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Babylonian and Assyrian laws online

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of laws. We do not yet know to whom we should ascribe
its compilation,
codeeanto. For the Codc of ]^ammurabi is also a compilation. He
H^nnbi ^^ ^^* invent his laws. Phrases found in them appear
in contracts before his time. Doubtless he did enact some
fresh laws. But he built for the most part on other men's
foundations. The decisions already passed by the judges
had made men ready to accept as ^^ right" what was now
made " law." But the question is only carried back a stage
further. Did not those judges decide according to law ? In
some cases we know they did, for we have the law before
them. When we try to penetrate further into the back-
ground of history we can only surmise. Documents fail us
to prove whether judges first made or administered the law.
But we have now a very high antiquity for laws recognized
and obeyed as right.
somerian That laws WBTB already enacted in the pre-Semitic or Su-
phSSa- nierian days we may regard as certain. The legal phrase-
books drawn up by later scribes, especially those known as
forming the series called cma itHsUy give as specimens certain
laws. These were evidently given by the scribes as exam-
pies of connected prose in Sumerian, accompanied by a ren-
dering into Semitic. Their object was primarily grammatical,
or at anv rate educational ; but they are most valuable be-
cause they contain specimens of the Sumerian l^islation.
Owing to their limited scope they were at first regarded as



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FILIAL RESPONSEBIUTIES 41

family laws. But there can be little doubt that they really
are extracts from something like a code of laws. We are
as yet quite ignorant of the date of their first promulgation,
place of origin, and legislator. The seventh tablet of the
series ana ittihiy GoL IIL L 22 to CoL lY. 1. 22, gives the
seven following laws :

L If a son has said to his &ther, ^^ You are not my father,^ he may BepndiA-
brand him, lay fetters upon him, and sell him. fttiierby

It may be doubted whether this applies to any but
adopted sons. ^^Tou shall not be my father'^ is a possible ren-
dering. But the phrase may only refer to rebellious conduct.
The word rendered " brand ^ has often been taken to mean
^shave.'' The cutting short of the hair was a mark of degra-
dation. The Semitic Babylonians wore their hair long, while
slaves, and perhaps also Sumerians as a race, are represented
as hairless. However that may be, the same word is used of
^ branding '' cattle and it implies cutting or incision. It may
mean a tattooed mark. The word rendered ^' fetter " seems
also to be used of a branded body-mark. The whole law
means that the rebellious son is to be degraded to the status
of a slave and treated as such.

EL If a son has said to his mother, ^^ You are not my mother,^ Bepndia-
one shall brand his forehead, drive him out of the dty, and make him mooier by
go out of the house.

Here the same ambiguity about branding is found. Some
take the word rendered ^^ forehead " to mean the hair of the
head. His head would then be shaved. "To go out from
the house " means "to be cut off from kith and kin.'' But
here the son retains his freedom, only he is an exile and
homeless. In this case it is not the mother who exacts the
penalty. The verb is plural and may be taken impersonally.
The &mily or the city magistrates are probably the ones to
execute the law.



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4« THE EARUEST BABYLONIAN LAWS

DMniMrtt- III. If a father has said to his son, ^^ You are not my son,^ he shall
1^ fatiMr leave house and yard.

Here the father has power to repudiate a son, who must
go. The word for " leave ^ is literally " take himself up/*
" go up out ol'' The word " yard '' is simply " inclosure '*
and may mean the city walls, as a symbol of shelter.

Disiniiertt. IV. If a mother has said to her son, ^^ You are not my son,^ he

f^iy ^ of son

bymouier shall leave house and property.

Here we expect, by analogy with Laws L and IX, that this
penalty is rather less than that in HL The "property"
means " house furniture.'^ The son must leave home and can
take no house furniture with him He has no claim to
inherit anything. But he need not leave the city. Hence
it seems likely that HI. denied him the right of city shelter.

Bepndu- V. If a wife hates her husband and has said, ^^ You are not my

tion of hof- *'

J^by husband,'' one shall throw her into the river.

BepndiA- VI. If a husbaud has said to his wife, " You ai'e not my wife," he

byhuband shall pay half a mina of silver.

The contrast in the penalties is startling. Note the im-
personal form of V. The executioners here are the family,
or city, not the husband. Publicity is therefore implied.
It is not a private quarrel, but a refusal of conjugal rights.
In the second case the man divorces, or puts away, his wife,
but pays a heavy fine.

