After The Me as Sumerian Law

After the Me came Sumerian Law

The Sumerians invented case laws that covered the problems in society. In this essay we look at woman's position in Sumerian and Babylonian society according to the laws. That is not the whole story and should be completed with myths and love songs.

The Me, Sumerian Law, Inanna ritual, Enki, Mother Invention, Ninhursag, Ninmah, Naked Moon Goddess, Ishtar, Eridu, Uruk, Time Law, Urukagina, Sargon, Urnammu, Hammurabi, Babylon, Akkad, Hebrew - Christian, Ezekiel, Gods Sister, slave, maid, Minoan, Sparta, Assyrian society,

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The Me as law in Archaic Times

One of my readers asked me about the rights and position of women in Sumerian society. Hard to give precise answer since there were differences in culture in the city states before the bigger states such as Babylon. They have found nine myths at cuneiform tablets and we know of more variants. The time span is from fourth millennium and maybe earlier to the official "dead" of Sumer around 1700 BC. We have to use the Babylonian Law of Hammurabi to understand the earlier Sumerian Law.

I have on my site reconstructed the biological myth manifested in Inanna ritual tied to the season. The late urban Sumerians wrote the myths. Before that for long the continuous priesthood carried out the rituals and tied it to the temple's land and people. Other people followed the lead. They are written as very suggestive songs. Surely people where woven into the mystery as soon as they listened.

Even we forget that Inanna is an animated idol of rain/ water that carries fertility. She became role model of agriculture and invention. It is like she being in another room doing things and getting people to work. We imagine her beauty and she tells about her dress at the same time as she sings "Come man, come!" Inanna's living myth was carried out at the spring festival but also monthly feast and maybe some in between. That kept it all in use and memory

Another thing is that we can not use nomenclature and frames of our time and neither of the later lawful age we know.

The megalith monuments beginning with dolmens and moon wheels already in 5th millennium and followed by passage graves in 4th millennium they surely manifest "The Naked Moon Goddess going beneath". The idol symbolised the fertility of rain and the myths about this is simply animating and analysing the process in Underworld that is resurrection of the corn/ plants.

Later with city culture the practical meaning of the myth faded away in pace with people/ temples loosing the contact with agriculture. For long it was like in medieval times when most people had their farming besides the profession. But in town the human relation become the agenda ... quarrel at the washing place. Former specialised idols got married and got family tree as real persons and their relations make patterns the society needs. The upper class know the myths and they dress and behave like the idols and the reset of the people is supposed to follow …and they follow … I never followed Elvis since I sing too loudly.

We can call it Archaic Age when the Sumerian literature tells about Enki, "the first on Earth" and Mothers of Invention and especially Ninhursag "gave things name" and Nimah "tried out the use". Enki is the creator and there are some poems telling the World Order and the practical thing humankind needed in society. It was a process of nearly natural kind and the poems seem to be from the second half of 3rd millennium. There is some metaphors and logic that is not so clear for us. As usually intercourse was the normal method of inventing things and that metaphor is still living. There were more "sisters" and we see that woman was the other part creation

We need the poetry to compress what they saw as early history of mankind. The Sumerians were specialists in written myths even the child could understand. The Me were only words but the rituals and songs gave the explanations and model for life during the Ritual Ages and a bit later.

Surely the woman status corresponded to that if we can believe in written words. There are signs that the women in Elam/ Persia were owners of the homes. In 4th millennium Susa was maybe the dominating part of the area in southern Mesopotamia between the Zagros Mountains and the desert in west. They traded with Egypt at that time. At least we have the best archaeology from Susa but only several hundred years before Eridu, Ur and Uruk. So I am simplifying in connecting Elam to Sumer but they were much alike as far as we know yet.

Depending on the digging activity the literature of the city-states Eridu and Uruk dominates. Inanna of Uruk became the dominating female idol used also in northern Mesopotamia, but observe that Ishtar is not quite the same in Babylon. The use was slightly diverging in time. In parallel and time we see the idol on Scandinavian rock-carvings. Inanna is often mentioned together with her sister Ereshkigal that has some separate myths.

