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Law and the Family in Ancient Mesopotamia The Code of Hammurabi, 1800 BCE.

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Presentation on theme: "Law and the Family in Ancient Mesopotamia The Code of Hammurabi, 1800 BCE."— Presentation transcript:

1 Law and the Family in Ancient Mesopotamia The Code of Hammurabi, 1800 BCE

2 Thinking in Space: The Origins of Western Civilization in Ancient Mesopotamia

3 Thinking in Time: A Timeline

4 Timeline

5 Prehistory

6 Timeline Ancient Civilization Code of Hammurabi

7 Hammurabi Stele

8 Code of Hammurabi Law of Babylonian Empire Promulgated by Hammurabi in 1800 BCE 282 Laws, a Prologue and Epilogue The bas relief shows the sun god giving Hammurabi a staff and a ring symbolizing his authority to enforce the law.

9 Laws on Family, Sexual and Property Relations Marriage and family: 129, 134-142, 142, 168-69. Assault: 195-212 “Consumer Protection:” 215-18, 229-33. Debt Slavery:117.

10 You can assume…. That if the situation is described it “exists” in some sense. That if a law is passed, it points to a problem in the society. There is no need for laws punishing theft if no one steals. That the law and the creation stories aim to be comprehensive answers to questions for people in society.

11 Social Organization in Ancient Society Nobility or elite: Wealthy, Learned or Powerful (militarily, economically, etc.) Commoner (free): Ordinary people with resources: land or a trade. Slave: Individual “owned” by someone else (but not necessarily a permanent status).

12 How does one become a slave? Capture in war Punishment for a crime Sale by family Self sale for debt or debt bondage A descendant of a slave

13 Characteristics of a Slave’s Situation Owes labor to master, generally for life Alienated from claims of birth No property rights, lineage, or inheritance rights No civil rights ? Religious rights? No political rights

14 Propositions on Family Organization Wealthier households are larger than poorer households Men may have more than one wife; wives are ranked according to first wife, second wife, and so forth. Most men cannot afford a second wife. Wives may have only one husband and must be faithful to him.

15 Propositions, cont. Rules of divorce and remarriage vary. –Men generally remarry if spouse dies or is infertile –Terms of widowhood and remarriage vary. Women are “classed” through their relationships to men as wives, legitimate daughters, concubines, or slaves. Household members are responsible (and liable) for the actions of other members.

16 Propositions about Legal Relationships Law is logical and coherent, characterized by generalized rules of behavior. The state promulgates and enforces the law. Ancient law does not display a strong distinction between civil and criminal violations. Violations against more powerful people are punished more severely than those against less powerful people.

17 Propositions, cont. The punishment for the crime must fit the crime: lex talionis Institutions of enforcement are weak compared with modern legal systems.

18 Terms Lex Talionis: an “eye for an eye” legal system Concubine: a second wife Dowry: the resources the bride’s family gives to the groom’s family Brideprice: the resources the groom’s family gives to the bride’s family Levirate: practice of a widow marrying her deceased husband’s brother (e.g., her brother-in-law)

19 Terms, cont. Polygamy: practice of men having more than one wife Monogamy: practice of men having one wife Homogamy: practice of marrying within one’s social group Exogamy: practice of marrying non kin Endogamy: practice of marrying kin Incest: practice of marrying or having sexual relations with a “close” relative

20 Refresher: The Concept of “Family” Simplest meaning: 2 or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption Other aspects: –lineage, kindred or tribe: a “family reunion” –coresidential primary descent group –all household members (including employees. servants or slaves)

21 Refresher: Concept of a “Household” One or more persons living in a “housing unit” that constitutes a “separate living quarters”

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