BULL STREET - The art of the Con

Ur-Nammu’s Code -- 2060 B. C.

Ur-Nammu’s Code was the earliest written legal code and it created a legal system which included judges, testimony under oath along with damages. Originally Ur-Nammu was a governor to good king Utukhegal. Some say the Utukhegal stepped on an orange-peel and broke his neck, others said he was done in by Ur-Nammu. Everyone seems to concur. Upon Utukhegal’s demise Ur-Nammu was crowned king of Ur. As such, he was the founder of the third dynasty, which lasted a century. Ur-Nammu wanted to leave something that the people would remember him by and he created the great Ziggurat which was 60 feet high and 200 feet wide, a prodigious monolith for those times. However, no one in the kingdom seemed to know what a Ziggurat was and Ur-Nammu rethought the entire proposition.

However, during his reign, Ur-Nammu[1] had created the oldest code of formal law known. It was created with a prologue and seven laws and naturally, the prologue describes Ur-Nammu as a divinely appointed king who is powerful and great and has established justice throughout the land. This code is of great importance to the study of biblical law, which it predates by about five centuries. Little remains of his work because the clay tablets upon which his code was written when they were found were badly damaged. In spite of this, court document were later discovered which added to our understanding of his laws, one of which seems to harken back to Salem:

“If any one bring an accusation against a man, the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.”

Among other interesting aspects of Ur-Nammu’s code is the fact that while it appears at the number of laws went all the way up to 114, there was no 13th because of the fact that even then, that number was considered unlucky. However, the laws during this period were tough and almost everything was punishable by the death sentence. While, uniquely, women were allowed to hold and inherit property, in many other respects they were treated harshly:

“If a “sister of a god” (nun) open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.”

Ur-Nammu died in 2095, long before the laws were even written that were later attributed to him. It seems that Ur-Nammu had become a tad too aggressive in leading his troops into battle against the fierce Gutians. Ur-Nammu, never the one to look back would have seen that he was so far in front of his troops that he had lost contact with them when the end came.

 

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