CHAPTER 8 LAW

COMPARED with other ancient civilizations the Egyptian era prior to the time of Alexander the Great has yielded very little evidence of its legal institutions. In particular, to this day, hardly any statutes have been traced. We know that there were statutes in very early times, but we do not know what they contained. We must therefore try to deduce the nature of the law from the documents of that era. But only a few legal documents from the Old Kingdom have been preserved in their original form on papyrus. The oldest known at present is a judgement from the period of the Sixth Dynasty ( 2420-2294).1 This means that the evidence for the law of Egypt begins several centuries later than that of the land of Sumer. That is, however, a mere accident. Any new excavations may change the picture in favour of Egypt, for we know that as early as the time of the Third Dynasty ( 2815-2690) certain formal documents were required for important legal transactions. From that time onwards mention of legal transactions is made in inscriptions in tombs and on stelae. Thus, together with Sumerian law, Egyptian law is the oldest legal system about which we have any information.

Further, from the moment that we can trace the system at all we find it already in an advanced and civilized state, never in a primitive one. It would be a great mistake if, in a survey of the legal history of the world, one were to treat Egyptian law as being on a low level of development, merely because it is very old. In its early stages, as far as we can know them, it can claim full equality with ancient Greek law or with much early medieval law. The development from a primitive to a civilized state of

____________________
1
Papyrus Berlin 9010.

-198-

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The Legacy of Egypt
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Note v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 - The Calendars and Chronology 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Political Approach to the Classical World 17
  • Chapter 3 - Writing and Literature 53
  • Chapter 4 - Egyptian Art 80
  • Chapter 5 - Mechanical and Technical Processes. Materials 120
  • Chapter 6 - Science 160
  • Chapter 7 - Medicine 179
  • Chapter 8 - Law 198
  • Chapter 9 - Egypt and Israel 218
  • Chapter 10 - The Greek Papyri 249
  • Chapter 11 - Egypt and Romez 283
  • Chapter 12 - The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 300
  • Chapter 13 - Egypt and the Byzantine Empire 332
  • Chapter 14 - The Contribution to Islam 348
  • Select Bibliography 368
  • Chapter 15 - The Legacy to Modern Egypt 369
  • Index 395
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