Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters
by C. H. W. Johns
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Library of Ancient Inscriptions

Babylonian And Assyrian

Laws, Contracts and Letters


C. H. W. Johns, M.A.

Lecturer in Queens' College, Cambridge, and

King's College, London

New York

Charles Scribner's Sons



Dedication Preface List Of Abbreviations Sources And Bibliography Laws And Contracts I. The Earliest Babylonian Laws II. The Code Of Hammurabi III. Later Babylonian Law IV. The Social Organization Of The Ancient Babylonian State V. Judges, Law-Courts, And Legal Processes VI. Legal Decisions VII. Public Rights VIII. Criminal Law IX. The Family Organization X. Courtship And Marriage XI. Divorce And Desertion XII. Rights Of Widows XIII. Obligations And Rights Of Children XIV. The Education And Early Life Of Children XV. Adoption XVI. Rights Of Inheritance XVII. Slavery XVIII. Land Tenure In Babylonia XIX. The Army, Corvee, And Other Claims For Personal Service XX. The Functions And Organization Of The Temple XXI. Donations And Bequests XXII. Sales XXIII. Loans And Deposits XXIV. Pledges And Guarantees XXV. Wages Of Hired Laborers XXVI. Lease Of Property XXVII. The Laws Of Trade XXVIII. Partnership And Power Of Attorney XXIX. Accounts And Business Documents Babylonian And Assyrian Letters I. Letters And Letter-Writing Among The Babylonians And Assyrians II. The Letters Of Hammurabi III. The Letters Of Samsu-Iluna And His Immediate Successors IV. Private Letters Of The First Dynasty Of Babylon V. Sennacherib's Letters To His Father, Sargon VI. Letters From The Last Year Of Shamash-Shum-Ukin VII. Letters Regarding Affairs In Southern Babylonia Letters About Elam And Southern Babylonia IX. Miscellaneous Assyrian Letters X. Letters Of The Second Babylonian Empire Appendix I. The Prologue And Epilogue To The Code Of Hammurabi II. Chronology III. Weights And Measures IV. Bibliography Of The Later Periods Index Footnotes


To My Mother In Memory Of Loving Help


The social institutions, manners, and customs of an ancient people must always be of deep interest for all those to whom nothing is indifferent that is human. But even for modern thinkers, engrossed in the practical problems of our advanced civilization, the records of antiquity have a direct value. We are better able to deal with the complicated questions of the day if we are acquainted with the simpler issues of the past. We may not set them aside as too remote to have any influence upon us. Not long ago men looked to Greece and Rome for political models. We can hardly estimate the influence which that following of antiquity has had upon our own social life.

But there is a deeper influence even than Greek politics and Roman law, still powerfully at work among us, which we owe to a more remote past. We should probably resent the idea that we were not dominated by Christian principles. So far as they are distinct from Greek and Roman ideals, most of them have their roots in Jewish thought. When a careful investigation is made, it will probably be found that the most distinctive Christian principles in our times are those which were taken over from Jewish life, since the Old Testament still more widely appeals to us than the New. But those Jewish ideas regarding society have been inherited in turn from the far more ancient Babylonian civilization. It is startling to find how much that we have thought distinctively our own has really come down to us from that great people who ruled the land of the two streams. We need not be ashamed of anything we can trace back so far. It is from no savage ancestors that it descends to us. It bears the "hall mark," not only of extreme antiquity but of sterling worth.

The people, who were so highly educated, so deeply religious, so humane and intelligent, who developed such just laws, and such permanent institutions, are not unprofitable acquaintances. A right-thinking citizen of a modern city would probably feel more at home in ancient Babylon than in mediaeval Europe. When we have won our way through the difficulties of the language and the writing to the real meaning of their purpose and come into touch with the men who wrote and spoke, we greet brothers. Rarely in the history of antiquity can we find so much of which we heartily approve, so little to condemn. The primitive virtues, which we flatter ourselves that we have retained, are far more in evidence than those primitive vices which we know are not extinct among us. The average Babylonian strikes us as a just, good man, no wild savage, but a law-abiding citizen, a faithful husband, good father, kind son, firm friend, industrious trader, or careful man of business. We know from other sources that he was no contemptible warrior, no mean architect or engineer. He might be an excellent artist, modelling in clay, carving rocks, and painting walls. His engraving of seals was superb. His literary work was of high order. His scientific attainments were considerable.

When we find so much to approve we may naturally ask the reason. Some may say it is because right was always right everywhere. Others will try to trace our inheritance of thought. At any rate, we may accord our praise to those who seized so early in the history of the race upon views which have proved to be of the greatest and most permanent value. Perhaps nowhere else than in the archives of the old Assyrian and Babylonian temples could we find such an instructive exhibition of the development of the art of expressing facts and ideas in written language. The historical inscriptions, indeed, exhibit a variety of incidents, but have a painful monotony of subject and a conventional grandeur of style. In the contracts we find men struggling for exactness of statement and clearness of diction. In the letters we have untrammelled directness of address, without regard to models of expression. In the one case we have a scrupulous following of precedent, in the other freedom from rule or custom. One result is that while we are nearly always sure what the contract said and intended, we often are completely unable to see why the given phrases were used for their particular purpose. Every phrase is technical and legal, to a degree that often defies translation. On the other hand, the letters are often as colloquial in style as the contracts are formal. Hence they swarm with words and phrases for which no parallel can be found. Unless the purpose of the letter is otherwise clear, these words and phrases may be quite unintelligible. Any side issue may be introduced, or even a totally irrelevant topic. While the point of these disconnected sentences may have been perfectly clear to the recipient of the message, we cannot possibly understand them, unless we have an intimate acquaintance with the private life and personal relations of the two correspondents.

Hence, quite apart from the difficulties of copying such ancient inscriptions, often defaced, originally ill-written, and complicated by the personal tastes of individual scribes for odd spellings, rare words, or stock phrases; besides the difficulties of a grammar and vocabulary only partly made out; the very nature of both contracts and letters implies special obscurities. But the peculiarities of these obscurities are such as to excite curiosity and stimulate research.

The wholesome character of the subject-matter, the absence of all possibility of a revision in party interests, the probable straightforward honesty of the purpose, act like a tonic to the ordinary student of history. Nowhere can he find more reliable material for his purpose, if only he can understand it. The history he may reconstruct will be that of real men, whose character and circumstances have not yet been misrepresented. He will find the human nature singularly like what he may observe about him, once he has seen through superficial manners and customs.

One important point cannot be too strongly insisted upon. Numerous as our documents are, they do not form a continuous series. One collection is chiefly composed of temple archives, another comes from a family deed-chest, where only such documents were preserved as were of value to the persons who collected them. At one period we may have a great number of documents relating to one sort of transaction. In the next period we may have hardly any reference to similar transactions, but very complete evidence regarding other matters. We may assume that, in such a conservative country as Assyria or Babylonia, things went on for ages in much the same way. Conclusions rightly drawn for early times are probably true for the later periods also. As far as we can test this assumption, it holds good. We may even assume that the converse is true, but that is more doubtful.

Thus, we find that the practice of taking a pledge as security for debt is fully established for later times and we may therefore hesitate to deny its existence in early periods, although we have no direct evidence on the point. This absence of evidence may be due to the nature of the early collections. It may be an accident. It may also be due to the fact that the tablet acknowledging a loan was usually broken up on the return of the sum. But it might also be the fact that pledges were not usual in early times. Such was, indeed, formerly the conclusion drawn from the absence of documents referring to pledges; but Dr. B. Meissner pointed out that the legal phrase-books bore witness to the existence of the custom. The discovery of the Code of Hammurabi has shown that the practice not only existed, but was regulated by statute in his time. Hence the argument from silence is once more shown to be fallacious.

On the other hand, it is well to avoid a dogmatic statement of the existence of a practice before the date at which we have direct evidence of it: thus, it has been stated that the tithe was paid in Babylonia "from time immemorial." The only direct evidence comes from the time of Nebuchadrezzar II. and later. In view of such an early antiquity as that, the use of the phrase "time immemorial" was perhaps once justified. But we are now equipped with documentary evidence concerning customs two or three thousand years earlier. Until we can discover some direct evidence there of tithe, we must content ourselves with saying that it was regularly paid under the Second Empire of Babylonia. We may be firmly convinced that a custom so widespread did not spring into being all at once. But the tithe may have been a composition for earlier dues, and as such may have been introduced from Chaldea by Nabopolassar. It may therefore not have been of native Babylonian growth.

In this and many similar cases it is well not to go beyond the evidence.

