A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law - Vol. 2

By Raymond Westbrook; Gary Beckman et al. | Go to book overview
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MESOPOTAMIA
NEO-BABYLONIAN PERIOD
Joachim Oelsner, Bruce Wells and Cornelia Wunsch1
While named after the Neo-Babylonian Empire, this survey covers the law of Babylonia during the entire first millennium. Politically, the millennium may be divided as follows:
1. The early part of the millennium was characterized by weak kings of Babylon struggling with Aramean and Chaldean groups settling for the most part outside the cities. On several occasions, members of these groups succeeded in gaining the kingship in Babylon.
2. For most of the late eighth and the seventh centuries Babylonia was under Assyrian control.
3. During the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the so-called “Chaldaean dynasty” (626–539) brought about afinal period of political independence.
4. Inclusion of the territory in the Achaemenid Empire (539–331) brought about only minor socio-economic and legal changes. The legal institutions as reflected in the documents remain more or less the same as before.
5. After the conquest of Alexander (331) as well as under Hellenistic rule (Seleucid, 331–141) and even well into the Parthian period (Arsacid, 141 B. C. E–ca. 225 C. E.), cuneiform traditions, including the traditional law, remained alive. The latest administrative and legal documents (contracts) date to the earlyfirst century B. C. E.2

1. SOURCES OF LAW

Only a few documentary sources are known for Babylonia from the first quarter of thefirst millennium. Texts of legal relevance are isolated stone monuments (formerly known as kudurru s (see 1.3 below). From the eighth century3 onwards, however, to the end of the millennium

____________________
1
Sections 1, 2, 4.2.1.1, 6.1, 7: Oelsner; sections 2.1.4.6, 3, 4, 5, 6: Wunsch (with editor); section 8: Wells.
2
According to recent research, cuneiform script (and the Akkadian language) was still being used in thefirst centuries C. E.: see Geller, “The Last Wedge.”
3
Sources from ca. 1000 to 700 surveyed in Oelsner, “Frühneubabylonische…”

-911-

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