MESOPOTAMIA, THE HITTITES AND THE
In this study of the sources on water legislation, a rather narrow interpretation of the theme has been taken as the starting point. My primary interest has been texts of laws and direct sources for ancient legislation (while remembering that what constitutes “law” varies from society to society). On the other hand, I have been rather restrictive with sources that only indirectly let us infer something about the legal theory and praxis of ancient Mediterranean societies.1 If every source of some relevance for the understanding of water use in ancient societies had been included, the present task would have become unmanageable, and this chapter would have infringed too much upon other contributions in this volume. From among the indirect evidence I have included some business agreements, for they constitute legal documents of some sort. Water ownership has also received attention. Even though we rarely have clear legal rulings on the extent and nature of water ownership, I have thought it necessary to comment on that question, basing my observations sometimes on indirect sources.
The administration of water resources is a direct consequence of legislation, but will be treated in this chapter only when we have legal texts that deal with officials and the activities of the water administration. A more detailed survey of administrative procedures would have caused an imbalance in the text, and there are, moreover, many recent thorough surveys of most aspects of the theme. For Pharaonic Egypt the sources stress the all-important role of the godlike king, who through his officials focused his activities on the water
1 To use the terminology from the preface to a recent German work on Greek
legal inscriptions: I have concentrated on “Gesetzestexte”, not “Rechtsinschriften”
(“jede Inschrift mit einer rechtlich bedeutsamen Mitteilung”). For these expressions,
see G. Thür in Koerner 1993, xv.