BULL STREET - 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 people’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 world’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. 



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