To some extent the plan of this work must necessarily be different from that of the rest of the series. When a historical inscription is once well translated its chief bearings can be made out and it is its own interpreter to a large extent. But the object in a contract is to legally bind certain parties to a course of action, and there its translation ends. We do not find much interest now in the obligations of these parties, save in so far as they illustrate the progress of civilization. It is the conclusion we are to draw which gives the interest. When we have reached that, a thousand more contracts of the same type add nothing to that point. We may use them to make a study of proper names, or to correct our notions of chronology by their dates, or to draw up genealogies, or even to elaborate statistics of occurrences of particular forms of words, of prices, and the like; or try to reconstruct the topography of a town; but from the point of view of a student of law and history, a thousand are little better than one.

As a rule, however, we rarely find a fresh example of an old type without some small deviation, which is worth recording. But to translate it, for the sake of that small difference, would fill a book with examples, so similar as to be wearisome in their monotony. The only way then is to select some bold example, translate it as a fair average specimen, and then collect in an introduction and notes the most interesting additional items of information to be gathered from others of the type. Hence most of the types here selected have involved the reading and study of scores of texts, though but one is given in translation. Other points of great interest arise, as for example, the obligations to public service, which are not the direct subject of any one text. Hence, no single example can be selected for translation. The data of many texts must be collected, and only a sentence here and there can be utilized for translation. Hence, while other volumes of the series are properly translations, with brief introductions and a few notes, this must consist of copious introductions and many notes with a few translations.

Of course, all technical, philological and historical discussions must be avoided. Those who wish to find further examples, illustrating the points given, will be referred to the sources and commentaries which give almost endless repetitions of the same type. As a rule, a fresh example, which has not been translated before, will be used here. In some cases, however, where the most typical examples have already been used, they are reproduced.

The more important and new details are substantiated by references in foot-notes. When several references could be given, it has been the rule to give only one. For fuller information the literature of the subject may be consulted. But where the Assyrian or Babylonian words are given, the reader will consult the lexicons first. There are many admirable glossaries attached to the editions of texts, which for students are a valuable supplement to the lexicons. All philological discussions are, of course, excluded. As a rule, doubtful interpretations will be ignored or at least queried. It is, on the other hand, impossible to give detailed proofs of what is certain to the writer, when it disagrees with recognized authorities. Nor is it desirable to puzzle the reader with alternative views, when there is no opportunity for him to judge of their merits.

Every attempt will be made to discard non-essentials. Thus, in order to insure that there should be no mistake as to the persons intended, the ancient scribe usually gave not only the name, but the father's name, and often added the name of his tribe, or his occupation. For example, "Ardi-Ishtar, son of Ashur-bani, the son of Gahal," might be the scribe's careful specification of one party to some transaction. But unless some other party is a relation and the transaction explicitly concerns what could take place between relations, the whole line gives us no information of value for illustrating the subject for which it is quoted. Indeed, in most cases, the name itself is of no interest. It is true that the names have a value of their own; but that is aside from the purpose of this book. The examples are selected to illustrate legal points, not for the sake of the names. And indeed, the few interesting names so given would be insufficient to serve any useful purpose; they might even be misused, for no permanent results can be obtained by picking up here and there a name, with some fanciful likeness to Abraham, or Jacob, unless a complete list of similar names be available to check and control the readings.

Hence, as a rule, the name of a party is condensed into a single letter, chosen usually in order to suggest the part played by the person in the transaction. Thus S stands for the seller, B for the buyer, J for the judge, C for the creditor, L for the lender, D for the debtor or borrower, and so on. These abbreviations may be used without any detriment to the argument, as the context usually defines the relation and there is no need to remember what they mean. This seems preferable, for the most part, to the Continental system of using A-A-G for the above name.

As a further abbreviation, all lists of witnesses are excluded. The date is usually suppressed, for, unless we are following a series of transactions between the same parties, nothing more than the epoch is of importance. As the material is arranged by epochs, there can be no question in this regard. If any evolution of process or any reference to former transactions is involved, so that the date is important, it is given.

A collection of legal documents may be studied in a variety of ways.

Perhaps the least productive plan is to ransack them for illustrations of a theory, or a particular point. When the theory is already well known, as in the case of Roman or mediaeval law, such a procedure is justifiable, but when the theory has to be made out, it is wellnigh inexcusable. Some valuable monographs have followed this method, but they can hardly expect to give permanent results. For comparative purposes our material is so new, and so little worked, that it is sheer waste of time to seek for parallels elsewhere until everything is clearly made out to which parallels are to be sought. The whole bulk of material must be read through and classified. Until this is done, some important point may easily be overlooked.

The first attempts at classification will be provisional. A certain amount of overlapping is sure to occur. For example, slave sales obviously form a provisional group. But slaves were sold along with lands or houses. Shall these sales be taken into the group? The sales of lands may be another group. To which group shall we assign the sale of a piece of land and the slaves attached to it? To answer that question we may examine the sales of slaves and the sales of lands to see if either group has peculiarities, the recurrence of which in a sale of land and slaves might decide. But we soon find that a slave was sold exactly like a piece of land or any chattel. The only exception is that certain guarantees are expected with the slave, which differ from those demanded with a piece of land. On the whole, then, the chief group will be "sales," with subdivisions according to the class of property used. Hence we cannot assume that there was already present to legal consciousness a difference between real and personal property, or in any other sense that a slave was a person. He was a chattel.

The classification which will be adopted is not one that will suit modern legal ideas. It depends on the form of document alone. If two documents have the same type of formula, they will be grouped together. A future revision will, no doubt, assign to many of these a place in modern schemes. But it is very easy to be premature in assigning an ancient document to modern categories.

The groups will be subdivided according to subject-matter. The order of the groups will be determined by the greater or less complexity of the documents. It is best to take those first which can be easily made out. The experience gained in discussing them will be of great service in dealing with more complicated cases. The reader must not, however, suppose that no obscurities will remain. Subsequent investigation will lead to redistribution. Each such revision will, however, bring us nearer to sound results.

One of the most interesting and instructive methods of dealing with a large collection of documents is to group together the transactions, distributed over a number of years, of one man, or of a single family. This method has often been adopted and makes most fascinating reading.

Thus, M. V. Revillout, in the appendix to M. E. Revillout's lectures entitled Les obligations en droit egyptien, under the title of Une famille des commercants, discussed the interrelations of a large number of tablets published by Strassmaier. These had a special connection, being found, and practically kept, together. They are concerned chiefly with the business transactions of three persons and their descendants. The three men do not seem to have been related, but to have become partners. The first transaction in which they are concerned is an equitable division of property which they had held in common. They and their descendants lived side by side in Larsa and gradually extended their possessions on every side. They were neighbors to two wealthy landowners from whom and from whose descendants they gradually acquired lands and houses. Especially did two brothers, sons of one of the original three, buy up, piece by piece, almost all the property of these two neighboring families. Further, in acquiring a piece of land, they seem to have come into possession of the deeds of sale, or leases, of that plot, which had been executed by previous owners. Thus, we can, in some cases, follow the history of a plot of land during several reigns.

Such a collection of documents probably did not come from the public archives, but from the muniment-chest of a private family, or of a firm of traders. That duplicates of some of these tablets should have been found in other collections, points either to the collections having been purchased from native dealers, who put together tablets from all sources, or to the duplicates having been deposited in public archives, as a kind of registration of title.

In Assyrian times the transactions of the great Rimani-Adadi, the chief charioteer and agent of Ashurbanipal, who for some thirteen years appears almost yearly, as buyer or seller, lender or borrower, on some forty tablets, may serve as a further example,(1) or we may note how Bahianu appears, chiefly as a corn lender, year after year, for thirty-three years, on some twenty-four tablets.(2)

For the Second Empire of Babylonia, Professor J. Kohler and Dr. F. E. Peiser have given some fine examples of this method. Thus, for the bankruptcy of Nabu-aplu-iddin,(3) they show that the creditors distrained upon the bankrupt's property and found a buyer for most of it in a great Neriglissar, afterwards King of Babylon. The first creditor was paid in full, another received about half of the amount due to him, a third about the same, while a fourth obtained less than a quarter of what was owed him. They also follow out the fortunes of the great banking firm of Egibi(4) for fully a century. The sketch, of course, is not complete, and can only be made so by a prolonged search through thousands of documents in different museums; but it is intensely interesting and written with wonderful insight and legal knowledge. Another example is the family, or guild, of the priests of Gula.(5) This is less fully made out but most valuable, as far as it goes. In both cases a genealogy is given extending over many generations.

Later still, the Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, in the ninth volume of Cuneiform Texts, gives a collection of the business documents of one firm, "Murashu Sons, of Nippur," in the reign of Artaxerxes I. Here we have to do with a family deed-chest, a collection of documents found together and fortunately kept together.