Their heavenly incarnations were the New Moon and Venus with the rosette and a star as symbols. That counts for Sumerian times until Babylonians around 1700 BC. Babylonian Ishtar should be compared with Ereshkigal/ Venus and she was the Lady of War. Variants of these such as Astarte were also worshipped in the Levant and some temples were founded in Egypt too. The male dominance increased in time and reached its height in the Assyrian period in middle last millennium BC.

The Me belongs to the Inanna myth since she "stole" them from Enki in Eridu according to the myth. Neither gods nor human are allowed to steal (or rape) and that is why the writer of the myth dramatises the story. Now it is better to remember that the story is myth and fiction and that deities do not do things.

Somehow the Elders' Council in the town Uruk got the Order of Society from Eridu and build the temple of Inanna as symbol act and ritual monument…. See the Inanna lured the boys. We have to keep in memory that she was fertility of rain and water as well as idol/ role model for the town. It is a very clever myth merging all the motifs needed to get things done.

Since the town of Uruk worshipped the female idol the status of women were high. From the myths we learn that gods/ role models were punished for rape. To get something from Underworld a pledge was needed such as Inanna's sister Ereshkigal in some myths and Dumuzi in others to keep the balance.

The Me is just a collection of words that are like a law "for Heaven and Earth". Heaven was the abstract ideas and role models and on Earth humankind carried out the reel deeds as legs/ tools of the idols. We have to know Sumerian society to explain the meaning and use of the Me. They are written in the pure Ritual Age when the rules of living were attached to the idol/ role models. Some of the ideas we understand and others not. In Mesopotamia there were several moon gods by name but by function much the same. They are generally judge among the gods and that follows surely from the first time law was lead by the moon during season.

Here is one version of the Me by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. The scribe seems to have written it down in the order he remembered all the important things in society. Observe the original was amendment to the myth and should be dated before 3000 BC:

He gave me the high priesthood,


The noble, enduring crown,

The throne of kingship.

He gave me the noble scepter,

The staff,

The holy measuring rod and line,

The high throne,



He gave me the princess priestess,

The divine queen priestess,

The incantation priest,

The noble priest,

The libations priest.

He gave me truth,

Descent into the underworld,

Ascent from the underworld,

The kurgarra.

He gave me the dagger and sword,

The black garment,

The colorful garment,

The loosening of the hair,

The binding of the hair.

He gave me the standard,
The quiver,
The art of lovemaking,
The kissing of the phallus,
The art of prostitution,
The art of speeding.

He gave me the art of forthright speech,
The art of slanderous speech,

The art of adorning speech,

The cult prostitute,

The holy tavern.

He gave me the holy shrine,
The holy priestess of heaven,
The resounding musical instrument,
The art of song,
The art of the elder.

He gave me the art of the hero,
The art of power,
The art of treachery,
The art of straightforwardness,
The plundering of cities,
The setting up of lamentations,
The rejoicing of the heart.

He gave me deceit,
The rebellious land,
The art of kindness,
The secure dwelling place.

He gave me the craft of the woodworker,
The craft of the copper worker,
The craft of the scribe,
The craft of the smith,
The craft of the leather maker,
The craft of the fuller,
The craft of the builder,
The craft of the reed worker.

He gave me the perceptive ear,

The power of attention,

The holy purification rites,

The feeding pen,

The heaping up of hot coals,

The sheepfold,




He gave me the bitter-toothed lion,
The kindling of fire,
The putting out of fire,
The weary arm,
The assembled family,

He gave me the kindling of strife,
The giving of judgments,
The making of decisions.

And I said, "I TAKE THAT!"

… and the making of beer! Inanna likes beer. She sits at the god table with the beer in the face of Leo after the harvest according to the song ... That would be the harvest beer / feast in my younger days.

In most ancient cultures the ritual was lead for daily life. The priesthood was more important than kingship = Lugal = Big Man and that means the worldly leader. Staff for the shepherd and rod and line used to measure fields … until our days. Doing the hair when the priestess prepare for tempting boys to work. They were clever those old Sumerians!

