Women, Crime, and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society: Volume 1: The Ancient Near East 9781472541024

This volume, spanning three millennia BCE, concentrates on the major ancient civilizations that left information about w

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INCE THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT WOMEN, whenever the names of women are known, I have put them in the text, where they may become known in the light of scholarship. For the sake of space, I have often omitted the names of their husbands, fathers, and sons, many of which are known from other sources. This book deals with three millennia BCE. The designation BCE will not be repeated after every date. All dates may be assumed to be BCE unless otherwise noted. In cases where confusion might arise, the correct dates are stated in the notes. Since this is a book about the ancient Near East, I have used the spellings of names in their original languages as much as possible. The names of some Late Babylonian and Late Assyrian kings are familiar to readers who have studied the Hebrew Bible or ancient Near Eastern history. These versions of king names were often misspelled when used in the Hebrew Bible. For certain wellknown kings, the common version of the name is given in the text and the Babylonian or Assyrian name is in the note. There are also charts at the end of the book that show both versions of these names. I would like to thank Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza for her pioneering work in feminist studies and methodology. I am grateful to those who have read all or parts of the manuscript and have given me their critical suggestions. I am especially indebted to Professor William J. Fulco, S.J., of Loyola Marymount University, who promptly answered my numerous e-mails about linguistic questions, and Professor Robert Gnuse, of Loyola University New Orleans, and Professor Sean Freyne, of Trinity College, Dublin, for their sharing knowledge and insights about the greater world of the Hebrew Bible. I give special thanks to the patient and hardworking librarians at Loyola Law School and Holy Cross College, who went beyond the scope of their duties to provide me with innumerable books via Interlibrary Loan, and to the libraries of Tulane University in New Orleans, Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley for giv-


General Introduction


reveals the roots from which human beings and their history have sprung. The purpose of this work is to uncover pieces and fragments of that history in order to create mosaic portraits of women, crime, and punishment in the laws and societies of the ancient world. The writing of history is not simply the collection of data about a subject and the placement of that data into a book. Historiography involves the selection, translation, presentation, and interpretation of the data and the underlying assumptions and reasons used in each process. In the past, most historians were men. Many equated humanness with maleness and ignored the existence of women, presenting them, if at all, as an appendage on the periphery of the "real" world of men. They assumed that the acts and roles of men were the norm and that those of women were a deviation from the norm. Male historians, both ancient and modern, viewed the data of history through male preconceptions and biases, of which they were often unaware. Many limited their accounts of history to political and military events, the accomplishments of men. Enormous amounts of information have been published about the history of men and their public roles and achievements. Unfortunately, such works have distorted the history they intended to communicate. This does not mean that all male historiography is false. Much can be learned from these histories, even as the data are expanded and reinterpreted and the preconceptions and assumptions brought to light, challenged, and corrected. Authentic historiography communicates truth insofar as it is grounded in the reality of the past, which must include the history of women as well as that of men. Feminist historiography recognizes the fact that women constituted approximately half the population of every civilization. Therefore, history that does not take the lives of women into account cannot be accurate or complete. Feminist method expands the sources of history by the discovery and collection of new data that contain information about women, and it expands the tools of history to include contributions from other disciplines HE STUDY OF ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS


Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern Law and Society


began in the ancient Near East, a term that designates the geographical areas of western Asia including Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and the Levant." This area has been inhabited continuously from earliest prehistoric times to the present. l The earliest people in ancient Mesopotamia were nomadic hunters and gatherers. In Mesopotamia there were two distinct ecological zones. In the south, prehistoric people could not live by hunting and gathering. The choice of where to settle depended to a great extent on the availability of water. In southern Mesopotamia, people settled near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which were a source of water for irrigation and a highway for trade. Since the rivers flooded before or during the time of crop harvest, the people had to build drainage canals to control the flood waters. Irrigation and drainage systems were well developed by the beginning of the third millennium BeE. The inscriptions of early Sumerian kings demonstrated their pride in building and improving irrigation channels, levees, and canals. As the environment forced the people to work together to construct irrigation systems and drainage canals, they soon began living together in towns. In northern Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, the climate was very different. There was sufficient rainfall so that prehistoric tribes could hunt and gather, and food was plentiful. When they settled on the land, they were able to grow crops without irrigation and IVILIZATION AND ITS HISTORY

* Mesopotamia is a Greek word meaning "between the rivers;' the Tigris and the Euphrates. Today Mesopotamia includes Iraq and parts of western Iran. Asia Minor, called Anatolia in Greek, is the Asian part of modern Turkey. The Levant includes Syria, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine. 1