Betponai- VII. If a man has hired a slave and he dies, is lost, has fled, has

piQyer been incapacitated, or has fallen sick, he shall measure out Kkkajif

r? iV>^'* ^™ ^ ^^^^ ^ ^^ wages.

J flCTe^the Sumenan text differs from the Semitic. In the

former the employer is said to " cause '* the slave to suffer
these detriments, in the latter he is said to come by them.
The verb rendered " lost " is used in that sense in the later
Code of l^nunurabi. What is the exact sense of the verb
rendered " has been incapacitated ^ is not clear. Professor



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SUMERIAN LAWS 43

Hommel^ renders dwrchbremten^ Delitzsch' renders weicheny
entweichen^ oder ztii a/rbefU a/afhoren. But it is clear that the
employer is to pay a daily fine for injury done to the slave,
or for loss to his owner^ caused or connived at by him The
slave's refusal to work could not be made the ground for
fining hinL If anyone paid for that it would be the owner.
The employer pays for his work, but is bound to keep
him safe and treat him reasonably well and return him in
good condition to his owner. In later times the owner often
took the risk of death and fiight, but then he probably
charged more hire. At any rate it is clear that the owner
18 not named in this law.

It is not profitable to discuss these mere fragments of a
code. The most interesting thing is their existence. We
may one day recover the Code in full These are not retrans-
lations into Sumerian, by learned scribes, of late laws. For
exactly these words and phrases occur in the contracts of the
First Dynasty of Babylon, before and after the Code of ^^am-
murabi, which deals with the same cases, but in different
words. In fact, this Sumerian Code is quoted, as the later
Code was quoted, in documents which embody the sworn
agreement of the parties to observe the section of the Code
applying to their case. This is indeed the characteristic
of the early contracts: after indicating the particulars of
the case, an oath is added to the effect that the parties
will abide by the law concerning it. Even where no ref-
erence is made to a law, it is because either no law had
been promulgated on the point, or because the law was un-
derstood too well to need mention. Later this law-abiding
spirit was less in evidence and the contract became a private
undertaking to carry out mutual engagements. But even
then it was assumed that a law existed which would hold the
parties to the terms of an engagement voluntarily contracted.

> AtoMTiidU L$$$ttiieke, p. 112. » IT. IT. B., p. 54«.

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n

THE CODE OF ^MMUEABI

Witchcraft § 1. If a man has accused another of laying a nSriu (death spell?)
ordeal by upon him, but has not proved it, he shall be put to death.

§ 2. If a man has accused another of laying a kiipu (spell) upon
him, but has not proved it, the accused shall go to the sacred river,
he shall plunge into the sacred river, and if the sacred river shall
conquer him, he that accused him shall take possession of his house.
If the sacred river shall show his innocence and he is saved, his ac-
cuser shall be put to death. He that plunged into the sacred river
shall appropriate the house of him that accused him.
False wit- § 3. If a man has borne false witness in a trial, or has not estab-
tai Boit lished tbe statement that he has made, if that case be a capital trial,

that man shall be put to death,
la dTii case § 4. If he has borne false witness in a civil law case, he shall pay

the damages in that suit. . _ , . .

Jadinnent § 5. If a judge has given a verdict, rendered a decision, grant^

once flriTQii

not to be a written judgment, and afterward has altered his judgment, that
judge shall be pi'osecuted for altering the judgment he gave and:
shall pay twelvefold the penalty laid down in that judgment.'
Further, he shall be publicly expelled from his judgment-seat and
shall not return nor take his seat with the judges at a trial*
Burglary ^6^ If a man has stolen goods from a temple, or house, he shall
ance^^ be Dut to death ; and he that has received the stolen property from

Btolengoods r ' r r j

him shall be put to death.
DeaUngB S 7. If a man has boufi^ht or received on deposit from a minor or

sponsible a slave, either silver, gold, male or female slave, ox, ass, or sheep, or

anything else, except by consent of elders, or power of attorney, he

shall be put to death for theft.
Theft § 8. If a patrician has stolen ox, sheep, ass, pig, or ship, whether

from a temple, or a house, he shall pay thirtyfold. If he be a

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THEFT AND KIDNAPPING 46

plebeian, he shall return tenfold. If the thief cannot pay, he shall
be put to death.

