Bộ luật Hammurabi là một trong những Bộ luật cổ xưa nhất của nhân loại. Nội dung, giá trị và ý nghĩa của Bộ luật này tôi đã giới thiệu ở bài viết Bộ luật Hammurabi - Một trong những Bộ luật cổ xưa nhất của nhân loại. Tư liệu để nghiên cứu sâu hơn về Bộ luật này, các bạn sinh viên có thể tìm hiểu những tư liệu dưới đây:
1). Giới thiệu về Bộ luật của Charles F. Horne;
2). Bản dịch Bộ luật của L.W.King (Tiếng Anh);
3). Bài phân tích của Claude Hermann Walter Johns;
By the Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D. from the
Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910-1911.
Giới thiệu về Bộ luật của Charles F. Horne
(Introduction, Charles F. Horne, Ph.D.1915)
...[Hammurabi] was the ruler who chiefly established the greatness
of Babylon, the world's first metropolis. Many relics of Hammurabi's
reign ([1795-1750 BC]) have been preserved, and today we can study this
remarkable King . . . as a wise law-giver in his celebrated code. . .
...[B]y far the most remarkable of the Hammurabi records is his
code of laws, the earliest-known example of a ruler proclaiming publicly
to his people an entire body of laws, arranged in orderly groups, so
that all men might read and know what was required of them. The code was
carved upon a black stone monument, eight feet high, and clearly
intended to be reared in public view. This noted stone was found in the
year 1901, not in Babylon, but in a city of the Persian mountains, to
which some later conqueror must have carried it in triumph. It begins
and ends with addresses to the gods. Even a law code was in those days
regarded as a subject for prayer, though the prayers here are chiefly
cursings of whoever shall neglect or destroy the law.
The code then regulates in clear and definite strokes the
organization of society. The judge who blunders in a law case is to be
expelled from his judgeship forever, and heavily fined. The witness who
testifies falsely is to be slain. Indeed, all the heavier crimes are
made punishable with death. Even if a man builds a house badly, and it
falls and kills the owner, the builder is to be slain. If the owner's
son was killed, then the builder's son is slain. We can see where the
Hebrews learned their law of "an eye for an eye." These grim retaliatory
punishments take no note of excuses or explanations, but only of the
fact--with one striking exception. An accused person was allowed to cast
himself into "the river," the Euphrates. Apparently the art of swimming
was unknown; for if the current bore him to the shore alive he was
declared innocent, if he drowned he was guilty. So we learn that faith
in the justice of the ruling gods was already firmly, though somewhat
childishly, established in the minds of men.
Yet even with this earliest set of laws, as with most things
Babylonian, we find ourselves dealing with the end of things rather than
the beginnings. Hammurabi's code was not really the earliest. The
preceding sets of laws have disappeared, but we have found several
traces of them, and Hammurabi's own code clearly implies their
existence. He is but reorganizing a legal system long established.
Charles F. Horne, Ph.D.
Bản dịch Bộ luật Hammurabi của L.W.King
(The Code of Hammurabi- Translated by L. W. King;
1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can
not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.
2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the
accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river
his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove
that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had
brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into
the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his
3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the
elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a
capital offense charged, be put to death.
4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.
5. If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his
judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it
be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set
by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge's
bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.
6. If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court,
he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing
from him shall be put to death.
7. If any one buy from the son or the slave of another man,
without witnesses or a contract, silver or gold, a male or female slave,
an ox or a sheep, an ass or anything, or if he take it in charge, he is
considered a thief and shall be put to death.
8. If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a
goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay
thirtyfold therefor; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he
shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall
be put to death.
9. If any one lose an article, and find it in the possession
of another: if the person in whose possession the thing is found say "A
merchant sold it to me, I paid for it before witnesses," and if the
owner of the thing say, "I will bring witnesses who know my property,"
then shall the purchaser bring the merchant who sold it to him, and the
witnesses before whom he bought it, and the owner shall bring witnesses
who can identify his property. The judge shall examine their
testimony--both of the witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of
the witnesses who identify the lost article on oath. The merchant is
then proved to be a thief and shall be put to death. The owner of the
lost article receives his property, and he who bought it receives the
money he paid from the estate of the merchant.
10. If the purchaser does not bring the merchant and the
witnesses before whom he bought the article, but its owner bring
witnesses who identify it, then the buyer is the thief and shall be put
to death, and the owner receives the lost article.
11. If the owner do not bring witnesses to identify the lost
article, he is an evil-doer, he has traduced, and shall be put to
12. If the witnesses be not at hand, then shall the judge set a
limit, at the expiration of six months. If his witnesses have not
appeared within the six months, he is an evil-doer, and shall bear the
fine of the pending case.
14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
15. If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a
male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be
put to death.
16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female
slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the
public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be
put to death.
17. If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open
country and bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall
pay him two shekels of silver.
18. If the slave will not give the name of the master, the
finder shall bring him to the palace; a further investigation must
follow, and the slave shall be returned to his master.
19. If he hold the slaves in his house, and they are caught there, he shall be put to death.
20. If the slave that he caught run away from him, then shall
he swear to the owners of the slave, and he is free of all blame.
21. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
22. If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.
23. If the robber is not caught, then shall he who was robbed
claim under oath the amount of his loss; then shall the community, and .
. . on whose ground and territory and in whose domain it was compensate
him for the goods stolen.
24. If persons are stolen, then shall the community and . . . pay one mina of silver to their relatives.
25. If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to
put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and
take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown
into that self-same fire.
26. If a chieftain or a man (common soldier), who has been
ordered to go upon the king's highway for war does not go, but hires a
mercenary, if he withholds the compensation, then shall this officer or
man be put to death, and he who represented him shall take possession of
27. If a chieftain or man be caught in the misfortune of the
king (captured in battle), and if his fields and garden be given to
another and he take possession, if he return and reaches his place, his
field and garden shall be returned to him, he shall take it over again.
28. If a chieftain or a man be caught in the misfortune of a
king, if his son is able to enter into possession, then the field and
garden shall be given to him, he shall take over the fee of his father.
29. If his son is still young, and can not take possession, a
third of the field and garden shall be given to his mother, and she
shall bring him up.
30. If a chieftain or a man leave his house, garden, and field
and hires it out, and some one else takes possession of his house,
garden, and field and uses it for three years: if the first owner return
and claims his house, garden, and field, it shall not be given to him,
but he who has taken possession of it and used it shall continue to use
31. If he hire it out for one year and then return, the house,
garden, and field shall be given back to him, and he shall take it over
32. If a chieftain or a man is captured on the "Way of the
King" (in war), and a merchant buy him free, and bring him back to his
place; if he have the means in his house to buy his freedom, he shall
buy himself free: if he have nothing in his house with which to buy
himself free, he shall be bought free by the temple of his community; if
there be nothing in the temple with which to buy him free, the court
shall buy his freedom. His field, garden, and house shall not be given
for the purchase of his freedom.
33. If a . . . or a . . . enter himself as withdrawn from the
"Way of the King," and send a mercenary as substitute, but withdraw him,
then the . . . or . . . shall be put to death.
34. If a . . . or a . . . harm the property of a captain,
injure the captain, or take away from the captain a gift presented to
him by the king, then the . . . or . . . shall be put to death.
35. If any one buy the cattle or sheep which the king has given to chieftains from him, he loses his money.
36. The field, garden, and house of a chieftain, of a man, or of one subject to quit-rent, can not be sold.
37. If any one buy the field, garden, and house of a
chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent, his contract tablet of sale
shall be broken (declared invalid) and he loses his money. The field,
and house return to their owners.
38. A chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent can not
assign his tenure of field, house, and garden to his wife or daughter,
nor can he assign it for a debt.
39. He may, however, assign a field, garden, or house which he
has bought, and holds as property, to his wife or daughter or give it
40. He may sell field, garden, and house to a merchant (royal
agents) or to any other public official, the buyer holding field, house,
and garden for its usufruct.
41. If any one fence in the field, garden, and house of a
chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent, furnishing the palings
therefor; if the chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent return to
field, garden, and house, the palings which were given to him become his
42. If any one take over a field to till it, and obtain no
harvest therefrom, it must be proved that he did no work on the field,
and he must deliver grain, just as his neighbor raised, to the owner of
43. If he do not till the field, but let it lie fallow, he
shall give grain like his neighbor's to the owner of the field, and the
field which he let lie fallow he must plow and sow and return to its
44. If any one take over a waste-lying field to make it
arable, but is lazy, and does not make it arable, he shall plow the
fallow field in the fourth year, harrow it and till it, and give it back
to its owner, and for each ten gan (a measure of area) ten gur of grain
shall be paid.
45. If a man rent his field for tillage for a fixed rental,
and receive the rent of his field, but bad weather come and destroy the
harvest, the injury falls upon the tiller of the soil.
46. If he do not receive a fixed rental for his field, but
lets it on half or third shares of the harvest, the grain on the field
shall be divided proportionately between the tiller and the owner.
