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Ancient History Sourcebook:
Some Neo-Babylonian Legal Decisions, c. 555-427 BCE


Judgment of False & Malicious Prosecution, First year of Nabonidus, 555 B.C.

It is clear from this case that a false suit did not, according to Babylonian law, result in a simple dismissal; a fine, equal to the sum unjustly sued for, was imposed on the plaintiff and paid to the defendant. This must have been a powerful deterrent to unjust claims, since they were likely to result in benefiting the defendant by as much as the plaintiff sought to injure him.

BELILIT, daughter of Bel-ushezib, son of the road-master (?), deposed to the judges of Nabonidus King of Babylon, saying: "In the month Ab, of the first year of Neriglissar, King of Babylon, I sold Bazuzu, my slave, for half a mana five shekels of money to Nabu-akhi-iddin, son of Shula, son of Egibi; I took his note, but he has not paid the money." The judges of the king heard, and they summoned Nabu-akhi-iddin and set him before them. Nabu-akhi-iddin produced the receipt, which Belilit had given, that she had received the money, the price of Bazuzu, and showed it to the judges. Ziriya, Nabu-shum-lishir, and Ebilu had embezzled the money of Belilit, their mother; he established it before the judges. The judges deliberated and they took from Belilit one half mana five shekels of money, as much as he had paid, and gave it to Nabu-akhi-iddin. (This decision, which is signed by six judges and the clerk of the court, is dated) at Babylon, in the accession year of Nabonidus

 

Judgment of an Estate in Borsippa, Ninth year of Nabonidus, 546 B.C. The record of this suit, which bears the date of the ninth year of Nabonidus, received the signatures of six judges and two clerks. None of the judges are the same as those who signed the record of Belilit's suit except Nergal-banunu, who was then clerk of the court, but at the time of Bunanit's suit become chief justice.

Bunanit, daughter of the Kharizite, deposed to the judges of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, saying: "Ben-Hadad-natan, son of Nikbata, took me as his wife, and received three manas of money as my dowry. I bore him one daughter. I and Ben-Hadad-natan, my husband, gained by selling and buying with the money of my dowry, and we bought eight gin of an estate, land not far beyond the midst of Borsippa, for nine and two-thirds manas of money, including two and a half manas of money which was borrowed from Iddin-Marduk, son of Basha, son of Nur-sin; we added to the other, and paid for the price of that estate; and we traded together in the fourth year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon. Since my dowry was with Ben-Hadad-natan my husband, I asked for it, and Ben-Hadad-natan in the kindness of his heart, sealed and devised to me for the future the eight gin of that estate which is in Borsippa, and declared it on my tablet, saying: >Two and a half manas of money which Ben-Hadad-natan and Bunanit from Iddin-Marduk borrowed was paid toward the price of that estate; they transacted it together.' That tablet he sealed, and wrote upon it the curse of the great gods. In the fifth year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, I and Ben-Hadad-natan, my husband, adopted Ben-Hadad-amara. We wrote the tablet of his adoption, and we announced the dowry of Nubta, my daughter, two manas ten shekels of money, and the furniture of a house. Fate took my husband, and now Iqbi-ilu, the son of my father-in-law, has laid a claim to the estate and all which he had sealed and devised to me and upon Nabu-nur-ilani, whom we purchased through the agency of Nabu-akhi-iddin. I have brought it before you; make a decision. The judges heard their complaint; they discussed the tablets and documents which Bunanit brought before them and they granted Iqbi-ilu no power over the house in Borsippa, which instead of her dowry had been devised unto Bunanit, over Nabu-nur-ilani, whom she and her husband had bought for silver, nor over anything belonging to Ben-Hadad-natan. To Bunanit and Ben-Hadad-amara they established them in consequence of their tablets. Iddin-Marduk is paid and receives his two and a half manas of money, which they paid on the price of that estate. Afterward Bunanit shall receive the three and a half manas of her dowry, and besides her share Nubta shall receive Nabu-nur-ilani, according to the will of her father.

 

Judgment for Breach of Contract, Twelfth year of Nabonidus, 543 B.C.