But this method, attractive though it is, cannot be followed here. The reader is best led on from the known to the unknown. Those things must be taken first which must be understood in order to appreciate what is placed later. We consider first the law and the law-courts. The reader can thus follow the references to procedure which occur in the other sections. The rights of the State, the family, and the private individual come next. Then we learn of the classes of property and the various ways of disposing of it. After that is taken up a variety of disconnected topics, whose order is mainly indifferent. Some overlapping of divisions is sure to occur in any order. This system has been found, after many permutations, to present the least inconvenience.

While it is hoped that this volume will give a fairly complete account of what is really known and also point out some things that are reasonably conjectured to be true, it is fully recognized that much remains to be done. Indeed, it may serve by its omissions to redirect attention to openings for future fruitful work.


A. B. R. Aus dem babylonischen Rechtsleben. Professor J. Kohler and Dr. F. E. Peiser. Leipzig, 1890-.

A. D. B. Assyrian Doomsday Book. Vol. XVII of Assyriologische Bibliothek. Leipzig, 1901.

A. D. D. Assyrian Deeds and Documents. In three vols. Cambridge, 1898-.

A. J. S. L. American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Chicago.

A. O. F. Altorientalische Forschungen. Dr. H. Winckler. Leipzig, 1893-.

B. A. L. Babylonian and Assyrian Life. Professor A. H. Sayce. New York, 1901. (Semitic Series.)

B. A. S. Beitraege zur Assyriologie. Professors Delitzsch and Haupt. Leipzig, 1890-.

B. E. P. The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania. Series A. Cuneiform Texts. 1898-.

B. V. Babylonische Vertraege. Dr. F. E. Peiser. Berlin, 1890.

C. T. Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc., in the British Museum. London, 1896-.

D. E. P. Delegation en Perse, Memoires. Pub. by French Ministry of Instruction. Professor V. Scheil. 1900-.

E. B. H. Early Babylonian History. Dr. H. Radau. New York, 1900.

H. A. B. L. Assyrian and Babylonian Letters. Professor R. F. Harper. Chicago, 1892-.

H. W. B. Assyrisches Handwoerterbuch. Professor Delitzsch. Leipzig, 1894.

I R., II R., III R., IV R., V R. The Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia. H. C. Rawlinson. London, 1861, 1866, 1870, 1880-4.

K. A. S. Keilinschriftliche Aktenstuecke. Dr. F. E. Peiser. Berlin, 1889.

K. B. Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek. Professor Eb. Schrader. Berlin, 1889-.

K. L. H. The Letters and Inscriptions of Hammurabi. Three vols. L. W. King, M.A. London, 1898-.

K. P. See A. B. R.

L. H. See K. L. H.

H. A. P. Beitraege zum altbabylonischen Privatrecht. Dr. Br. Meissner. Leipzig, 1893.

P. S. B. A. Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. London, 1872-.

Rev. Ass. Revue d'Assyriologie. Professors J. Oppert and E. Ledrain. Paris, 1884-.

Z. A. Zeitschrift fuer Assyriologie. Professor C. Bezold. Leipzig, 1886-.

Z. K. F. Zeitschrift fuer Keilschriftforschung. Professor C. Bezold. Leipzig, 1884-.

Camb., Cyr., Dar., Ev. Mer., Nbd., Nbk., Nerig., denote the volumes of Babylonische Texte; Inschriften von Cambyses, Cyrus, Darius, Evil Merodach, Nabonidus, Nebuchodonosor, Neriglissar, pub. by Pater J. N. Strassmaier. Leipzig, 1887-.

H denotes the text published in H. A. B. L.

K denotes a text from Kouyunjik, now in the British Museum.

S denotes a text at Constantinople, from Sippara.

V. A. Th. denotes a text in the Berlin Museum.

B, B1, B2 denote texts of the collections "from Warka," Bu. 88-5-12, and Bu. 91-5-9.


(M1) The chief sources from which is derived our knowledge of Babylonian and Assyrian law are the contemporary inscriptions of the people themselves. These are not supplemented to any appreciable extent by the traditions of classical authors. So far as they make any references to the subject, their opinions have to be revised by the immeasurably greater knowledge that we now possess, and seem to be mostly based upon "travellers' tales" and misapprehensions.

These inscriptions are now preserved in great numbers in European and American museums, and have only been partly published. The bibliography is very extensive. For the earlier attempts to read and explain these documents the reader may refer to Professor C. Bezold's Kurzgefaesster Ueberblick ueber die babylonisch-assyrische Litteratur,(6) which gives a fairly complete account up to 1887. Of course, many books and memoirs there mentioned have now only a historical interest for the story of decipherment and explanation. These, however, may be studied with the greatest profit after having first become acquainted with the more recent works.

(M2) The division which is adopted in this work, "law, contracts, and letters," is only conventional. The three groups have much that is common and mutually supplement one another. Previous publications have often treated them more or less together, both as inscriptions and as minor sources of history. Hence it is not possible to draw up separate lists of books treating each division of the subject. Only those books or articles will be referred to which are most valuable for the student. Many of them give excellent bibliographies of their special subject.

(M3) The contemporary sources include actual codes of law, or fragments of them, legal phrase-books, and legal instruments of all sorts. From the last-mentioned source almost all that is known of ancient Babylonian law has been derived. The historical and religious inscriptions contribute very little. The consequence is that, except from the recently discovered Code of Hammurabi scarcely anything is known of the law in respect to crimes. Contracts and binding agreements are found in great profusion; but there is nothing to show how theft or murder was treated. Marriage-contracts tell us how adultery was punished. Agreements or legal decisions show how inheritance was assigned. Consequently our treatment of law and contracts must regard them as inseparable, except that we may place first the fragments of actual codes which exist.

(M4) The letters are much more distinct. Each is a separate study, except in so far as it can be grouped with others of the same period in attempts to disentangle the historical events to which they refer. The deductions as to life and manners are no less valuable than those made from legal documents. In both wording and subject-matter they often illustrate legal affairs and even directly treat of them.

(M5) A first duty will be carefully to distinguish epochs. Great social and political changes must have left some mark upon the institutions we are to study. As far as possible, the material has been arranged for each subject chronologically.

(M6) The longest and by far the most important ancient code hitherto discovered is that of Hammurabi (circa 2250 B.C.). The source for this is a block of black diorite about 2.25 metres high, tapering from 1.90 to 1.65 metres in circumference. It was found by De Morgan at Susa, the ancient Persepolis, in December, 1901, and January, 1902, in fragments, which were easily rejoined. The text was published by the French Ministry of Instruction from "squeezes" by the process of photogravure, in the fourth volume of the Memoires de la Delegation en Perse. It was there admirably transcribed and translated by Professor V. Scheil. In all, the monument now preserves forty-four columns with some three thousand six hundred lines. There were five columns more, which were once intentionally erased and the stone repolished, probably by the order of some monarch of Susa, who meant to put his own name and titles there. There have been found other monuments in the French explorations at Susa, where the Elamite monarch has erased the inscription of a Babylonian king and inserted his own. This method of blotting out the name of a king was a favorite device in the ancient East and is frequently protested against and cursed in the inscription set up in Babylonia. This particular inscription did not fail to call down similar imprecations, which perhaps the Elamite could not read. But he stayed his hand, and we do not even know his name, for he wrote nothing on the vacant space.

It seems probable that the stone, or at any rate its original, if it be a copy, was set up at Sippara; for the text speaks of Ebarra suati, "this Ebarra," which was the temple of Shamash at Sippara. At the head of the obverse is a very interesting picture of Hammurabi receiving his laws from the seated sun-god Shamash. Some seven hundred lines are devoted to the king's titles and glory; to enumerating the gods he reverenced, and the cities over which he ruled; to invoking blessings on those who preserved his monument and respected his inscription, with the usual curses on those who did the opposite.(7) These belong to the region of history and religion and do not concern us here. We may note, however, that the king expected that anyone injured or oppressed would come to his monument and be able there to read for himself what were the rights of his case.

(M7) The whole of this inscription is not entirely new matter. The scribes of Ashurbanipal somewhere found a copy, or copies, of this inscription and made it into a series of tablets. Probably their originals were Babylonian tablets, for we know that in Babylonia the Code had been made into a series which bore the name of Ninu ilu sirum, from the opening words of the stele. But, judging from the colophon of the Assyrian series, the scribes knew that the inscription came from a stele bearing the "image" of Hammurabi. A number of fragments belonging to such copies by later scribes were already published, by Dr. B. Meissner(8) and Dr. F. E. Peiser.(9) These were further commented upon by Professor Fr. Delitzsch,(10) who actually gave them the name "Code Hammurabi." Some of these fragments enable us to restore one or two sections of the lost five columns.

These fragments are now easily set in order and will doubtless lead to the discovery of many others, the meaning of which has not yet been recognized. They exhibit some variants of interest, showing that they were not made directly from this particular monument. Even at Susa another fragment was found of a duplicate stele. Hence we may hope to recover the whole text before long.