I am not so sure that we should use the word "prostitute" and would replace it with "God's sister" or worldly "stand in" for Inanna in temples and practical rituals. Observe that rape and intercourse outside marriage was not allowed. Ritual intercourse was for the priesthood and maybe for the upper class. Science have to define that better.

Behind all these Me there were unwritten rules of practice. Obviously, the Sumerian way is based on doing what is right and good -- as opposed to what is allowed by law and/or society. They lived in the name of the goddess and it was natural to obey the rules of the good/ god society. In a way it seems blue-eyed to us since this kind of law trusts in kindness of humankind. As we see from the list of Me the Sumerians were aware of the weaknesses of mankind and that there are destructive forces in life. I suggest they thought that positive attitude should balance out and prevent the destructive forces.

Some music instruments gusilim, lilis, ub, mesi and ala are Sumerian names mentioned as Me. They were symbolising important things in the ritual that led the people in pace with moon and agriculture. That means spring festival and harvest feast. Most important was the spring and sowing ritual, but there seem to have been monthly rituals to keep people on line so to speak. They were hyper rational and used the sowing ritual in the beginning also at funeral since they thought of resurrection. That was behind the grave rituals in Egypt and in periods in other cultures.

Below we look at the woman's place by law. We have to read the Inanna's myths and all the love songs if we want to understand Sumerian women. Naturally these songs from late Sumerian times are written by the upper class. However Sumerians were thinkers and deep feeling people so the literature reflects the mind of the Sumerian woman. At the same time it is tied to nature and fertility of going beneath and resurrects by growing. That means also that the hulls dies in Underworld and we throwaway much and keep the seed. It become painful once we animate the process with humanlike idols.

Sumerians knew the double aspect of life with building forces as well as destructive forces. It starts when we eat and transform killed food to energy. We see the same in Nordic symbolism of first millennium AD as entwined serpents. Life has day and night, summer and winter and we can not think anything away. The Hebrew - Christian analysis have the impossible dream of denying one half of life.


Sumerian laws

The Moon or Time Law was the ritual law and "crime" against that was some thing for the priesthood. Upon the earth, the king holds responsibility for the law; he is the chief justice, the final court of appeal, and where necessary, the lawgiver. The kings is later development and before that maybe the Elders' Court were judges in worldly things

Like in early medieval laws the codes were "domas" /case-judgement given when problem rises and kept in memory by the local court or law-reader.

There was no universal term for law in the Ancient Orient. Sumerian "Di" or Akkadian "Dinu" designates the legal case, the legal decision and the process itself. Nì-si-sá = misaru refers to justice as the highest good, which is supplemented by nì-gin-na = kittu "constancy", "integrity". All of the gods were responsible for the protection of law and justice. The sun god Utu/Shamash was preeminent in this regard. In the strict sense, there is no merely secular law, but only religious law, so that the decisions pertaining to trade may have carried far less weight than more central legal tenets.

We have two cases of "highest judge". The Sun because the court were in pace with timetable of sun, i.e. quarters of the year. In Scandinavian we have also the trisected moon year that gave three terms of court of different character. The autumn court have for many thousand years been the "law court"

Oldest find of Sumerian Law of Urnammu 2095 - 2047 BC

Society is a matter of ongoing process up to the development of labour and industry and the growth of population. All cultures in history follow mostly the same pattern of growth and bureaucracy. Laws are not invented out of head but they are founded from common practice with the aim to keep everything going in peace in society

Normally they tell that Babylonian Hammurabi was the first to make law. That is surely not right but he was the first we know to codify common law. Urukagina's Code- 2350 BC is mentioned in other documents as a consolidation of existing "ordinances" or laws laid down by Mesopotamian rulers. An administrative reform document was discovered which showed that citizens were allowed to know why certain actions were punished. Thieves and adulteresses were to be stoned to death with stones inscribed with the name of their crime.

