Archives par mot-clé : dowry

The economic activities of Isḫunnatu, a slave woman of the Egibi Family

Introduction

Within the framework of this second meeting entitled “The Economic role of women in the public sphere in Mesopotamia:  from the workshop to the marketplace”, I tried to find examples of slave women involved in economic activities inside the public sphere, that is to say outside their master’s home. To have enough time to develop my subject, I chose today to present you only one single example: it is about Isḫunnatu, slave of the Egibi family from Babylon, who manages a drinking establishment in Kiš, a city located some 12 km east of Babylon. In the introduction, I would like to give some general information about the context in which slave women are quoted in private archives and especially in the Egibi’s.

 1) On one hand, we notice that in the great majority of cases, women slaves appear in a passive way in private archives:

a) They are mentioned in sale contracts when they are bought or sold. In this first example, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, chief of the third generation of the Egibi family sold a slave woman named Mizatu at Opis :

Camb. 143 (Opis, 24/xii/Camb 2) [abstract]: (1-5)Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, has voluntarily sold to Asalluhi-ah-uṣur, son of [Šila’], his slave woman fMizatu for the full price of 1 mina and 25 shekels of silver.

     b) Slave women are also mentioned in family documents such as dowry contracts or testaments. In this second example, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu gave 5 servants as dowry to her daughter Tašmetu-tabni :

 Cyr. 143 (Babylon, 26/xi/Cyr 3) [abstract]: (1-8)Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, has voluntarily given 10 minas of silver, 5 slave women, household goods, dowry of fTašmetu-tabni, his daughter, to Itti-Nabu-balaṭu, son of Marduk-ban-zeri, descendant of Bel-eṭeru.

  c) They can be also mentioned in promissory notes among pledged properties. In this third example, Marduk-naṣir-apli, chief of the fourth generation of the Egibi family, secures a heavy debt by casting a real estate and a slave family including a mother and her daughters as pledge for the debtor:

 TCL 13, 193 (Susa, 10/xii-b/Dar. 16) [abstract]: (1-4)45 minas of nuhhutu-silver of one-eighth alloy belonging to Šarru-duri, royal officer, son of Edraia, is the debt of Širku, whose second name is Marduk-naṣir-apli, son of Iddinaia, descendant of Egibi. (6-14)Madanu-bel-uṣur, his wife, fNanaia-bel-uṣur, his sons, Zababa-iddin, Madanu-bel-uṣur, Bel-gabbi-Bel-ummu, Ahušunu, and his daughters, fHašdayitu and fAhassunu, a total of 8 slaves from the service of his home (…) are the pledge of Šarru-duri.

2) On the other hand, we notice that slave women do not appear in two types of activities which seem reserved to slave men:

a) First, women never act as agents contrary to some slave men who take care of a part of the economic activities of the Egibi family. For example, in this text, Nergal-reṣua, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu receives the rent of a home belonging to the Egibi family following his master’s order :

Camb 253 (Babylon, 7/viii/Camb 4) [abstract]: (Concerning) 8 shekels of silver, half-yearly rent of a house belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddina, descendant of Egibi, which is the debt of Arad-Bel, son of Kalbaia : Nergal-reṣua, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, received them according to the instructions of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, from Arad-Bel, son of Kalbaia, descendant of Šuma-libši.

 b) Second, women are not among slaves who receive a formation for a specific job through apprenticeship contracts. Slaves men could learn various very qualified jobs as weaver, cook, lapidary’s craftsman, potter, sack-maker, carpenter, etc[1]. These contracts were a way for the Egibis to diversify their income. For example, in this text, it is Nuptaia, wife of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, who sends a man slave belonging to her husband to Bel-etir, the weaver master:

Cyr 64 (Babylon, 20/vii/Cyr 2): Nuptaia, daughter of Iddin-Marduk, descendant of  Nur-Sin, has given Atkal-ana-Marduk, slave belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant Egibi, to Bel-eṭir, son of Aplaia, descendant of Bel-eṭir, for five years to (learn) the weaver’s craft (išparūtu).

The great majority of women are used in housework, activities which do not produce the writing of contracts. Beyond domestic activities, rare texts allow us to study the case of women slaves working outside the house. So, the story of Isḫunnatu is an exceptional example.

1. History of the business establishment entrusted to Isḫunnatu

1.1. The creation of the business establishment during Cambyses’ reign (530 – 522)

   The business establishment entrusted to Isḫunnatu is documented by two Babylonian texts belonging to the Egibi Archive found in Babylon : Camb 330 and Camb 331[2]. These texts were drafted the same day of the 6th year of Cambyses in Kiš and more precisely in Hursagkalamma. The name Kiš applies to a range of tells covering a large area. Hursagkalamma corresponds to Tell Ingharra, in the south-Eastern part of the Kiš area[3]. The Egibi texts allow us to study the creation of a business establishment at this place.

1) In Camb 330, a man named Marduk-iqišanni must deliver to Isḫunnatu, slave of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, an important capital including furniture and dishes:

 Camb 330: (1-2)Equipment which Marduk-iqišanni will give to Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu : (3-7)5 beds (gišná = eršu), 10 chairs (gišgu.za = kussû), 3 tables (gišbanšur = paššuru), 1 lamp stand (ingurēnu), 3 knifes (serpu), 1 iron hoe (marru), 1 axe (qulmû), 1 fermenting vat (namzītu), 1 vessel stand (kankannu), 1 kettle (mušahhinu), 1 vat?giššiddatu, 1 maššânu, 1 chest (arānu), 1 reed ušukullatu(7-8)They own nothing jointly. (8)They will not renew litigation against each other. (9-10)Equipment which belongs to Isḫunnatu, until the end of the month of šabāṭu (xi), Marduk-iqišanni will not make it out. (11-12)Isḫunnatu will pay the rent of the house by herself. (13-15)Witnesses : Remut, son of Aplaia, descendant of Arad-Nergal ; Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of Paharu ; Tukulti-Marduk, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Šangu-Parakki (16-17)And the scribe : Kalbaia, son of Ṣillaia, descendant of Nabaia (17-19)Hursagkalamma, 11th day of kislīmu (ix), year 6th of Cambyses, king of Babylon, king of Lands. (19-21)The promissory note belonging to fLillikanu, Marduk-iqišanni will give it to Isḫunnatu.

 The contract contains three very allusive clauses. The first specifies that « Marduk-iqišanni will not make the equipment go out » from the business establishment during a period of two and half month (l.9-10). The second specifies that « Isḫunnatu will pay the rent of the house by herself » (l.11-12). The last one says that « The promissory note belonging to fLillikanu, Marduk-iqišanni will give it to Isḫunnatu » (l.19-21). We can wonder who is the owner of the house to whom Isḫunnatu now has to pay a rent ? Is it Marduk-iqišanni or Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, descendant of Egibi ? Most of the historians consider that the house belongs to the Egibi family, but we have to confess that there is no evidence in this text for this affirmation. Anyway, we understand that Marduk-iqišanni was the previous owner or the previous tenant of the business establishment simply qualified here as « house ». He managed it, maybe with Lillikanu, who is quoted at the end of the contract. He lends part of his capital including furniture and dishes to Isḫunnatu, the Egibi’s slave woman, during a period of two and half months. If Lillikanu’s share was sold to Isḫunnatu, this transaction would have produced the writing of a promissory note that is the debt of Isḫunnatu. Finally, Isḫunnatu has to give the rent of the house, probably to his owner. So, it seems that the creation of Isḫunnatu’s drinking establishment comes from the rental of an already existing establishment. With the expected profits, Isḫunnatu will be able to return or to buy the equipment belonging to Marduk-iqišanni.

  2) If part of the capital of the establishment comes from Marduk-iqišanni, a second part was supplied by Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, master of Isḫunnatu, as shown in text Camb 331. In this second text, the Egibi chief gives to Isḫunnatu a capital composed of food, furniture and dishes. This capital has a value of 2 minas and 2 shekels of silver. The contract specifies that Isḫunnatu will give to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu an interest during one and half month. If we consider an usual annual interest of 20%, Isḫunnatu will pay 3 shekels of silver for one month and a half. After this period, it is possible that Isḫunnatu will repay to her master a part of the profit of her business establishment.

 Camb 331: (1-8)1 mina of silver, price of 50 vats-dannu of fine beer with (their) haṣbattu ; 40 shekels of silver, price of 10 800 liters of dates, 22 shekels of silver, price of 2 bronze kettles (mušahhinu) weighing 7 minas 1/2, 7 bronze cups (gú.zi = kāsu) and 3 bronze bowl-baṭû as well as 720 liters of kasû which are stored in the house, a total of 2 minas and 2 shekels belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi, are at the disposal of Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu. (9)Until the end of the month ṭebētu (x), she will pay an interest. (10-14)Not including : 5 beds (gišná = ešru), 10 chairs (gišgu.za = kussû), 1 kettle (mušahhinu), 1 vat-giššiddatu, 1 stand lamp (ingurēnu), 3 knifes (serpu), 1 iron hoe (marru), 1 axe (qulmû), 2 fermenting vats (namzītu), 1 stand for fermenting vat (kankannu ša namzītu), 1 vat of decantation (namhāru), 2 maššânu. (14-17) Witnesses: Remut, son of Aplaia, descendant of Arad-Nergal ; Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of Paharu ; Tukulti-Marduk, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Šangu-Parakki (17-18)And the scribe : Kalbaia, son of Ṣillaia, descendant of Nabaia (18-20)Hursagkalamma, 11th day of kislīmu (ix), year 6th of Cambyses, king of Babylon, king of Lands.

The Isḫunnatu’s business establishment consists of the rent of capital goods belonging to Marduk-iqišanni and maybe to Lillikanu and of capital goods belonging to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, her master.

3) Another text, OECT 10, 239 (Museum number : 1924/1280), would show that Isḫunnatu obtained goods from a third source[4] :

OECT 10, 239 / 1924.1280): (1)4 beds (gišná = ešru(2) 3 chairs (gišgu.za = kussû)  (3)1 table (gišpaššuru(4) 1 vat- giššiddatu for beer (5)1 (vat- giššiddatu) for water (6)1 rack(?)simmiltu (7)1 fermenting vat (namzītu(8-9)They were entrusted to Isḫunnatu. (10-14)In the presence of  : Belšunu, son of Zababa-eriba ; Nabu-ah-ittannu, son of Zababa-šum-ereš(?) ; Ṭabiya, son of Bel-iddin ; Zababa-ana-bitišu, son of [NP] ; [NP], son of [NP].

This text arises numerous problems: First, this text doesn’t belong to the Egibi archive, it was found in Kiš and was drafted in front of Kiš inhabitants if we consider the presence of the god-name Zababa among witnesses. Second, there is no date, this text was just a memento. Third, it quotes a woman, named Isḫunnatu who received furniture and dishes, same kind than texts Camb 330 and 331. So, it’s not clear if this Isḫunnatu is the Egibi’s slave and if this text is connected to the drinking establishment of the Egibis in Kiš. But, we have to admit that it will be an incredible coincidence that the city of Kiš shelters two establishments of the same kind both managed by women with the same name. More, the name Isḫunnatu (meaning “cluster of grapes”) is very rare[5]. This text would show that our Isḫunnatu has received furniture and dishes probably from people who live in Kiš. For Isḫunnatu, this capital from Kiš would have served to develop her business activity or to replace Marduk-iqišanni’s goods which were at her disposal during a limited time.

It is very exciting to imagine that this text was maybe discovered by the archaeologists directly inside Isḫunnatu’s establishment in Kiš. Unfortunately, we have to specify that we don’t have any information about the place of the excavation. Even the date of this discovery (ie 1924) seems to be wrong as McEwan notices: « Some texts in the 1924 series (1924.943 – 1786) are known to have been numbered in 1950 (…) Thus, these tablets may date from excavations seasons other that 1924 »[6]. So, it’s impossible to link this text with a precise archaeological expedition in Kiš and to determine from which tell he comes from.

1.2. Economic activities during Darius’reign (521 – 486)

The economic activities of Isḫunnatu in Kiš continue during the beginning of Darius’ reign as shown in two other texts drafted in Hursagkalamma but probably found in Babylon within the Egibi archive: CTMMA 3, 65 and BM 30948[7]. At this time, the slave woman belongs to a new master: Širku, nickname of Marduk-naṣir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, descendant of Egibi, leader of the fourth generation of the family. So, Marduk-naṣir-apli inherited Isḫunnatu among his father’s possessions.