(M8) The publication of the Code naturally excited great interest among scholars. It appeared in October, 1902, and, during the next month, Dr. H. Winckler issued a German translation of the Code under the title, Die Gesetze Hammurabis Koenigs von Babylon um 2250 v. Chr. Das Aelteste Gesetzbuch der Welt, being Heft 4 of the fourth Jahrgang of Der alte Orient. This marked an advance in some points on Scheil's rendering, but is not entirely satisfactory. The present writer read a paper in October, 1902, before the Cambridge Theological Society, an abridged report of which appeared in the January Journal. He further published a baldly literal translation in February, 1903, entitled, The Oldest Code of Laws in the World.(11) In the Journal des Savants for October and November, 1902, M. Dareste gave a luminous account of the subject-matter of the Code, especially valuable for its comparisons with the other most ancient law-codes. This of course was based on Scheil's renderings. In the Orientalistische Litteratur-Zeitung for January, 1903, Dr. H. Winckler, reviewing the fourth volume of the Memoires, gave a useful account of the Code comparing it with some of the previously published fragments.

(M9) The comparison with the Mosaic Code was sure to attract notice, especially as Professor F. Delitzsch had called the attention of the public to it, in his lecture entitled Babel und Bibel, even before more of the Code was known than the fragments from Nineveh. Dr. J. Jeremias has published a small book called Moses und Hammurabi, in which he deals with the relations pretty thoroughly. Professor C. F. Kent has also examined them in his article entitled The Recently Discovered Civil Code of Hammurabi, in The Biblical World for March, 1903. Some remarks on the subject are to be found in the New York Independent, December 11, 18, 1902, and January 8, 15, 22, 1903, accompanying a translation. All the above follow Winckler's renderings.

The translation here given makes use of the above works, but must be regarded as independent. It is impracticable to detail and justify the changes made. The renderings can hardly be regarded as final, where actual contracts do not occur to illustrate the Code; but there is very little doubt that we know the tenor of these laws with substantial accuracy.

Professor V. Scheil divided the text of the Code into sections according to subject-matter. But there are no marks of a division on the monument and Scheil's division is not adhered to in this work. For convenience of reference, however, his original section-numbers are given in connection with each law or sub-section of a law.

(M10) Among the treasures preserved in the library of Ashurbanipal and in the archives of the Babylonian temples were a number of tablets and fragments of tablets which recorded the efforts made by Semitic scribes to render Sumerian words and phrases into Semitic. A large number of these are concerned with legal subjects. A fairly complete list of those now in the Kouyunjik Collections of the British Museum will be found in the fifth volume of Dr. Bezold's catalogue, page 2032. The greater part of them have been published either in the British Museum Inscriptions of Western Asia, in Dr. P. Haupt's Keilschrifttexten, Vol. I. of the Assyriologische Bibliothek, or in Dr. F. Hommel's Sumerische Lesestuecke. In the latter will be found references to other publications. Dr. B. Meissner further published a number of later Babylonian editions of the same or allied series.(12)

(M11) The plan of the series to which most of these tablets belong is well seen in Dr. Delitzsch's Assyrische Lesestuecke, fourth edition, pp. 112-14. The name by which the series is usually known, to which most of these tablets belong, is the Semitic rendering of the first Sumerian phrase given there, ana ittisu, "to his side." The sections into which the series is divided each deal with some simple idea and its expression in Sumerian. But the principle of arrangement is not very clear. We may take one section for example. "With him, with them, with me, with us, with thee, with you," are given in two columns, the first being the Sumerian for these phrases, the second the Semitic rendering. Owing to the form of treatment some of these texts have been called "paradigms."

(M12) But the scribes also gave some fairly long and connected prose extracts in Sumerian with their Semitic renderings. What these were extracted from is still a question. Some of the clauses are known to have been employed in the contracts. But some of these even may well have been extracts from a code of laws. The name of "Sumerian Family Laws" has been given to certain sections.(13) Others seem to have been extracted from a Sumerian work on agriculture, with which Hesiod's Works and Days has been compared. But at present we are not in possession of the complete works from which these extracts are taken.

Such as they are, they have a value beyond that of enabling us to read Sumerian documents. They often afford evidence of customs and information which we get nowhere else.(14) The information given by them will be utilized in the subsequent portions of this work. Their translation here would serve no purpose, since they are very disconnected, but an example may be of interest. One section reads, "He fastens the buckets, suspends the pole, and draws up the water." This is a vivid picture of the working of a watering-machine, from which we learn its nature as we could not from its name only.(15)

(M13) Legal documents constitute by far the larger portion of the inscriptions which have come down to us from every period of Babylonian and Assyrian history. In the library of Ashurbanipal alone they are exceeded by the letters and even more by the works dealing with astrology and omens. In some periods, however, we have only a few inscriptions from monuments, or bricks.

(M14) To some extent the term "contracts," which has commonly been applied to them, is misleading. The use of the term certainly was due to a fundamental misunderstanding, they being once considered as contracts to furnish goods. They were even thought to be promises to pay, which passed from hand to hand, like our checks, and so formed a species of "clay money." These views were both partially true, but do not cover the whole ground.

They were binding legal agreements, sealed and witnessed. They were binding only on the parties named in them. They were drawn up by professional scribes who wrote the whole of the document, even the names of the witnesses. Hence it is inaccurate to speak of them as "signed" by anyone but the scribe, who often added his name at the end of the list of witnesses. The parties and witnesses did impress their own seals at one period, but later one seal, or two at most, served for all. It is not clear whose seal was then used. But the document usually declares it to be the seal of the party resigning possession.

(M15) As to external form, most of those which may be called "deeds" consist of small pillow-shaped, or rectangular, cakes of clay. In many cases these were enclosed in an envelope, also of clay, powdered clay being inserted to prevent the envelope adhering. Both the inner and outer parts were generally baked hard; but there are many examples where the clay was only dried in the sun. The envelope was inscribed with a duplicate of the text. Often the envelope is more liberally sealed than the inner tablet. This sealing, done with a cylinder-seal, running on an axle, was repeated so often as to render its design difficult to make out, and to add greatly to the difficulty of reading the text. When the envelope has been preserved unbroken, the interior is usually perfect, except where the envelope may have adhered to it. Such double tablets are often referred to as "case tablets." The existence of two copies of the same deed has been of great value for decipherment. One copy often has some variant in spelling, or phrasing, or some additional piece of information, that is of great assistance. The envelope was rather fragile and in many cases has been lost, either in ancient times, or broken open by the native finders, in the hope of discovering gold or jewels within. But in any case, the envelope, so long as it lasted, was a great protection; and there are few tablets better preserved than this class of document.

In Assyrian times, few "case" tablets are preserved, they seem to have gone out of fashion except for money-loans and the like. But it may be merely an accident that so few envelopes are preserved. In the case of letters, where the same plan of enclosing the letter in an envelope was followed, hardly any envelopes have been found, because they had to be broken open to read the letter. The owner of a deed may have had occasion to do the same, but here there was less excuse, as the envelope was inscribed with the full text.

In early times, another method of sealing was adopted. A small clay cone was sealed and the seal attached to the document by a reed, which ran through both. The seal thus hung down, as in the case of many old parchment deeds in Europe.

(M16) The deeds were often preserved in private houses, usually in some room or hiding-place below ground. In the case of the tablets from Tell Sifr, which were found by Loftus in situ, three unbaked bricks were set in the form of a capital U. The largest tablet was laid upon this foundation and the next two in size at right angles to it. The rest were piled on these and on the bricks and the whole surrounded by reed matting. They were covered by three unbaked bricks. This accounts for their fine preservation.

Others were stored in pots made of unbaked clay. The pots, as a rule, have crumbled away, but they kept out the earth around. Sometimes this broke in and crushed the tablets. In some cases they were laid on shelves round a small room; but in others they seem to have been kept in an upper story, and so were injured, when the floor fell through.

(M17) It seems certain that as a rule all deeds were executed in duplicate, each party receiving a copy. The scribe often appears to have kept another. At one time copies were also deposited in the public archives, most probably the city temple or the governor's palace. There are indications that copies of deeds executed in the provinces were sent to the capital. Whether this was in pursuit of a general policy of centralization or only accidental in the few cases known to us is not quite clear. In many instances we actually possess duplicates, sometimes three copies of the same deed.

(M18) These documents are exceedingly varied in contents. The most common are deeds relating to the sale or lease of houses, fields, buildings, gardens, and the like; the sale or hire of slaves and laborers; loans of money, corn, dates, wool, and the like; partnerships formed or dissolved; adoption, marriage, inheritance, or divorce. But almost any alienation, exchange, or deposit of property was made the subject of a deed. Further, all legal decisions were embodied in a document, which was sealed by the judge and given to both parties to the suit. These were often really deeds by which the parties bound themselves to accept and abide by the decisions. Some are bonds or acknowledgments of debt. A great many closely allied documents are lists of money or goods which had been given to certain persons. They were evidence of legal possession and doubtless a check on demand for repayment.