47. If the tiller, because he did not succeed in the first
year, has had the soil tilled by others, the owner may raise no
objection; the field has been cultivated and he receives the harvest
according to agreement.
48. If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates
the grain, or the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of
water; in that year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes
his debt-tablet in water and pays no rent for this year.
49. If any one take money from a merchant, and give the
merchant a field tillable for corn or sesame and order him to plant corn
or sesame in the field, and to harvest the crop; if the cultivator
plant corn or sesame in the field, at the harvest the corn or sesame
that is in the field shall belong to the owner of the field and he shall
pay corn as rent, for the money he received from the merchant, and the
livelihood of the cultivator shall he give to the merchant.
50. If he give a cultivated corn-field or a cultivated
sesame-field, the corn or sesame in the field shall belong to the owner
of the field, and he shall return the money to the merchant as rent.
51. If he have no money to repay, then he shall pay in corn or
sesame in place of the money as rent for what he received from the
merchant, according to the royal tariff.
52. If the cultivator do not plant corn or sesame in the field, the debtor's contract is not weakened.
53. If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper
condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the
fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold
for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to
54. If he be not able to replace the corn, then he and his
possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has
55. If any one open his ditches to water his crop, but is
careless, and the water flood the field of his neighbor, then he shall
pay his neighbor corn for his loss.
56. If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the
plantation of his neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten
gan of land.
57. If a shepherd, without the permission of the owner of the
field, and without the knowledge of the owner of the sheep, lets the
sheep into a field to graze, then the owner of the field shall harvest
his crop, and the shepherd, who had pastured his flock there without
permission of the owner of the field, shall pay to the owner twenty gur
of corn for every ten gan.
58. If after the flocks have left the pasture and been shut up
in the common fold at the city gate, any shepherd let them into a field
and they graze there, this shepherd shall take possession of the field
which he has allowed to be grazed on, and at the harvest he must pay
sixty gur of corn for every ten gan.
59. If any man, without the knowledge of the owner of a garden, fell a tree in a garden he shall pay half a mina in money.
60. If any one give over a field to a gardener, for him to
plant it as a garden, if he work at it, and care for it for four years,
in the fifth year the owner and the gardener shall divide it, the owner
taking his part in charge.
61. If the gardener has not completed the planting of the
field, leaving one part unused, this shall be assigned to him as his.
62. If he do not plant the field that was given over to him as
a garden, if it be arable land (for corn or sesame) the gardener shall
pay the owner the produce of the field for the years that he let it lie
fallow, according to the product of neighboring fields, put the field in
arable condition and return it to its owner.
63. If he transform waste land into arable fields and return
it to its owner, the latter shall pay him for one year ten gur for ten
64. If any one hand over his garden to a gardener to work, the
gardener shall pay to its owner two-thirds of the produce of the
garden, for so long as he has it in possession, and the other third
shall he keep.
65. If the gardener do not work in the garden and the product
fall off, the gardener shall pay in proportion to other neighboring
[Here a portion of the text is missing, apparently comprising
100. . . . interest for the money, as much as he has received,
he shall give a note therefor, and on the day, when they settle, pay to
101. If there are no mercantile arrangements in the place
whither he went, he shall leave the entire amount of money which he
received with the broker to give to the merchant.
102. If a merchant entrust money to an agent (broker) for some
investment, and the broker suffer a loss in the place to which he goes,
he shall make good the capital to the merchant.
103. If, while on the journey, an enemy take away from him
anything that he had, the broker shall swear by God and be free of
104. If a merchant give an agent corn, wool, oil, or any other
goods to transport, the agent shall give a receipt for the amount, and
compensate the merchant therefor. Then he shall obtain a receipt form
the merchant for the money that he gives the merchant.
105. If the agent is careless, and does not take a receipt for
the money which he gave the merchant, he can not consider the
unreceipted money as his own.
106. If the agent accept money from the merchant, but have a
quarrel with the merchant (denying the receipt), then shall the merchant
swear before God and witnesses that he has given this money to the
agent, and the agent shall pay him three times the sum.
107. If the merchant cheat the agent, in that as the latter
has returned to him all that had been given him, but the merchant denies
the receipt of what had been returned to him, then shall this agent
convict the merchant before God and the judges, and if he still deny
receiving what the agent had given him shall pay six times the sum to
108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn
according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the
price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted
thrown into the water.
109. If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and
these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the
tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
110. If a "sister of a god" open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
111. If an inn-keeper furnish sixty ka of usakani-drink to . . . she shall receive fifty ka of corn at the harvest.
112. If any one be on a journey and entrust silver, gold,
precious stones, or any movable property to another, and wish to recover
it from him; if the latter do not bring all of the property to the
appointed place, but appropriate it to his own use, then shall this man,
who did not bring the property to hand it over, be convicted, and he
shall pay fivefold for all that had been entrusted to him.
113. If any one have consignment of corn or money, and he take
from the granary or box without the knowledge of the owner, then shall
he who took corn without the knowledge of the owner out of the granary
or money out of the box be legally convicted, and repay the corn he has
taken. And he shall lose whatever commission was paid to him, or due
114. If a man have no claim on another for corn and money, and
try to demand it by force, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver
in every case.
115. If any one have a claim for corn or money upon another
and imprison him; if the prisoner die in prison a natural death, the
case shall go no further.
116. If the prisoner die in prison from blows or maltreatment,
the master of the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge.
If he was a free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to
death; if it was a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and
all that the master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.
117. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell
himself, his wife, his son, and daughter for money or give them away to
forced labor: they shall work for three years in the house of the man
who bought them, or the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be
118. If he give a male or female slave away for forced labor,
and the merchant sublease them, or sell them for money, no objection can
119. If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and he sell the
maid servant who has borne him children, for money, the money which the
merchant has paid shall be repaid to him by the owner of the slave and
she shall be freed.
120. If any one store corn for safe keeping in another
person's house, and any harm happen to the corn in storage, or if the
owner of the house open the granary and take some of the corn, or if
especially he deny that the corn was stored in his house: then the owner
of the corn shall claim his corn before God (on oath), and the owner of
the house shall pay its owner for all of the corn that he took.
121. If any one store corn in another man's house he shall pay
him storage at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year.
122. If any one give another silver, gold, or anything else to
keep, he shall show everything to some witness, draw up a contract, and
then hand it over for safe keeping.
123. If he turn it over for safe keeping without witness or
contract, and if he to whom it was given deny it, then he has no
124. If any one deliver silver, gold, or anything else to
another for safe keeping, before a witness, but he deny it, he shall be
brought before a judge, and all that he has denied he shall pay in full.
125. If any one place his property with another for safe
keeping, and there, either through thieves or robbers, his property and
the property of the other man be lost, the owner of the house, through
whose neglect the loss took place, shall compensate the owner for all
that was given to him in charge. But the owner of the house shall try to
follow up and recover his property, and take it away from the thief.
126. If any one who has not lost his goods state that they
have been lost, and make false claims: if he claim his goods and amount
of injury before God, even though he has not lost them, he shall be
fully compensated for all his loss claimed. (I.e., the oath is all that
127. If any one "point the finger" (slander) at a sister of a
god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be
taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the
skin, or perhaps hair.)
128. If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
129. If a man's wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with
another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the
husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.
130. If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of
another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father's
house, and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to
but the wife is blameless.
131. If a man bring a charge against one's wife, but she is
not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may
return to her house.
132. If the "finger is pointed" at a man's wife about another
man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump
into the river for her husband.
133. If a man is taken prisoner in war, and there is a
sustenance in his house, but his wife leave house and court, and go to
another house: because this wife did not keep her court, and went to
another house, she shall be judicially condemned and thrown into the
134. If any one be captured in war and there is not sustenance
in his house, if then his wife go to another house this woman shall be
135. If a man be taken prisoner in war and there be no
sustenance in his house and his wife go to another house and bear
children; and if later her husband return and come to his home: then
this wife shall
return to her husband, but the children follow their father.
136. If any one leave his house, run away, and then his wife
go to another house, if then he return, and wishes to take his wife
back: because he fled from his home and ran away, the wife of this
shall not return to her husband.
137. If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him
children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall
give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden,
and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up
her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as
that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of
138. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne
him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and
the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.
139. If there was no purchase price he shall give her one mina of gold as a gift of release.
140. If he be a freed man he shall give her one-third of a mina of gold.
141. If a man's wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave
it, plunges into debt, tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband,
and is judicially convicted: if her husband offer her release, she may
go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her
husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she
shall remain as servant in her husband's house.
142. If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: "You are
not congenial to me," the reasons for her prejudice must be presented.
If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves
and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take
her dowry and go back to her father's house.
143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins
her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the
144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a
maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take
another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take
a second wife.
145. If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and
he intend to take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring
her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality
with his wife.
146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant
as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality
with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not
sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among
147. If she have not borne him children, then her mistress may sell her for money.
148. If a man take a wife, and she be seized by disease, if he
then desire to take a second wife he shall not put away his wife, who
has been attacked by disease, but he shall keep her in the house which
he has built and support her so long as she lives.