We cannot have any moral opinions as valuation as long as dead penalty is practised in USA for instance. We have not much to be proud of as a whole. We should also remember that crime or breaking laws is not the normal state in society. As pointed out above the texts we have tell about general kindness and the punishments were just warnings.

The code confirmed that the "Lugal (priestking) was appointed by the gods". Urukagina seem to have been the first to take the power role of the virtual idol … (even that belongs to the pattern of development. In Rome Augustus was the first to tell people that he is god begotten. The Pope told king Nils in Denmark early 12th century that kingdom is given by God)

We see the new order in monuments and seals of the following Sargon and his son Naram Sin. They took the worldly power and in that follows that they became the highest judge. Before that the Elders Council solved the problems in society. In some of the city states Elders Council counted 50 members. I would guess that in small settlements there were 7 - 13 members.

Ur-Nammu's (or maybe his sons) Code 2050 BC have originally less than 47 codes/ paragraphs and it is in poor shape so only a few could be read fully. Archaeological evidence shows that it was supported by an advanced legal system which included specialised judges, the giving of testimony under oath, the proper form of judicial decisions and the ability of the judges to order that damages be paid to a victim by the guilty party. The Code allowed for the dismissal of corrupt men, protection for the poor and a punishment system where the punishment is proportionate to the crime.

These early laws are city laws with the problems of relations between people. The Laws here in my province the geographical centre of Europe shows the normal case in small settlements. Maybe the Law of Brotherhood at Haugsbyn was meant for surrounding settlements in the river system but not for more than few hundred people. Surprisingly the law should be dated to the same time 2300 - 2000 BC as the laws were written in Sumer. Here it is connected with mission for agriculture, copper searching and wedge tombs. We can say we have the oldest rostrum and oldest law in Europe … here in the middle of Europe.

The main part is the seasonal rituals and the rules were tied to the events and kept in memory. We can clearly recognise the marriage code that included the merge of cultivators and cattlemen. That is like the marriage of Inanna and Dumuzi in Sumer. The ritual "take hands" was used in this province until the church took final power in 18th century AD. There was also the general protection rule "Do not tramp the Naked" and the law was given in the name of The Naked Lady


Comment on Hammurabi's law codes

Stela with the law of Hammurabi. We understand the wisdom of writing in stone gae us the law in the precise text of those days

When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth.

Then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.

The introduction is much longer than this. He lists all the gods = leading ideas and concepts creating Babylon and Akkad and Sumer are mentioned separately. Hammurabi around 1700 BC termed his individual laws "cases of justice". That is just what we call common law based on experience that was settled in pace with the problem rises. Much later they codified law into sections as in Swedish law in partitions separated by "beams"

In Hammurabi's 282 case laws include economic provisions (prices, tariffs, trade, and commerce), family law (marriage and  divorce), as well as criminal law (assault, theft) and civil law (slavery, debt). Penalties varied according to the status of the offenders and the circumstances of the offences.

The background of the code is a body of Sumerian law under which civilised communities had lived for many centuries. The existing text is in the Akkadian (Semitic) language; but, even though no Sumerian version is known to survive, the code was meant to be applied to all parts of Mesopotamia. We can notice the step between the small courts of elders and the established judges in town as for instance in these codes:

3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.

5. If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case. And he shall be publicly removed from the judge's bench, and never again shall he sit there to render judgement.

6. If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.

Now let us look at woman's situation in Mesopotamia according to the Babylonian law that was using existing parts of elder Sumerian laws. Codes 127 - 187 of the 282 codes are for the protection of woman and indirectly of the child. The normal dowry was assurance for "child food" in case mother was left alone and the children inherited her. Her sons inherited her and daughters got dowry. With no children the dowry was passed back to her brothers.

137. If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.

138. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.

139. If there was no purchase price he shall give her one mina of gold as a gift of release.

140. If he be a freed man he shall give her one-third of a mina of gold.

Buy a bride and get her dowry or let her come with the dowry. Here we see two cases of marriage that we also see in medieval times on Dal. It is always depending on wealth and type of authority within the family. The family or the in some cases the patriarch arranged the marriage. Often they wrote marriage contract on the betrothal and that was official after the bridegroom gave the gift. The fathers arranged bride price in such cases.