(M19) The bibliography of the subject is best dealt with under each general division; but reference must be made to works dealing with the subject as a whole. Professor J. Oppert's Documents Juridiques was the first successful attempt to deal with contracts in general and laid the foundation of all subsequent work. Dr. F. E. Peiser and Professor J. Kohler's Aus Babylonischen Rechtsleben deals with the later Babylonian documents as far as they throw light upon social life and custom. Professor Sayce's Babylonians and Assyrians makes large use of the data given by the contracts. Dr. T. G. Pinches's The Old Testament in the Light of the Monuments of Assyria and Babylonia also gives a very full account of what may be gleaned from them. The present writer's Assyrian Deeds and Documents makes an attempt to treat one branch fully. This work can only present the most essential facts. The whole amount of material is so vast, so much is yet unpublished, so many side-issues arise, all worth investigating, that it can only serve to introduce the reader to a fascinating and wide field of study.

(M20) The material with which we have to deal, for the most part, falls very naturally into epochs. The early Babylonian documents, though very numerous, are mostly of the nature of memoranda and include few letters or contracts. The documents of the First Dynasty of Babylon are extremely rich in examples of both contracts and letters. Then the Tell Amarna letters form a distinct group. The Ninevite contracts and letters of the Sargonid Dynasty are well marked as separate from the foregoing. Lastly, those of the New Babylonian Empire are a group by themselves. A few scattered examples survive which form intermediate groups, usually too small to be very characteristic, and certainly insufficient to justify or support any theory of the intermediate stages of development.

(M21) It must be observed that to a great extent these groups are not only separated by wide intervals of time—several centuries as a rule—but that they are locally distinct. The first comes from Telloh, the larger part of the second from Sippara, the third from Egypt (or Syria), the fourth from Assyria, the last from Babylonia. Whether the documents of Sippara in the third period showed as great divergence from those of the second period as the Tell Amarna letters do, or whether each group is fairly characteristic of its age in all localities using the cuneiform script, are questions which can only be answered when the other documents of that period are available for comparison.

(M22) The documents of each group have marked characteristics in form of script, in orthography, in language. So great are the differences that a slight acquaintance with these characteristics will suffice to fix the epoch of a given document. For the most part, however, these characteristics are not such as can appear in translation. They will be pointed out as far as possible in the opening sections dealing with each group. The aim will be to select characteristic specimens of each group for translation and to append a summary of what can be obtained by a study of the group.

The thousands of documents dealt with under these groups would, if translated, require a library of volumes. In the case of the contracts the repetition of scores of examples of the same sort would be wearisome. In the case of the letters, the translation alone would be almost as obscure as the original, without copious comment on the relationships, customs, and events referred to. In both cases it must be noted that many of the most interesting examples are incomplete and unavailable as specimens. The object of this work is to show what are the most important laws or legal documents of each period and to point out the chief subjects of information to be gained from them. For the letters no such summary of information can be given, partly because they are so many and varied, partly because so few are yet available.

(M23) The first epoch is to be considered as one period only because its contribution to the subject is as yet small and chronologically precedes the first great group. It ranges from the earliest beginnings of history to somewhere about B.C. 2300. The dates are largely conjectural, but for the most part the sequence of the events is known. It is the period covered by Dr. H. Radau's Early Babylonian History.

Some very ancient documents fall under this period. The early tablets which show the nearest approach to the original picture-writing(16) are transfers of property. As a rule, however, such votive inscriptions do not come under the head of contracts. One of the earliest of our monuments, the Stele of Manistusu, King of Kish, records the sale of land. Another very early monument of similar style(17) deals with the sale of plots of land. Others will be found in the Memoires de la Delegation en Perse.

But by far the greatest number of inscriptions belong to the finds of Telloh, made by De Sarzec in his explorations for the French Government. His greatest find, some thirty thousand tablets which were in the archives there, was dispersed by the Arabs, and has found its way into various museums. They have been sold in Europe, as coming from different localities. It is certain that other finds of the same period and same general character have been made elsewhere, so that it is often difficult now to determine their place of discovery.

A very large number of these tablets, from the collection of T. Simon, now in the Berlin museums, were copied and edited by G. Reisner, as Tempelurkunden aus Telloh.(18) The admirable abstracts of the contents there given(19) will furnish all the information that anyone but a specialist will need. They consist of lists of all sorts of natural products, harvests from fields, seed and other expenses allowed for cultivating fields, lists of the fields with their cultivators, numerous receipts for loans or grants, accounts of sheep and cattle, stipends or allowances for certain people; but only one, number 125, is doubtfully said to concern a sale of some slaves.

Dr. H. Radau, in his Early Babylonian History, gives the texts of a large number of similar tablets.(20) He also classified, transliterated, and tentatively translated most of them. The kind of information to be obtained is well brought out in his notes and comments.(21) They contain receipts, accounts of all sorts, lists of animals, skins, wool, oil, wine, grain, pitch, and honey; but none relate to the usual subjects treated in contract-tablets.

M. Thureau-Dangin edited and discussed a number of tablets of the same character in the Revue d'Assyriologie.(22) Especially valuable is his memoir, L'accomptabilite agricole en Chaldee,(23) where many interesting facts are collected and published.

(M24) A very large number of texts of this period were published by Mr. L. W. King, in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc., in the British Museum.(24) These have been discussed in a few instances by various writers in scientific journals. In the short descriptions prefixed to these editions mention is made of "contracts," but it is difficult to see to which the term could be properly applied.

A number of extracts from early "contracts" are given by Professor V. Scheil in the recent files of the Receuil de Travaux. According to the descriptions given, many of them are legal instruments. Besides advances of grain and receipts for the same,(25) or sales of land,(26) we have a legal decision concerning a marriage.(27) Of several of these only a few lines are given and the description of others is misleading. They are mostly preserved at Constantinople. Some are purely Sumerian, others Semitic. The same remarks apply to this author's publications in his Une Saison de fouilles a Sippar. Valuable as are the portions available, they chiefly make us long for more.

A very large number of tablets belonging to the second period are now in Europe and America. They seem to have been purchased from dealers, either in the East or West; and may be presumed to have been discovered by the natives. No reliable information can therefore be had as to their origin. Various places are mentioned: Sippara, Abu Habba, Senkereh, Telloh, Warka, have all been stated to be the place of discovery. There seems no good reason why tablets of this period should not be found anywhere in Babylonia. But on examination it is found that collections said to be from widely different places contain duplicates; while the same collection contains tablets dated at different cities and with dates a thousand years apart. It is conceivable that the records of important transactions, especially the transfers of land, were deposited by order in the archives at the capital, wherever that was for the time being. We may imagine that the archives at Sippara or Larsa were afterwards transferred to Babylon, for safety, or in pursuance of a policy of centralization. Certain it is that a large number of the texts imply a devotion to Shamash as chief deity, while others ascribe the pre-eminence to Marduk or Sin. But this fact is quite consistent with the archives having been discovered in either Babylon or Sippara.

(M25) On the other hand, it is not unlikely that the apparent centralization is of purely modern production. The dealers put together tablets from all sources and ascribe the collection to the place of origin which best suits their fancy. As a consequence, scarcely any collection contains a homogeneous series belonging either to one period or source. This is the more deplorable because so few are competent to date a tablet by the style of writing upon it, and internal indications are often lacking.

In the British Museum we have the following collections:

I. A number of "case" tablets brought from Tell Sifr by Loftus in 1850. Owing to a misleading statement in Layard's _Nineveh and Babylon_, p. 496, these have generally been taken to be from Warka, the ancient Erech. But the account given on pages 270-72 of Loftus, _Travels and Researches _ in Chaldea and Susiana_, leaves no doubt of the place and date of their discovery. These are usually denoted by B.

II. A number of tablets now in the Kouyunjik Collections. It is certain that these do not come from Nineveh, and in the British Museum Catalogue they are usually ascribed to Warka, but with an implied doubt. One or two are dated at Erech. The D. T. Collection also contains many tablets, said to be "not from Kouyunjik."

III. The collection 81-7-1 contains some forty at least, comprising the accounts of the temple of Ninib, from the time of Ammiditana and Ammizaduga.

IV. The collection 82-7-14 also has a few tablets of this period.

V. The collection 82-9-18 has at least one contract.

VI. The collection Bu. 88-5-18, purchased by Dr. E. A. W. Budge in the East, consists of some seven hundred tablets. They are said to come from Sippara; and date from b.c. 2300 to the time of Darius. These will be denoted by B1.