149. If this woman does not wish to remain in her husband's
house, then he shall compensate her for the dowry that she brought with
her from her father's house, and she may go.
150. If a man give his wife a field, garden, and house and a
deed therefor, if then after the death of her husband the sons raise no
claim, then the mother may bequeath all to one of her sons whom she
prefers, and need leave nothing to his brothers.
151. If a woman who lived in a man's house made an agreement
with her husband, that no creditor can arrest her, and has given a
document therefor: if that man, before he married that woman, had a
debt, the creditor can not hold the woman for it. But if the woman,
before she entered the man's house, had contracted a debt, her creditor
can not arrest her husband therefor.
152. If after the woman had entered the man's house, both contracted a debt, both must pay the merchant.
153. If the wife of one man on account of another man has
their mates (her husband and the other man's wife) murdered, both of
them shall be impaled.
154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).
155. If a man betroth a girl to his son, and his son have
intercourse with her, but he (the father) afterward defile her, and be
surprised, then he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).
156. If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not
known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina,
and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father's house.
She may marry the man of her heart.
157. If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.
158. If any one be surprised after his father with his chief
wife, who has borne children, he shall be driven out of his father's
159. If any one, who has brought chattels into his
father-in-law's house, and has paid the purchase-money, looks for
another wife, and says to his father-in-law: "I do not want your
daughter," the girl's father may keep all that he had brought.
160. If a man bring chattels into the house of his
father-in-law, and pay the "purchase price" (for his wife): if then the
father of the girl say: "I will not give you my daughter," he shall give
him back all that he brought with him.
161. If a man bring chattels into his father-in-law's house
and pay the "purchase price," if then his friend slander him, and his
father-in-law say to the young husband: "You shall not marry my
daughter," the he shall give back to him undiminished all that he had
brought with him; but his wife shall not be married to the friend.
162. If a man marry a woman, and she bear sons to him; if then
this woman die, then shall her father have no claim on her dowry; this
belongs to her sons.
163. If a man marry a woman and she bear him no sons; if then
this woman die, if the "purchase price" which he had paid into the house
of his father-in-law is repaid to him, her husband shall have no claim
upon the dowry of this woman; it belongs to her father's house.
164. If his father-in-law do not pay back to him the amount of
the "purchase price" he may subtract the amount of the "Purchase price"
from the dowry, and then pay the remainder to her father's house.
165. If a man give to one of his sons whom he prefers a field,
garden, and house, and a deed therefor: if later the father die, and
the brothers divide the estate, then they shall first give him the
present of his father, and he shall accept it; and the rest of the
paternal property shall they divide.
166. If a man take wives for his son, but take no wife for his
minor son, and if then he die: if the sons divide the estate, they
shall set aside besides his portion the money for the "purchase price"
for the minor brother who had taken no wife as yet, and secure a wife
167. If a man marry a wife and she bear him children: if this
wife die and he then take another wife and she bear him children: if
then the father die, the sons must not partition the estate according to
the mothers, they shall divide the dowries of their mothers only in
this way; the paternal estate they shall divide
equally with one another.
168. If a man wish to put his son out of his house, and
declare before the judge: "I want to put my son out," then the judge
shall examine into his reasons. If the son be guilty of no great fault,
for which he can be rightfully put out, the father shall not put him
169. If he be guilty of a grave fault, which should rightfully
deprive him of the filial relationship, the father shall forgive him
the first time; but if he be guilty of a grave fault a second time the
father may deprive his son of all filial relation.
170. If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have
borne sons, and the father while still living says to the children whom
his maid-servant has borne: "My sons," and he count them with the sons
of his wife; if then the father die, then the sons of the wife and of
the maid-servant shall divide the paternal property in common. The son
of the wife is to partition and choose.
171. If, however, the father while still living did not say to
the sons of the maid-servant: "My sons," and then the father dies, then
the sons of the maid-servant shall not share with the sons of the wife,
but the freedom of the maid and her sons shall be granted. The sons of
the wife shall have no right to enslave the sons of the maid; the wife
shall take her dowry (from her father), and the gift that her husband
gave her and deeded to her (separate from dowry, or the purchase-money
paid her father), and live in the home of her husband: so long as she
lives she shall use it, it shall not be sold for money. Whatever she
leaves shall belong to her children.
172. If her husband made her no gift, she shall be compensated
for her gift, and she shall receive a portion from the estate of her
husband, equal to that of one child. If her sons oppress her, to force
her out of the house, the judge shall examine into the matter, and if
the sons are at fault the woman shall not leave her husband's house. If
the woman desire to leave the house, she must leave to her sons the gift
which her husband gave her, but she may take the dowry of her father's
house. Then she may marry the man of her heart.
173. If this woman bear sons to her second husband, in the
place to which she went, and then die, her earlier and later sons shall
divide the dowry between them.
174. If she bear no sons to her second husband, the sons of her first husband shall have the dowry.
175. If a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry the
daughter of a free man, and children are born, the master of the slave
shall have no right to enslave the children of the free.
176. If, however, a State slave or the slave of a freed man
marry a man's daughter, and after he marries her she bring a dowry from a
father's house, if then they both enjoy it and found a household, and
accumulate means, if then the slave die, then she who was free born may
take her dowry, and all that her husband and she had earned; she shall
divide them into two parts, one-half the master for the slave shall
take, and the other half shall the free-born woman take for her
children. If the free-born woman had no gift she shall take all that her
husband and she had earned and divide it into two parts; and the master
of the slave shall take one-half and she shall take the other for her
177. If a widow, whose children are not grown, wishes to enter
another house (remarry), she shall not enter it without the knowledge
of the judge. If she enter another house the judge shall examine the
state of the house of her first husband. Then the house of her first
husband shall be entrusted to the second husband and the woman herself
as managers. And a record must be made thereof. She shall keep the house
in order, bring up the children, and not sell the house-hold utensils.
He who buys the utensils of the children of a widow shall lose his
money, and the goods shall return to their owners.
178. If a "devoted woman" or a prostitute to whom her father
has given a dowry and a deed therefor, but if in this deed it is not
stated that she may bequeath it as she pleases, and has not explicitly
stated that she has the right of disposal; if then her father die, then
her brothers shall hold her field and garden, and give her corn, oil,
and milk according to her portion, and satisfy her. If her brothers do
not give her corn, oil, and milk according to her share, then her field
and garden shall support her. She shall have the usufruct of field and
garden and all that her father gave her so long as she lives, but she
can not sell or assign it to others. Her position of inheritance belongs
to her brothers.
179. If a "sister of a god," or a prostitute, receive a gift
from her father, and a deed in which it has been explicitly stated that
she may dispose of it as she pleases, and give her complete disposition
thereof: if then her father die, then she may leave her property to
whomsoever she pleases. Her brothers can raise no claim thereto.
180. If a father give a present to his daughter--either
marriageable or a prostitute unmarriageable)--and then die, then she is
to receive a portion as a child from the paternal estate, and
enjoy its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her
181. If a father devote a temple-maid or temple-virgin to God
and give her no present: if then the father die, she shall receive the
third of a child's portion from the inheritance of her father's house,
and enjoy its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her
182. If a father devote his daughter as a wife of Mardi of
Babylon (as in 181), and give her no present, nor a deed; if then her
father die, then shall she receive one-third of her portion as a child
of her father's house from her brothers, but Marduk may leave her estate
to whomsoever she wishes.
183. If a man give his daughter by a concubine a dowry, and a
husband, and a deed; if then her father die, she shall receive no
portion from the paternal estate.
184. If a man do not give a dowry to his daughter by a
concubine, and no husband; if then her father die, her brother shall
give her a dowry according to her father's wealth and secure a husband
185. If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again.
186. If a man adopt a son, and if after he has taken him he
injure his foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall return
to his father's house.
187. The son of a paramour in the palace service, or of a prostitute, can not be demanded back.
188. If an artizan has undertaken to rear a child and teaches him his craft, he can not be demanded back.
189. If he has not taught him his craft, this adopted son may return to his father's house.
190. If a man does not maintain a child that he has adopted as
a son and reared with his other children, then his adopted son may
return to his father's house.
191. If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a
household, and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then
this son shall not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him
of his wealth one-third of a child's portion, and then he may go. He
shall not give him of the field, garden, and house.
192. If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his
adoptive father or mother: "You are not my father, or my mother," his
tongue shall be cut off.
193. If the son of a paramour or a prostitute desire his
father's house, and desert his adoptive father and adoptive mother, and
goes to his father's house, then shall his eye be put out.
194. If a man give his child to a nurse and the child die in
her hands, but the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurse
another child, then they shall convict her of having nursed another
child without the knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts
shall be cut off.
195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]
197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.
199. If he put out the eye of a man's slave, or break the bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.
200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. [ A tooth for a tooth ]
201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.
202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.
204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.
205. If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.
206. If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him,
then he shall swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the
207. If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly,
and if he (the deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina
208. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.