1) In CTMMA 3, 65 dated from the second year of Darius, Isḫunnatu receives 1800 liters of dates from Nabu-reu’šunu, son of Nabu-eṭir, descendant of Sin-tabni. This creditor probably comes from the city of Babylon, where his ancestor’s name is the most attested:

CTMMA 3, 65: (1-6)(Concerning) the full (payment of) 1 800 liters of dates, Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Širku, on the instructions of [PN], son of Nurea, has received them from Nabu-re’ušunu, son of Nabu-eṭir, descendant of Sin-tabni. (7-10)Witnesses : Bel-lumur, son of Iddin-Marduk, descendant of Šigua ; Nabu-ah-remanni, son of Remut, descendant of Rab-šušši. (10-11)Scribe : Bel-šakin-šumi, son of Iddin-Nabu, descendant of Eppeš-ili. (12-14)Hursagkalamma, 25th day of kislīmu (ix), year 2nd of Darius, king of Babylon, king of Lands. (15)They have taken one (copy) each. (16-17)Dates which for 1 reed vat for decantation (namhāru) … were given.

The contract specifies that the dates were used to buy a reed vat of decantation (namharu). We shall see later that this kind of dishes was necessary for the functioning of an establishment as Isḫunnatu’s one.

2) In the last text, Isḫunnatu borrows 10 800 liters of dates. She has to give them back in Babylon, on a canal and she has to pay the transportation costs (gimru). The use of the dates is not specified: to buy furniture or to make beer ?

BM 30948 / Bertin 2780): (1-5)10 800 liters of dates […]Hursagkalamma [belonging to?] Bel-apla-iddin, son of Remut, descendant of [NP], is the debt of Isḫunnatu, slave woman of Širku, descendant of Egibi. (6-8)The 20th day of kislīmu (ix), she will pay the 10 800 liters of dates on the canal // according to the mašīhu-measure of [PN] // and the transportation costs. (8-11)[Broken lines] (12)A previous promissory note of […] (13-17)Witnesses : Kalbaia, son of Nabu-ahhe-iddin, descendant of Egibi ; Balaṭu, son of Marduk-šum-iddin, descendant of Sippe ; Iqišaia, son of Zababa-iddin, descendant of lú-dugsila3.bur (18-19)Scribe : Tu[kulti]-Marduk, son of [PN], descendant of [PN]. (20-23)Hursagkalamma, 3rd day of [NM], year [xth of] Darius, king of [Babylon], king of lands.

These two last texts show that part of the capital including dates necessary for Isḫunnatu’s establishment in Kiš comes from Babylon, so we can suppose that Egibi’s family members were involved in those supplies. So, it seems that Isḫunnatu was still dependent on Babylon and on her master.

2. COMPOSITION AND FUNCTIONING OF THE BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENT ENTRUSTED TO ISḪUNNATU

The various goods from Babylon or Kiš at the disposal of Isḫunnatu can be classified in two big categories and can help us to qualify the business establishment and the role of Isḫunnatu[8].

2.1. What are the characteristics of Isḫunnatu’s establishment ?

1) First, we notice that Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of consumption : Both texts from the Egibi archive quote various furniture including 3 tables, 10 chairs and lamp stands (Camb 330 & 331). Various dishes are quoted too: cups and bowl. At these tables, customers consumed especially beer. In Camb 331, Isḫunnatu receives a total of 50 vats-dannu of good quality beer. According to the different mentions, one vat-dannu could contain 1 kurru of beer or wine, that is to say 180 liters[9]. Isḫunnatu so has already 9 000 liters of liquids ready to be served.

A place of consumption

Furniture :– 3 tables (paššuru / gišbanšur)– 10 chairs (kussû / gišgu.za)– 1 lamp stand (ingurēnu)
Dishes :– 7 bronze cups (kāsu / gú.zi)– 3 bronze bowls (baṭû)
Beer :– 50 vats-dannu of good quality beer

2) Second, the Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of production too. Indeed, Isḫunnatu also received 10 800 liters of dates and the material necessary for their transformation into alcohol: Fermenting vat as well as their wooden support and vat of decantation. 720 liters of kasû (mustard / cuscuta?) which enter the manufacturing of beer from dates, probably to perfume it. The presence of a hoe could be related to the exploitation of a kitchen garden near the business establishment. The various products of which could be prepared in a kettle[10].

A place of production

Beer :– 10 800 liters of dates– Fermenting vat (namzītu)– Stand for fermenting vat (kankannu)– Vat for decantation (namhāru)

– 720 liters of kasû (mustard or cuscuta)

Kitchen garden? :– Hoe (marru)– Kettle (mušahhinu)

3) Finally, the Isḫunnatu’s establishment is a place of accommodations, this being supported by the presence of 5 beds among the inventory.

A place of accommodation:

 – 5 beds (eršu / gišná)

So, the Isḫunnatu’s business establishment was a place of consumption of beer and also other food, a place of production and a place where people could sleep.

1.2. How to qualify this business establishment? What was the exact role of Isḫunnatu ?

There are at least two terms naming drinking establishments in Mesopotamia  : bīt sabi and bīt aštammi. The last term indicates more specifically an inn, a place where people can find accommodation as in the house of Isḫunnatu. These two sorts of drinking establishments are especially attested during the 2nd millenium BC[11]. Some historians consider them as places of prostitution. The house entrusted to Isḫunnatu does not escape this image. About the Isḫunnatu’s establishment, the presence of a woman, beds and alcoholic drinks – and the erotic images associated with – has probably excited the imagination of some scholars who connected these three elements automatically with prostitution. Indeed, in his article about “Prostitution in Ancient Mesopotamia”, J. Cooper gives only one example in the paragraph dedicated to brothels, madams and procurers: the case of Isḫunnatu. The question of her establishment as a place of prostitution is clearly asked : « Although beds can be used for lodgers as well as for prostitution, these texts at least show that sexual relations could easily be accommodated ». And the role of Isḫunnatu as procuress is evocated too: « Whether the proprietress was a madam, that is, whether she hired prostitutes or simply provided the venue, is unknown »[12].  These hypotheses about the nature of Isḫunnatu’s establishment and the woman’s role are not based on textual evidences but seem to be supported on a topos. Indeed, the link between drinking establishment and prostitution was strongly disputed by Julia Assante in various articles. She considers that « The tavern prostitute is a scholastic invention »[13] ; « These are just topoi, yet scholarship has been so sure of tavern prostitution that the tavern, éš-dam, bīt aštammi or bīt sabîm/sabîtim, has been all too often easily translated as bordello or brothel. Within this schema, the sabîtu(m), the female tavern keeper (…) becomes synonymous with the brothel madam »[14]. The author speaks about the scholarship’s misunderstanding of Mesopotamian texts and images. Now, I’m going to try to summarize three examples from Julia Assante’s studies :

1) First, Julia Assante considers that the link between drinking establishment and prostitution finds his main source inside the Inanna/Ishtar’s literature. In the Ancient literature, the goddess is a tavern-goer who is looking for sexual companionship. Assante remarks that “This common and spirited literary motif never once includes payment and it would be odd indeed if this powerful goddess of sex and love were financed by her favors”. The author also adds that “Furthermore, to base the brothel hypothesis on such texts ignores others versions of the tavern in which Inanna appears as a young bride or virginal sister”[15].

2) Second, about the following lines from the Code of Hammurabi : “If a nadītu or a ugbabtu, who does not reside within the gagû, should open (the door of) a tavern or enter a tavern for some beer, they shall burn that woman” (§ 110); some scholars have understood these lines as an attempt to prevent the nadītu from mixing with the tavern’s low life, especially prostitution, or from committing sexual offenses there. But, in this case, the prohibition seems to be more ritual than moral. These women were vulnerable of becoming impure because of contacts with elements in the tavern such as fermenting vats[16].

3) Third, the various explicit terracottas called “drinking scenes” were interpreted as realistic scenes of Tavern. Julia Assante considers that these objects representing the divine couple Inanna and Dummuzi bears a magic utility : “Since the constellation of Inanna’s erotic plaques and poems reverses the negative application of mating, marriage and seizure found in other magical literature, its potential as apotropaia seems to be more than a reasonable hypothesis. Plaques may be the physical remains of counteractive measures a householder might have taken to prevent the disastrous occurrence of « mating » with evil, in whatever form it might arrive”[17].

So, after taking into account contributions from the gender Studies, I’d rather attribute a neutral definition for Isḫunnatu’s establishment and I shall follow the definition given by Jacobsen and Kramer, more objective and less focused on supposed sexual aspects, who likened the éš-dam to a modern coffee-house or village-inn, a social center where people came to relax[18]. Indeed, I think that we have to consider the creation of Isḫunnatu’s inn as a part of a large plan managed by the Egibi to create new social relations in Kiš.

3. ISḪUNNATU’S INN INSIDE THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL INTERESTS OF THE EGIBI FAMILY IN THE CITY OF KIŠ

The main economic activities of the Egibi family take place in Babylon and in Borsippa. But, it seems that since the end of Nabonidus’ reign, members of the family tried to develop their business activities towards the city of Kiš. The family archive allows us to distinguish two periods.

1) First, during Nabonidus’ reign, the family possesses some properties in Kiš or in the area. For example, the dowry of Qibi-dumqi-ilat, sister of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, contains a farmland located on the way from Babylon to Kiš (Nbn 760). The family owns a house in Hursagkalamma which belongs to Itti-Marduk-balaṭu. He rents it to his brother Kalbaia during the 16th year of Nabonidus (Nbn 967). Kalbaia seems to manage a part of the economic activities of the Egibis in Kiš through a harranu-partenership with the other members of the family : « Kalbaia was operating a harranu-enterprise in Hursagkalamma, with personnel hired from Itti-Marduk-balaṭu and on property rented from him, and with financing provided by Iddin-Marduk [= father-in-law of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu]”[19].

2) During Cambyses’ reign, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, leader of the Egibi family managed himself a new business plan in Kiš. We notice an important activity of investment in Kiš during the 6th year of Cambyses :

a) First, Itti-Marduk-balaṭu opens a city-inn for Isḫunnatu, his slave, the 11th day of kislīmu (ix) (Camb 330 & 331).

b) Second, he buys a home near the home of the « Chariot-driver » (bīt mukīl appāti) the 28th day of addaru (xii) (Camb 349). As Yoko Wataï notices in her PhD dissertation : « The Chariot-driver » occupied an important position in the army but also in the civil administration in Assyria. However, we cannot determine his function in the babylonian administration[20]. So, if the Chariot-driver kept an important function in Babylonia, it would seem that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu tried to get closer to important persons of Kiš.  We notice that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu led the same building policy in Babylon in the TE.Eki district where we find members of the royal administration among its neighbors[21]. The appropriation of a city-inn in Kiš for one of his slaves and the acquisition of a house next to an officer could be part of the same plan. As a place for meetings, the city-inn can be a way for the Egibi to create or to strengthen links of sociability with the inhabitants of Kiš. The inn can be a manner of being in the heart of the city and to know all the rumors and the free speech which is ran in this kind of place. It is maybe a place to meet people and the members of the city elite. The plan to develop the family’s business activities and to be closer to the Kiš elite seems to have been a success :

1) First, in a contract drafted in the 6th year of Darius, an inhabitant of Kiš must go to Babylon to find an arrangement with Marduk-naṣir-apli about a tax on his bow-land (Abraham 2004 : n°17). So, it seems that the chief of the Egibi family became a tax collector from some tax-payers living in Kiš.

2) Secondly, Marduk-naṣir-apli bounded links with the governor of Kiš. Indeed, the chief of the Egibis lent to him an important quantity of silver in Susa during the 16th year of Darius (Abraham 2004 : n°78). So, the leaders of the Egibi Family managed to create business links with the authorities of Kiš.

In the same time, at a lower level, Kalbaia continues his own economic activities in Kiš. Kalbaia seems to live most of the time in Kiš where he owns various lands. His implication earned him the nickname of « Kalbaia of Kiš » (CTMMA 3, 73). Present in Kiš, he maintains relations with Isḫunnatu’s establishment. And indeed, appears as the first witness in text n°5.

CONCLUSION

Isḫunnatu enjoys a large part of freedom in managing her business, appearing as debtor in text CTMMA 3, 65 and BM 30948. In these contracts, she acts by herself and she is the only one responsible for the repayment of the loans. But two facts shows that the members of the Egibi family exercise an attentive control over her economic activities :

1) Except text OECT 10, 239, all the other texts belong to the Egibi Archive found in Babylon. The Egibis keep and control all the transactions contracted by Isḫunnatu.

2) The presence of Kalbaia among witnesses in BM 30948 shows that Egibis attends the transactions involving Isḫunnatu. Their presence can be used as guarantee for the creditor.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Assante, J.

1998        « The kar-kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman ? A Reconsideration of the Evidence », UF 30 : 66.

2002        “Sex, Magic and the Liminal Body in the Erotic Art and Texts of the Old Babylonian Period”, Sex and Gender in the Ancient Near East, Actes de la XLVIIe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale (Helsinki, 2-6 July 2001), Simo Parpola and Robert M. Whiting, eds., Helsinki, 2002: 27-51.

