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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 124

Women appear to have monopolized the drink traffic. At any rate, there is no reference to male wine sellers. A female publican had to conduct her business honestly, and was bound to accept a legal tender. If she refused corn and demanded silver, when the value of the silver by "grand weight" was below the price of corn, she was prosecuted and punished by being thrown into the water. Perhaps she was simply ducked. As much may be inferred from the fact that when she was found guilty of allowing rebels to meet in her house, she was put to death.

The land laws were strict and exacting. A tenant could be penalized for not cultivating his holding properly. The rent paid was a proportion of the crop, but the proportion could be fixed according to the average yield of a district, so that a careless or inefficient tenant had to bear the brunt of his neglect or want of skill. The punishment for allowing a field to lie fallow was to make a man hoe and sow it and then hand it over to his landlord, and this applied even to a man who leased unreclaimed land which he had contracted to cultivate. Damage done to fields by floods after the rent was paid was borne by the cultivator; but if it occurred before the corn was reaped the landlord's share was calculated in proportion to the amount of the yield which was recovered. Allowance was also made for poor harvests, when the shortage was not due to the neglect of the tenant, but to other causes, and no interest was paid for borrowed money even if the farm suffered from the depredations of the tempest god; the moneylender had to share risks with borrowers. Tenants who neglected their dykes, however, were not exempted from their legal liabilities, and their whole estates could be sold to reimburse their creditors.

The industrious were protected against the careless. Men who were negligent about controlling the water supply, and caused floods by opening irrigation ditches which damaged the crops of their neighbours, had to pay for the losses sustained, the damages being estimated according to the average yield of a district. A tenant who allowed his sheep to stray on to a neighbour's pasture had to pay a heavy fine in corn at the harvest season, much in excess of the value of the grass cropped by his sheep. Gardeners were similarly subject to strict laws. All business contracts had to be conducted according to the provisions of the Code, and in every case it was necessary that a proper record should be made on clay tablets. As a rule a dishonest tenant or trader had to pay sixfold the value of the sum under dispute if the judge decided in court against his claim.

The law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was strictly observed in Babylonia. A freeman who destroyed an eye of a freeman had one of his own destroyed; if he broke a bone, he had a bone broken. Fines were imposed, however, when a slave was injured. For striking a gentleman, a commoner received sixty lashes, and the son who smote his father had his hands cut off. A slave might have his ears cut off for assaulting his master's son.


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