210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.
211. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.
212. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.
213. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.
214. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
215. If a physician make a large incision with an operating
knife and cure it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an
operating knife, and saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in
216. If the patient be a freed man, he receives five shekels.
217. If he be the slave of some one, his owner shall give the physician two shekels.
218. If a physician make a large incision with the operating
knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut
out the eye, his hands shall be cut off.
219. If a physician make a large incision in the slave of a
freed man, and kill him, he shall replace the slave with another slave.
220. If he had opened a tumor with the operating knife, and put out his eye, he shall pay half his value.
221. If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part
of a man, the patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.
222. If he were a freed man he shall pay three shekels.
223. If he were a slave his owner shall pay the physician two shekels.
224. If a veterinary surgeon perform a serious operation on an
ass or an ox, and cure it, the owner shall pay the surgeon one-sixth of
a shekel as a fee.
225. If he perform a serious operation on an ass or ox, and kill it, he shall pay the owner one-fourth of its value.
226. If a barber, without the knowledge of his master, cut the
sign of a slave on a slave not to be sold, the hands of this barber
shall be cut off.
227. If any one deceive a barber, and have him mark a slave
not for sale with the sign of a slave, he shall be put to death, and
buried in his house. The barber shall swear: "I did not mark him
shall be guiltless.
228. If a builder build a house for some one and complete it,
he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface.
229 If a builder build a house for some one, and does not
construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its
owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
232. If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that
has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this
house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his
233. If a builder build a house for some one, even though he
has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder
must make the walls solid from his own means.
234. If a shipbuilder build a boat of sixty gur for a man, he shall pay him a fee of two shekels in money.
235. If a shipbuilder build a boat for some one, and do not
make it tight, if during that same year that boat is sent away and
suffers injury, the shipbuilder shall take the boat apart and put it
together tight at his own expense. The tight boat he shall give to the
236. If a man rent his boat to a sailor, and the sailor is
careless, and the boat is wrecked or goes aground, the sailor shall give
the owner of the boat another boat as compensation.
237. If a man hire a sailor and his boat, and provide it with
corn, clothing, oil and dates, and other things of the kind needed for
fitting it: if the sailor is careless, the boat is wrecked, and its
contents ruined, then the sailor shall compensate for the boat which was
wrecked and all in it that he ruined.
238. If a sailor wreck any one's ship, but saves it, he shall pay the half of its value in money.
239. If a man hire a sailor, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.
240. If a merchantman run against a ferryboat, and wreck it,
the master of the ship that was wrecked shall seek justice before God;
the master of the merchantman, which wrecked the ferryboat, must
compensate the owner for the boat and all that he ruined.
241. If any one impresses an ox for forced labor, he shall pay one-third of a mina in money.
242. If any one hire oxen for a year, he shall pay four gur of corn for plow-oxen.
243. As rent of herd cattle he shall pay three gur of corn to the owner.
244. If any one hire an ox or an ass, and a lion kill it in the field, the loss is upon its owner.
245. If any one hire oxen, and kill them by bad treatment or blows, he shall compensate the owner, oxen for oxen.
246. If a man hire an ox, and he break its leg or cut the ligament of its neck, he shall compensate the owner with ox for ox.
247. If any one hire an ox, and put out its eye, he shall pay the owner one-half of its value.
248. If any one hire an ox, and break off a horn, or cut off
its tail, or hurt its muzzle, he shall pay one-fourth of its value in
249. If any one hire an ox, and God strike it that it die, the
man who hired it shall swear by God and be considered guiltless.
250. If while an ox is passing on the street (market) some one
push it, and kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit
(against the hirer).
251. If an ox be a goring ox, and it shown that he is a gorer,
and he do not bind his horns, or fasten the ox up, and the ox gore a
free-born man and kill him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in
252. If he kill a man's slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
253. If any one agree with another to tend his field, give him
seed, entrust a yoke of oxen to him, and bind him to cultivate the
field, if he steal the corn or plants, and take them for himself, his
hands shall be hewn off.
254. If he take the seed-corn for himself, and do not use the
yoke of oxen, he shall compensate him for the amount of the seed-corn.
255. If he sublet the man's yoke of oxen or steal the
seed-corn, planting nothing in the field, he shall be convicted, and for
each one hundred gan he shall pay sixty gur of corn.
256. If his community will not pay for him, then he shall be placed in that field with the cattle (at work).
257. If any one hire a field laborer, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per year.
258. If any one hire an ox-driver, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.
259. If any one steal a water-wheel from the field, he shall pay five shekels in money to its owner.
260. If any one steal a shadduf (used to draw water from the river or canal) or a plow, he shall pay three shekels in money.
261. If any one hire a herdsman for cattle or sheep, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per annum.
262. If any one, a cow or a sheep . . .
263. If he kill the cattle or sheep that were given to him, he
shall compensate the owner with cattle for cattle and sheep for sheep.
264. If a herdsman, to whom cattle or sheep have been
entrusted for watching over, and who has received his wages as agreed
upon, and is satisfied, diminish the number of the cattle or sheep, or
increase by birth less, he shall make good the increase or profit which
was lost in the terms of settlement.
265. If a herdsman, to whose care cattle or sheep have been
entrusted, be guilty of fraud and make false returns of the natural
increase, or sell them for money, then shall he be convicted and pay
the owner ten times the loss.
266. If the animal be killed in the stable by God ( an
accident), or if a lion kill it, the herdsman shall declare his
innocence before God, and the owner bears the accident in the stable.
267. If the herdsman overlook something, and an accident
happen in the stable, then the herdsman is at fault for the accident
which he has caused in the stable, and he must compensate the owner for
cattle or sheep.
268. If any one hire an ox for threshing, the amount of the hire is twenty ka of corn.
269. If he hire an ass for threshing, the hire is twenty ka of corn.
270. If he hire a young animal for threshing, the hire is ten ka of corn.
271. If any one hire oxen, cart and driver, he shall pay one hundred and eighty ka of corn per day.
272. If any one hire a cart alone, he shall pay forty ka of corn per day.
273. If any one hire a day laborer, he shall pay him from the
New Year until the fifth month (April to August, when days are long and
the work hard) six gerahs in money per day; from the sixth month to
the end of the year he shall give him five gerahs per day.
274. If any one hire a skilled artizan, he shall pay as wages
of the . . . five gerahs, as wages of the potter five gerahs, of a
tailor five gerahs, of . . . gerahs, . . . of a ropemaker four gerahs,
of . . .. gerahs, of a mason . . . gerahs per day.
275. If any one hire a ferryboat, he shall pay three gerahs in money per day.
276. If he hire a freight-boat, he shall pay two and one-half gerahs per day.
277. If any one hire a ship of sixty gur, he shall pay one-sixth of a shekel in money as its hire per day.
278. If any one buy a male or female slave, and before a month
has elapsed the benu-disease be developed, he shall return the slave to
the seller, and receive the money which he had paid.
279. If any one buy a male or female slave, and a third party claim it, the seller is liable for the claim.
280. If while in a foreign country a man buy a male or female
slave belonging to another of his own country; if when he return home
the owner of the male or female slave recognize it: if the male or
female slave be a native of the country, he shall give them back without
281. If they are from another country, the buyer shall declare
the amount of money paid therefor to the merchant, and keep the male
or female slave.
282. If a slave say to his master: "You are not my master," if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.
Phân tích của Claude Hermann Walter
(By the Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D.
Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910-1911,
The material for the study of Babylonian law is singularly extensive
without being exhaustive. The so-called "contracts," including a great
variety of deeds, conveyances, bonds, receipts, accounts and, most
important of all, the actual legal decisions given by the judges in the
law courts, exist in thousands. Historical inscriptions, royal charters
and rescripts, despatches, private letters and the general literature
afford welcome supplementary information. Even grammatical and
lexicographical works, intended solely to facilitate the study of
ancient literature, contain many extracts or short sentences bearing on
law and custom. The so-called "Sumerian Family Laws" are thus preserved.
The discovery of the now celebrated Code of Hammurabi (hereinafter
simply termed the Code) has, however, made a more systematic study
possible than could have resulted from the classification and
interpretation of the other material. Some fragments of a later code
exist and have been published; but there still remain many points upon
which we have no evidence.
This material dates from the earliest times down to the commencement
of our era. The evidence upon a particular point may be very full at
one period and almost entirely lacking at another. The Code forms the
backbone of the skeleton sketch which is here reconstructed. The
fragments of it which have been recovered from Assur-bani-pal's library
at Nineveh and later Babylonian copies show that it was studied, divided
into chapters entitled Ninu ilu sirum
from its opening words,
and recopied for fifteen hundred years or more. The greater part of It
remained in force, even through the Persian, Greek and Parthian
conquests, which affected private life in Babylonia very little, and it
survived to influence Syro-Roman and later Mahommedan law in
Mesopotamia. The law and custom which preceded the Code we shall call
"early," that of the New Babylonian empire (as well as the Persian,
Greek, &c.) "late." The law in Assyria was derived from Babylonia
but conserved early features long after they had disappeared elsewhere.