Part One


in the ancient Near East who left written records were the Sumerians. * There are traces of Sumerian culture before 5000 BCE. The Sumerians had built cities in southern Mesopotamia by 4000. The cities shared the same language, culture, and religion. 1 By the end of the fourth millennium, the Sumerians had developed a system of writing called cuneiform, using wedge-shaped characters made by a reed stylus pressed onto soft clay tablets which were then baked. The Sumerian writing system was sufficiently well developed to transmit complex historical, legal, and literary compositions. The Sumerians were the first civilization to write down their laws. The Sumerian writing system, laws, and legal terminology were later adapted and used by the Babylonians and other ancient Near Eastern peoples. 2 By the third millennium, Sumer had become an urban society, a "civilization," marked by the existence of cities, which had kings, priests, judges, and soldiers, palaces, temples, communal buildings, large houses, and fortifications. * Urban people worked together to produce food, pottery, and textiles for trade. Sumerian cities became city-states, independent of other political entities, although linked to each other by common language, culture, and religion, and linked to foreign states by trade. At various times in their histories, the Sumerian city-states formed alliances, conquered or were conquered by other city-states, and became parts of empires. 3 HE EARLIEST KNOWN PEOPLE

* The name Sumer means "from the south" and designates a place, southern Mesopotamia. The word Sumerian designates a people and a language. The Sumerian language is not related to any known language group. It was spoken through the third millennium BCE, but thereafter only written. Most other ethnic groups in ancient Mesopotamia spoke Semitic languages, including Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. In the Hebrew Bible, Sumer was called Shinar (Genesis 10:10; 11:2-4).


Part Two


comprised the southern part of Mesopotamia. As a political entity, Babylonia was a nation state with its capital at Babylon, which ruled the other cities of southern Mesopotamia, and an empire, which ruled the city-states of northern Mesopotamia as vassals. The history of Babylonia is divided into three very different periods. Old Babylonia was ruled by the Amorite Old Babylonian dynasty. Its sixth king, Hammurabi, conquered the Old Babylonian empire and compiled a collection oflaws that dominated Babylonian legal tradition for centuries. The Middle Babylonian period was a dark age of foreign occupation, which left few written sources. Late Babylonia had strong kings who conquered and ruled an even greater empire, including all of Mesopotamia as well as much of Syria and Canaan. Since the differences are very great, each period must be treated separately. I ABYLONIA AS A GEOGRAPHICAL ENTITY




1595-627 1595-1158 1158-1027 1026-627

Kassites Isin II Assyria LATE BABYLONIA (LB)






(1894-1595 BeE)

By the early second millennium, after the collapse of Ur III and the first dynasty of Isin, Sumer ceased to exist as a power or even as an entity. Amorites who had settled in the fragmented city-states of Sumer had risen to positions of power. At the beginning of the Old Babylonian period, Amorite kings ruled the three most powerful city-states in central and southern Mesopotamia: Larsa, Eshnunna, and Babylon. By 1762, Babylon had conquered Larsa, Eshnunna, and the other cities of Sumer and Akkad and had formed the Old Babylonian empire.


Eshnunna was a small Amorite kingdom in the Diyala valley, located north of Sumer and east of Babylon. It became independent after the fall of Ur III and had its own dynasty of kings during the first quarter of the second millennium. In 1762 the Babylonian king Hammurabi conquered Eshnunna and annexed it to his capital at Babylon. 2 The Laws of Eshnunna were written in the early second millennium. Like the Sumerian laws, the extant copies of the Laws of Eshnunna were written in cuneiform script on clay tablets by later scribes. The lack of order and fragmentary content indicate that these laws were not intended to represent a law code containing all of the laws of Eshnunna, but were a collection of laws dealing with specific subjects. 3 Status of Women

Many of the laws of Eshnunna were about marriage. It is significant that legal marriage required the permission of the bride's mother as well as her father. A valid marriage required a formal written marriage contract between a prospective groom and the bride's father and mother, delivery of marriage gifts by the groom, a nuptial feast, and the transfer of the bride to the house of the groom. If a man took a woman without the permission of her father and mother, with no marriage contract or nuptial feast, even though they lived together in his house for a year or more, it was not a valid marriage and the woman did not have the legal rights and protection of wifehood. 4 When a father accepted marriage gifts from a suitor of his daughter, the couple were considered betrothed. In one case, when the betrothed groom arrived to claim his bride, he found that her father had given her to someone