VII. The collection Bu. 91-5-9, also purchased by Dr. E. A. W. Budge in the East, consists of some three thousand tablets. These will be denoted by B2.

The purchases for the British Museum also include a large number of other tablets of this period. They are now numbered consecutively, thus Bu. 91-5-9, 606 is known as Brit. Mus. No. 92,679. This renders it difficult to further particularize the contents of the collections; or to know whether a given tablet belongs to one of the above collections.

(M26) In the Museum of the Louvre at Paris are a few tablets belonging to this epoch. Seven of them are published in M. Heuzey's Decouvertes en Chaldee.(28)

(M27) At the Berlin Museum is a collection known by the name of Homsy.

The tablets are marked V. A. Th., but this mark includes other tablets widely separated in date and found at different sites.

(M28) At the University of Pennsylvania collections known as J. S., Kh., and H. contain tablets of this period. Professor E. F. Harper, writing in Hebraica,(29) gives some account of these collections; from which it appears that the J. S. collection contains tablets of Hammurabi, Samsuiluna, and Ammiditana; while the Kh. collection has tablets of Hammurabi, Samsuiluna, Ammiditana, and Ammizaduga. He announced the discovery of the name of Abeshu on contemporary documents,(30) belonging to that reign. The two collections contain over a thousand tablets. The H collection has six hundred and thirty-two tablets, many of this epoch.

(M29) In the Imperial Ottoman Museum at Constantinople are a large number of tablets of this period. They are denoted by N, the Nippur collection found by the American explorers there; S, the Sippar collection from the explorations conducted by Pater V. Scheil at Abu Habba; the T or Telloh collection from the explorations of De Sarzec.

A few tablets are owned by Sir Henry Peek, Bart.

A few tablets exist in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, the gift of Mr. Bosanquet.

The Rev. J. G. Ward possesses a tablet, published by Dr. T. G. Pinches in P. S. B. A., XXI., pp. 158-63, of the time of Mana-balte-el, which seems to be of this period.

A number of other tablets of the period are known to be in different museums or in the hands of private individuals.

(M30) The historical value of the events used in dating these tablets was recognized by G. Smith, who published the dates of a number of the Loftus tablets, in the fourth volume of the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, p. 36.

The earliest publication of the texts was by Pater J. N. Strassmaier in the Verhandlungen des V Internationalen Orientalistischen Congresses zu Berlin, 1881. In the Beilage he gave the lithographed text of one hundred and nine tablets under the title of Die altbabylonischen Vertraege aus Warka. He made many important observations upon their character and style, and gave a valuable list of words and names. As was to be expected from a first attempt, both his readings of the texts and his transcriptions from them leave room for some improvement. He arranged his texts according to the reigns of the kings mentioned.

This edition formed the subject of M. V. Revillout's article, Une Famille commercant de Warka, and of numerous articles by other scholars in the journals. Dr. B. Meissner seems to have collated a number of these texts for his Beitraege zum altbabylonischen Privatrecht.

In 1888, Dr. T. G. Pinches published Inscribed Babylonian Tablets in the possession of Sir Henry Peek, Bart. It was followed by other parts and by Babylonian and Assyrian Cylinder-seals and Signets in the possession of Sir Henry Peek, Bart., in 1890. These are most valuable for their full treatment—photographs of the originals, drawings, and descriptions of the seals, transliterations, translations, and comments, giving a better idea of what these documents are like than can be obtained without actually handling the originals. Dr. Pinches in his introduction assigns their discovery to the ruins of Sippara. The texts published by him only include three from our period, Nos. 1, 13, 14; but nowhere will a beginner find more assistance in his studies of this class of tablet.

In 1893 Dr. B. Meissner published his invaluable _Beitraege _ zum altbabylonischen Privatrecht_, Vol. XI. of Delitzsch and Haupt's _Assyriologische Bibliothek_. This gave a full transliteration and translation of one hundred and eleven texts published in autography. Full notes and comments were added giving practically all that could then be said on the subject. His introduction summarized the information, to be extracted from his texts, bearing on the social institutions of Babylonia. By arranging the texts in classes according to their purport and contents he was able to elucidate each text by comparison with similar documents and so to gain a very clear idea of the meaning of separate clauses, even when the exact shade of meaning of individual words remained obscure. Any advance which the interpretation of these documents may make must be based on his researches and follow his methods. He gave a useful glossary, but no list of proper names.

In the fourth volume of Schrader's Keilinscriftliche Bibliothek, 1896, Dr. F. E. Peiser adopted the plan of arranging the then known contract-texts in chronological order. He gave, in transliteration and translation, the texts of thirty-one tablets of this period. Of these many had been previously published by Strassmaier and Meissner, but Dr. Peiser's renderings and short notes are of great value.

In 1896 began the grand series of publications, Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc., in the British Museum, printed by order of the Trustees, which has been continued to the present date. Volumes II., IV., VI., and VIII. contain copies by Dr. T. G. Pinches of no fewer than three hundred and ninety-five texts from the B1 and B2 Collections. They also contain a number of letters and other texts, some of a date as late as Xerxes, but from the same two collections.

In the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,1897(31) and 1899,(32) Dr. T. G. Pinches gives transliterations, translations, and comments upon fifteen of these texts.

A word of notice must be given to the excellent Guides published by the trustees of the British Museum. The Guide to the Kouyunjik Gallery, with four autotype plates, 1885, and the Guide to the Nimroud Central Saloon are now superseded by the Guide to the Babylonian and Assyrian Antiquities with thirty-four plates, photographic reproductions of the originals, 1900. On pages 104-13 will be found a most useful account of the class of tablet and short descriptions of ninety-four exhibited case tablets. Most of these tablets have been published by Strassmaier or in Cuneiform Texts, but are now indicated by their new registration numbers.

It will be evident from the above remarks that only a small proportion of the material in our museums has yet been published. It is greatly to be desired that every existing tablet should be published, as in no other way can we hope to solve many important problems. Not only the chronology but much of the actual history can be recovered from these tablets, while the names of the witnesses and parties to the transactions will settle the order of the years which are still doubtful. It is from these deeds that the greater part of this work will be constructed. They form the groundwork, while later documents fill in details.

(M31) The years were given names. Thus the second year of Hammurabi is called "the year in which Hammurabi the king established the heart of the land in righteousness." The year often received its name from the capture of some city. Are we to suppose that these events actually occurred on the first day of the year? If not, by what name was the year called up to the occurrence of the event in question? There is evidence that some years passed by two names, one of which was probably conferred after the year had begun. An examination of all dated tablets would doubtless result in fixing the time of the year at which the new year-name came into use. This can only be achieved by the custodians of our great collections. But, speaking generally, it seems obvious that names were often given to the years which attached to them a memory of the previous rather than a record for the current year. When in after years scribes drew up lists of the dates of a reign, they may well have made mistakes as to the exact year in which an event took place and have also credited a king with too long a reign, by counting as separate years two dates which were really the alternatives for one and the same year. In this way we may perhaps account for the discrepancies between the Chronicle and the King Lists.

(M32) The tablets often mention the name of the reigning king as well as the year-name; thus we read as a date, "the year when Samsuiluna was king," followed by "the year in which the canal of Samsuiluna named Hegallu was dug," which was the year-name of Samsuiluna's fourth year. Also the parties often swore an oath to observe their contract by the name of one or more gods and of the reigning king. Hence, very often, when the date is not preserved at all, we know what reign was concerned. On the other hand, in some reigns we have dated tablets from almost every year. If all the tablets were published, the witnesses and other parties would enable us to fix the sequence of the years. As these year-names each give a prominent event for the year we could thus reconstruct a skeleton history of the reign. Indeed, the present writer had already determined the order of several years, in more than one reign, from consideration of the persons named in each. Of course, no assurance could thus be had that some intermediate years were not omitted in such a scheme, since there is no certainty that we know the name-dates for each year of a reign. The order of the kings themselves and the lengths of their reigns were already known from the King List published by Dr. T. G. Pinches.(33)

(M33) It seemed probable that the scribes of those days would have made lists of the year-names, in order to know how much time had elapsed since a given event had occurred. Hence great was the excitement and delight when in C. T. VI. was published a tablet which once contained a list of year-names from Sumuabu to Ammizaduga. This was followed by the publication in Mr. L. H. King's Letters of Hammurabi of a duplicate, which served to restore and complete the list down to the tenth year of Ammizaduga's reign. Mr. King further added the year-names actually used on the dated tablets then published; thus showing how the year-names of the list were quoted and either abbreviated or expanded. He very appropriately called this the Chronicle of the Kings of Babylon. In the meantime Professor A. H. Sayce had given a translation of the first published list.(34) In the fourth volume of the Beitraege zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft,(35) Dr. E. Lindl has given a full discussion of the first published list. He further adds a small list of the same character giving the year-names in order for part of the reigns of Hammurabi and Samsuiluna.(36) Dr. Lindl used the published dates of the contracts to complete and restore the first list. Thus a great deal of excellent work has been done on these lists. None of them are complete for the whole dynasty, nor even for the part which they originally covered, and the known dated documents do not serve to fully restore them. But so far as they go, they must take the precedence of the King List, being almost contemporary documents.