When the Semitic tribes settled in the cities of Babylonia, their
tribal custom passed over into city law. The early history of the
country is the story of a struggle for supremacy between the cities. A
metropolis demanded tribute and military support from its subject cities
but left their local cults and customs unaffected. The city rights and
usages were respected by kings and conquerors alike.
As late as the accession of Assur-bani-pal and Samas-sum-yukin we
find the Babylonians appealing to their city laws that groups of aliens
to the number of twenty at a time were free to enter the city, that
foreign women once married to Babylonian husbands could not be enslaved
and that not even a dog that entered the city could be put to death
The population of Babylonia was of many races from early times and
intercommunication between the cities was incessant. Every city had a
large number of resident aliens. This freedom of intercourse must have
tended to assimilate custom. It was, however, reserved for the genius of
Hammurabi to make Babylon his metropolis and weld together his vast
empire by a uniform system of law.
Almost all trace of tribal custom has already disappeared from the
law of the Code. It is state-law; - alike self-help, blood-feud,
marriage by capture, are absent; though family solidarity, district
responsibility, ordeal, the lex talionis, are primitive features that
remain. The king is a benevolent autocrat, easily accessible to all his
subjects, both able and willing to protect the weak against the
highest-placed oppressor. The royal power, however, can only pardon when
private resentment is appeased. The judges are strictly supervised and
appeal is allowed. The whole land is covered with feudal holdings,
masters of the levy, police, &c. There is a regular postal system.
The pax Babylonica
is so assured that private individuals do not
hesitate to ride in their carriage from Babylon to the coast of the
Mediterranean. The position of women is free and dignified.
The Code did not merely embody contemporary custom or conserve
ancient law. It is true that centuries of law-abiding and litigious
habitude had accumulated in the temple archives of each city vast stores
of precedent in ancient deeds and the records of judicial decisions,
and that intercourse had assimilated city custom. The universal habit of
writing and perpetual recourse to written contract even more modified
primitive custom and ancient precedent. Provided the parties could
agree, the Code left them free to contract as a rule. Their deed of
agreement was drawn up in the temple by a notary public, and confirmed
by an oath "by god and the king." It was publicly sealed and witnessed
by professional witnesses, as well as by collaterally interested
parties. The manner in which it was thus executed may have been
sufficient security that its stipulations were not impious or illegal.
Custom or public opinion doubtless secured that the parties would not
agree to wrong. In case of dispute the judges dealt first with the
contract. They might not sustain it, but if the parties did not dispute
it, they were free to observe it. The judges' decision might, however,
be appealed against. Many contracts contain the proviso that in case of
future dispute the parties would abide by "the decision of the king."
The Code made known, in a vast number of cases, what that decision would
be, and many cases of appeal to the king were sent back to the judges
with orders to decide in accordance with it. The Code itself was
carefully and logically arranged and the order of its sections was
conditioned by their subject-matter. Nevertheless the order is not that
of modern scientific treatises, and a somewhat different order from both
is most convenient for our purpose.
The Code contemplates the whole population as falling into three
classes, the amelu, the muskinu and the ardu. The amelu was a patrician,
the man of family, whose birth, marriage and death were registered, of
ancestral estates and full civil rights. He had aristocratic privileges
and responsibilities, the right to exact retaliation for corporal
injuries, and liability to heavier punishment for crimes and
misdemeanours, higher fees and fines to pay. To this class belonged the
king and court, the higher officials, the professions and craftsmen. The
term became in time a mere courtesy title but originally carried with
it standing. Already in the Code, when status is not concerned, it is
used to denote "any one." There was no property qualification nor does
the term appear to be racial. It is most difficult to characterize the
muskinu exactly. The term came in time to mean "a beggar" and with that
meaning has passed through Aramaic and Hebrew into many modern
languages; but though the Code does not regard him as necessarily poor,
he may have been landless. He was free, but had to accept monetary
compensation for corporal injuries, paid smaller fees and fines, even
paid less offerings to the gods. He inhabited a separate quarter of the
city. There is no reason to regard him as specially connected with the
court, as a royal pensioner, nor as forming the bulk of the population.
The rarity of any reference to him in contemporary documents makes
further specification conjectural. The ardu was a slave, his master's
chattel, and formed a very numerous class. He could acquire property and
even hold other slaves. His master clothed and fed him, paid his
doctor's fees, but took all compensation paid for injury done to him.
His master usually found him a slave-girl as wife (the children were
then born slaves), often set him up in a house (with farm or business)
and simply took an annual rent of him. Otherwise he might marry a
freewoman (the children were then free), who might bring him a dower
which his master could not touch, and at his death one-half of his
property passed to his master as his heir. He could acquire his freedom
by purchase from his master, or might be freed and dedicated to a
temple, or even adopted, when he became an amelu and not a muskinu.
Slaves were recruited by purchase abroad, from captives taken in war and
by freemen degraded for debt or crime. A slave often ran away; if
caught, the captor was bound to restore him to his master, and the Code
fixes a reward of two shekels which the owner must pay the captor. It
was about one-tenth of the average value. To detain, harbour, &c., a
slave was punished by death. So was an attempt to get him to leave the
city. A slave bore an identification mark, which could only be removed
by a surgical operation and which later consisted of his owner's name
tattooed or branded on the arm. On the great estates in Assyria and its
subject provinces were many serfs, mostly of subject race, settled
captives, or quondam slaves, tied to the soil they cultivated and sold
with the estate but capable of possessing land and property of their
own. There is little trace of serfs in Babylonia, unless the muskinu be
really a serf.
The god of a city was originally owner of its land, which encircled
it with an inner ring of irrigable arable land and an outer fringe of
pasture, and the citizens were his tenants. The god and his viceregent,
the king, had long ceased to disturb tenancy, and were content with
fixed dues in naturalia, stock, money or service. One of the earliest
monuments records the purchase by a king of a large estate for his son,
paying a fair market price and adding a handsome honorarium to the many
owners in costly garments, plate, and precious articles of furniture.
The Code recognizes complete private ownership in land, but apparently
extends the right to hold land to votaries, merchants (and resident
aliens?). But all land was sold subject to its fixed charges. The king,
however, could free land from these charges by charter, which was a
frequent way of rewarding those who deserved well of the state. It is
from these charters that we learn nearly all we know of the obligations
that lay upon land. The state demanded men for the army and the corvee
as well as dues in kind. A definite area was bound to find a bowman
together with his linked pikeman (who bore the shield for both) and to
furnish them with supplies for the campaign. This area was termed "a
bow" as early as the 8th century B.C., but the usage was much earlier.
Later, a horseman was due from certain areas. A man was only bound to
serve so many (six?) times, but the land had to find a man annually. The
service was usually discharged by slaves and serfs, but the amelu (and
perhaps the muskenu) went to war. The "bows" were grouped in tens and
hundreds. The corvee was less regular. The letters of Hammurabi often
deal with claims to exemption. Religious officials and shepherds in
charge of flocks were exempt. Special liabilities lay upon riparian
owners to repair canals, bridges, quays, &c. The state claimed
certain proportions of all crops, stock, &c. The king's messengers
could commandeer any subject's property, giving a receipt. Further,
every city had its own octroi duties, customs, ferry dues, highway and
water rates. The king had long ceased to be, if he ever was, owner of
the land. He had his own royal estates, his private property and dues
from all his subjects. The higher officials had endowments and official
residences. The Code regulates the feudal position of certain classes.
They held an estate from the king consisting of house, garden, field,
stock and a salary, on condition of personal service on the king's
errand. They could not delegate the service on pain of death. When
ordered abroad they could nominate a son, if capable, to hold the
benefice and carry on the duty. If there was no son capable, the state
put in a locum tenens, but granted one-third to the wife to maintain
herself and children. The benefice was inalienable, could not be sold,
pledged, exchanged, sublet, devised or diminished. Other land was held
of the state for rent. Ancestral estate was strictly tied to the family.
If a holder would sell, the family had the right of redemption and
there seems to have been no time-limit to its exercise.
The temple occupied a most important position. It received from its
estates, from tithes and other fixed dues, as well as from the
sacrifices (a customary share) and other offerings of the faithful, vast
amounts of all sorts of naturalia; besides money and permanent gifts.
The larger temples had many officials and servants. Originally, perhaps,
each town clustered round one temple, and each head of a family had a
right to minister there and share its receipts. As the city grew, the
right to so many days a year at one or other shrine (or its "gate")
descended in certain families and became a species of property which
could be pledged, rented or shared within the family, but not alienated.
In spite of all these demands, however, the temples became great
granaries and store-houses; as they also were the city archives. The
temple held its responsibilities. If a citizen was captured by the enemy
and could not ransom himself the temple of his city must do so. To the
temple came the poor farmer to borrow seed corn or supplies for
harvesters, &c.--advances which he repaid without interest. The
king's power over the temple was not proprietary but administrative. He
might borrow from it but repaid like other borrowers. The tithe seems to
have been the composition for the rent due to the god for his land. It
is not clear that all lands paid tithe, perhaps only such as once had a
special connexion with the temple.