Three manas fifty shekels of money, which the judges wrote on the tablet and gave to Bel-rimanni, son of Labashi-Marduk, son of Ina-Ramman-takallal, and concerning the tablet of Arad-gula and Damqana, his wife, and concerning the slaves and house which he pledged, Bel-rimanni asked. Nergal-uballit the full claim against Arad-Gula allowed, saying: "I grant the full claim, all of it, which Arad-Gula has not met, to Bel-rimanni. Upon the slaves and house, which were pledged. Bel-rimmani has brought before the judges of the king Ana-Tashmit-atkal, Amtiya, Nana-ana-biti-shu, and Zamama-iddin, the people of the house of Arad-Gula, the house which was pledged, the slaves which they had mortgaged to Bel-rimanni, according to his tablet, instead of three manas fifty shekels money, the full price, are given, received, taken; there is nothing further." And in order that there may be renewal and an appeal be made concerning those slaves to the judges, they have written a tablet, sealed it with seals, and have given it to Bel-rimanni. (The names of the judges follow, together with the date:) Babylon, Shebat twenty-sixth, twelfth year of Nabonidus.

 

A Case of Battery, Breaking & Entering, and Robbery, Eighth year of Cyrus, 529 B.C.

This document bears the names of four witnesses and a scribe; it is dated Adar twenty-eighth, eighth year of Cyrus. This was not the end of the matter, as the next tablet will show.

NABU-AKHI-UBALLIT, son of Shu-_____, the inspector of the city Shakhrin-_____, on the twenty-eighth day of Adar, in the eighth year of Cyrus, King of Babylon, king of countries, deposed to Bel-uballit, the notary of Sippar, saying: 'I took Nana-iddin, son of Bau-ulid, into my house, saying: 'Am I the brother of your father and the inspector of the city? Why have you raised your hand against me? ' Ramman-sharra-usur, son of Nabu-ushezib; Lulgiya and Irba, his brothers; Kutka-ili, son of Bau-ulid; Bel-uballit, son of Bariki-ili; Bel-akhi-uqur, son of Ramman-ushallim; and Iqisha-apla, son of Shamash-sharra-usur, have broken open my door like demons; and from my house, when they had forced an entrance, they took one mana of my money.' The judges came and they saw the fracture (?) of the door and the rending of the threshold. Shamash-iddin, son of Ziriya, assembled the elders of the city, and then he placed Nana-iddin under bonds to Nabu-akhi-bullit, together with Nabu-iddin, son of Pir'a, Nabu-etir-nap-shati, son of Rimut, son of _____, Iqibu, son of Pir'a, son of the priest of Gula, Shamash-lama', son of Submadu, Bel-ushallim, son of Bel-akhi-iddin, son of Shigua, Nabu-ushezib, son of Nabu-ukin-akhi, Ramman-sharra-usur, son of Abu-nu-epish, _____, son of _____. (Their hands) against him they raised, (the door of his house) (they broke), into his house (they entered). (Under the law concerning the house) they are gui(lty). Shamash-iddin, son of Ziriya, when he was rigorously examining them concerning the house, declared, saying---also Ramman-sharra-usur, son of Nabu-ushezib, Nabu-uballit, son of Bariki-ili, Irba, son of Bau-ulid, Lulgia, son of Nabu-ushezib, Bel-akhi-uqur, son of Ramman-ushallim, declared, saying---also Kutka-ili, son of Bau-ulid, Bel-Uballit, son of Bariki-ili, declared, saying: 'I was there when we drew near the door.' Ramman-sharra-usur, son of Nabu-ushezib, also declared, saying: 'I _____. Adar thirtieth, eighth year of (Cyrus, King of Babylon).

 

Pledge of Surety, Thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes, 427 B.C.

This is clearly the record of a bond by which a man went bail for his nephew.

Bel-akhi-iddin, son of Bel-na'id, of his own free-will spoke to Bel-shum-iddin, son of Murashu, saying: 'Deliver unto me Nidintum-Bel, son of Eshi-etir, my brother, who is held in prison. I will become his surety that he does not go from Nippur to another place.' Whereupon Bel-shum-iddin, son of Murashu, hearkened to him, and delivered unto him Nidintum-Bel, son of Eshi-etir, his brother, who was held in prison. On the day when Nidintum-Bel, son of Eshi-etir, shall go without the judge's permit from Nippur to another place, Bel-akhi-iddin shall pay to Bel-shum-iddin ten manas of money. (Dated) at Nippur in the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes I.


Source:

From: George Aaron Barton, 'Contracts,' in Assyrian and Babylonian Literature: Selected Transactions, With a Critical Introduction by Robert Francis Harper (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1904), pp. 276-281.

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg may have modernized the text.


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© Paul Halsall, March 1999
halsall@murray.fordham.edu