SSYRIA DERIVED ITS NAME from the ancient city-state of Asshur, located on the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia. There had been agricultural settlements in the region since 6000 BCE. Towns and cities developed much later. The Old Assyrian I period was very different from subsequent Assyrian history. The dominant population consisted of a merchant middle class. There were laws and a system for the administration of justice, and women had full legal rights. In the Old Assyrian II, Middle Assyrian, and Late Assyrian periods, kings were warriors and builders. Middle and Late Assyrian kings built magnificent cities, palaces, and temples, conquered other cities and states, and created a great empire. The middle and late periods of Assyrian history were predominantly a history of conquest and construction, the achievements of men. Women were, for the most part, irrelevant in Assyrian imperial history.


2000-1814 1814-1762 1363-1057 934-612

Old Assyria I (OA I) Old Assyria II (OA II) Middle Assyria (MA) Late Assyria (LA)


I (2000-1814)

The Old Assyria I period began in the second half of the third millennium and lasted through the nineteenth century BCE. At that time Asshur was still a small 119

Part Four


HE HITTITES WERE AN INDO-EUROPEAN PEOPLE who migrated from the north into Asia Minor in the third millennium BeE. During the second millennium, the Hittite kingdom, Khatti, grew powerful, conquered other Anatolian city-states, and unified much of Asia Minor. In 2000, its capital was Kanish, a trading center with a large colony of Assyrian merchants. The trade brought peace and economic prosperity; the destruction of Kanish brought economic collapse and wars. Later, the capital was rebuilt at Khattusha, one of the few places in Asia Minor that had water all year. The Hittites ventured into Mesopotamia and conquered Babylon in 1595. The Hittites did not annex their conquests or impose Hittite culture on them. Geographically, Khatti was a bridge between southwest Asia and Europe. Despite their proximity to the Mediterranean and the contemporary Minoan and Mycenean Greek civilizations, in commerce and conquest, the Hittites were more involved with the lands and trade routes of southwest Asia.! Khatti was ruled by a king. The Hittites believed that the gods gave them a king to be their shepherd. The ideal king would show compassion, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. The king was the high priest and acted as the mediator between the gods and the people. The king was also the chief judge, who heard capital cases, complex cases, and appeals. As high priest, the king had to be ritually pure to offer sacrifice. As judge, he had to avoid any contact with offenders who had committed crimes involving pollution. Kings claimed to be representatives of the god of justice, beloved and protected by the god. Khatti was a military society, and kings were commanders in chief of the army. Khatti had a standing professional army, and, in addition, the king could call up his feudal tenants and the men of his vassal states for military service. After their deaths, Hittite kings-and sometimes their queens-were deified and cults were established to worship them. 2 Hittite society was feudal. It was believed that the gods owned all the land.


Chronology and Names






Enkhegal Ur-Nanshe

c.2710 c.2540


Ninusu Abda

Eannatum Enannatum I Entemena Enannatum II Enetarzi Lugalanda


Ashume'eren Ninkhilisug


Dimtur Baranamtara







Meskalamdug Akalamdug Mesannepada

1\ annepadad Meskiagnuna Annane Meskiag-Nanna Elulu Balulu

Puabi (queen) Ashusikidilgir Nin-banda (queen, wife) Nin-Tur Gansamannu


Geme-Bau Geme-Nanshe Mishaqa Geme-Bau Gemetarsirsir


The following abbreviations of collections of laws and chronological periods are used in the notes:


Chronological Periods

Edict of King Ammisaduqa Hittite Laws Late Babylonian Laws Laws of Eshnunna Laws of Hammurabi Laws of Lipit -Ishtar Laws ofUr-Nammu Laws of X Middle Assyrian Laws Middle Assyrian Palace Decrees Sumerian Laws Exercise Tablet Sumerian Laws Handbook of Forms








Early Dynastic Lagash II UrIII Isin I Old Babylonia New Babylonia Late Babylonia Old Assyria Middle Assyria Late Assyria Old Hittite Hittite Empire