The Code deals with a class of persons devoted to the service of a
god, as vestals or hierodules. The vestals were vowed to chastity, lived
together in a great nunnery, were forbidden to open or enter a tavern,
and together with other votaries had many privileges.
The Code recognizes many ways of disposing of property--sale, lease,
barter, gift, dedication, deposit, loan, pledge, all of which were
matters of contract. Sale was the delivery of the purchase (in the case
of real estate symbolized by a staff, a key, or deed of conveyance) in
return for the purchase money, receipts being given for both. Credit, if
given, was treated as a debt, and secured as a loan by the seller to be
repaid by the buyer, fr which he gave a bond. The Code admits no claim
unsubstantiated by documents or the oath of witnesses. A buyer had to
convince himself of the seller's title. If he bought (or received on
deposit) from a minor or a slave without power of attorney, he would be
executed as a thief. If the goods were stolen and the rightful owner
reclaimed them, he had to prove his purchase by producing the seller and
the deed of sale or witnesses to it. Otherwise he would be adjudged a
thief and die. If he proved his purchase, he had to give up the property
but had his remedy against the seller or, if he had died, could reclaim
five-fold from his estate. A man who bought a slave abroad, might find
that he had been stolen or captured from Babylonia, and he had to
restore him to his former owner without profit. If he bought property
belonging to a feudal holding, or to a ward in chancery, he had to
return it and forfeit what he gave for it as well. He could repudiate
the purchase of a slave attacked by the bennu sickness within the month
(later, a hundred days), and had a female slave three days on approval. A
defect of title or undisclosed liability would invalidate the sale at
Landowners frequently cultivated their land themselves but might
employ a husbandman or let it. The husbandman was bound to carry out the
proper cultivation, raise an average crop and leave the field in good
tilth. In case the crop failed the Code fixed a statutory return. Land
might be let at a fixed rent when the Code enacted that accidental loss
fell on the tenant. If let on share-profit, the landlord and tenant
shared the loss proportionately to their stipulated share of profit. If
the tenant paid his rent and left the land in good tilth, the landlord
could not interfere nor forbid subletting. Waste land was let to
reclaim, the tenant being rent-free for three years and paying a
stipulated rent in the fourth year. If the tenant neglected to reclaim
the land the Code enacted that he must hand it over in good tilth and
fixed a statutory rent. Gardens or plantations were let in the same ways
and under the same conditions; but for date-groves four years' free
tenure was allowed. The metayer system was in vogue, especially on
temple lands. The landlord found land, labour, oxen for ploughing and
working the watering-machines, carting, threshing or other implements,
seed corn, rations for the workmen and fodder for the cattle. The
tenant, or steward, usually had other land of his own. If he stole the
seed, rations or fodder, the Code enacted that his fingers should be cut
off. If he appropriated or sold the implements, impoverished or sublet
the cattle, he was heavily fined and in default of payment might be
condemned to be torn to pieces by the cattle on the field. Rent was as
Irrigation was indispensable. If the irrigator neglected to repair
his dyke, or left his runnel open and caused a flood, he had to make
good the damage done to his neighbours' crops, or be sold with his
family to pay the cost. The theft of a watering-machine, water-bucket or
other agricultural implement was heavily fined.
Houses were let usually for the year, but also for longer terms,
rent being paid in advance, half-yearly. The contract generally
specified that the house was in good repair, and the tenant was bound to
keep it so. The woodwork, including doors and door frames, was
removable, and the tenant might bring and take away his own. The Code
enacted that if the landlord would re-enter before the term was up, he
must remit a fair proportion of the rent. Land was leased for houses or
other buildings to be built upon it, the tenant being rent-free for
eight or ten years; after which the building came into the landlord's
Despite the multitude of slaves, hired labour was often needed,
especially at harvest. This was matter of contract, and the hirer, who
usually paid in advance, might demand a guarantee to fulfil the
engagement. Cattle were hired for ploughing, working the
watering-machines, carting, threshing, etc. The Code fixed a statutory
wage for sowers, ox-drivers, field-labourers, and hire for oxen, asses,
There were many herds and flocks. The flocks were committed to a
shepherd who gave receipt for them and took them out to pasture. The
Code fixed him a wage. He was responsible for all care, must restore ox
for ox, sheep for sheep, must breed them satisfactorily. Any dishonest
use of the flock had to be repaid ten-fold, but loss by disease or wild
beasts fell on the owner. The shepherd made good all loss due to his
neglect. If he let the flock feed on a field of corn he had to pay
damages four-fold; if he turned them into standing corn when they ought
to have been folded he paid twelve-fold.
In commercial matters, payment in kind was still common, though the
contracts usually stipulate for cash, naming the standard expected, that
of Babylon, Larsa, Assyria, Carchemish, &c. The Code enacted,
however, that a debtor must be allowed to pay in produce according to
statutory scale. If a debtor had neither money nor crop, the
creditor-must not refuse goods.
Debt was secured on the person of the debtor. Distraint on a
debtor's corn was forbidden by the Code; not only must the creditor give
it back, but his illegal action forfeited his claim altogether. An
unwarranted seizure for debt was fined, as was the distraint of a
working ox. The debtor being seized for debt could nominate as mancipium
or hostage to work off the debt, his wife, a child, or slave. The
creditor could only hold a wife or child three years as mancipium. If
the mancipium died a natural death while in the creditor's possession no
claim could lie against the latter; but if he was the cause of death by
cruelty, he had to give son for son, or pay for a slave. He could sell a
slave-hostage, unless she were a slave-girl who had borne her master
children. She had to be redeemed by her owner.
The debtor could also pledge his property, and in contracts often
pledged a field house or crop. The Code enacted, however, that the
debtor should always take the crop himself and pay the creditor from it.
If the crop failed, payment was deferred and no interest could be
charged for that year. If the debtor did not cultivate the field himself
he had to pay for the cultivation, but if the cultivation was already
finished he must harvest it himself and pay his debt from the crop. If
the cultivator did not get a crop this would not cancel his contract.
Pledges were often made where the intrinsic value of the article was
equivalent to the amount of the debt; but antichretic pledge was more
common, where the profit of the pledge was a set-off against the
interest of the debt. The whole property of the debtor might be pledged
as security for the payment of the debt, without any of it coming into
the enjoyment of the creditor. Personal guarantees were often given that
the debtor would repay or the guarantor become liable himself.
Trade was very extensive. A common way of doing business was for a
merchant to entrust goods or money to a travelling agent, who sought a
market for his goods. The caravans travelled far beyond the limits of
the empire. The Code insisted that the agent should inventory and give a
receipt for all that he received. No claim could be made for anything
not so entered. Even if the agent made no profit he was bound to return
double what he had received, if he made poor profit he had to make up
the deficiency; but he was not responsible for loss by robbery or
extortion on his travels. On his return, the principal must give a
receipt for what was handed over to him. Any false entry or claim on the
agent's part was penalised three-fold, on the principal's part
six-fold. In normal cases profits were divided according to contract,
A considerable amount of forwarding was done by the caravans. The
carrier gave a receipt for the consignment, took all responsibility and
exacted a receipt on delivery. If he defaulted he paid five-fold. He was
usually paid in advance. Deposit, especially warehousing of grain, was
charged for at one-sixtieth. The warehouseman took all risks, paid
double for all shortage, but no claim could be made unless be had given a
properly witnessed receipt. Water traffic on the Euphrates and canals
was early very considerable. Ships, whose tonnage was estimated at the
amount of grain they could carry, were continually hired for the a
transport of all kinds of goods. The Code fixes the price for building
and insists on the builder's giving a year's guarantee of seaworthiness.
It fixes the hire of ship and of crew. The captain was responsible for
the freight and the ship; he had to replace all loss. Even if he
refloated the ship he had to pay a fine of half its value for sinking
it. In the case of collision the boat under way was responsible for
damages to the boat at anchor. The Code also regulated the liquor
traffic, fixing a fair price for beer and forbidding the connivance of
the tavern-keeper (a female!) at disorderly conduct or treasonable
assembly, under pain of death. She was to hale the offenders to the
palace, which implied an efficient and accessible police system.
Payment through a banker or by written draft against deposit was
frequent. Bonds to pay were treated as negotiable. Interest a was rarely
charged on advances by the temple or wealthy land-owners for pressing
needs, but this may have been part of the metayer system. The borrowers
may have been tenants. Interest was charged at very high rates for
overdue loans of this kind. Merchants (and even temples in some cases)
made ordinary business loans, charging from 20 to 30%.