 Cooper, J.

2006        « Prostitution », RlA 11 (1/2) : 12-21.

 Dandamaiev, M.

1984        Slavery in Babylonia. From Nabopolassar to Alexander the Great (626-331 B.C.). Northern Illinois University Press, Detroit.

 Gibson, McG.

1980        « Kiš », RlA : 613-620.

 Hackl, J.

2010        « Apprenticeship contracts », in : M. Jursa (dir.), Aspects of the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC, AOAT 377, Münster : 700-715.

2011        « Neue spätbabylonische Lehrverträge aus dem British Museum und der Yale Babylonian Collection » (New Late Babylonian Apprenticeship Contracts from the British Museum and the Yale Babylonian Collection), AfO 52 : 77-97.

i. p.          « Frau Weintraube, Frau Heuschrecke und Frau Gut – Untersuchungen zu den babylonischen Namen von Sklavinnen in neubabylonischer und persischer Zeit », To be published in: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 101. Pre-paper available on http://iowp.univie.ac.at/

 Jacobsen, T. & Kramer, S. N.

1953        « The Myth of Inanna and Bilulu », JNES 12 : 160-188.

 Joannès, F.

1992a     « Inventaire d’un cabaret » NABU 1992/64.

1992b     « Inventaire d’un cabaret (suite) » NABU 1992/89.

 Jursa, M. (dir.)

2010        Aspects of the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC. Economic geography, economic mentalities, agriculture,  the use of money and the problem of economic growth (with contributions by J. Hackl, B. Janković, K. Kleber, E.E. Payne, C. Waerzeggers and M. Weszeli) (AOAT 377), Münster.

 Lion, B.

i. p.          « Les cabarets à l’époque paléo-babylonienne », in : C. Michel (éd.) L’alimentation dans   l’Orient ancien, de la production à la consommation, actes du Séminaire d’Histoire et d’Archéologie des Mondes Orientaux (SHAMO).

 McEwan, G.

1984        Late Babylonian Texts in the Ashmolean Museum (OECT 10), Oxford.

 Spar, I. & von Dassow, E.

2000        Private Archive Texts from the First Millenium B.C. (CTMMA 3), New York.

Watai, Y.

2012        Les maisons néo-babyloniennes d’après la documentation textuelle, thèse de doctorat, Université de Paris 1.

 Wunsch, C.

2000        « Neubabylonische Geschäftsleute und ihre Beziehungen zu Palast- und Tempel- verwaltungen : das Beispiel der Familie Egibi », dans : A. C. Bongenaar (éd.), Interpendency of institutions and private Entrepreneurs (Mos Studies 2 ; PIHANS 87), Leiden : 95-118.


[1] About apprenticeship contracts, cf. Hackl 2010 & 2011.

[2] These two texts were published and discussed in Joannès 1992a. The unpublished text BM 35140 kept in the British Museum which mentions Isḫunnatu (quoted in Hackl in press) could give additionnal information about the economic activities of the Egibi’s slave woman.

[3] For a summary of the excavations of Kiš, cf. Gibson 1980 : 613-620.

[4] Text published and discussed in Joannès 1992b.

[5] Hackl in press.

[6] McEwan 1984 : 1.

[7] Copy Bertin 2780.

[8] See the comments of F. Joannès about these goods (Joannès 1992a. & b).

[9] CAD, D : 98b-99a.

[10] Joannès 1992a.

[11] Lion in press.

[12] Copper 2006 : 20.

[13] Assante 1998 : 65.

[14] Assante 1998 : 66.

[15] Assante 1998 : 66.

[16] Hypothesis of S. Maul followed and developed by J. Assante (Assante 1998 : 67-68).

[17] Assante 2002 : 43.

[18] « We have assumed that the éš-dam represents the social center of the estate or village, a place in which the inhabitants would typically gather for talk and recreation after the end of work as in a modern coffee-house or village-inn » (Jacobsen & Kramer 1953 : 185a). In this case, one can wonder if it is not in this kind of establishment that the travelers could stay in Kiš (About journeys of Babylonians in Kiš, cf. Jursa (dir.) 2010 : 213-124).

[19] Spar & von Dassow 2000 : 123.

[20] Wataï 2012 : 301-302.

[21] Itti-Marduk-balaṭu hold several houses in the TE.Eki district. One of them is nearby the house of the Crown-prince (bīt-mār-šarri) (Nbn 50), another near a house belonging to a slave of Neriglissar and then Balthazzar (Nbn 9 & Nbn 50) and a third probably near a sepīru of prince Cambyses. Indeed, text Dar 379 enumerates the real estate property of the Egibi family in Babylon and Borsippa. The text specifies that Marduk-naṣir-apli, the representative of the fourth generation of the Egibis, possesses, among others, « a house situated in the TE.Eki district and which is nearby of Hašdaia, son of Gabbi-ili-šar-uṣur » (l.7 ). He is probably the son of Gabbi-ili-šar-uṣur, the scribe on parchment of prince Cambyses evoked in text Cyr 177 (this identification was proposed by Wunsch 2000: n. 23 p. 103-104).

Real Estate Dowries and Counter-Dowries in the Kingdom of Arrapḫe

Real Estate Dowries and Counter-Dowries
in the Kingdom of Arrapḫe

 J.J. Justel / B. Lion

 

Only a few texts from the Kingdom of Arrapḫe refer to dowries, for which the technical legal term seems to have been mulūgu (or mulūgūtu). According to some of these references, the bride could receive real property from her father or legal guardian. In return, she gave a gift (Sumerian NÍG.BA/Akkadian qīštu), labeled by modern historiography as “counter dowry,” consisting of textiles, livestock, and sometimes silver.

The present paper is an attempt to reconsider these legal phenomena. We will examine the status, function and nature of the real estate granted to the bride, as well as the nature of the goods a girl was able to provide her father or guardian before her wedding.

0. Introduction

Written sources from the Kingdom of Arraphe – also known commonly as “Nuzi texts” – date back to the Late Bronze Age, more precisely to the 14th century BC. Nuzi was a town of the Kingdom of Arrapḫe, a political entity submitted to the Mittani Empire. Some 5,000 tablets were found in Nuzi and almost 200 in the near town of Āl-ilāni/Arrapḫe (modern Kirkūk), homonym capital of the Kingdom. Some of these texts contain transfers of property on the occasion of marriages. This phenomenon presents the following main mechanisms:

  • Usually, the groom or his father gives a “bridewealth” to the bride’s father which is called terḫatu, just as in the Old Babylonian period.
  • The father of the bride, or her legal guardian (for example her brother), gives her a dowry, called in Nuzi mulūgu or mulūgūtu. Few texts mention dowries, and it has been suggested for a long time that most dowries consisted of movable property – such as clothes, livestock, domestic items – and were thus not recorded on tablets. On the contrary, when a tablet was written down, the dowries were supposed to be more substantial and actually some of them were  real property.
  • In some cases, when the bride receives real property within her dowry, she gives in return to her father (or her guardian) several goods which are known as NÍG.BA (Akkadian qīštu), “gift, present.” Historians have labeled this unfrequent phenomenon “counter-dowry.”

Texts mentioning real estate-dowries and counter-dowries are the subject of this paper.[1] We will examine, on one hand, the status and the function of real property granted to the bride and, on the other hand, the nature of the goods a woman was able to provide her father (or guardian) before her wedding.

1. The real estate given as dowry

1.1. Corpus

In her important study “Dowry and Brideprice in Nuzi,” G. Dosch provides a list of texts mentioning real estate given away as dowry, which is now to be completed (see table below).[2] Some other dowries, consisting of movable property (HSS 5 80 and HSS 13 93 = HSS 14 2[3]), are not taken into account.

Text

Dowry

Given by

Given to

Dowry items

ilku

Legal status of the dowry in next generations

HSS 5 76 ana mulūgi father daughter field ø HSS 5 11: given to the granddaughter, then to her children
HSS 19 71 ø father+ brother daughter / sister house brother ø
HSS 19 76 ø father daughter field ø ø
HSS 19 79 ana mulūgū[ti] father son-in-law house father given to children
HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 kīma mulūgišu brother sister housesilver ø ø
Gadd 31 ana mulūgūti adoptive brother adopted sister unbuilt plot in Arrapḫe adoptive brother ø
SCCNH 7 6 [ana mul]ūgūti adoptive brother adopted sister house(s) adoptive brother ø

In five of these texts the word mulūgu ou mulūgūtu is used; in the other two real estate deliveries it is transferred to a girl, receiving no precise designation. In HSS 19 71 a brother gives her sister fArim-turi a house which has been previously appointed for her by their father. In HSS 19 76 a man transfers his daughter fAššuanašši “in status of wife” (ana aššūti) to another woman, who would be in charge of organizing the marriage between her brother and that girl, “with her tablet and with the field mentioned in the tablet”[4] – the field probably representing her dowry.

1.2. Giver and recipient

The dowry was usually given away by the father of the bride (HSS 5 76, HSS 19 76 and HSS 19 79) or alternatively by her brother (HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139), probably because the father was dead. In Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 the woman seems to have neither father nor brother, and is adopted as sister (ana ahātūti) by a man who provides for her a dowry;[5] the woman apparently acts on her own behalf and might even have already been married – she might be a widow or a divorced woman. The woman is the recipient of the dowry of every case except HSS 19 79: the tablet states that the father “has given these houses as a dowry to his daughter fAštaya to Akap-šenni,” this latter being his son-in-law.

1.3. Interpretations

According to J. Fincke, the two tablets of sistership adoption Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 should rather be considered as sale-adoptions, “by which a legal title to real estate is transfered to the adopted woman in return for movable property.”[6] She refers to Speiser,[7] who was the first suggesting this idea concerning HSS 5 76, pointing that “the transaction resembles, then, a sale-adoption, except that instead calling the purchased land zittu, it is termed in this case mulūgu (…), the mulūgu being just as much a ficitious dowry as the zittu was an unreal inhertance protion.”[8] Gordon also favored this idea in his discussion on both tablets Gadd 31 and HSS 5 76.[9] So this hypothesis could be extended to every case in which a woman, receiving real estate as mulūgu (or mulūgūtu) from her father, brother or adoptive brother, gives in exchange a NÍG.BA (Akkadian qīštu) – this word beeing also used in the so-called sale adoptions; this is the case in HSS 5 76, HSS 19 71, Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 (see below § 3). In fact in these four tablets, except from the presence of the term mulūgu/mulūgūtu, there is no reference to the marriage of the woman, the only purpose of the tablet being the record of the transfers of items.

The main problem arises when at least two texts recording transfers of real estate to women (HSS 19 76 and HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139) do not mention a NÍG.BA/qīštu. In HSS 19 76 a field (not designated as mulūgu) is transferred to the girl who is about to be married; in HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 the mulūgu is mentioned in the context of a marriage. Should one distinguish between the “real” mulūgu transferred on the occasion of marriages, and the transfers of lands labeled as mulūgu, just like we have to distinguish between “real” adoptions and sale-adoptions?

Another problem is that one might wonder why a father would transfer movable property to his own daughter (HSS 5 76), or a brother to his sister (HSS 19 71), by a kind of “sale-adoption.” Sale-adoptions are numerous, but are neither concluded between father and son, nor between brothers. And in Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6, it is not clear why a man had to adopt a woman as his sister in order to transfer real estate to her: he could as well adopt her as his “child/son,” a mechanism well attested in Nuzi tablets.[10]

For these reasons, whatever the precise nature and function of the transaction might be, we prefer to focus on the content of these real estate transactions – i.e. land or houses received by women – and on the goods given away by these women.

2. The content of dowries: fields and houses

In HSS 5 76 and HSS 19 76 the daughter receives fields. HSS 19 76 provides no indication about the location of the field. However in HSS 5 76 the field is said to be located in the district (Akkadian dimtu) of Ar-Teššub; since it does bear the name of the girl’s paternal grandfather, it would be a family property. The subsequent fate of the field is known through another tablet, HSS 5 11,[11] by which fArim-turi gives her granddaughter fEluanza (her daughter’s daughter) to another woman, fMatkašar, her daughter-in-law; fMatkašar will provide for the marriage of fEluanza. fArim-turi gives also a field of one imēru, which she received from her own father as a dowry (ana mulūgi), to fMatkašar; and fMatkašar will bequeath this plot to fEluanza’s and her future husband’s children, it is explicitly forbidden to transfer it to a stranger. Therefore fArim-turi makes sure that the field stays within the family, since it would ultimately be inherited by her great-grandchildren. We are able to follow the story of this field, which has been mainly transmitted by the female line of the family, over six generations.

