- The art of the Con
Urukagina's Code - 2600 BC
The Code attributed to Urukagina has never been physically
found but I has been referred to as a consolidation of “ordinances” lad down
by leaders in Mesopotamia. It is considered extremely important
because it set the stage for more formal lawmaking as civilization expanded
and became more sophisticated.
Urukagina was a Sumerian and he declared himself Lugal
of Lagesh (Great Man of Lagesh) The Sumerian lugals were becoming ever more
powerful in that country that was financially and religious broken up in to
clans. The richer and more populated were at the top of the feeding chain and
those that had inferior land and few people were at the bottom. The clan leaders
found it in their own enlightened self-interests to lay down some general regulations
for their peopleâ€™s overall general welfare with the vote being distributed by
power. The priests had gotten the people nowhere and the clan leaders were convinced
that commerce not religion was the wave of the future. However, Urukagina, the
top of the rung relative to clan leadership, determined to fashion order from
chaos and he created a series rules by which the people would be governed.
This, the earliest known code of law, consolidates
a series of even earlier Mesopotamian statutes. Among other things, it accords
the accused some rights: notification of why they are being punished, for instance.
Some of his reforms included that “the inhabitants of Lagesh would be free from
usury, burdensome controls, hunger theft, murder, and seizure (of their property
and persons). He cut taxes, he got rid of the feared tax collectors, restored
confiscated property. He established freedom. The widow and the orphan were
no longer at the mercy of the powerful man." However, Urukagina was right
in principal and wrong in delivery. The treasury having no money could not afford
to pay the army whose men now deserted in droves. This left an opening for the
priests and allies to regain the lost high ground and when led by Umma Lugalzaggesi,
Ukagina was sent packing. The worldâ€™s first social revolution had lasted only
eight years and when it was over, everyone was back where they started except
for Urukagina who was eliminated. It only proves the old axiom that no good
deed ever goes unpunished.