It was surely like medieval Dal where the rich farmer on the best farmland arranged marriages in that way. The ritual was "handtake" already around 2300 BC and that is the same gesture they used making affairs. It was a kind of making alliances between farmers. In the other part of the county the new pair travelled around and "asked for gifts to the new home" and if they got people was welcome to the feast. That copied the spring ritual we know since Bronze Age. In my young days the "Bride suite" at spring were made in same way as the wedding suite.

The woman could own property, do affairs and be witness. The dowry belonged to the wife and was social security for her in any case. I think that it was a question if the husband could afford to pay a mina = ca 500 gram gold in case of divorce. I would say that there was delegation of job and role in families like in most societies with origin in farming. In general man and woman were equal in the relations however the second wife was not equal with the first.

... I remember my young days in countryside where the father arranged often the marriages. The youngsters reached lawful age at 21 and often the father was the manager of the money even when youngsters got work outside the home farm. Such things are always individual practice in families.

142. If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: "You are not congenial to me," the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father's house.

143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.

144. If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant, and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.

145. If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.

We have to understand the cases of social security that protected the weak and the children. In several codes we see that the wife was responsible for the house and if he misused the thrust she could end in the river. There was the difference that man owned the house and often even the children since he could sell them to slavery like the patriarchs in Rome. In our times we would maybe say that slavery meant employment were the seller of the slave got the profit.

148. If a man take a wife, and she be seized by disease, if he then desire to take a second wife he shall not put away his wife, who has been attacked by disease. But he shall keep her in the house which he has built and support her so long as she lives.

149. If this woman does not wish to remain in her husband's house, then he shall compensate her for the dowry that she brought with her from her father's house, and she may go.

150. If a man give his wife a field, garden, and house and a deed therefor, if then after the death of her husband the sons raise no claim, then the mother may bequeath all to one of her sons whom she prefers, and need leave nothing to his brothers.

The responsibility was on the father, brothers or master of house. The dowry was returned to the house in appropriate cases. That was because it was good to keep property intact and it was all about social security. In some societies maybe the Queen of House kept together the security and property. Probably widows owned 10 % of the estates since they took over when the man died or was gone in war.

162. If a man marry a woman, and she bear sons to him; if then this woman die, then shall her father have no claim on her dowry; this belongs to her sons.

163. If a man marry a woman and she bear him no sons; if then this woman die, if the "purchase price" which he had paid into the house of his father-in-law is repaid to him. Her husband shall have no claim upon the dowry of this woman; it belongs to her father's house.

164. If his father-in-law do not pay back to him the amount of the "purchase price" he may subtract the amount of the "Purchase price" from the dowry, and then pay the remainder to her father's house.

Some rules are protecting normal behaviour

154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).

155. If a man betroth a girl to his son, and his son have intercourse with her, but he (the father) afterward defile her, and be surprised, then he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).

156. If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father's house. She may marry the man of her heart.

157. If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.

158. If any one be surprised after his father with his chief wife, who has borne children, he shall be driven out of his father's house


The Hebrew and Christian ideologies can not compete in wisdom with the Old Sumerian World Order. They are still today like children at the feet of the "Old Sumerian". The Hebrew - Christian view on Sumer - Babylonian culture and ideas have since the days of Moses been that only Moses have the right to tell righteousness and that all others have wrong worldview. He declared war on his neighbours.

Especially Ezekiel did his best to lampoon Babylon. It was maybe natural those days when he was prisoner in Babylon and the Hebrew wanted to conquer the world. The king of Tyre and the king of Babylon are treated, as the "agents" of Lucifer who subverted the world like musical prostitutes for their own commercial profit. Still the Hebrew got most of their ideas from Sumer in second hand. The sad thing is that there has been no rethinking since those days. The war is still going on and even Christians lampoon Sumerian/ Babylonian law myths and ideas. That affects many historians even today when we are guaranteed freedom of opinion.