In other cases, the dowry is made up of houses (HSS 19, 71 79, HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 and SCCNH 7 6) or even of an unbuilt plot in the town of Arrapḫe (Gadd 31). In HSS 19 108 + EN 9/1 139 the husband, Ar-Teya, gives house(s) as terḫatu to his brother-in-law Wunnukiya (a mechanism  quite unusual), and this latter gives his sister house(s) and silver as mulūgu. One could maybe formulate the hypothesis of an exchange of houses between both families; another possibility is to suppose that one and the same house has been given as terhatu and subsequently attributed to the bride, just as in the case of indirect dowries – f.ex. in HSS 5 80 some movable property, given as terhatu, is also given as mulūgu to the bride. In HSS 19 79 the expected fate of the house given away as dowry is established: it would belong to the children born by the couple.

When houses can be located, it is noteworthy that they are found in the immediate vicinity either of the father’s house (HSS 19 79) or of the brother’s house – which was most probably earlier the father’s (HSS 19 71). The unbuilt plot transferred in Gadd 31 is found next to the house of Šalap-urhe, the adoptive brother, who seems to give part of his estate; another neighbour is Šekaya, who is mentioned earlier in the tablet, in a broken context: he might be either the woman’s father[12] or that of her adoptive brother.

Text

Recipient of the dowry

Estate

Neighbour

Surface

HSS 19 71 fUriaše, sister of Innatu house Innatu 40 m2
HSS 19 79 Akap-šenni, husband of fAštaya,daughter of Paikku house Paikku 53,125 m2
Gadd 31 fḪalaše, [daughter of (?)] Šekaya unbuilt plot Šekaya
Šalap-urḫe (adoptive brother)
max. 126 m2

These houses are not big and rather remind us of a few rooms than of an entire house, especially when compared to surfaces known from other Nuzi texts and also to the surfaces of the buildings excavated in Nuzi. The daughter would thus seem to receive as a dowry a part of her father’s house.

Textual data: surfaces of the houses[13]

Text

Surface in m2

Remarks

HSS 9 110 6,25 Room in a house, in Nuzi, in the fields
Gadd 5 8,75 Room in a house
JEN 239: 11-15 27 Part of a house
EN 9/1 126 31,50 or 36 House not yet built
Genava 15 32 In the town of Arrapḫe
JEN 737 38,25? In the town of [Nuz]i?
HSS 19 71 40 In a town
EN 9/2 10 40,50 In the citadel (kirḫu) of Nuzi
HSS 13 161 53,125 In the town of Arrapḫe. Part of a house
HSS 19 79 53,125 In a town
AASOR 16 58 56,25 In the citadel (kirḫu) of Nuzi
JEN 239: 5-8 75 House
IM 10856 82,5 In the town of Arrapḫe
HSS 9 115 93,75 In Nuzi
JEN 246 176 In Turša
JEN 588 450 In the town of Nuzi

Comparison with the archaeological data: surface of houses excavated in Nuzi, Level II[14]

House

(= “Group”)

Total surface at the ground level in square meters

Living space at the ground level in square meters

HSS 19 71: 40
HSS 19 79: 53,125 HSS 19 71: 40
20 95,14 49,9
HSS 19 79: 53,125
32 96 69,68
12 101,80 43,98
5 127,84 76,77
8 146,88 71,11
10 155,44 89,22
6 169 86,38
2 190,40 104,16
9 193,68 122,36
3 238 ?
19 300,60 194,01

There is no mention of an ilku duty on the fields. When the ilku is mentioned on the houses (or the unbuilt plot in Gadd 31), it is always the responsibility of the person giving away the dowry, be it her father or her adoptive brother. The exact nature of the ilku duty is still subject of debate,[15] and it raises the problem of the type of ownership held by the woman on this property. Adoptions involving the transfer of land plots would rather refer to transfers of the title of ownership, whereas the possession of the land would stay with the adopter – thus explaining why he would keep paying the ilku duty.[16] If this hypothesis applied also here, women would have a title of ownership on the land or house, whereas the possession of the property would stay with her father or adoptive brother; this would be coherent with J. Fincke’s interpretation of Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 as “sale-adoptions.” But on the other hand, at least in HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 79, if the women only held a title of ownership on the house, what kind of practical benefit would they receive, beside the guarantee that their children would have rights on the house? In HSS 19 79 the house is clearly transferred on the occasion of the marriage, and this raises the question of the residence of the new couple. If the married woman and her husband do not dwell it, we would hardly understand the benefit, for them, to have rights on a few rooms of the father’s house at the precise moment when the bride leaves her family. However if the bride, or the couple, lives in the house, that would mean thas they do not only have a title of ownership, which contradicts the first hypothesis.

3. The counter-dowry

3.1. General remarks

In some of these texts the woman who receives the dowry (in one case her husband) gives some movable property in return to her father or legal guardian. This is not the case in HSS 19 76 nor in HSS 19 108+, which will not be dealt with here.

Text

Counter dowry

Given by

Given to

Livestock

Textiles, shoes

Metals

HSS 19 79 NÍG.BA son-in-law father 1 good male donkey, 4 years old 1 hullanu-garment ofordinary quality 10 mines of tin
HSS 5 76 NÍG.BA daughter father 1 sheep, 1 pig with its 10 piglets 1 pair of shoes,1 textile
HSS 19 71 NÍG.BA sister brother 20 sh. of silver hašahušennu
Gadd 31 NÍG.BA adopted sister adoptive brother [1] new, good šilannu-textile1 new, good hullanu-garment.Value: 15 sh. of silver
SCCNH 7 6 adopted sister adoptive brother 24 sh. of silver

In HSS 19 79 the counter-dowry is said to be paid by the husband, who receives the dowry; thus it does not constitute evidence of the possessions of the bride.[17] But in the remaining four documents the counter-dowry is given by the woman herself. Whatever the precise function of that counter-dowry may be, we would just focus here on its contents, since these texts mention the properties women owned;[18] and at least in HSS 5 76 and HSS 19 71 the girls still dwell the house of their father or brother, before getting married. These counter-dowries are made up of movable properties which can be classified in the different rubrics: livestock, textiles, and metals.

3.2. Livestock

Animals appear only in HSS 5 76; it happens to be a sheep, thus small livestock, as well as a pig or more probably a sow, since it is accompanied by ten piglets. Pig rearing is mainly a domestic activity, often entrusted to women. It would thus not be much of a surprise to find a girl owning a sow and her piglets.[19]

3.3. Textiles and shoes

Textiles of different kind appear in two cases. We are still lacking a study of textiles in Nuzi, but some general remarks are in order. Textile workers seem to be men, be it the craftsmen mentioned in the palace texts[20] or those working for private individuals who gave them wool to manufacture textiles (f.ex. HSS 5 95).

It is nonetheless very likely that domestic textile production mainly corresponded to women. Excavations in Nuzi have unearthed hundreds of spindlewhorls as well as loomweights;[21] it is sometimes difficult to attribute them to a specific archaeological level – f.ex. Stratum II (contemporary with the tablets), or the older Stratum III, or more recent levels. Among these objects, the rare examples that were published came from private houses.[22] In the house called Group 24 (Stratum II) two clay loomstands were recovered in room F 24, and another one in room F 14 which, according to Starr, was “the center of considerable domestic activity.”[23]

Some long inventories found in the Nuzi palace show that this building housed a great quantities of textiles. In some contracts concluded between private individuals we can also identify the circulation of textiles, often in small quantities and associated to other goods (wool, livestock, metals): they can thus be among the goods given to somebody as tidennūtu, a loan pledged by a field (HSS 5 87, HSS 9 98, HSS 9 115…) or a person (EN 9/3 51, HSS 5 82…). They can also be part of an inheritance, mainly for girls (EN 9/3 517). But in all these examples textiles are given by men: should one suppose that they disposed of the textile production of their daughters and wives? If this is the case, did the women get something for their work?

All this remaining at a general level, we can hypothesize that besides an institutional or professional textile production, a domestic sector also produced surpluses which could be exchanged between private individuals. For example for HSS 19 79 we might wonder where the husband got the textile he was giving to his father-in-law: it would have been woven by his wife, whose dowry he is managing.

This production might, in the case of counter-dowries, be considered as belonging to women, even to girls before their marriage. If most of the dowries were made up of movable property, we could think that they included the woman’s clothes, produced by herself while she lived at her father’s house.[24]

As to the shoes (HSS 5 76), we know nothing of their production and they might have been manufactured in a domestic context as well.

3.4. Metals

In HSS 19 71 fUriaše gives ḫašaḫušennu silver to her brother; G. Müller has suggested that the meaning of this term might be “in any kind of form.”[25] It is thus not certain that silver actually circulated: the value intended could be obtained by accumulating a variety of goods. The situation would be the same as in Gadd 31 where fHalaše gives away two textiles, the price of which is expressed in silver.

In SCCNH 7 6, the woman gives 24 shekels of silver (= ca. 192 g), which is the higher amount mentioned within this corpus. If she really gives away metal, we do not know how she was able to get such a sum. Was she able to benefit actually from textiles produced by herself (see above § 3.3)? She does not receive her dowry from her father, but from a man who adopted her as sister; thus she might have already left her father’s house and we do not know if she had already been married before, nor if she had some kind of economic autonomy.

The amounts given as counter-dowries, when expressed in silver, are quite high: 15, 20, and 24 shekels of silver. As a comparison, the amount of a terḫatu in Nuzi raises usually to 40 shekels of silver,[26] though other quantities are also attested: 10 shekels (JEN 434), 15 (HSS 19 144), 30 (JEN 186, RA 23 12), 35 (HSS 19 99), 45 (HSS 19 84), etc.

4. Conclusions

This article is a first attempt to deal with a subject rarely investigated, despite the number of studies devoted to the status of women, namely the involvement of women in economic life as well as the properties, movable or immovable, that they might possess. In our opinion, it might be further investigated following two research approaches:

  • On one hand, by focusing on the real estate properties of women: they can be adopted as sons by their own father and thus inherit land,[27] but also be adopted by other men who transfer a plot of land to them (the question remains open if Gadd 31 and SCCNH 7 6 belong to this category), or loan barley or other commodities and take a plot of land as pledge.
  • On the other hand, one should have a closer look at the movable properties women can inherit according to their father’s wills, as well as at those they can give away in adoption contracts, or even lend as a part of a loan arrangement[28].

 

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Müller G. G. W., 1995, “Zur Bedeutung von hurro-akkadissch hašahušennu,” UF 27, p. 371-380.

Novak M., 1994, “Eine Typologie der Wohnhäuser von Nuzi,” Baghdader Mitteilungen 25, p. 341-446.

Paradise J. S., 1980, “ A Daugnter and her Father’s Property at Nuzi», JCS 32, p. 189-207.

—     1987, “Daughters as “Sons” at Nuzi,” in M. A. Morrison and D. I. Owen (eds), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 9/1, SCCNH 2, Winona Lake, p. 203-213.

Pfeifer N., 2009, “Das Eherecht in Nuzi: Einflüsse aus altbabylonischer Zeit,” in G. Wilhelm (ed.), General Studies and Excavations at Nuzi 11/2, SCCNH 18, Bethesda, p. 355-420.

Speiser E. A., 1928-1929, “New Kirkuk documents Relating to Family Laws,” AASOR 10, p. 1-73.

Starr, R. F. S., 1937, Nuzi, Volume 2, Plates and Plans, Cambridge (Mass.).

—     1939, Nuzi, Volume 1, Text, Cambridge (Mass.).

Westbrook R., 1993-1997, “Mitgift,” RlA 8, p. 273-283.

Wilhelm G., 1981, “Die Siegel des Königs Itḫi-teššup von Arrapḫa,” WO 12, p. 5-7.

Zaccagnini C., 1979, The Rural Landscape of the Land of Arrapḫe, Rome.


[1] See previous studies in Paradise 1980: 204-205; Grosz 1981, 1983, 1989; Westbrook 1993-1997: 278-279; Pfeifer 2009: 397-399.

[2] Grosz 1981: 170 provides a table with the texts mentioning dowry payments, which needs some corrections: the first text, described as “HSS 19 79,” is actually HSS 19 71, and HSS 19 79 should be added; in HSS 13 93 = HSS 14 2: 17-18, Apukka is designated as LÚ mu-lu-gi5 ša DAM-at Ihi-iš-mi-te-šub DUMU LUGAL (Wilhelm 1981: 4; Deller 1987), but this does not necessarily mean that the fields mentioned held the status of dowry. Several texts have been transliterated, translated and studied by Breneman 1971: 63-65 (HSS 19 76), 120-123 (HSS 5 11), 177-179 (Gadd 31), 190-195 (HSS 19 79 and HSS 5 76), and 267-268. “SCCNH 7 6” refers to BM 104822+BM 104835, joint made by Fincke 1995: 35-36, who also gives the transliteration and the translation; J. Fincke compares this tablet with Gadd 31 and the reading [ana mul]ūgūti l. 5, just like in Gadd 31, has been suggested by J.J. Justel, who collated the tablet. The join between HSS 19 108 and EN 9/1 139 was made by Fincke 1999, who provides a complete transliteration of the document.