§ 9. If a man has lost property and some of it be detected in the Prooednre
possession of another, and the holder has said, ^^ A man sold it to thediscoY-
me, I bought it in the presence of witnesses '^ ; and if the claimant property
has said, ** I can bring witnesses who know it to be property lost by
me^ ; then the allied buyer on his part shall produce the man who
sold it to him and the witnesses before whom he bought it; the
claimant shall on his part produce the witnesses who know it to be
his lost property. The judge shall examine their pleas. The wit-
nesses to the sale and the witnesses who identify the lost property
shall state on oath what they know. Such a seller is the thief and
diall be put to death. The owner of the lost property shall recover
his lost property. The buyer shall recoup himself fi^m the seller's
estate.

§ 10. If the alleged buyer on his part has not produced the seller
or the witnesses before whom the sale took place, but the owner
of the lost property on his part has produced the witnesses who
identify it as his, then the [pretended] buyer is the thief; he shall
be put to death. The owner of the lost property shall take his lost
property.

§ 11. If, on the other hand, the claimant of the lost property
has not brought the witnesses that know his lost property, he has
been guilty of slander, he has stirred up strife, he shall be put to
death.

§ 12. If the seller has in the meantime died, the buyer shall take
from his estate fivefold the value sued for.

§ 18. If a man has not his witnesses at hand, the judge shall set jn^eDt
him a fixed time not exceeding six months, and if within six months ^
be has not produced his witnesses, the man has lied; he shall bear
the penalty of the suit.

§ 14. If a man has stolen a child, he shall be put to death. Kidnappisg

§ 15. If a man has induced either a male or female slave from the Abdnctioi]
house of a patrician, or plebeian, to leave the city, he shall be put
to death.

§ 16. If a man has harbored in his house a male or female slave Harboring
from a patrician'^s or plebeian'^s house, and has not caused the fugitive '^^

to leave on the demand of the officer over the slaves condemned to
puUic forced labor, that householder shall be put to death.



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46 THE CODE OF ^AMMURABI

S^fSf^ § 17. If a man has caught either a male or female runaway slave
***▼• in the open field and has brought him back to his owner, the owner
of the slave shall give him two shekels of silver.

§ 18. If such a slave will not name his owner, his captor shall
bring him to the palace, where he shall be examined as to his past
and retiuned to his owner.

§ 19. If the captor has secreted that slave m his house and afterward

that slave has been caught in his possession, he shall be put to death.

§ 20. If the slave has fled from the hands of his captor, the latter

shall swe£u* to the owner of the slave and he shall be free from blame.

BoTKiary § 21. If a man has broken into a house he shall be killed before

the breach and buried there,
^g^ § 22. K a man has committed highway robbery and has been
caught, tha,t man shall be put to death.

§ 23. If the highwayman has not been caught, the man that has
been robbed shall state on oath what he has lost and the city or
district governor in whose territory or district the robbery took place
shall restore to him what he has lost.

§ 24. If a life [has been lost], the city or district governor shall
pay one mina of silver to the deceased^s relatives.
Theft at a S 25. If a fire has broken out in a man^s house and one who has

lire •*

come to put it out has coveted the property of the householder and

appropriated any of it, that man shall be cast into the self-same fire.

Duties and ^ 6 26. If a levv-master, or warrant-officer, who has been detailed

prirUeKes a j ^ '

oier^tS?*^' on the king^s service, has not gone, or has hired a substitute in his
^^ place, that levy-master, or warrant-ofiicer, shall be put to death and

the hired substitute shall take his ofiice.

§ 27. If a levy-master, or warrant-ofiicer, has been assigned to

garrison duty, and in his absence his field and garden have been

given to another who has carried on his duty, when the absentee has

returned and regained his city, his field and garden shall be given

back to him and he shall resume his duty.
^hts and § 28. If a levy-master, or warrant-officer, has been assigned to
"01^ garrison duty, and has a son able to carry on his official duty, the

field and garden shall be given to him and he shall carry on his

father's duty.

§ 29. K the son be a child and is not able to carry on his fiitiier's

duty, one-third of the field and garden shall be given to his mother

to educate him.



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DUTffiS OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS 47

§ 80. If such an official has neglected the care of his field, garden, penalty tor
or hoose, and let them go to waste, and if another has taken his hiB beoenoe
field, garden, or house, in his absence, and carried on the duty for
three years, if the absentee has returned and would cultivate his
field, garden, or house, it shall not be given him ; he who has taken
it and carried on the duty connected with it shall continue to do so.