I suppose the "Old Sumerian" roll around in their graves and laugh at today's "children" misusing the world and not understanding the wisdom of real humanity. It pays to neglect the laws of the ancient gods = ideas and difficulties follow wrongdoing.

Under these laws, a woman could be divorced on virtually any grounds: if man had no intercourse, childlessness, adultery, and even poor household management. For example, one of the rules states, "If she have not been a careful mistress, have gadded about, have neglected her house, and have belittled her husband or children, they shall throw that woman into the water." All the husband need do to obtain a divorce was say, "Thou art not my wife," and return her dowry. That is today's feminist view to look negatively on such codes, I think. You see what you want to see.

However, a wife who used these words against her husband would be drowned. A woman could not divorce her husband, but she could leave him if she could prove that her husband had no intercourse or has been cruel and that she had been faithful, and then simply return to her parents' home with her dowry. A wronged husband was free to kill his wife and her lover

127. If any one "point the finger" (slander) at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)

128. If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.

129. If a man's wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

130. If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father's house, and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.

131. If a man bring a charge against one's wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.

132. If the "finger is pointed" at a man's wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for her husband.

134. If any one be captured in war and there is not sustenance in his house, if then his wife go to another house this woman shall be held blameless.

It is not supposed that man or woman should break the "contract" and that is not the normal state. The code about misused marriage reflects the problems at the time of the law. In general the codes about relations are much the same as we can read from the practice here on Dal in 17th century AD. On paper whore meant dead for both of them, however it could be transferred to fines in size of "mansbot" = fine for murder. In case of youngsters they tried the best to get them together and protect the eventual child.

There were limits to the power of man

154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).

155. If a man betroth a girl to his son, and his son have intercourse with her, but he (the father) afterward defile her, and be surprised, then he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).

The Hammurabi Law is exclusive since it is about ordinary people. Normally academic researchers can only find the means and manners of the upper class. As always the upper class does as it wishes, and lowest class what they are allowed to and in the middle we have "people under law" and laws increases with urbanisation and population growth.

In Sumer - Babylon we have the concept "Gods Sister" that were priestesses and temple maids serving in the rituals. This originate earlier than 3000 BC when they created for instance Inanna's temple and the rituals of marriage according to the myths. I think the western investigators have not got the truth about these and they want to see these as prostitutes since they were not really married to anyone. The westerners could have some Christian bias too, I think.

Often young girls worked in the temples as housekeepers or as concubines to the earthly representatives of the gods. Fathers were proud to have their daughters serving religion in this way. Their superiors would observe it. They would mark their daughters' entry into temple life with a ceremonial sacrifice and bestow the girls' marriage dowries to the temple The priestesses annually participated in the Sacred Marriage by impersonating or representing the goddess Inanna. The basis for the ritual of the Sacred Marriage was the belief that fertility of the land and of people depended on the celebration of the sexual power of the fertility goddess

Lowest class were slaves and maids. It is not clear how we should define their position and they could be freed after three years. We can not use our idea of "slave" and have to make the concept wider. Some were prisoner of war; others were without "houseless" as they said in medieval times; it could be punishment or for debt; the parents could sell their children for three years and they were not free labourers. However they could own and loan money and do business and pay to be free. A slaves "value" was 1/10 and a freed man's 1/3 of the free men.

175. If a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry the daughter of a free man, and children are born, the master of the slave shall have no right to enslave the children of the free.

176. If, however, a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry a man's daughter, and after he marries her she bring a dowry from a father's house, if then they both enjoy it and found a household, and accumulate means, if then the slave die. Then she who was free born may take her dowry, and all that her husband and she had earned.

She shall divide them into two parts, one-half the master for the slave shall take, and the other half shall the free-born woman take for her children. If the free-born woman had no gift she shall take all that her husband and she had earned and divide it into two parts; and the master of the slave shall take one-half and she shall take the other for her children.