[3] See n. 2.

[4] l. 5-6: it-ti ṭup-pí-šu-ma ù it-ti A.ŠÀ ša pí-i ṭup-pí.

[5] These two tablets have been found in Kirkūk (Arrapḫe) and, according to Grosz 1988: 128-141, they belong to the same family: fUntuya, adopted as sister in SCCNH 7 6, would be the grandmother of fHalaše, adopted as sister in Gadd 31.

[6] Fincke 2012: 122 n. 28.

[7] Fincke 1995: 36.

[8] Speiser 1928-1929: 26-27.

[9] Gordon 1936: 158.

[10] Lacheman 1973; for example fTulpun-naya acquires orchards, fields and houses in this way (Abrahami and Lion 2012: 20-24).

[11] HSS 5 76 and HSS 5 11 have been transliterated by Dosch 1976: 126-129 (nos. 85 and 86), and HSS 5 11 is studied by Assante 1988: 19-22.

[12] According to Grosz 1988: 140-141, fHalaše would be the daughter of Šekar-Tilla i.e. Šekaya (hypocoristic form). The adoptive brother, Šalap-urhe, and fHalaše might have been relative.

[13] Zaccagnini 1979: 42-43 (data have been completed). We assume here that the ammatu is about 50 cm.

[14] These data are provided by Novak 1994: 375-377. HSS 19 71 and HSS 19 79 are added to allow comparisons even if, of course, the houses mentionned in these texts have not been identified nor excavated.

[15] See especially Fincke 2010 and Maidman 2010: 163-227.

[16] See recently Fincke 2010.

[17] Cassin (1969: 129) notes that the bride’s father, Paikku, “a donné à sa fille en ‘dot’ des maisons qui lui sont payées par son gendre,” considering apparently the counter-dowry as the price of the houses.

[18] Grosz 1983: 202, 1989: 172-173.

[19] Lion 2009a.

[20] For example HSS 14 593, where 24 UŠ.BAR receive rations. A list of more than 100 textiles workers has been established by Mayer 1978: 169-175, all of them being men.

[21] Starr 1939: 412 and 1937: pl. 116, S-Y and 127, FF (whorls), pl. 117 C-E and G (weights).

[22] Starr 1937: pl. 127 FF (whorl) was found in B 7, group 2 (a house dated to stratum III); pl. 116 S (whorl) in K 436, a room which is not indicated on the plan, and belongs to group 18 (stratum III), cf. Starr 1939: 269-270; pl. 116 W (whorl) was found in G 10, a room belonging either to group 4 (stratum III) or to group 27 (stratum II); pl. 117 D (weight) in C 42, group 10 (stratum III); pl. 117 G (weight) in H 53, group 11 (stratum III); and pl. 117 C (weight) in C 29, group 33 (stratum II).

[23] Starr 1937: 218-219; Starr 1939: pl. 118 A and B (ancient loomstands) and 30 B (Arab loom). Starr compares these loomstands with those used by the inhabitants of region when he led the excavations.

[24] See this idea first in Grosz 1981: 174.

[25] Müller 1995: 380 (“in beliebiger Form bezahlbar”).

[26] See f.ex. Breneman 1971: 261, Pfeifer 2009: 381.

[27] See Paradise 1980, 1987; Grosz 1987; Ben-Barak 1988: 91-93, 2006: 144-148; Lion 2009b.

[28] This last subject will be deal with in the next REFEMA meeting.

(1) Women economic activities at home and outside home during the Ur III period

(1) Women economic activities at home and outside home during the Ur III period 

Bertrand Lafont (CNRS, Nanterre)

By way of introduction two preliminary remarks:

a)   First, and just as a reminder, about the basic structural element of ancient Mesopotamian economy and society, notably during the IIIrd millennium B.C.: the « e2 » (Akkadian bîtum, « household »). As a category, the « e2 » (comparable to the Greek oikos) describes every possible socio-economic unit: it could be a large institution, such as a palace, or a temple, or a royal estate; or it could be the home of a professional or even of a common independent family. The ordinary urban household consisted of the immediate family, perhaps some additional dependent relations, and less frequently, a handful of slaves. It was ordinarily a patriarchal household.

b)   Second, concerning our sources: the tens of thousands of administrative records available for the Ur III period (the one studied here) have significant processing constraints: their mass is as huge as the scope they cover is narrow, since they document mainly, through several large batches of archives, the administration of the state institutional sector in several provinces of the Sumerian kingdom of Ur.

In these archives we actually have thousands of references concerning work done by women. At Ur III, they were part of the workforce at the same level as men (guruš ≠ geme2). And we can appreciate their place  in the Sumerian society of that time according to the various categories revealed by the administrative records:

  • by genre:                     men / women
  • by age:                         children / adults / elders
  • by social status:          slaves / ordinary people / ruling class

But we know very little about the private and family life of these women. Our documentation leaves many crucial questions unanswered, particularly those concerning the kinship relations and the family structure of the population. As a matter of fact, most of the available information on Ur III women concerns aspects that will be studied in our next workshop (devoted to women’s work in public institutions and outside the family).

1. WOMEN IN FAMILIES AND PRIVATE HOUSEHOLDS

We can assert, without fear of being too much influenced by our own conceptions of what is a « family », that the Sumerian society of that time was based on nuclear families practicing monogamy, with a relatively small number of children (in contrast with what is known for royal families). Here is an example of such a small unit that constituted a family:

[1] UET 3, 93 (CDLI P136410). Ur, no date.

1. 1 Ur-ni9-gar sanga PN1, chief administrator: head of family
2. 1 Geme2dšul-gi-ra dam PN2, his wife,
3. 1 Lú-dnin-gá dumu-nita2 PN3 and PN4, his sons,
4. 1 Arad2-al-la dumu-nita2
5. 1 Geme2-é-e11 dumu-munus PN5, PN6 and PN7, his daughters.
6. 1 Dingir-in-na-kam dumu-munus
7. 1 Nam-nin-e-ba-ab-du7 dumu-munus
8. dam dumu ur-ni9-gar-me-éš They are the wife and the children of Ur-nigar,
9. é dnin-a-zi-mú-a-me-éš of the temple of Nin-azimu.

Was such a couple with five children “typical” for Neo-Sumerian time? Maybe, but we do not know, in any case, about the purpose of such a text, or about whether this household was in fact larger with relatives, slaves, and so on, as it is possible given the fact that the head of this family was a “notable” (sanga). Another example of such a nuclear family is proposed below: in the following text we see an entire family –in this case probably much lower on the social scale: it is likely an over-indebted family that can not meet its needs– selling and reducing itself to slavery to survive, a fairly well documented practice at that time:

[2] TMH NF 1-2, 53 (CDLI P134365), cf. Steinkeller,  FAOS 17, 20. Nippur, Šu-Suen 1.

1. [1 Ur]-du6-kù-ga PN 1,
2. 1 Dingir-bu-za dam-ni PN2, his wife,
3. 1 Nin-da-da PN3, PN4, PN5, his 3 children (2 girls, 1 boy),
4. 1 Nin-úr-ra-ni
5. 1 Ur-dšu-mah
6. dumu-ni-me
7. ⅔ ma-na 3 gín kù-babbar-šè for ⅔ mina and 3 shekels of silver
8. ní-te-ne-ne ba-ra-an-sa10-áš sold themselves

And we find one more illustration in these 2 lines of BAOM 2, 26 26 (CDLI P104889) that mention « 30 liters (of barley) for Geme-Eana, widow, mother of 5 (children) » (3 bán Geme2-é-an-na nu-ma-SU ama dumu 5).

In some of these households, women could have property of their own, and this could come from a marital gift. The next text shows how quite a rich father distributed gifts to his wife, his two daughters and his son, giving them slaves, livestock, and real estate:

[3] BM 105377 (CDLI P112634), cf. Wilcke, Elderly, p.49. Umma, Amar-Suen 4.

1. 1 gu4-numun g[u…] 1 ox …
2. 1 é [x] 1 house …
3. 1 Ur-sukkal 4 slaves
4. 1 Zi-NI-ti
5. 1 A-lí-ma?
6. 1 A-a-ha-ma-ti lú nam-ha-ni
7. [x]+1 u8 sila4 dù-a x pregnant sheeps
8. [x]+1 ud5 máš dù-a x pregnant goats
9. é? KI.ANki šu-du7-a-bi 1 house (in) KI.ANki with its furniture
10. 1 na4kín šu sè-ga 1 millstone with its upper stone:
11. Ur-ni9-gar-ke4 Ur-nigar
12. dam-na in-na-an-ba gave as a gift (all this) to his wife 
13. 10 gín har kù-babbar 10 sheqels of ring silver and
14. 1 Geme2dšara2 1 slave: gifts for Baza his daughter.
15. níg-ba Ba-za dumu-munus
16. 1 Eš18-dar-ì-lí 1 slave: gift for Ninbatuku his daughter.
17. níg-ba Nin-ba-tuku dumu-munus
18. 1 [Lugal]-ušurx 1 slave: gift for Hala-abbana (his son ?)
19. níg-ba Ha-la?-ab-ba-na
20. Ur-ni9-gar-ke4 dumu-ne-ne in-na-ba Ur-nigar gave as a gift (all this) to his children
(Witnesses and date)

The reasons for such gifts given by the family head are unknown. It could have been an arrangement before his death, before a journey, or before going to war, to protect his family. The trial displayed below shows again that this independent property of women could come from a marital gift. In that case, we see a son who turned against his mother after his father’s death, demanding a cow and two slaves. The woman denied the request, saying she had received these goods as a personal gift during the lifetime of her husband:

[4] Molina, Fs Owen : 213 n°9 (CDLI P375930). Umma, no date.

1. Du-gu-da-ga Dugudaga
2. Geme2-gu ama-ni-da di in-da-du11 brought a legal case against Gemegu his mother
3. 1 áb-máh Geme2-gú-eden-na mu-bi-im – 1 milk-producing cow whose name is Gemeguedena
4. 1 sag-nita2 Šu-na mu-ni-im – 1 male slave whose name is Šuna
5. 1 sag-munus Ma-tu mu-ni-im – 1 female slave whose name is Matu
6. 1 Geme2-gu dam-gu10 ma-an-ba             bí-in-du11 “My husband gave them as a gift to me” Gemegu declared

Of course, large family households (é) or princely domains of larger size, or estates of several wives belonging to provincial governors are also well known in our archival texts. One interesting case concerns the household of the son of the governor of Girsu, early in the reign of Amar-Suen. In the inventory made ​​of his household (Maekawa 1996 = P102665), the following were recorded:

  • 5 hectares orchard
  • 200 slaves (half of them being women)
  • 3700 heads of livestock
  • 250 heads of cattle
  • objects in silver, non precious metal, stone, wood, and reed
  • clothes, drapery, and skins
  • perishable goods

Apparently, his wealth originated mainly in animal husbandry. But a more detailed look at the description of this large household estate (inventoried on the occasion of seizure proceedings, as shown by K. Maekawa) shows that more than 200 garments, nearly 500 kg of wool and large quantities of oil, honey, wine, cheese, dates and aromatics were also counted. The list of these goods, together with common sense, prompts us to conclude that the women in this household, including maids and slaves, were the ones who transformed all of these raw materials into the products needed for everyday life. These women were probably busy first of all with providing members of the household with their basic needs in terms of food, clothing, and care. But the problem is that their work remains « invisible » as there is never any mention of it in our archives.

The domestic area was also probably the place for other productive and economically significant activities, but, once again, we have very little proof of this in the written documentation, because of its nature (see the introduction above). However some texts do exist, documenting a real productive activity involving women within a family home. In the following administrative tablet we can see six men and two women (the second one with her child), in the household of the governor of Girsu; they all received food rations for producing beer within the household during one month:

[5] MVN 6, 147 (CDLI P114602). Girsu, Lagaš II, no date.

1. 0,1.0 Má-gur8-re 60 liters (monthly ration): Magure
2. 0,1.0 Me-ni-šu-na 60 liters: Menišuna
3. 0,1.0 Ur-dba-ba6 60 liters: Ur-Baba
4. 0,1.0 Ur-dlugal-bàn-da 60 liters: Ur-Lugalbanda
5. 0,1.0 Ur-zigum-ma 60 liters: Ur-ziguma
6. 0,1.0 É-[…]-da 60 liters: E-[…]-da
7. 0,0.3. Nin-bara2-ge-si 30 liters: Nin-baragesi
8. 0,0.3. Geme2-ŠIM?-su4 30 liters: Geme-ŠIM-su, her child.
9. dumu-ni
10. še-bi 1,2.1. gur Total : 430 (sic!) liters of barley.
11. kaš-a gub-ba-me They are involved in the beer (production).
12. ugula Sipa-da-rí Supervisor : Sipadari.
13. giri3-sè-ga ensi2-me They are personnel of the governor.