(M34) Besides the kings of the First Dynasty of Babylon the collections above referred to designate several other persons as kings. Thus the B collection of the British Museum names Nur-Adadi, Sin-idinnam, and Rim-Sin as kings. The texts enable us to fix all these as kings of Larsa. Hence evidently the Tell Sifr, where these tablets were found, was in the territory of Larsa. The whole question is well discussed by Dr. Lindl.(37) The date on the tablet B. 34a refers to the setting-up of a throne for Shamash by Nur-Adadi. The date on B. 35 refers to the completion of a temple in Eridu by Sin-idinnam, King of Larsa. It is scarcely conceivable that these refer to other than the Nur-Adadi, who set up the kingdom of Larsa in the south of Babylonia about the same time as Sumuabi founded the dynasty of Babylon. Sin-idinnam, his son, succeeded him as King of Larsa and claimed to be King of Shumer and Akkad. Elam, however, under Kudurnanhundi I., invaded the south, defeated Sin-idinnam and set up Rim-Sin as King of Larsa. It seems that Rim-Sin reigned thirty-seven years, partly as vassal of Hammurabi, from the seventeenth year of Sin-mubalit until the thirty-first of Hammurabi. Whether Sin-idinnam was then restored to his throne as vassal of Hammurabi, or whether Rim-Sin was succeeded by a second Sin-idinnam, or whether the restoration of Sin-idinnam, after a temporary expulsion of Rim-Sin, took place within the thirty-seven years of the latter's reign, is not yet clear.

(M35) Of great interest is the fact of the use of an era in the south of Babylonia. A large number of tablets are dated by the years after the capture of Isin. Thus tablets are dated in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 18th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 30th years after the capture of Isin. Most of them are related to the kingdom ruled by Rim-Sin, which clearly included Tell Sifr, Nippur, Eridu, as well as Larsa.(38) The first year of this era was probably the seventeenth year of Sin-mubalit.

(M36) A king Immeru is mentioned,(39) usually alone, but once with Sumu-la-ilu;(40) where the form of the oath, "by Shamash and Immerum, by Marduk and Sumu-la-ilu," suggests that while Sumu-la-ilu was king of Babylon, the Marduk city, Immeru was king of a Shamash city. As he comes first, he was probably king of Sippara, where Shamash was the city god, and whence the collections, B1, B2, and V. A. Th., seem, on other grounds, to have come. That it was needful to name Sumu-la-ilu also points to that king being overlord of Sippara at the time.

The king Ilu-ma-ilu, named(41) in the oaths, associated with Shamash, may well be a vassal king of Sippara, though Professor Delitzsch(42) suggests that he may be the first king of the second dynasty of Babylon, whose name appears in the King list B as Ilu-ma(ilu).

The king Mana-balte-el, on the Rev. J. G. Ward's tablet, seems to belong to the First, or Second, Dynasty, perhaps as a vassal king, but may have preceded them by some short period.

The king Bungunu-ilu, mentioned by King,(43) was associated with Sumu-la-ilu. Probably he was vassal king of Sippara before Immeru.

(M37) A number of extracts from the legal documents of the third period have been given by Father V. Scheil in the _Receuil _ de Travaux_.(44) The full text is rarely given and there is consequently nothing for use here. They come from Nippur and are at Constantinople. The Semitic language is used largely, but a few Sumerian phrases remain. All the names of persons except those of the kings are pure Babylonian. The determinative of personality before proper names is common, but not before a king's name. The tablets are dated by regnal years, no longer by year-names. The kings have a determinative of divinity before their names. The money in use is either gold or bronze, silver is hardly named, while in other epochs it is almost always used. Gold was now legal tender, as silver was afterwards.

The many extremely fine charters of this period are of great value for the questions concerning land tenure. Descriptions and figures of some of them will be found in the Guide.(45) The text of several was published by Dr. C. W. Belser,(46) under the title Babylonische Kudurru-inschriften. Some of these are transliterated and translated in Schrader's Keilschriftliche Bibliothek,(47) where references to the literature will be found. In many cases these charters or boundary-stones are the only monumental evidence for their period. They therefore figure largely in the histories.

Some of the best examples are found in the second volume of the Memoires de la Delegation en Perse, beautifully reproduced by photogravure, admirably transliterated and translated by Professor V. Scheil. Some fine examples are also to be found in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc., in the British Museum.(48)

Of the time of Marduk-shum-iddin, B.C. 853-833, we have a black boundary-stone, published by Dr. F. E. Peiser, in Keilschriftliche Acten-stuecke, No. 1. It is dated in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Nabu-aplu-iddina, circa B.C. 858, and the eleventh year of Marduk-shum-iddina, circa B.C. 842. It rehearses the contents of two or more deeds by which a certain Kidinu came into possession of property in the city of Dilbat.

(M38) The Cappadocian tablets are still somewhat of a problem. The first notice of them was given by Dr. T. G. Pinches.(49) According to the dealer's account one acquired by the British Museum had come from Cappadocia. The script was then quite unfamiliar and it was thought that they were written in a language neither Semitic nor Akkadian. Various attempts, which are best forgotten, were made to transcribe and translate them under complete misapprehension of the readings of the characters. But in 1891 Golenischeff published twenty-four tablets of the same stamp, which he had acquired at Kaisarieh. His copies were splendidly done for one who could make out very little meaning. But he showed that many words were Assyrian and read many names. Professor Delitzsch(50) made a most valuable study of them, and laid the foundation for their thorough understanding. Professor P. Jensen(51) added greatly to our knowledge of their reading and interpretation. Dr. F. E. Peiser then(52) gave a transcription and translation of nine texts of contracts.

They are now recognized to be purely Semitic. They must have been written in some place where Assyrian influence was all-powerful. There are many names compounded of Ashur. They are dated by eponyms as in Assyria. The discovery of many more of them at Boghaz Keui, Kara Eyuk, and elsewhere published by Professor V. Scheil in the Memoires de la Mission en Cappadoce par Ernest Chantre, and commented on by M. Boissier,(53) make it certain that they are from this region.

If subject to Assyria, their date may be before the earliest eponyms whose date is known from the Canon lists. They may be contemporary with the very earliest kings of Assyria. But it is not impossible that the eponyms referred to were local only and not Assyrian in origin. Dr. Peiser put them after the First Dynasty of Babylon, but before the Third Dynasty.

They are full of unusual forms of words and have a phraseology of their own. They cannot as yet be translated with any confidence. In general they are very similar to the contracts, money-loans, and letters of the First Dynasty of Babylon. As far as they can be understood, they offer no new features of interest. The obscure phrases and words give rise to many speculations which will be found in the above-mentioned works. These are of great interest, but need further data for elucidation. They are too questionable to be profitably embodied here.

(M39) The Elamite contract-tablets were found at Susa and are published by Professor V. Scheil in Tome IV. of the Memoires de la Delegation en Perse.(54)

In external form they closely resemble the Babylonian documents of a similar nature. They are drawn up in practically the same way. But there is a blunt directness about them which recalls the usages of the First Dynasty of Babylon, rather than Assyria, or the Second Babylonian Empire. Hence we have little to indicate date. Until we are better acquainted with the Elamite script at various periods we cannot hope to date them.

They have many peculiar words and phrases. Some may be Elamite, or that form of Semitic which obtained in Elam, but the rest of the language is ordinary Babylonian. It is possible that some characters had a value in Elam not known in Babylonia, or ideographic values not yet recognized. But, as a rule, the general sense is fairly clear.

(M40) The legal documents of Assyria are in many respects a separate group. They are sometimes said to have come from the library of Ashurbanipal, which Mr. H. Rassam claims to have discovered at Kouyunjik in 1852-54. But it seems far more probable that, as large numbers were already found by Layard in 1849-51, we have rather to do with the contents of some archives. The absence of any large number of temple-accounts seems to exclude the probability that they were connected with a temple; but the fact that nearly every tablet has for one principal party some officer of the king, lends great probability to the view that the transactions were really made on behalf of the king; or—to be more exact—of the palace in Nineveh. The exceptions may be accounted for as really deeds concerned with former sales; or mortgages of property, finally bought in for the king. The conjecture is raised to a moral certainty by the contents of such a collection as Knudtzon's Gebete an den Sonnengott, found together with them; which consisted of copies of the requests and inquiries made of the Sun-god oracle regarding the troubles and difficulties of the king and royal family, domestic as well as public, in the reigns of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal. The letters too, found in the same collection, are the letters received by the king from his officers in all parts of his realm. The lists are connected with expenses of his household. Such votive tablets as are preserved are concerned with offerings of the royal family, or such high officers as probably were permanent inmates of the palace. We have, in fact, the contents of the muniment chests of the Sargonid kings of Assyria. That the royal library was mixed up with these documents may be due to the contents of an upper chamber falling, when its floor was burnt out; but the mixing may have been done by the discoverers.