Marriage retained the form of purchase, but was essentially a
contract to be man and wife together. The marriage of young people was
usually arranged between the relatives, the bride- groom's father
providing the bride-price, which with other presents the suitor
ceremonially presented to the bride's father. This bride-price was
usually handed over by her father to the bride on her marriage, and so
came back into the bridegroom's possession, along with her dowry, which
was her portion as a daughter. The bride-price varied much, according to
the position of the parties, but was in excess of that paid for a
slave. The Code enacted that if the father does not, after accepting a
man's presents, give him his daughter, he, must return the presents
doubled. Even if his decision was brought about by libel on the part of
the suitor's friend this was done, and the Code enacted that the
faithless friend should not marry the girl. If a suitor changed his
mind, he forfeited the presents. The dowry might include real estate,
but generally consisted of personal effects and household furniture. It
remained the wife's for life, descending to her children, if any;
otherwise returning to her family, when the husband could deduct the
bride-price if it had not been given to her, or return it, if it had.
The marriage ceremony included joining of hands and the utterance of
some formula of acceptance on the part of the bridegroom, as "I am the
son of nobles, silver and gold shall fill thy lap, thou shalt be my
wife, I will be thy husband. Like the fruit of a garden I will give thee
offspring." It must be performed by a freeman.
The marriage contract, without which the Code ruled that the woman
was no wife, usually stated the consequences to which each party was
liable for repudiating the other. These by no means necessarily agree
with the Code. Many conditions might be inserted: as that the wife
should act as maidservant to her mother-in-law, or to a first wife. The
married couple formed a unit as to external responsibility, especially
for debt. The man was responsible for debts contracted by his wife, even
before her marriage, as well as for his own; but he could use her as a
mancipium. Hence the Code allowed a proviso to be inserted in the
marriage contract, that the wife should not be seized for her husband's
prenuptial debts; but enacted that then he was not responsible for her
prenuptial debts, and, in any case, that both together were responsible
for all debts contracted after marriage. A man might make his wife a
settlement by deed of gift, which gave her a life interest in part of
his property, and he might reserve to her the right to bequeath it to a
favourite child, but she could in no case leave it to her family.
Although married she always remained a member of her father's house--she
is rarely named wife of A, usually daughter of B, or mother of C.
Divorce was optional with the man, but he had to restore the dowry
and, if the wife had borne him children, she had the custody of them. He
had then to assign her the income of field, or garden, as well as
goods, to maintain herself and children until they grew up. She then
shared equally with them in the allowance (and apparently in his estate
at his death) and was free to marry again. If she had no children, he
returned her the dowry and paid her a sum equivalent to the bride-price,
or a mina of silver, if there had been none. The latter is the forfeit
usually named in the contract for his repudiation of her.
If she had been a bad wife, the Code allowed him to send her away,
while he kept the children and her dowry; or he could degrade her to the
position of a slave in his own house, where she would have food and
clothing. She might bring an action against him for cruelty and neglect
and, if she proved her case, obtain a judicial separation, taking with
her her dowry. No other punishment fell on the man. If she did not prove
her case, but proved to be a bad wife, she was drowned. If she were
left without maintenance during her husband's involuntary absence, she
could cohabit with another man, but must return to her husband if he
came back, the children of the second union remaining with their own
father. If she had maintenance, a breach of the marriage tie was
adultery. Wilful desertion by, or exile of, the husband dissolved the
marriage, and if he came back he had no claim on her property; possibly
not on his own.
As a widow, the wife took her husband's place in the family, living
on in his house and bringing up the children. She could only remarry
with judicial consent, when the judge was bound to inventory the
deceased's estate and hand it over to her and her new husband in trust
for the children. They could not alienate a single utensil. If she did
not remarry, she lived on in her husband's house and took a child's
share on the division of his estate, when the children had grown up. She
still retained her dowry and any settlement deeded to her by her
husband. This property came to her children. If she had remarried, all
her children shared equally in her dowry, but the first husband's gift
fell to his children or to her selection among them, if so empowered.
Monogamy was the rule, and a childless wife might give her husband a
maid (who was no wife) to bear him children, who were reckoned hers.
She remained mistress of her maid and might degrade her to slavery again
for insolence, but could not sell her if she had borne her husband
children. If the wife did this, the Code did not allow the husband to
take a concubine. If she would not, he could do so. The concubine was a
wife, though not of the same rank; the first wife had no power over her.
A concubine was a free woman, was often dowered for marriage and her
children were legitimate. She could only be divorced on the same
conditions as a wife. If a wife became a chronic invalid, the husband
was bound to maintain her in the home they bad made together, unless she
preferred to take her dowry and go back to her father's house; but he
was free to remarry. In all these cases the children were legitimate and
There was, of course, no hindrance to a man having children by a
slave girl. These children were free, in any case, and their mother
could not be sold, though she might be pledged, and she was free on her
master's death. These children could be legitimized by their father's
acknowledgment before witnesses, and were often adopted. They then
ranked equally in sharing their father's estate, but if not adopted, the
wife's children divided and took first choice.
Vestal virgins were not supposed to have children, yet they could
and often did marry. The Code contemplated that such a wife would give a
husband a maid as above. Free women might marry slaves and be dowered
for the marriage. The children were free, and at the slave's death the
wife took her dowry and half what she and her husband had acquired in
wedlock for self and children; the master taking the other half as his
A father had control over his children till their marriage. He had a
right to their labour in return for their keep. He might hire them out
and receive their wages, pledge them for debt, even sell them outright.
Mothers had the same rights in the absence of the father; even elder
brothers when both parents were dead. A father had no claim on his
married children for support, but they retained a right to inherit on
The daughter was not only in her father's power to be given in
marriage, but he might dedicate her to the service of some god as a
vestal or a hierodule; or give her as a concubine. She had no choice in
these matters, which were often decided in her childhood. A grown-up
daughter might wish to become a votary, perhaps in preference to an
uncongenial marriage, and it seems that her father could not refuse her
wish. In all these cases the father might dower her. If he did not, on
his death the brothers were bound to do so, giving her a full child's
share if a wife, a concubine or a vestal, but one-third of a child's
share if she were a hierodule or a Marduk priestess. The latter had the
privilege of exemption from state dues and absolute disposal of her
property. All other daughters had only a life interest in their dowry,
which reverted to their family, if childless, or went to their children
if they had any. A father might, however, execute a deed granting a
daughter power to leave her property to a favourite brother or sister. A
daughter's estate was usually managed for her by her brothers, but if
they did not satisfy her, she could appoint a steward. If she married,
her husband managed it.
The son also appears to have received his share on marriage, but did
not always then leave his father's house; he might bring his wife
there. This was usual in child marriages.
Adoption was very common, especially where the father (or mother)
was childless or had seen all his children grow up and marry away. The
child was then adopted to care for the parents' old age. This was done
by contract, which usually specified what the parent had to leave and
what maintenance was expected. The real children, if any, were usually
consenting parties to an arrangement which cut off their expectations.
They even, in some cases, found the estate for the adopted child who was
to relieve them of a care. If the adopted child failed to carry out the
filial duty the contract was annulled in the law courts. Slaves were
often adopted and if they proved unfilial were reduced to slavery again.
A craftsman often adopted a son to learn the craft. He profited by
the son's labour. If he failed to teach his son the craft, that son
could prosecute him and get the contract annulled. This was a form of
apprenticeship, and it is not clear that the apprentice had any filial
A man who adopted a son, and afterwards married and had a family of
his own, could dissolve the contract but must give the adopted child
one-third of a child's share in goods, but no real estate. That could
only descend in the family to which he had ceased to belong. Vestals
frequently adopted daughters, usually other vestals, to care for their
Adoption had to be with consent of the real parents, who usually
executed a deed making over the child, who thus ceased to have any claim
upon them. But vestals, hierodules, certain palace officials and slaves
had no rights over their children and could raise no obstacle.
Foundlings and illegitimate children had no parents to object. If the
adopted child discovered his true parents and wanted to return to them,
his eye or tongue was torn out. An adopted child was a full heir, the
contract might even assign him the position of eldest son. Usually he
was residuary legatee.
All legitimate children shared equally in the father's estate at his
death, reservation being made of a bride-price for an unmarried son,
dower for a daughter or property deeded to favourite children by the
father. There was no birthright attaching to the position of eldest son,
but he usually acted as executor and after considering what each had
already received equalized the shares. He even made grants in excess to
the others from his own share. When there were two mothers, the two
families shared equally in the father's estate until later times when
the first family took two-thirds. Daughters, in the absence of sons, had
sons' rights. Children also shared their own mother's property, but had
no share in that of a stepmother.
A father could disinherit a son in early times without restriction,
but the Code insisted upon judicial consent and that only for repeated
unfilial conduct. In early times the son who denied his father had his
front hair shorn, a slave-mark put on him, and could be sold as a slave;
while if he denied his mother he had his front hair shorn, was driven
round the city as an example and expelled his home, but not degraded to
Adultery was punished with the death of both parties by drowning,
but if the husband was willing to pardon his wife, the king might
intervene to pardon the paramour. For incest with his own mother, both
were burned to death; with a stepmother, the man was disinherited; with a
daughter, the man was exiled; with a daughter-in-law, he was drowned;
with a son's betrothed, he was fined. A wife who for her lover's sake
procured her husband's death was gibbeted. A betrothed girl, seduced by
her prospective father-in-law, took her dowry and returned to her
family, and was free to marry as she chose.