Laws and customs reflect the kind of society. We have not much knowledge about sparsely populated societies. Supposedly the relations in house were much as described in Rigveda that man and woman were like the wheels on a chariot … or as they said in my childhood at the countryside, they were the draft animals before the plough. There was a natural delegation of the work on a farm. The questions about woman's status come with urbanisation and it led to the feminism as political force. … I grow up in the countryside to equality and then I have no problem with women even when they try to convince me that I am against them.

In the Minoan society woman were in charge in most domestic and ritual connections as we see in the pictorial material and in many written tablets. She was much like "Lady of House" in society as well as at home. From the bookkeeping we see them in all kind of professions and the men are nearly invisible. We can guess that men were occupied in the naval fleet and in trade. There were no defence arrangements on the island so they surely relied on the fleet. That is why much of the island was burnt when at last they met a very big enemy from Mycenae

They tell that at Sparta the women were very independent as the lawmaker Lykurgus experienced when he tried to get them under law but gave up. They used their time for sports and cultural activities since they were free and used slaves in the household. Sparta was very warlike and seems to have furnished mercenaries to other states and it was no problem in getting slaves. Again our description concerns only the nobility.

The Greeks always experimented with everything so the status of the woman altered. In my young world we were told that the Greeks and their democracy was the model. That means we should listen to Platon when he means that man and women should be equal. Aristotle put often women in the slave's status. Officially he meant that woman should be equal, but not too much and rather be silent when man speak.

… The conclusion is that the culture shapes women's position. We saw that during the world war when women were forced to take over many male jobs. It was a new freedom but at the same time alienation. Unfortunately the old principle of weak women was still living so woman is just 3/4 man in most places. In my childhood's countryside she was equal, but different and tricky.

There was a certain disposition/form for laws and contracts. Title or preamble (One or two sentences) Prologue Moderate (10-20%) Laws Most (60-70%) Epilogue Short (5-10%) Blessings for obedience (One or two sentences) Cursings for disobedience Short (5-10%). Hammurabis epilogue is quite long. We can studie the current idols/ gods with Shamash as Judge of Heave, Sin as Moon god and Ishtar as war/ fighting god. Anu, Bel, Belit, Ea, Adad, Zamana Nergal, Nintu, Nin-Karak an Anunaki as protecting concepts of the law.

The great gods have called me, I am the salvation-bearing shepherd, whose staff is straight, the good shadow that is spread over my city; on my breast I cherish the inhabitants of the land of Sumer and Akkad; in my shelter I have let them repose in peace; in my deep wisdom have I enclosed them. That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans,

I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven and earth, in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness.

This part shows that he followed the best philosophy of the Sumerians and like the most peaceful rulers before him honoured kindness and righteousness. He wishes that rulers after him should continue the use of the law. He was wise when he let make the stelae.

The Babylonian rule lasted 800 years. The next civilisation in Mesopotamian history, Assyria (900 BC.-600 BC.), saw a great decrease in women's rights and personal liberties. Assyrian society was much more militaristic, and its law code was generally harsher, than that of Babylon. As a war-like empire, it encouraged a high birth rate because it needed soldiers. There we have the origin of ordination of shawl:

Neither (wives) of (seigniors) nor (widows) nor (Assyrian women) who go out on the street may have their heads uncovered. The daughters of a seignior...whether it is a shawl or a robe or a mantle, must veil themselves...When they go out on the street alone, they must veil themselves.

A concubine who goes out on the street with her mistress must veil herself. A sacred prostitute whom a man married must veil herself on the street, but one whom a man did not marry must have her head uncovered on the street; she must not veil herself. A harlot must not veil herself; her head must be uncovered. … Jessica Bieda

However Sumerian literature was still living. Assyrian Ashurbanipal found in middle 6th century BC an archive of 22000 clay tablets, which he included in his library at Niniveh and the Sumer renaissance, was a fact. However the time did not quite understand the wisdom so ritual astronomy became astrology and the Assyrian laws for the woman were not Sumerian.


Hammurabi's Code of Laws Translated by L. W. King

The Development Of Ancient Mesopotamian Law

Translated text of Sumerian literature