By John Sassoon
Provocatively juxtaposes written legislation from 4000 years in the past with ultra-modern.
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Extra resources for Ancient Laws and Modern Problems: The Balance Between Justice and a Legal System
Conscription for survival or defence is probably older than the city and, though it raises ethical problems for the modern world in particular cases, the principle is still generally accepted and widely applied – and not only in a military context. It is not called slavery. In Sumer, slaves were a minority, largely foreign and probably more women than men. Only a small number were Sumerian. The most common source of female slaves was Gutian girls captured from their homes in the Zagros mountains during raids launched for that purpose.
Theft by itself was a crime that Hammurabi treated with great severity, and one for which the seignior regularly faced a death penalty, where less privileged citizens faced only ﬁnes. In Hammurabi’s laws, what constituted a crime was the same for everyone but often the privileged classes faced a more severe penalty than those of lower status. Now, here is Atu nodding agreement at Hammurabi’s intention if not at 45 ANCIENT LAWS AND MODERN PROBLEMS his penalty because, in an enclosed city, thieves running free are a threat to public order and to society itself.
It is a disturbing curiosity that the more cruel the form the more likely it is to be, at least relatively, modern. In Sumer, slavery seems to have been a minority status used mainly for service in the home or around the property. The great public works, such as maintaining the irrigation systems or the city walls, were undertaken by the forced, but paid labour, of free citizens. Conscription for survival or defence is probably older than the city and, though it raises ethical problems for the modern world in particular cases, the principle is still generally accepted and widely applied – and not only in a military context.
Ancient Laws and Modern Problems: The Balance Between Justice and a Legal System by John Sassoon