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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 121

It is gathered from the Code that there were three chief social grades--the aristocracy, which included landowners, high officials and administrators; the freemen, who might be wealthy merchants or small landholders; and the slaves. The fines imposed for a given offence upon wealthy men were much heavier than those imposed upon the poor. Lawsuits were heard in courts. Witnesses were required to tell the truth, "affirming before the god what they knew", and perjurers were severely dealt with; a man who gave false evidence in connection with a capital charge was put to death. A strict watch was also kept over the judges, and if one was found to have willingly convicted a prisoner on insufficient evidence he was fined and degraded.

Theft was regarded as a heinous crime, and was invariably

Of special interest are the laws which relate to the position of women. In this connection reference may first be made to the marriage-by-auction custom, which Herodotus described as follows: "Once a year in each village the maidens of age to marry were collected all together into one place, while the men stood round them in a circle. Then a herald called up the damsels one by one, and offered them for sale. He began with the most beautiful. When she was sold for no small sum of money, he offered for sale the one who came next to her in beauty. All of them were sold to be wives. The richest of the Babylonians who wished to wed bid against each other for the loveliest maidens, while the humbler wife-seekers, who were indifferent about beauty, took the more homely damsels with marriage portions. For the custom was that when the herald had gone through the whole number of the beautiful damsels, he should then call up the ugliest--a cripple, if there chanced to be one--and offer her to the men, asking who would agree to take her with the smallest marriage portion. And the man who offered to take the smallest sum had her assigned to him. The marriage portions were furnished by the money paid for the beautiful damsels, and thus the fairer maidens portioned out the uglier. No one was allowed to give his daughter in marriage to the man of his choice, nor might anyone carry away the damsel whom he had purchased without finding bail really and truly to make her his wife; if, however, it turned out that they did not agree, the money might be paid back. All who liked might come, even from distant villages, and bid for the women."[268]


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