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By John Sassoon

Provocatively juxtaposes written legislation from 4000 years in the past with cutting-edge.

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As the law was not yet a legal entity involved in each case, financial penalties were normally paid as recompense to the injured party; when the law became a legal entity, it was the law that was injured, fines were paid to the state and an injured party might win his case but leave court without adequate, or even any, financial redress. We shall return to that as well. THE OATH But what about the witness whose evidence was uncorroborated? The simplest way was to rely on the oath, as in this law from the city of Eshnunna: If a man has no claim against another man, but nevertheless distrains another man’s slave-girl, the owner of the slave-girl shall declare under oath: ‘Thou hast no claim against me’ and he shall pay him silver in full compensation for the slave-girl.

If a man accused the wife of a man of fornication, and the river ordeal proved her innocent, then the man who had accused her must pay onethird of a mina of silver. (Ur-Nammu, law 11) or this: If a man had accused another man of [the offence is undecipherable] and he [the accuser] had him [the accused] brought to the river ordeal, and the river ordeal proved him innocent, then the man who brought him [the accuser] must pay him three shekels of silver. (Ur-Nammu, law 10) 49 ANCIENT LAWS AND MODERN PROBLEMS Sometimes, and Hammurabi has laws on this, the river test was itself used as a punishment: If [a wife] was not careful, but was a gadabout, thus neglecting her house and humiliating her husband, they shall throw that woman into the water.

UMBISAG at the end of his time as shepherd. That, if unrefuted, would be sufficient evidence to convict Sur-DUB . UMBISAG of theft and would therefore constitute a prima-facie case which the shepherd must answer. The existence of a procedure along these lines is attested by the laws of Hammurabi: If the professed owner of the lost property has not produced witnesses attesting to his lost property, since he was a cheat and started a false report, he shall be put to death. (Hammurabi, law 11) The shepherd then as now would have to defend himself against a formal 43 ANCIENT LAWS AND MODERN PROBLEMS accusation made before a court and supported by evidence sufficient to convict him; and in order to refute the evidence against him he would need contrary evidence to account for the missing animal.

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