In the criminal law the ruling principle was the lex talionis. Eye
for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb was the penalty for assault upon
an amelu. A sort of symbolic retaliation was the punishment of the
offending member, seen in the cutting off the hand that struck a father
or stole a trust; in cutting off the breast of a wet-nurse who
substituted a changeling for the child entrusted to her; in the loss of
the tongue that denied father or mother (in the Elamite contracts the
same penalty was inflicted for perjury); in the loss of the eye that
pried into forbidden secrets. The loss of the surgeon's hand that caused
loss of life or limb or the brander's hand that obliterated a slave's
identification mark, are very similar. The slave, who struck a freeman
or denied his master, lost an ear, the organ of hearing and symbol of
obedience. To bring another into danger of death by false accusation was
punished by death. To cause loss of liberty or property by false
witness was punished by the penalty the perjurer sought to bring upon
The death penalty was freely awarded for theft and other crimes
regarded as coming under that head, for theft involving entrance of
palace or temple treasury, for illegal purchase from minor or slave, for
selling stolen goods or receiving the same, for common theft in the
open (in default of multiple restoration) or receiving the same, for
false claim to goods, for kidnapping, for assisting or harbouring
fugitive slaves, for detaining or appropriating same, for brigandage,
for fraudulent sale of drink, for disorderly conduct of tavern, for
delegation of personal service, for misappropriating the levy, for
oppression of feudal holders, for causing death of a householder by bad
building. The manner of death is not specified in these cases. This
death penalty was also fixed for such conduct as placed another in
danger of death. A specified form of death penalty occurs in the
following cases:-gibbeting (on the spot where crime was committed) for
burglary, later also for encroaching on the king's highway, for getting a
slave-brand obliterated, for procuring husband's death; burning for
incest with own mother, for vestal entering or opening tavern, for theft
at fire (on the spot); drowning for adultery, rape of betrothed maiden,
bigamy, bad conduct as wife, seduction of daughter-in-law.
A curious extension of the talio is the death of creditor's son for
his father's having caused the death of debtor's son as mancipium; of
builder's son for his father's causing the death of house-owner's son by
building the house badly; the death of a man's daughter because her
father caused the death of another man's daughter.
The contracts naturally do not concern such criminal cases as the
above, as a rule, but marriage contracts do specify death by strangling,
drowning, precipitation from a tower or pinnacle of the temple or by
the iron sword for a wife's repudiation of her husband. We are quite
without evidence as to the executive in all these cases.
Exile was inflicted for incest with a daughter; disinheritance for
incest with a stepmother or for repeated unfilial conduct. Sixty strokes
of an ox-hide scourge were awarded for a brutal assault on a superior,
both being amelu. Branding (perhaps the equivalent of degradation to
slavery) was the penalty for slander of a married woman or vestal.
Deprivation of office in perpetuity fell upon the corrupt judge.
Enslavement befell the extravagant wife and unfilial children.
Imprisonment was common, but is not recognized by the Code.
The commonest of all penalties was a fine. This is awarded by the
Code for corporal injuries to a muskinu or slave (paid to his master);
for damages done to property, for breach of contract. The restoration of
goods appropriated, illegally bought or damaged by neglect, was usually
accompanied by a fine, giving it the form of multiple restoration. This
might be double, treble, fourfold, fivefold, sixfold, tenfold,
twelvefold, even thirtyfold, according to the enormity of the offence.
The Code recognized the importance of intention. A man who killed
another in a quarrel must swear he did not do so intentionally, and was
then only fined according to the rank of the deceased. The Code does not
say what would be the penalty of murder, but death is so often awarded
where death is caused that we can hardly doubt that the murderer was put
to death. If the assault only led to injury and was unintentional, the
assailant in a quarrel had to pay the doctor's fees. A brander, induced
to remove a slave's identification mark, could swear to his ignorance
and was free. The owner of an ox which gored a man on the street was
only responsible for damages if, the ox was known by him to be vicious,
even if it caused death. If the mancipium died a natural death under the
creditor's hand, the creditor was scot free. In ordinary cases
responsibility was not demanded for accident or for more than proper
care. Poverty excused bigamy on the part of a deserted wife.
On the other hand carelessness and neglect were severely punished,
as in the case of the unskilful physician, if it led to loss of life or
limb his hands were cut off, a slave had to be replaced, the loss of his
eye paid for to half his value; a veterinary surgeon who caused the
death of an ox or ass paid quarter value; a builder, whose careless
workmanship caused death, lost his life or paid for it by the death of
his child, replaced slave or goods, and in any case had to rebuild the
house or make good any damages due to defective building and repair the
defect as well. The boat-builder had to make good any defect of
construction or damage due to it for a year's warranty.
Throughout the Code respect is paid to status.
Suspicion was not enough. The criminal must be taken in the act,
e.g. the adulterer, ravisher, &c. A man could not be convicted of
theft unless the goods were found in his possession.
In the case of a lawsuit the plaintiff preferred his own plea. There
is no trace of professional advocates, but the plea had to be in
writing and the notary doubtless assisted in the drafting of it. The
judge saw the plea, called the other parties before him and sent for the
witnesses. If these were not at hand he might adjourn the case for
their production, specifying a time up to six months. Guarantees might
be entered into to produce the witnesses on a fixed day. The more
important cases, especially those involving life and death, were tried
by a bench of judges. With the judges were associated a body of elders,
who shared in the decision, but whose exact function is not yet clear.
Agreements, declarations and non-contentious cases are usually witnessed
by one judge and twelve elders. Parties and witnesses were put on oath.
The penalty for the false witness was usually that which would have
been awarded the convicted criminal. In matters beyond the knowledge of
men, as the guilt or innocence of an alleged wizard or a suspected wife,
the ordeal by water was used. The accused jumped into the sacred river,
and the innocent swam while the guilty drowned. The accused could clear
himself by oath where his own knowledge was alone available. The
plaintiff could swear to his loss by brigands, as to goods claimed, the
price paid for a slave purchased abroad or the sum due to him. But great
stress was laid on the production of written evidence. It was a serious
thing to lose a document. The judges might be satisfied of its
existence and terms by the evidence of the witnesses to it, and then
issue an order that whenever found it should be given up. Contracts
annulled were ordered to be broken. The court might go a journey to view
the property and even take with them the sacred symbols on which oath
The decision given was embodied in writing, sealed and witnessed by
the judges, the elders, witnesses and a scribe. Women might act in all
these capacities. The parties swore an oath, embodied in the document,
to observe its stipulations. Each took a copy and one was held by the
scribe to be stored in the archives.
Appeal to the king was allowed and is well attested. The judges at
Babylon seem to have formed a superior court to those of provincial
towns, but a defendant might elect to answer the charge before the local
court and refuse to plead at Babylon.
Finally, it may be noted that many immoral acts, such as the use of
false weights, lying, &c., which could not be brought into court,
are severely denounced in the Omen Tablets as likely to bring the
offender into "the hand of God" as opposed to "the hand of the king."
Contracts in general: Oppert and Menant, Documents juridiques de
l'Assyrie et de la Chaldee (Paris, 1877); J. Kohler and F. E. Peiser,
Aus dem Babylonischen Rechtsleben (Leipzig, 1890 ff.); F. E. Peiser,
Babylonische Vertrage (Berlin, 1890), Keilinschrifiliche Actenstucke
(Berlin, 1889); Br. Meissner, Beitrage zur altbabylonischen Privatrecht
(Leipzig, 1893); F. E. Peiser, "Texte juristischen und geschaftlichen
Inhalts," vol. iv. of Schrader's Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (Berlin,
1896); C. H. W. Johns, Assyrian Deeds and Documents relating to the
Transfer of Property (3 vols., Cambridge, 1898); H. Radau, Early
Babylonian History (New York, 1900); C. H. W. Johns, Babylonian and
Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters (Edinburgh, 1904).
For editions of texts and the innumerable articles in scientific
journals see the bibliographies and references in the above works. "The
Code of Hammurabi," Editio princeps, by V. Scheil in tome iv. of the
Textes Elamites-Semitiques of the Memoires de la delegation en Perse
(Paris, 1902); H. Winckler, "Die Gesetze Hammurabis Konigs von Babylon
um 2250 v. Chr." Der alte Orient, iv. Jahrgang, Heft 4; D. H. Muller,
Die Gesetze Hammurabis (Vienna, 1903); J. Kohler and F. E. Peiser,
Hammurabis Gesetz (Leipzig, 1904); R. F. Harper, The Code of Hammurabi,
King, of Babylon about 2250 B.C. (Chicago, 1904); S. A. Cook, The Laws
of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi (London, 1903).
Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D. Master of St.
Catharine's College, Cambridge. Lecturer in Assyriology, Queens'
College, Cambridge, and King's College, London. Author of Assyrian Deeds
and Documents of the 7th Century B.C.; The Oldest Code of Laws;
Babylonian and Assyrian Laws; Contracts and Letters; etc.