In a very real sense these come from a record office, but are confined to royal rather than state documents; though a few duplicates of charters occur. Hence we look in vain for many classes of documents, such as are common in the archives of temples or private families. We have no marriage settlements, no adoptions, no partnerships.

Can we believe that such transactions were less common in Nineveh than fifteen centuries before in Sippara, or Larsa, or Babylon; or later in Babylon, Sippara, or Nippur? There cannot be a shadow of doubt that such documents exist in shoals somewhere in the ruins of Nineveh and will one day be found. Hence we must regard it as extremely improbable that the ordinary citizens of Nineveh contributed the records of their transactions to the Kouyunjik Collections now in the British Museum. They either kept them in their own houses or in some temple archives. As will be seen later, a few have already been found; but it is extremely difficult to locate them exactly. It is quite certain that a few of the tablets in the British Museum were found at other localities, such as Sherif Khan, Ashur, Kalah, Erech, Larsa, and Babylon.

For the most part these appear to have been placed in one collection by the discoverers, and only internal evidence can now decide where they were found. But the great bulk of the Kouyunjik Collections, as far as contracts, legal documents, and kindred tablets are concerned, are the result of explorations conducted on the site of the ancient Nineveh, by Layard and Rassam. They probably came from palace archives, and as a result possess a special character of their own.

(M41) Aramaic dockets very early attracted the attention of Assyriologists. The presence of short inscriptions in Aramaic on a few contract-tablets naturally raised hopes, in the early days of decipherment, of finding some check upon the reading of cuneiform. So far as these went they were by no means inconsistent with the readings of the cuneiform. But they were too few, too disconnected, and in themselves too uncertain, to be of great value. Indeed, for many of them, it is the cuneiform that now gives the key to their possible sense. The whole of these Aramaic inscriptions have now been published by Dr. J. H. Stevenson in his Assyrian and Babylonian Contracts with Aramaic Reference Notes, where references to the literature will be found.

(M42) In connection with these Aramaic legends a number of the texts of Assyrian contracts were published in the Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, Pars Secunda, Tomus I. A number more were published in Vol. III. of the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, by Sir H. C. Rawlinson. A few others were published in various journals; and by Oppert in his epoch-making treatise on the juristic literature, Documents Juridiques; by Peiser, in Vol. IV. of Schrader's Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek; and by Strassmaier in his Alphabetisches Verzeichnis. The whole of the texts of the Assyrian contracts from the Kouyunjik Collections in the British Museum are now published in Assyrian Deeds and Documents recording the Transfer of Property, etc. (three volumes published).(55) A bibliography will be found there, on page ix of the preface to Vol. I.

(M43) The very remarkable style which most of these tablets show is so unlike the contemporary documents in Babylonia that we may expect that transactions between private citizens in Assyria at this time were quite different. A few such documents exist. Professor V. Scheil, in the Receuil de Travaux,(56) published the text of four which are quite unlike any of the Kouyunjik examples.

(M44) In Assyrian Deeds and Documents the same plan of arrangement was followed, to some extent, as in this work. Being all of one epoch and showing no signs of any development the tablets were grouped, provisionally, according to subjects. The arrangement in each group was to place first the best specimens of the group and then the injured and fragmentary specimens, which thus received illustration, and in some cases, could be restored. It would, however, be an error to regard the Assyrian documents as the intermediate link between the old and new Babylonian documents, though they belong chronologically to an interval which precedes the latter immediately. The Assyrian scribe used a formula that was closer to the Old Babylonian than to the contemporary Babylonian. It had an independent development, looking rather to the royal charters as models than to the private document. In fact, the closest parallels of all are to be found on the Babylonian boundary-stones and charters. When, therefore, in our chronologically arranged sketch of a given subject, reference is made to Assyrian usage, next to that of the First Dynasty of Babylon, it will be understood that only the nature of the transaction is akin; and that, as a rule, the verbal treatment of it is quite distinct.

(M45) A few contemporary documents have reached us from the cities of Babylonia. They have little or no affinity with the immediately preceding groups, but carry on the local development from the second epoch. They come from many sites and are published in a variety of journals. A tentative list of them will be found in the Appendix. They refer to transactions in the reigns of Shalmaneser IV., Sargon II., Merodach-baladan II., Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Shamash-shum-ukin, Kandalanu, Ashur-etil-ilani, and Sin-shar-ishkun. In style they belong to the next epoch.

(M46) The second Babylonian empire, commencing with Nabopolassar and extending to the end of the independent existence of a Babylonian empire, is represented by thousands of tablets in our museums. A small part of these has been published. Pater J. N. Strassmaier has given some one thousand six hundred in his Babylonische Texte. Dr. Peiser published many more in his Keilinschriftliche Acten-stuecke and Babylonische Vertraege. The Rev. B. T. A. Evetts, Dr. Moldenke, Dr. Pinches and others have published many more. A detailed list will be found in the Appendix.

(M47) In the times of the Persian kings very many documents were drawn up very similar to these. The series is quite unbroken, down through Macedonian rule, the Arsacid period, to as late as B.C. 82. The list will be found in the Appendix.

Of the whole period we may say that the variety and quantity of written evidence are amazing. Every sort of transaction that could be made the subject of a deed or memorandum was written down. They come from most of the chief cities in Babylonia.

(M48) The classification of this material is no easy task. As in the case of the Bibliography, so here, the first and apparently the only attempt has been made by Dr. C. Bezold in his invaluable Kurzgefasster Ueberblick.

The view taken there depended upon Professor Oppert's estimate of the nature of the documents and that again was often founded on imperfect copies of the text. A great advance has since been made in understanding the contents of the texts then published, and the number published has enormously increased.

The publications, where accompanied by translations, have generally given some classification. Dr. Peiser, in the fourth volume of Schrader's Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, gives most suggestive indexes.(57) Dr. Tallqvist, in his Sprache der Contrakte Nabuna'id's gives a very valuable classification.(58) Dr. Meissner classified his texts in Altbabylonische Privatrecht.

A number of monographs have been written collecting the different texts from many sources bearing on one subject, thus acting as a kind of classification. A complete work on the subject is still needed.

(M49) Of great importance are Dr. F. E. Peiser's Jurisprudentiae Babylonicae quae supersunt, Coethen, 1890 (Inaug. Diss.); Dr. B. Meissner's De Servitute babylonico-assyriaca, Leipzig, 1882 (Inaug. Diss.); and Dr. V. Marx, Die Stellung der Frauen in Babylonien (Nebuchadnezzar to Darius B.C. 604-485) published in the Beitraege zur Assyriologie, Vol. IV., pp. 1-77. These should certainly be read by any serious student of the times. To reproduce their contents would occupy too much space.

On the whole subject of social life, as illustrated by these contracts, there is a valuable study by Dr. F. E. Peiser, called Skizze der Babylonischen Gesellschaft.(59) Professor Sayce's Babylonians and Assyrians in the Semitic Series, 1900, is an excellent account, though in some respects not sufficiently critical. But in all such preliminary work it is easy to feel sure of conclusions which have to be revised with fuller knowledge. Time will doubtless show this to be true of what is said in the present work. But wherever doubt is felt by the writer, it will be indicated.


I. The Earliest Babylonian Laws

(M50) We are still completely in the dark as to the rise of law in Babylonia. As far back as we can trace the history or its written monuments, there is no time of which we can say, "As yet there was no law." Our chief object to-day is to discover what the law was. For the most part, and until lately, we were compelled almost entirely to infer this from such contracts as were drawn up between parties and sworn to, witnessed, and sealed. Among them were a large number of legal decisions which recorded the ruling of some judicial functionary on points of law submitted to him. These and the hints given by the legal phrase-books had allowed us to attain considerable knowledge of what was legal and right in ancient Babylonia or Assyria.

(M51) But the question remained, Was it "right" or "law"? Were there enactments by authority, making clear what was right, and in some cases creating right, where there was none before? There was much to suggest the existence of enacted law, even of a code of laws, and the word "law" had been freely applied. But there was no known ascription of any law to a definite legislator. There was no word for "law," only the terms "judgments," "right," and "wrong." It was significant that the parties to a suit always seemed to have agreed on what was right between man and man, and then to have sworn by their gods to observe the "right."

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