1. The term ancient Near East, which could more accurately be called "ancient southwest Asia;' is used in this work to refer to the continent of Asia and does not include the ancient civilization of Egypt in North Africa. The geographical area also includes Arabia and Persia/Iran. This work focuses on Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. 2. The first settlements, which were isolated and produced only food, appeared from 9000 to 6000 BeE, and the movement into towns, which produced nonfood commodities, including pottery, took place from 6000 to 3200. Much of this period was a time of peace and stability. Hans J. Nissen, The Early History of the Ancient Near East: 9000-2000 B.c., 40,43. Amelie Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East: C. 3000-330 B.c., 1:6-7, 12-14, 19-21,23-26. Christopher Eyre, "The Agricultural Cycle, Farming and Water Management;' in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ed. Sasson, 1:175, 177, 180-86. Karl Butzer, "Environmental Change in the Near East and Human Impact on the Land," in ibid., 1:136-37, 142-45. Jerrold S. Cooper, Presargonic Inscriptions, 24-29, nos. 1.6, 1.9, 1.17, 1.20 (Ur-Nanshe); 33-39, 42-43, nos. 3.1, 3.6 (Eannatum); 66-67, no. 5.26 (Enmetena also built a reservoir). All three were kings of Lagash I. Marc Van De Mieroop notes that the two distinct ecological zones also became distinct cultural zones (The Ancient

Mesopotamian City, 8). 3. Jerrold S. Cooper, "Third Millennium Mesopotamia;' in Women's Earliest Records, ed. Lesko, 47-51. Denise Schmandt-Besserat, "An Ancient Token System: The Precursor to Numbers


Photo Credits

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. lO. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

1. M. Tetlow HIP/Art Resource, NY National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Museum, University of Pennsylvania, CBS 16665 Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Reunion des Musees Nationaux, Art Resource, NY Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq Museum, University of Pennsylvania, B 16229 HIP/Art Resource, NY National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY National Museum of Archaeology, Baghdad, Iraq Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY Werner Forman/Art Resource, NY



Abusch, 1. Tzvi. Babylonian Witchcraft Literature. Brown Judaic Studies 132. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. Abusch, Tzvi, John Huehnergard, Piotr Steinkeller, eds. Lingering Over Words:

Studies in Ancient Near Eastern Literature in Honor of William L. Moran. Harvard Semitic Studies 37. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990. Albenda, Pauline. "Woman, Child, and Family: Their Imagery in Assyrian Art." In La Femme dans Ie Proche-Orient Antique, edited by Jean-Marie Durand, 17-21. Compte rendu de la xxxiii Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Paris, 1986). Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1987. Allison, Penelope, ed. The Archaeology ofHousehold Activities. London: Routledge, 1999. Amiet, Pierre. Art of the Ancient Near East. New York: Abrams, 1980. Aruz, Joan, ed. Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B. C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. Asher-Greve, Julia M. Frauen in altsumerischer Zeit. Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 18. Malibu, Calif.: Undena, 1985. - - - . "Decisive Sex, Essential Gender." In Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East: Proceedings of the 47th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Helsinki, July 2-6, 2001, edited by S. Parpola and R. M. Whiting. Compte rendu, Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale 47. Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 2002. - - - . "The Oldest Female Oneiromancer." In La Femme dans Ie Proche-Orient Antique, edited by Jean-Marie Durand, 27-32. Compte rendu de la xxxiii Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Paris, 1986). Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1987. Bahrani, Zainab. Women of Babylon: Gender and Representation in Mesopotamia. London: Routledge, 2001. Barton, George R., ed. and trans. The Royal Inscriptions of Sumer and Akkad. American Oriental Society. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929. Batto, Bernard Frank. Studies on Women at Mari. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.


Index of Personal Names

A'abba, 247, 248 Abda, 20, 38, 253 Abi-eshu,264 Abi-Simti, 22, 246 Abidala, 156,292 Abikhali, 153 Abilikhiya, 156, 157,290 Abirakhi, 156, 158,292 Abirami, 151,288 Abishamshi, 89 Abiyakhiya, 156,292 Abshalim, 123 Adad-guppi,104 Adad-talli,292 Adda-ti, 152,291 Addu-duri, 87, 269 Agargarutu,272 Agatima,29 Akalam, 38, 253 Akbara, 153 Akhakha, 123 Akhassunu, 83 Akhatabisha, 147, 155-57, 159, 162,29294 Akhati'imma, 156,293 Akhatitabat, 156,292-93 Akhatum, 75, 78,83,87,121 Akhitalli, 152,291 Akhu'a, 292 Alhapimepi, 54, 154, 156,292 Alibashti, 28 Alitum,78