The question that can be asked here is whether or not this activity of producing beer exceeded the goal to meet the domestic needs of the governor of Girsu. But in reality, in the Ur III period, we never see any text mentioning surplus from a domestic production that would feed some external economic channels of distribution.

2. WOMEN OCCUPATIONS AT HOME AND OUTSIDE HOME

We must first assert that there was no automatic assignment of women to the domestic sphere alone. On the contrary, it appears clearly that some women could have professional skills equal to those of men, and that they could exercise them outside the family home. We will illustrate this point by examining a list of women’s professions and specializations recorded in the archives of Garšana and Irisagrig, texts that bring some new evidence for the role that women played in Ur III society. Thanks to these new data, we can now assert that women held many positions hitherto documented only for men. These specialized occupations include:

  • geme2-azlag2                                 (cf. male lú-azlag2, « fuller », « washerman »)
  • geme2/munus-muhaldim           (cf. male muhaldim, « cooker »)
  • geme2-ì-du8                                  (cf. male ì-du8, « doorkeeper »)
  • geme2-kisal-luh                             (cf. male kisal-luh, « (temple) sweeper »)
  • nar-munus                                      (cf. male nar, « singer », « musician »)
  • munus-a-zu                                 (cf. male a-zu, « physician »)
  • munus-dub-sar                         (cf. male dub-sar, « scribe »)
  • munus-gudu4                             (cf. male gudu4, « purification priest »)

The last three professions (in bold) are particularly interesting, as they are highly specialized and as they were not previously attested much for women.

Again in Garšana, a quick look at the female population of the household headed by princess Simat-Ištaran (a sister of king Šu-Suen) shows that there were six basic female occupations frequently mentioned in this archive (cf. Owen & Kleinerman, CUSAS 4, p. 721). They are very common and correspond to what is expected for a household of this kind, but it is noteworthy that these women were in fact often performing tasks far from their first specialty, as shown by the following table that compares titles qualifying the registered women against the actual activities which they were involved in and for which the tablets were written:

Professional occupations qualifying women in Garšana texts

Real occupations recorded for these women in administrative Garšana texts

 – geme2-àr-ra                “grinders”     – agricultural work
 – geme2-kikken2            “millers”     – construction work
 – geme2gešì-sur-sur      “oil pressers”     – transportation & boat towing
 – geme2-gu                     “spinners”     – flour & food processing
 – geme2-uš-bar               “weavers”     – mourners

As we can see, there were real specialties and specific skills for women (here at the most basic level, thus essentially for food processing and textile production, linked without doubt with their daily tasks) and that could be used to categorize these women. But what we observe is that these women had also to perform further productive activities (agricultural work, boat towing, construction work, and so on), probably for the corvée duty to which they were regularly forced part-time, at the same level as men. So it seems that we can distinguish between categorized female occupations and the variety of works actually performed by these women.

Therefore, from an economic point of view, we can assert that the role played by these women was multifaced, both inside and outside their family house. Nevertheless, in Ur III all women did not systematically belong to an official or family “e2”. Thus, we do find frequent mention of women qualified as geme2-kar-KID: these women were not necessarily “prostitutes” as often said, but rather independent women, not living under male authority, or not part of a patriarchal household. They had to support themselves in any number of ways (and some may in fact have been prostitutes) [see Assante 1998, Cooper 2010, Démare-Lafont s.p.].

Finally let us consider the case of women who could find themselves alone and powerless because of the death of their husbands. If they did not have the means of economic independence, they were then taken in charge by the institutional sector that provided their sustenance in exchange for servile labor. This is shown for example by the  following brief administrative text where the wife of a man, left alone after the death of her (executed?) husband, is sent to the (weaving) ergastulum:

[6] TCTI 2, 3658 (CDLI P132869). Girsu, Šu-Suen 1.

1. 5 ⅓ ma-na siki Expenditure of 5,33 mines of wool
2. mu Ur-diškur ba-gaz-šè because Ur-Iškur has been killed
3. dam-ni é-uš-bar and his wife has entered the weaving house.
4. ba-an-ku4-ra-šè
5. zi-ga

3. MANAGEMENT AUTONOMY FOR WOMEN INSIDE FAMILIES

Now some words concerning aspects of the management autonomy that women could experience. First, let us mention as a reminder the case of some well-known women managers of large state institutions in Sumer during the IIIrd millennium, as in the é-munus in Presargonic Lagaš, or as in the estates managed by queen Šulgi-simti in Drehem(?) or by princess Simat-Ištaran in Garšana during the Ur III period (see Weiershäuser 2008). These cases are not exceptional and Law codes as well as historical texts often consider situations where women were managers of family or private estates at that time. It is explicitly considered for example in the Statue B of Gudea (// see also Cyl. B xviii 8-9, and §B2-B3 of the Laws of Ur-Namma in Civil’s new edition):

[7] Gudea, Satue B

vii 44.  é dumu-nita2 nu-tuku                         For a household not having a son
vii 45.  dumu-munus-bi ì-bí-la-ba              I let the daughter (of the house) become its heir
vii 46.  mi-ni-kux(KWU634)

And again in §E4 of the Laws of Ur-Namma or in §b and §18 of the Code of Lipit-Eštar, where it is explicitly stated that a man as well as a woman could manage an estate:

[8] CUN, §E4 (according to Civil’s new edition)

tukum-bi lú ba-úš                                              If a man dies,
dam-PI-ni ibila-1-gin7 é-a hé-dím          his wife will act in the house like a single heir

[9] CLE, §18

tukum-bi lugal é-a ù nin é-a-ke4                   If the master or the mistress of an estate

And this is reflected also in some trial texts, as the following which treats a dispute between two women:

[10] Molina, Fs Owen n°1, p.201-202 (CDLI P200743). Umma, no date.

1. Geme2dsuen-ke4 Geme-Suen said to the wife of Ur-lugal the gardner
2. dam Ur-lugal santana-ka that she had a credit of 2 minas of silver with her
3. 2 ma-na kù-babbar in-da-tuku in-na-du11 (= the wife of Ur-lugal) …

In his synthesis on Ancient Near Eastern Law, Ray Westbrook (Westbrook 2003a) has shown that this women’s private property could have 3 sources in the Ur III period:

  • dowries (sag-rig7) received from their father
  • gifts given by their husband (as seen above)
  • personal purchases made ​​on their own property

Therefore, we see quite frequently women involved in lending, borrowing, buying or selling things, silver, livestock, slaves, orchards or houses, just as did men, as illustrated by the following:

 a) Women lending and borrowing: [11] NRVN 1, 96 (CDLI P122311). Nippur, Šu-Suen 6.

1. ½ ma-na 2 gín kù-babbar ½ mana and 2 shekels of silver,
2. máš 5 gín 1 gín-[ta] 1 shekel per each 5 shekels is the interest;
3. ki Geme2dli-si4-na-ta Amasaga and her son Mašgula
4. Ama-sa6-ga received it
5. ù Maš-gu-la dumu-nita from Geme-Lisina
6. šu ba-an-ti-eš

b) Women buying and selling: [12] FAOS 17, n°117* (CDLI P116217). Nippur, Ibbi-Suen 2.

1. 1 sag munus En-né-dla-az mu-ni-im 1 female slave, her name is Enne-Laz
2. 1 gín igi 3-gál kù-babbar for 1,33 shekel of silver, her full price,
3. sa10 ti-la-ni-šè
4. ki Ša-at-dsuen-ta from Šat-Suen
5. Geme2dnanna-[ke4] Geme-Nanna
6. [in-ši-sa10] bought.

Several examples can also be found that show women (often widows[1]) disposing of their property, without interference from the men of their family. For example in this text concerning a widow in charge of the subsistence field (šuku) of her deceased husband. The land was linked to a duty to perform services (dusu). And this duty was given away to a man in return for a payment in silver, but it seems that the land remained in the hands of the widow.

[13] NATN 258 (CDLI P120956) [See Démare-Lafont, Féodalités, 535, and Wilcke, Elderly, 55-56]. Nippur, Šu-Suen 1.

1. 1(eše3) 3(iku) GÁN Concerning 3,22 ha of field,
2. šuku Lugal-KA-gi-na-ka subsistence field of Lugal-KAgina,
3. Geme2dsuen dam-ni Geme-Suen his wife
4. ù Péš-tur-tur dumu-munus-ni and Pešturtur his daughter
5. Lugal-hé-gál-ra approached Lugal-hegal
6. igi-ne-ne in-ši-gar-ru-éš
7. šuku-gá dusu-bi gùr-ba-ab She said to him: “Bear the
8. in-na-an-du11 obligation of my subsistence field”.
9. Lugal-hé-gál-e Lugal-hegal
10. mu šuku-ra-šè 5 gín kù-babbar gave to Geme-Suen, wife of Lugal-KAgina
11. Geme2dsuen dam Lugal-KA-gi-na-ra and to Pešturtur his daughter
12. ù Péš-tur-tur dumu-munus-a-ni-ir 5 shekels of silver for the subsistence field
13. in-na-an-šúm

Another important text on the same topic illustrates the right of widows, but this time also addresses the thorny issue of land ownership. Without entering the debate over the status of agricultural land during the Ur III period, it seems that “in itself this text is sufficient to prove the existence of arable in private hands” (van Driel, quoted in Garfinkle, CUSAS 22, p.21 n.17 [contra Civil? [2]])

[14] NATN 302 (CDLI P121000) [see Owen, Widows’ rights, ZA 70 = Lafont, RJM n°10 =  FAOS 17: 203]. Nippur, Šu-Suen 8.

1. 1 Á-la-la Alala
2. 1 Ur-ddun a-ne-bi-<da?> together with Ur-Dun
3. ibila-me were heirs
4. é? ad-da-ba íb-ba (and) had divided the estate of their father.
5. Ur-ddun ba-úš (Then) Ur-Dun died.
6. Geme2dsuen dam Ur-ddun-ke4 Geme-Suen, the wife of Ur-Dun,
7. [Á]-lá-lá-<da?> entered into litigation with Alala
8. [mu a-šà] é níg ha-[la-ba Ur]-ddun-šè under the juridiction of Dada,
9. [šu] Da-da the governor of Nippur, concerning
10. ensi2 Nibruki-ka the field, the house, the furnishing (representing)
11. [di] in-da-du11 the inheritence portion of Ur-Dun.
(…)

[NB : the restitution a-šà in the break of line 8 is quite certain because of the following lines of the text, not given here but that mention a-šà]

One last example will be proposed that goes in the same direction: an action brought by a widow to de­fend her property and rights after the death of the family head, facing his heirs:

 [15] ITT 3, 5279 (CDLI P111162). [See Lafont, RJM n°12, and Wilcke, Elderly, 50-51]. Girsu, Šu-Suen 4.

1. di til-la Final judgement.
2. 2 ⅚ sar é KUM.DÚR 2 sar and ⅚ of a house-[x] :
3. In-na-sa6-ga Innasaga,
4. dam Du-du dumu Ti-ti-ka-ke4 wife of Dudu the son of Titi, bought it with
5. kù šu-na-ta bar igi-gál-ni in-sa10 silver from her own hand on her own initiative.
6. Du-du a-ba-ti-la:da Innasaga testified under oath that :
7. é-bi Ur-é-ninnu dumu Du-du-ke4 in-gíd – together with Dudu, while he was still alive
8. mu In-na-sa6-ga in-sa10-a-šè    Ur-Eninu, son of Dudu, measured this house,
9. dub é sa10-a-bi – because Innasaga had bought (the house),
10. ki In-na-sa6-ga-ta ba-an-sar    the actual tablet concerning the house purchase
11. é kù šu-na-ta-àm in-sa10-a    was written from Innasaga’s side (=place),
12. níg-gur11 Du-du la-ba-ši-lá-a – the house had been bought with her own silver
13. In-na-sa6-ga – nothing of Dudu’s has been paid for it.
14. nam-erim2-àm
15. 1 Nin-a-na dumu Ni-za kù-dím Dudu had given Ninanna, child of the goldsmith
16. Du-du In-na-sa6-ga dam-ni-ir Niza, as a gift to Innasaga.
17. in-na-ba
18. egir5 Du-du-ta After Dudu’s death, Dudu’s heirs litigated this
19. šu Arad2dnanna sukkal-mah ensi2-ka under the juridiction of the sukkalmah
20. ì-bí-la Du-du im-ma-a-gi4-eš and governor Arad-Nanna
(…)

CONCLUSION

In traditional societies, the division of labor is established according to two essential criteria: age and gender. It is the traditional view that children keep herds, elders stay at home while the adults hunt, fish, work in the fields and ensure collective tasks. Some occupations are reserved for women besides their management of everything related to the domestic space. On their side, men have their own occupations considered as typically male. It is clear however that this scheme does not fit exactly the situation as it has just been described for Ur III.

