Babylonians and Assyrians: Life and Customs by Archibald Henry Sayce

By Archibald Henry Sayce

This Elibron Classics e-book is a facsimile reprint of a 1900 variation through Charles Scribner's Sons, ny.

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The white slaves brought from Kurdistan and the north were especially prized. Thus in the reign of Ammi-Zadok, the fourth successor of Khammurabi, some “white Kurdish slaves” were sold for 3 homers and 24⅔ qas of oil, which were valued at 20⅔ shekels, and in the time of his son Samsu-ditana “a white slave” from Suri or Northern Mesopotamia fetched as much as 20 shekels, or £3. The earliest code of Sumerian laws known to us takes the slave under its protection. It assumes the principle that the life of the slave is not absolutely at his master's disposal, and enacts that, if the slave is killed, beaten, maimed, or injured in health, the hand that has so offended shall pay each day a measure of wheat.

But disputes frequently arose over the division, and the members of the family went to law with one another. In such cases it became the custom to place the whole of the property in the hands of the priests of the city-temple, who thus corresponded to the English Court of Chancery, and made the division as they judged best. The results, however, were not always satisfactory, and it was doubtless in order to avoid both the litigation and the necessity of appointing executors who were not members of the [pg 043] family, that the will came to play so important a part in the succession to property.

A knowledge of the cuneiform syllabary necessitated also a knowledge of the language of the Sumerians, who had been its inventors, and it frequently happened that a group of characters which had expressed a Sumerian word was retained in the later script with the pronunciation of the corresponding Semitic word attached to them, though the latter had nothing to do with the phonetic values of the several signs, whether pronounced singly or as a whole. The children, however, must have been well taught.

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