Amadugga,88,269 Amakata,29 Amalal, 250 Amanili, 23, 246 Amar-Sin ofUr, 10,22,246,252 Amasukkal,76 Amat-Kurra, 158 Amat-Shamash, 82, 90, 92-94 Amat-Sin, 22, 246 Amata, 106,276 Ammisaduqa of Babylonia, 93, 263, 265 Ana'a,37 Anadalati, 152 Anitti,195 Anniwiyani, 192, 305 Apillatum, 245 Apirtum,78 Arbail-khammat, 158 Arbail-sharrat, 156, 158,292-93 Arnabum, 82 Arzakiti 1, 92 Asa, 292 Ashag,28 Ashmu-Nikkal, 191-92,305 Ashume'eren, 20, 38, 245, 253 Ashumiyalibur, 89 Ashusikidilgir, 20, 37, 253 Atalia, 147 Attar-palti, 152 Aya-kala, 251 Aya-la,88 Aya-reshat, 265


Index of Places

Adab,6 AJdkad, 6, 7, 20,23-24 Aleppo, 84 Asshur, 53, 83, 119-20, 152

Lagash,6,8-10,20-23,26,29,38 Larsa, 6, 8, 24-25, 31, 34-35,48, 53 11ari,21, 23, 58, 83-84,89-92,95-96, 125

Babylon, 48, 53-54, 104, 146, 148, 159 Borsippa, 32

Nimrud (Kalkhu), 100, 152, 155 Nineveh, 53, 100, 148, 152, 154-55, 15859,169,175 Nippur,6, 11,28,35,38, 159, 162

Eridu,6 Eshnunna, 47, 48-52, 53, 83-84 Girsu,6

Shuruppak, 6 Sippar, 6,11,24,74,79-83,92-93,264

Harran,59 Terqa,85,87-88,280 Isin,6, 15-18,21,24-25,31, 35, 38 Kanish, 120-123, 177,279 Karana,83,88-91,94 Khattusha, 178, 189 Kish, 6-7, 20, 26, 38

Umma, 21, 29, 37-38 Ur, 6-7,10-14,20-24,29,37-38,99,104, 159 Uruk, 6-7, 23-24, 26


Index of Subjects

abortion, 137-38, 174, 198 abuse of power, 9,161 adoption, 56, 81-2, 106, 78,264-65,276 adultery, 9, 13, 14,32,34,36,41,51,63, 64,65,69,71,95, 111-12, 135-36, 184,244,261-62,282,284 Amorites, 7-8, 22, 31, 33, 34-5, 37, 42, 48, 53, 97, 83, 114, 124, 130, 171-73, 209-11,240,251,263,267,279 assault and battery, 13, 19,41,50,62,113, 135,181-82,187,202-3

257,261-63,274,279,282,286,302, 307 deport/deportation, 126, 146, 156, 161, 170,171,287 distraint, 32, 50, 85, 113 divorce, 11-12, 18,27-28,35,49,56,58, 66, 76, 93, 96,104, 113, 122, 124, 129,260,173,180,188 dowry, 11, 16,27,30,35,40,41,57,7677, 82, 86, 109, 129, 180, 188, 209, 250,267,279,297,301

battery causing miscarriage, 17-19, 132, 133,173,182-83,263,303 blasphemy, 135, 144, 174, 193, 198, 283 bribery, 74


child sacrifice, 166, 175,296 collective punishment, 64,140,160,175, 186,196-99,200-202,206-7,297 corporal mutilation, 9, 33, 42, 68, 70, 72, 73,9~ 112, 132, 13~ 139, 141, 16~ 169,171,174-75,186,187,197,199, 202,212,242,262-63,284,298,303 cuneiform, 5, 8, 54, 178, 280, 299 death penalty/capital punishment, 12, 13-14,17-18,36,51,52,60,63,6466, 67, 68-69, 71, 73, 96-97, 112, 114, 124, 130, 135, 139, 165, 169, 174-75,186,199,201,206,215,217,

accusation, 12-13, 14, 17,41,62,66, 69, 91-92, 96, 132, 140, 143, 160, 201,244,262,282 flogging, 63, 72, 134, 139, 143, 162, 174, 214,283 harem, 85, 125, 142-46, 151, 161, 168, 174,268,284,287,290,304 honor/dishonor, 65, 69,71,72,262,265 human sacrifice, 38-39, 254 impale, 34, 68,71, 114, 138,261,297 incest, 60-61, 64, 113, 183-84, 188, 201, 262,284,303 inherit, 16, 101-2, 109, Ill, 121, 128, 279-80 justice, 11, 15, 19-20,40,54-55,177,207, 210,258,299