§ 81. If for one year only he has let things go to waste and he
has returned, his field, garden, and house shall be given him, and he
himself shall carry on his duty.

§ 82. K such an official has been assigned to the king^s service Bisnnsom.
(and captured by the enemy) and has been ransomed by a merchant
and helped to r^ain his city, if he has had means in his house to
pay his ransom, he himself shall do so. If he has not had means of
his own, he shall be ransomed by the temple treasury. If there has
not been means in the temple treasury of his city, the state will
ransom him. His fiekl, garden, or house shall not be given for his
ransom.

§ 88. If either a governor or a prefect has appropriated to his own Diges of
use the corv^ or has accepted and sent on the king's service a goTernow
hired substitute in his place, that governor, or prefect, shall be put
to death.

§ 84. If either a governor, or a prefect, has appropriated the Governors
property of a levy-master, has hired him out, has robbed him by prem saN
high-handedness at a trial, has taken the salary which the king gave
to him, that governor, or prefect, shall be put to death.

§ 85. If a man has bought fi^m a levy-master the sheep, or oxen, Thebenence
whidi the king gave him, he shall lose his money. master, war-

§ 86. The field, garden, or house, of a levy-master, warrant-officer, ^/njjjjjgj
or tributary shall not be sold.

§ 87. If a man has botight field, garden, or house, of a levy-
master, a warrant-officer, or tributary, his title-deed shall be destroyed
and he shall lose his money. He shall return the field, garden, or
house to its owner.

§ 88. A levy-master, warrant-officer, or tributary, shall not be- Not to be
queath anjrihing firom the field, garden, or house of his benefice to toWsftoiUy
his wife or daughter, nor shall he give it for his debt.

I S9. From the field, garden, or house which he. has bought and
acquired, he shall make bequests to his wife, or daughter, or shall
aadgn for his debt.



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48 THE CODE OF ^^AMMURABI

TheobUca- § 40. A votaiy, merchant, or resident alien may sell hi3 field,
upon a garden, or house, and the buyer shall discharge the public service
real estate connected with the field, garden, or house that he has bought.
Abeneflce ' § 41. If a man has given property in exchange for the field,
exchanged garden, or house, of a levy-master, warrant-ofiicer, or tributary, such
an ofiidal shall return to his field, garden, or house, and he shall ap-
propriate the property given in exchange.
Beeponfi- O^* If ^ i^An has hired a field to cultivate and has caused no
landtenanta com to grow on the field, he shall be held responsible for not doing
the work on the field and shall pay an average rent.

§ 48. If he has not cultivated the field and has left it alcme, he
shall give to the owner of the field an average rent, and the field
which he has neglected he shall break up with mattocks and plough
it, and shall return it to the owner of the field.
The rant oc § 44. If a man has taken a piece of virgin soil to open up, on a
land three years^ lease, but has left it alone, has not opened up the land,

in the fourth year he shall break it up, hoe it, and plough it, and
shall retiun it to the owner of the field, and shall measure out ten
GUR of com for each OAN of land.
Loisofcrop § 45. If a man has let his field to a farmer and has received his
^tioned rent for the field but afterward the field has been flooded by rain, or
a^traant ^ ^^^^^ ^^^ carried off the crop, the loss shall be the feurmer^s.

§ 46. If he has not received the rent of his field, whether he let it

for a half, or for a third, of the crop, the feurmer and the owner of

the field shall share the com that is left in the field, according to

their agreement.

Lindiord § 47. If a tenant farmer, because he did not start fismning in the

strain a early part of the ye£ur, has sublet the field, the owner of the field

BobStttaT* ^^"^ ^^^ object; his field has been cultivated; at harvest-time he

shall take rent, (uncording to his agreement.
Abatement § 48. If a man has incurred a debt and a storm has flooded his

of debt on J . _

accomrt^ field or earned away the crop, or the com has not grown because of
or drought drought, in that year he shall not pay his creditor. Further, he

shall post-date his bond and shall not pay interest for that year.
Righto In § 49. If a man has received money fix)m a merchant and has given
Se^^ ^^' ^ ^^ merchant a field, planted with com, or seseune, and has said
to him, ** Cultivate the field and reap and take the com, or sesame,
that shall be grown ^; if the bailiff has reared com, or sesame, in the
field, at harvest-time the owner of the field shall take what com, or



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RIPARIAN RESPONSIBILrnES 49

sesame, has been grown in the field and shall pay com to the mer-
chant for his money that he took of him and its interest, and for
the maintenance of the bailiff.