Indeed, during the Ur III period, the domestic area was clearly the place of productive and eco­no­mically significant activities for women, enabling them at first to provide mem­bers of the household with their basic needs for food, clothing and care. But in this regard, it must be noticed that we never see any surplus of goods produced at home by women that could have fed external economic channels (even if, on that point, attention must be paid of course to the argument from silence…) [3]

We must not imagine, however, any assignment of women to the domestic area only. For several decades it was popular in scholarship to see an opposition of public/private along male/female gender lines. This approach asserted that women were reduced to the domestic, private sphere in their activities, while men acted in the public sphere. This view is now outdated, especially since progress in gender studies has shown that family, marriage or household are not spheres specific to women and that women were not totally defined by their roles within families.

Thus, the concept of professional skill or specialization was real for women as well as for men, and we can see both men and women doing their job inside or outside the domestic sphere, for various tasks of production or service, including in the framework of the corvée obligation which made no gender distinction (and we can note that women were employed to do the same hard works as men: in the fields, in towing boats, in hauling bricks, etc.).

As we just saw it (but this situation has been known since quite a long time), women could own property and manage it freely. They had full legal, economic rights, with the same management autonomy as men: they could sell, buy, lend, borrow, sue for economic redress, all with the same legal capacity. As a witness of such a situation, we can also mention that more than a hundred of seals are known to have been owned by women in Ur III.

We can therefore assert with Marc Van de Mieroop (Van de Mieroop 1989) that the participation of women in the economic sphere was real, separate from their husbands and on the same terms, although on a smaller scale. And that, from an economic point of view, Ur III women were not necessarily dependent on men: the possible inequality of women « was one of scale, not of area of activity » (ibidem).

Ultimately, are these data sufficient to validate or invalidate the commonly asserted idea that the living conditions of women deteriorated over time in Mesopotamian history after the IIIrd millennium? At least it is possible to assert that, during the Ur III period, these conditions were more or less the same as those of men.

References

Assante, J. 1998     “The kar.kid / harimtu, Prostitute or Single Woman? A Reconsideration of the Evidence.” Ugarit Forschungen 30, 5-96.

Cooper, Jerrold 2006     “Prostitution”, Reallexikon der Assyriologie 11. Berlin, New York : W. de Gruyter, pp. 12-21.

Démare-Lafont, Sophie s.p.       “Women”, in A Handbook of Ancient Mesopotamia (G. Rubio éd.), à paraître

Gelb, Ignace J. 1972     “The a-ru-a Institution.” Revue d’Assyriologie 66, pp. 1-32. 1979     “Household and Family in Early Mesopotamia”. In E. Lipinski, ed., State and Temple Economy in the Ancient Near East. Proceedings of the International Conference organized by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven from the 10th to the 14th of April 1978. Leuven, pp. 1-98.

Heimpel, Wolfgang 2010     “Left to themselves. Waifs in the Time of the Third Dynasty of Ur”. In A. Kleirnermann and J. M. Sasson, eds., Why Should Someone Who knows Something Conceal it? Cuneiform Studies in Honor of David I. Owen on His 70th Birthday. Bethesda MD: CDL Press, pp. 9-13.

Lafont, Bertrand 2001     “Fortunes, héritages et patrimoines dans la haute histoire mésopotamienne. À propos de quelques inventaires de biens mobiliers”. In C. Breniquet and C. Kepinski, eds., Etudes mésopotamiennes. Recueil de textes offert à Jean-Louis Huot. Bibliothèque de la délégation archéologique française en Iraq, 10. Paris: Editions recherches sur les civilisations, pp. 295-314.

Lion, Brigitte 2007    “La notion de genre en assyriologie”. In V. Sebillotte et N. Ernoult, Problèmes du genre en Grèce ancienne, Paris, pp. 51-64.

Maekawa, Kazuya 1996     “Confiscation of Private Properties in the Ur III Period: A Study of é-dul-la and níg-GA.” ASJ 18, 103-168.

Neumann, Hans 2011     “Slavery in Private Households Toward the End of the Third Millennium B.C.”. In L. Culbertson, ed., Slaves and Households in the Near East. Oriental Institute Seminars (OIS), 7. Chicago, Illinois: The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, pp. 21-32.

Owen, David I. 1980a     “A Sumerian Letter from an Angry Housewife”. In G. Rendsbury and e. alii, eds., The Bible World. Essays in Honor of Cyrus H. Gordon. New York: KTAV, pp. 189-202. 1980b     “Widow’s Rights in Ur III Sumer.” Zeitschrift Für Assyriologie 70, 170-184. s.p.         Unprovenanced Texts Primarily from Iri-Sagrig/Al-Šarraki and the History of the Ur III Period (Nisaba 15)

Owen, David I., et Rudolf H. Mayr 2007     The Garšana Archives. Cornell University Studies in Assyriology and Sumerology (CUSAS) 3. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press.

Parr, P. A. 1974     “Ninhilia: Wife of Ayakala, Governor of Umma”. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 26, 90-111.

Steinkeller, Piotr 1989     Sale Documents of the Ur III Period. FAOS, 17. Stuttgart

Van De Mieroop, Marc 1989     “Women in the Economy of Sumer”. In B. S. Lesko, ed., Women’s Earliest Records from Ancient Egypt and Western Asia. Atlanta, pp. 53-66. 1999     Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of History. London, New York : Routledge

Weiershäuser, Frauke 2008     Die königlichen Frauen der III. Dynastie von Ur. Göttinger Beiträge zum Alten Orient, 1. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.

Westbrook, Raymond, ed. 2003a     A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2 vol.). Handbuch der Orientalistik, 72. Leiden, Boston: Brill. 2003b     Women and Property in Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Societies. Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University. http://chs.harvard.edu/wa/pageR?tn=ArticleWrapper&bdc=12&mn=1219

Wilcke, Claus 1998     “Care of the Elderly in Mesopotamia in the Third Millennium B.C.”. In M. Stol and S. P. Vleeming, eds., The Care of the Elderly in the Ancient Near East. Leiden: Brill, pp. 23-57.


[1] Note that among so many administrative texts of Ur III, only 8 mention widows (nu-mu-SU, nu-ma-SU, Akk. almattu).
[2] According to Miguel Civil, “women could not inherit agricultural land” (CUSAS 17, p. 268, concerning CUN §B3). But it seems that we have some attestations, since Old Sumerian times until Ur III, of women holding agricultural land inherited from their husband or their father. And we can find some examples where women (widows?) can dispose of their land property without interference from men of their family. On the same topic “fields and women”, see also the difficult letter of the “Ur III angry wife” (MVN 11, 168 = CDLI P116181, studied by Owen, Fs Gordon 2, 1982, Neumann TUAT NF 3, Hallo COS 3, p. 295, and Michalowski, CKU, p. 16). And add finally the remarks of P. Michalowski in Letters, p. 78, with the letter TCS 1, 229 = Michalowski, Letters 131 (CDLI P145730).
[3] R. Westbrook (introduction to the colloquium Women and Property): “The products of a woman’s industry, in particular of weaving, are remarkable for their virtual absence from the Ancient Near East sources as a form of property. (…) Nonetheless, there is ample archaeological evidence for the importance of weaving in the domestic context. (…) The ANE situation is to be contrasted with the Greek sources, which provide ample evidence of both the economic and property aspects of women’s work”.

Project of prosopographical study of Neo-Babylonian women (french version)

Project of prosopographical study of Neo-Babylonian women
(french version)

 

Yoko WATAI (Post-doctoral researcher, Université Chuo — UMR 7041-ArScAn)

 

Exemplier Yoko Watai

Dans le cadre du projet REFEMA, «Rôle économique des femmes en Mésopotamie ancienne /Women’s role in the economy of Ancient Mesopotamia»), je vais travailler sur la prosopographie féminine néo-babylonienne. Pour cela je vais recenser tous les noms de femmes qui apparaissent dans les documents juridiques et économiques privés, ainsi que dans les archives institutionnelles. Ce travail nous permettra d’analyser des noms féminins eux-même mais aussi d’étudier les nombreuses activités économiques des femmes dans le secteur privé et dans le secteur institutionnel. En raison du nombre de femmes qui se trouvent dans les documents néo-babyloniens, ce projet se terminera dans 3 ans, pour le colloque de 2014. Je présenterai donc seulement l’état actuel et provisoire de ce travail.

<Méthode et source>

J’ai créé une base de données et enregistré 88 femmes et 69 nomspour le moment, c’est-à-dire toutes les femmes mentionnées dans les livres de C. Wunsch concernant les archives d’Iddin-Marduk (CM 3) et les archives d’Egibi (CM 20), sauf les noms complètement cassés. Il faut bien noter que ce ne sont pas 88 noms mais 88 femmes. Les femmes ayant le même nom sont chacune enregistrées sur une fiche (par exemple, on trouve 2 Amat-Ninlil, 3 Ina-Esagila-ramât, etc.). Ilfaut remarquer qu’il y a un «biais» dans le choix des documents, puisque les livres que j’ai consultés, surtout le livre des archives des Egibi, ne traitent que des activités concernant les champs et les jardins.

Je vais maintenant présenter les deux axes de ce travail : les recherches onomastiques et les études sur les activités économiques dont s’occupent les femmes.

I. Etudes onomastiques

Nous allons maintenant observer les noms féminins, leurs constructions et leurs significations. Je les ai classés en deux groupes : les esclaves et les femmes libres, et puis je les ai catégorisés selon leur construction, d’après le livre de Stamm, Die Akkadische Namengebung et d’après l’Appendix de Di Vino, Studies in Third Millennium Sumerian and Akkadian Personal Names.

On trouve donc principalement deux sortes de noms : les «Theophorous Names» (contenant le nom d’un dieu) et les «Non-theophorous Names». Ces noms se divisent ensuite en plusieurs types. Pour les «Theophorous Names» (y compris quand le nom de la divinité est omis), on trouve au moins 5 types :

  1. les «Petitions» : les noms des appels aux dieux qui utilisent l’impératif et l’optatif.
  2. les «Thanksgiving Names», c’est-à-dire les noms qui remercient une divinité pour un événement spécifique (comme la naissance des enfants). Ces deux types appartiennent à la catégorie : «Concret Sentence Names», les noms mentionnant des événements spécifiques.
  3. les «Attribute-Names», qui décrivent la nature des divinités, comme Tašmētu-damqat «Tašmētu est agréable».
  4. 4le «type Sin-abī (Sin est mon père)», expression de la confiance potentielle (ici, Bānītu-tuklatu appartient à ce type.)
  5. les noms «Relation to the deity», ici Amat-nom de divinité. Ces  trois derniers types appartiennent à la catégorie «Generalization», à savoir une expression intemporelle.

Le groupe des «Non-theophorous Names» est constitué de deux types d’«Affectionate Names», qui désignent des enfants: les «Affectionate Names I» sont les désignations par référence aux parents, frères ou soeurs : par exemple, Ramûa «My love», Bēlessunu «Their goddess». Les «Affectionate Names II» contiennent des noms d’animaux, de plantes, etc.

Malgré l’insuffisance des données, on peut quand même dessiner une première tendance dans la construction des noms féminins: une grande partie des noms d’esclaves féminines appartiennent au type «Petitions» et «affectionate Names II». D’autre part, les «Attribute Names» et les «Affectionate Names I» sont préférés pour les noms des femmes libres.

On peut dire que la variété des types de noms féminins est moins grande que celle de noms masculins ; par exemple, les types très utilisés pour les noms masculins, par exemple les «Thanksgiving Names», comme Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin «Nabû (m’)a donné les frères», Marduk-apla-uṣur «Marduk a protégé mon fils», etc. sont rares pour les noms féminins. Et, il n’y a pas de noms féminins contenant des mots qui désignent la relation entre les enfants et les parrains. (On trouve le nom «Marduk a protégé mon fils» mais on ne trouve pas le nom «Marduk a protégé ma fille»)

Concernant les déesses mentionnées dans les noms de femmes, elles sont relativement variées pour l’instant. Dans les noms d’esclaves, les déesses qui apparaissent le plus souvent sont Bānītu et Nanaya (3 noms pour  chacune). On trouve aussi Ištar, Šidada, Mammītu et Zarpanītu. Par ailleurs, dans les noms des femmes libres, Ninlil et Tašmētu apparaissent chacune dans deux noms pour trois personnes. On trouve également Baba, et Nanaya. On peut probablement dire que Ninlil était relativement appréciée pour les noms de femmes, qu’elles soient esclaves, ou femmes libres.

Il me semble qu’il existe une petite différence dans le choix des déesses entre les noms des esclaves et ceux des femmes libres, même si cette différence n’est pas encore très remarquable pour l’instant.

