good example of a slave
being redeemed on this ground. But we know that they
sometimes laid claim to be free men. This would of course
involve a loss and at any rate a trouble to the owner.
But we have not yet very full information on the point
Agahut Finally there is mentioned a claim called ^om^. This
^^^ occurs in Persian times only * and may be the status of a
hiScmUy i^.j a Susian, or one of the conquering race. Such
it may have been illegal to buy or hold in slavery. But in
Assyrian times an official in the service of the royal house
is called SuSanu. We do not yet know what his duties
were, but it may be that this official was one who could be
called up for service at any time and therefore was unde-
sirable as a slave.
Thebiand The obuttm which the Code* contemplates a mistress put-

tngortat- , ^ '■•'■•

Jjjj^ o' ting on an insolent maid and so reducing her to slavery, or
which the phrase-books contemplate a master laying upon
a slave, or which an adoptive parent may set on a rebellious
adopted son before selling him into servitude,' has usually
been taken to be a fetter. But in the case of a man, who
being sold as a slave, had escaped and was claimed by the
levy-master, we find the latter saying, elUta ahvMaka gvH/Ur
baly "thy dbuttu is clearly branded," or tattooed. Hence it
may only be a mark.

The other Thcrc is frcQuent mention in early times of a mark upon

ways of in- ^^ ^ ^ s:

«?!tt5le slaves. The Code* talks of marking a slave, but in a way
that is difficult to understand. The verb usually rendered
" brand " has been shown by Professor P. Jensen ^ to include
incised marks. Hence the penalty which was once rendered
"shear his front hair '' is thought to mean " brand his fore-
head." The Code fixes a severe penalty for the putting of
an indelible mark on a slave without his owner's consent

1 Dar. 21». » § 103. » M. A. P., 95. * § 226. ^ k. B., vi.. p. 377.

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This could hardly be enforced for merely giving the slave a
bald forehead; like the Hebrew pe6t^ or like a "tonsure."
The mark borne on the forehead by Cain, or by the "sealed"
in the Apocalypse, is far more to the point as a parallel.
The slaves also wore little clay tablets with the name of
their owner inscribed upon them. There are a number of
these preserved in the Louvre. On one now in the British
Museum we have this inscription : " Of the woman I^P^
who is in the hands of Sin^resh. Sebat, eleventh year of
Merodach-baladan, King of Babylon."^ How these were
attached to the slave is not very clear. But they must have
been anything but an indelible mark. In the later Baby-
lonian times we have * a slave marked by a sign on his ears
and a white mark in his eye. Both may denote natural
marks." A more definite example is a slave " whose right
hand has written upon it the name of InarEsagil-lilbur";^
and another "on whose left hand was written the name
of Meskitu."* These were the names of the owners, not of
the slaves themselves. This renders it probable that the
branding and the like was always an incised mark, a species
of tattoo, which of course was indelible. That the same per-
son who tattooed men should brand animals, or even shear
them, is not an insuperable objection. But there is no
reason to suppose that the brander ever was a sheep-shearer.

In respect to the names of slaves we may regard them stgniiieaDce
with some interest as helping to determine the sources from
which slaves were recruited. Some bear good Babylonian
names, and perhaps when the father's name is also Babylo-
nian we may conclude that they had been bom free, but were
either sold into slavery by the head of the family, or, having
once been adopted, had been repudiated and reduced to
slavery again, or had been sold for debt We have exam-

1 K. 3787 K. B.. iv., p. 166 f. 'Camb. 291. «2)* wro., p. 80.

«P. 8. B. A. 83, p. 104. »P. S. B. A. 84, p. 109.

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pies of all sucli cases. A father and mother sold their son ; ^
a mother who had adopted two girls repudiated them
again ;• a brother gave a younger brother as a pledge/
Foreigii- When the slave's name is not Babylonian or Assyrian, a
foreign nationality is nearly certain. These names are very
valuable when they can be assigned to their nationalities,
as confirming the historical claims of the kings to conquest.
Sometimes they are actual gentile names, as Misirai,
" Egyptian,'' Tubalai, " man from Tubal'' But many may
have been directly purchased abroad and sold to Baby-
lonians. A great many foreign dlaves doubtless received
native names. Thus an Egyptian woman was called Nan4-
ittia.^ Some of the names of slaves are true Babylonian,
but of a rare and odd form, which has caused some to
imagine them to be foreign. But this is not necessary.
Servants are often renamed after the families to which they
belong, and finally become known by names which were
never theirs. Masters seem sometimes to have given their
own names to slaves. Their names are often contracted,^
and some even appear to have had two.*
m^^of '^^ slaves were not only captives taken in war, but were
JSJSf* bought abroad, and not a few were reduced to that con-
dition from being freebom citizens. Slavery awaited the re-
bellious child or the contentious wife. But it was not al-
lowed by the Code for a man to sell his maid outright, who
had borne him children. And if he sold his wife or child to
pay a debt, the buyer could not keep them beyond a certain
time. But in all periods parents sold their children, and
there does not seem to be any clause demanding any future

Online LibraryC[laude] H[ermann] W[alter] JohnsBabylonian and Assyrian laws → online text (page 15 of 35)