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A Comparison of Ancient Near Eastern Law Collections Prior to the First Millennium BC


This book highlights and explains consistent differences in both the framing and content of the various pre-first millennium BC law collections of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Hatti. The differences between collections are placed in the broader background of the worldview and political make-up of the societies and individuals that created them, and their historical context.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-59333-221-1
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jun 18,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 296
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-59333-221-1
$156.00

This book highlights and explains consistent differences in both the framing and content of the various pre-first millennium BC law collections of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Hatti. The differences between collections are placed in the broader background of the worldview and political make-up of the societies and individuals that created them, and their historical context. This has yielded a number of interesting results. For example, Mesopotamian law collections do not explicitly acknowledge changes within the law (correlating with an idea in Mesopotamia that the correct ways of doing things were handed from gods to men in the beginning) whereas the Hittite law collection does (correlating with the Hittite tendency to acknowledge change in their history writing in order to teach lessons). These differences correlate with the contrasting ruling systems of the two cultures (Mesopotamia tending towards a more centralised society).


This comparison demonstrates that the ancient Near East was not a uniform culture, and calls into question the oft-stated “truism” that the various collections freely borrowed material from each other. While there is much congruity in terms of topics covered (especially amongst the southern Mesopotamian collections), there is very little compelling evidence for specific instances of literary borrowing amongst the laws themselves.


Samuel Jackson is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney and a History Teacher at Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.

This book highlights and explains consistent differences in both the framing and content of the various pre-first millennium BC law collections of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Hatti. The differences between collections are placed in the broader background of the worldview and political make-up of the societies and individuals that created them, and their historical context. This has yielded a number of interesting results. For example, Mesopotamian law collections do not explicitly acknowledge changes within the law (correlating with an idea in Mesopotamia that the correct ways of doing things were handed from gods to men in the beginning) whereas the Hittite law collection does (correlating with the Hittite tendency to acknowledge change in their history writing in order to teach lessons). These differences correlate with the contrasting ruling systems of the two cultures (Mesopotamia tending towards a more centralised society).


This comparison demonstrates that the ancient Near East was not a uniform culture, and calls into question the oft-stated “truism” that the various collections freely borrowed material from each other. While there is much congruity in terms of topics covered (especially amongst the southern Mesopotamian collections), there is very little compelling evidence for specific instances of literary borrowing amongst the laws themselves.


Samuel Jackson is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney and a History Teacher at Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.

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Contributor Biography

Samuel Jackson

Samuel Jackson is Head of History at Arndell Anglican College. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sydney.

  • Contents (page 7)
  • Preface (page 9)
  • Acknowledgements (page 11)
  • 1 Introduction (page 13)
    • 1.1 Introduction (page 13)
    • 1.2 The Historiography of Ancient Near Eastern Law (page 21)
    • 1.3 The Comparative Method (page 31)
  • 2 Comparisons (page 49)
    • 2.1 Sources (page 49)
      • 2.1.1 Overview (page 49)
      • 2.1.2 Form (page 56)
      • 2.1.3 Framing (page 66)
      • 2.1.4 Nature, Function and Purpose (page 81)
    • 2.2 Role of Judge and King (page 125)
    • 2.3 Marriage and Divorce (page 127)
    • 2.4 Property and Inheritance (page 130)
      • 2.4.1 Real Estate (page 130)
      • 2.4.2 Inheritance (page 131)
      • 2.4.3 Adoption (page 134)
    • 2.5 Contract (page 136)
      • 2.5.1 Loans (page 136)
      • 2.5.2 Distraint (page 137)
      • 2.5.3 Deposit and Safekeeping (page 137)
      • 2.5.4 Breach of Contract (page 139)
    • 2.6 Crime and Delict (page 139)
    • 2.6.1 Theft (page 139)
      • 2.6.2 Kidnap (page 165)
      • 2.6.3 Sex Laws (page 166)
      • 2.6.4 False Accusation (page 186)
      • 2.6.5 Sorcery (page 191)
      • 2.6.6 Murder (page 192)
      • 2.6.7 Personal Injury (page 200)
      • 2.6.8 Negligence Causing Loss of or Damage to Property (page 225)
      • 2.6.9 Non-Negligent Damage to Property (page 231)
    • 2.7 Penalties (page 232)
      • 2.7.1 Corporal (page 232)
      • 2.7.2 Capital (page 236)
      • 2.7.3 Talionic, Vicarious, and Equivalent (page 239)
      • 2.7.4 Diachronic Analysis of HL (page 244)
  • 3 Conclusion (page 255)
    • 3.1 Was there a Common Legal Culture and/or Widespread Borrowing? (page 255)
    • 3.2 Systematic Differences and their Explanation (page 259)
    • 3.3 Reflections on the Nature, Function and Purpose of the Collections (page 264)
    • 3.4 Implications for Further Research (page 265)
  • Bibliography (page 269)
  • Index of References (page 289)
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