§ 60. If the field he gave was [already] cultivated, or the sesame
was grown up, the owner of the field shall take the com, or sesame,
that has been grown in the field, and shall return the money and its
i n terest to the merchant.

§ 51. K he has not money enough, he shall give to the merchant
sesame, or com, according to its market price, for the money which
be took from the merchant and its interest, according to the king^s
standard.

§ 5S. If the bailiff has not reared com or sesame in the field the
dditor^s obligation shall not be lessened.

§§ 58, 54. If a man has neglected to strengthen his dike and has Bipvian
not kept his dike strong, and a breach has broken out in his dike, uuSm
and the waters have flooded the meadow, the man in whose dike the
breach has broken out shall restore the com he has caused to be lost
[54]. If he be not able to restore the com, he and his goods shall be
sold, and the owners of the meadow whose com the water has carried
away shall share the money.

§ 55. If a man has opened his runnel for watering and has left it PeoAi^for
open, and the water has flooded his neighbor's field, he shall pay shatoff
him an average crop.

§ 56. If a man has let out the waters and they flood the young
|dants in his neig^ibor's field, he shall measure out ten OUR of com
for each OAN of land.

I 57. If a shepherd has not agreed with the owner of the field to Dunage
allow his sheep to eat off the green crop and without consent of the growing
owner has let his sheep feed off it, the owner of the field shall "^p
harvest his crop, but the shepherd who without consent of the
owner of the field caused his sheep to eat it shall give to the owner
of the field, over and above his crop, twenty OUR of com for each
<7^if of land.

§ 58. I^ after the sheep have come up out of the meadows and
have passed into the common fold at the city gate, a shepherd has
placed his sheqp in a field and caused his sheep to feed in the field,
the shefdierd shall keep the field he has grazed, and, at harvest-time,
be diall measure out to the owner sixty OUR of com for each OAJ^
of land.



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60 THE CODE OF HAMMURABI

Catting § 59. K a man without the consent of the owner has cut down a

withoat tree m an orchanL he shall weiffh out half a mina of silver.

permiMi(ni

Rent of a §§ 60, 61. If a man has given a field to a gardener to plant a
plot garden and the gardener has planted the garden, he shall train the

garden four years ; in the fifth year the owner of the garden and the
gardener shall share the garden equally, the owner of the garden
shall gather his share and take it. [61]. If the gardener, in |)lant-
ing the garden, has not planted all, but has left a bare patch, he
shall reckon the bare patch in his share.

§ 62. If he has not planted the field which was given him as
a garden ; then, if it was arable land, the gardener shall measure
out to the owner of the field an average rent for the years that
were n^lected, and shall perform the stipulated work on the
field (ir., make it into a garden), and return it to the owner of
the field.

§ 68. If the land was uncultivated, he shall do the stipulated work
on the field, and return to the owner of the field and shall measure
out for each year ten OUR of com for each OAN.
Garden § 64. If a man has given his garden to a gardener to feurm, the

sbves gardener, as long as he holds the garden, shall give the owner of the
garden two-thirds of the produce of the garden and shall take one-
third himself.

§ 65. If the gardener has not tilled the garden and has dimin-
ished the yield, the gardener shall pay an average rent.

Here came the five erased colunms, of which the three
following sections are restored from copies in Ashurb^-
pal's library :

obiigationt § X. [If a man has borrowed money of a merchant and has given
to eather a date grove] to the merchant and has said to him, ^^ Take the dates
f"%bf ^^^ ^^^ ^ ^y grove for your money ^; that merchant shall not
consent, the owner of the grove shall take the dates that are
in the grove and shall answer to the merchant for the money and
its interest, according to the tenor of his agreement, and the
owner of the grove shall take the surplus of ihe dates that are in
the grove.
Briction of § Y. [If a man has let a house] and the tenant has paid to the
owner of the house the fiill rent for a term of years, and if the
owner of the house has ordered the tenant to leave before his time



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RESPONSIBILITIES OF AGENTS 61

is up, the owner of the house, because he has ordered his tenant to
leave before his time is up, [shall repay a proportionate amount]
from what the tenant has paid him.

§ Z. [K a man has borrowed money of a merchant] and has not Acoepunoe



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