II. Activités économiques des femmes

Nous allons regarder maintenant les activités économiques des femmes apparues dans les documents qui ont été enregistrés sur 88 fiches de la base de données. D’abord, concernant les esclaves, la plupart des femmes sont vendues, prises en gage, données comme dot, transférées dans les contrats de partage et dans les documents de l’héritage, etc.. Quand elles apparaissent comme objet du transfert, on peut dire que les femmes participent passivement aux activités économiques. On sait que les esclaves s’occupaient parfois de transactions, vraisemblablement comme agents de leurs maîtres. En effet, nous avons une attestation dans laquelle une esclave de Ina-Esagila-ramât (la femme d’Iddin-Marduk) apparaît comme créancière de l’argent (BM 30544). Je suis sûr que ce type d’attestations est assez abondant, mais nous n’en avons qu’une seule dans notre base de données pour l’instant.

Au sujet des activités des femmes libres, on consultera les tableaux : je les ai classées en deux catégories : «les femmes propriétaires de terrains» et «les autres activités». Pour la première catégorie, on trouve les «activités actives», par exemple, la vente et l’achat, la location, etc., et les «activités passives», par exemple la réception de terrains, ou la gestion par quelqu’un d’autre d’un terrain qui leur appartient, etc. Les autres activités sont constituées des transactions concernant l’argent et des esclaves. On peut donc également qualifier cette catégorie d’«activités actives».

Parmi les «actives actives», on trouve deux catégories : dans le premier cas, les femmes ont une participation indépendante, tandis que dans le deuxième cas, elles agissent avec quelqu’un d’autre, en général un membre de la famille, comme leur mari, leurs fils, leurs frères et même leurs beaux-frères.

L’activité la plus fréquente, soit indépendante, soit avec quelqu’un, est la vente de terre. On trouve deux attestations de vente d’une propriété conjointe entre des soeurs, deux où la femme agit avec son fils, un avec son frère et deux avec son beau-frère. Il n’y a pas, dans le corpus enregistré jusqu’à maintenant, d’attestation indiquant qu’elles vendent le terrain avec leur mari. Mais on en trouve dans le corpus concernant les maisons que j’ai établi pour ma thèse: elles le vendent soit seule soit avec d’autres membres de la famille. Cela nous permet de supposer que c’est normalement le mari qui vend des terrains et que les femmes citées comme vendeuses sont principalement des veuves ou des célibataires.

Les femmes ou les mères (c’est-à-dire la «maîtresse de maison», bēlet bītim) des vendeurs sont souvent présentées à la fin de la liste des témoins habituels et introduites par la phrase ina ašābi dans les contrats de vente des terrains et des maisons (voir dans le document joint le tableau 1.2 «participation passive»). Il reste difficile de comprendre quelle est la qualification de cette présentation comme témoin dans les contrats de ventes d’immobilier, si l’on considère que les femmes n’ont aucun droit sur les terrains. Mme S. Démare-Lafont m’a indiqué au cours d’une discussion sur ce sujet que, selon elle, la formule ina ašābi dans la liste des témoins désignerait une garantie pour leur situation postérieure, si elles deviennent veuves. De mon côté, quand j’en ai traité dans ma thèse au chapitre du contexte de la vente des maisons, j’ai proposé qu’il s’agisse d’un «droit social de propriété», plutôt qu’un droit juridique de plein exercice et que la mention ina ašābi parmi les témoins concerne l’usage des maisons et témoigne du «pouvoir» exercé par les femmes à l’intérieur de la maison. Mais au vu des attestations dans des contrats de vente, il faut compléter cette dernière hypothèse. On remarque ainsi que les maîtresses des maisons vendues (bēlet bīti) reçoivent les vêtement lubāru des acheteurs des maisons dans plusieurs contrats de vente des maisons, mais non pas dans les contrats de vente de terrains agricoles. Il me semble concerner un certain droit sociale de propriété latent des femmes, constitué à l’intérieur des maisons.)

D’autre part, en dehors des textes de vente, on trouve des attestations de copropriété à l’intérieur d’un couple: on trouve par exemple un contrat d’échange qui atteste une copropriété d’une femme avec son mari. La femme, appelée Kabtaya, et son mari donnent un tmerain à leur petit-fils, c’est-à-dire le fils de leur fille, celle-ci ayant déjà disparu.

La catégorie «activités passives» dans l’immobilier comprend des activités qui documentent la propriété féminine sans que les femems participent aux activités de gestion économique des biens:

  1. les femmes reçoivent des terrains des membres de leur famille, principalement de leur père, en dot, mais aussi de la part de leur mari et de leurs fils, sans doute pour assurer leur entretien en cas de décès du mari.
  2. on trouve des femmes qui sont propriétaires d’un bien immobilier, mais dont ce sont les maris ou les frères qui le donnent à exploiter en fermage. On trouve aussi quelques attestations où elles donnent elles-mêmes les terrains en location, mais il plus fréquent que ce soit les maris qui les gèrent.
  3. des femmes sont attestées comme voisines des terrains mentionnés dans des contrats: ces attestations témoignent aussi du fait que des femmes sont propriétaires du bien immobilier.
  4. on trouve des femmes qui se présentent pourtémoigner dans des contrats de transfert du terrain. On trouve ainsi deux sortes d’expressions : «ana mukinnūtu ašābu», tel qu’écrit dans le texte, et ina ašābi, qu’on a déjà vu. Ces deux expressions sont assez semblables l’une à l’autre, en utilisant le même verbe. Mais il me semble que l’expression ana mukinnūtu ašābu est employée pour quelqu’un qui a un droit de propriété, afin d’indiquer qu’il a bien abandonné son droit. Cette expression ne concerne donc pas uniquement des femmes, tandis que l’expression ina ašābi s’applique toujours aux femmes ou aux mères des vendeurs. Les témoins ina ašābi ne sont pas forcément toujours catégoriséscomme des «femmes propriétaires de terrains», mais je pense qu’elles ne sont pas quand même complètement étrangers aux transferts des propriétés familiales.

Un autre problème doit maintenant être examiné : est-ce que toutes les propriétés des femmes sont incluses dans leurs dots ou non? Quand elles achètent les terrains, on peut sans doute considérer que les femmes deviennent propriétaires de terrains qui ne sont pas attachés à leur dot. Je voudrais ainsi examiner la possibilité que les femmes aient le droit de posséder les terrains qui ne relèvent pas de la dot.

(1) On trouve plusieurs attestations dans lesquelles sont présentes des femmes comme contractantes principales, même si de temps en temps elles sont mentionnées avec leurs maris. On pourrait considérer que ces terrains font partie de la dot de ces femmes, même si cela n’est pas stipulé dans les documents, puisqu’on sait que le mari peut utiliser la dot de sa femme. Mais la situation est manifestement plus compliquée dans quelques documents, où les femmes vendent des terrains avec parfois leur beau-frère, c’est-à-dire le frère du mari. Dans ce cas, ces terrains me semblent plutôt appartenir au patrimoine de la famille du mari. Une hypothèse possible est alors que la femme a reçu le droit de demander une part du bien de son mari pour compenser l’intégration de sa dot dans les terres gérées par le mari.

Dans le texte Nbn 1031, où il s’agit de la vente d’un terrain, il est dit que : «si NP (le vendeur), les frères du vendeur et la femme du père du  vendeur sont présents sur le contrat (ana mukinnūtu ašābu), NP2 (probablement un agent de l’acheteur ?) payera l’argent». Ici aussi, donc, le vendeur a besoin de la présence de la femme de son père (= seconde femme de son père?) dans le contrat de vente.

On peut également citer un autre exemple, dont le contexte reste cependant assez compliqué à analyser. Il s’agit d’un dossier concernant une femme appelée Kurunnam-tabni (ou aussi Kuttaya). Kurunnam-tabni d’abord, a reçu un terrain et des esclaves de la part de ses fils (BM 302398). Puis, concernant un terrain qu’elle aurait reçu, en compensation de sa dot, de la part des «scribes du roi», elle ne donne pas à son fils aîné la moitié de terrain qui lui revient (RA 41, 101). (On ne sait pas pourquoi les «scribes du roi» lui ont donné le terrain.) Ses deux fils (ou beaux-fils ?) font alors un procès contre elle à propos du terrain et des esclaves qu’ils ont donnés. Enfin, les fils de Kurunnam-tabni vendent chacun leur terrain à un nommé Nabû-bāni-aḫi et ce dernier les vend à Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin de la famille Egibi. Le texte Nbn 1111 dit que la femme d’un des fils devra siéger comme témoin (ana mukinnūtu ašābu) au contrat de vente du terrain que son mari et ses frères ont vendu.

Il me semble que la phrase ana mukinnūtu ašābu s’applique ici à quelqu’un qui a un droit de propriété en bonne et due forme, afin d’indiquer qu’il a bien abandonné son droit. On peut donc supposer que Kurunnam-tabni disposait d’un droit de propriété partiel sur la terre de son mari. Dans le texte Nbn 442, la femme de l’autre fils de Kurunnam-tabni donne la tablette du terrain que son mari a fait établir à Nabû-bāni-aḫi, puis à Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin, les acheteurs du terrain. Dans les deux cas, les maris, c’est-à-dire les fils de Kurunnam-tabni doivent être décédés, et vraisemblablement ils n’avaient pas d’enfant.

On voit donc bien par ces exemples que certaines femmes participent à la gestion des biens immobiliers de leurs maris. C’est un premier point.

(2) Le deuxième point à souligner est qu’on trouve des exemples de propriété commune et indivise entre des soeurs. Dans le texte BM 33056+, trois filles de Šamaš-udammiq de la famille de Maštuk : Bēlilitu, Nadaya et Ina-Esagila-ramât vendent un champ qu’elles ont reçu de leur mère. À ce moment, Ḫibuṣu, la femme du frère du père de ces trois filles conteste cette vente, et fait un procès avec son fils. Elle déclare que son mari, c’est-à-dire le frère du père des trois filles, n’avait pas fait de réclamation quand Tašmētu-damqat, la mère des trois filles, avait reçu ce terrain et qu’il l’avait donc mis à sa disposition. Mais malheureusement les lignes suivantes sont cassées et on ne peut pas savoir pour quelle raison exacte Ḫibuṣu et son fils ont fait cette réclamation. On sait, par un autre document, que les trois filles ont déposé 55 sicles d’argent chez Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin de la famille Egibi et que cet argent devait servir à payer Ḫibuṣu et son fils. En tout cas, il semble que le fils de Ḫibuṣu est encore très jeune et que c’est en son nom, fondamentalement, qu’elle fait cette réclamation. Ce document nous montre donc comment des filles reçoivent un terrain des leur mère, tandis que leur tante par alliance fait une contestation contre les membres de la famille. Ce dossier me semble documenter une forme de propriété des femmes à côté de la dot.

Pour récapituler, on pourrait donc trouver la possibilité d’une propriété des femmes en dehors de la dot dans les trois cas ci-dessous:

  • en premier lieu, dans le cas où des femmes achètent directement un terrain.
  • en deuxième lieu, après la mort de leur mari, quand les femmes deviennentpropriétaires d’une part des biens de leur mari qu’elles ont à partager cesbiens avec les frères du mari. Il est possible de considérer cette part comme une compensation de leur dot, quand celle-ci a été intégrée au patrimoine familial mais les documents ne nous donnent pas toujours beaucoup d’informations à ce sujet.
  • en troisième lieu, les filles peuvent hériter un bien de leur famille, probablement quand elles n’ont pas de frères.

Si l’on se tourne vers les activités féminines autres que celles qui concernent la propriété des biens immobiliers, nous avons également beaucoup d’attestations d’autres activités, notamment liées à l’usage de l’argent: comme créancières ou débitrice. On peut noter déjà que les femmes apparaissent plutôt en position d’indépendance quand elles prêtent de l’argent, alors qu’elles sont souvent associées à des membres de leur famille quand elles empruntent. Mais il s’agit là d’une recherche qui commence, et je ne peux pas fournir d’analyse détaillée à ce sujet pour l’instant.

Ce que je viens de présenter est donc une première étape dont tousles aspects ne sont pas définitifs puisque nous sommes au début de travail.Il est certain que l’accroissement de la base de données prosopographiquespermettra d’enrichir le corpus et de diversifier les conclusions, que j’espère pouvoir présenter dans la suite du déroulement du projet.

Dowry management in the neo-Babylonian period: A case study

Dowry management in the neo-Babylonian period:  A case study

Laura Cousin (doctoral student, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne — UMR 7041-ArScAn)

 

Introduction

Historians have been interested in the type and role of women in society since the 1960s, and Assyriology has not fallen behind with studies such as Images of Women in Antiquity by Averil Cameron and Amelie Kuhrt in 1983 which extended the question to women’s status in the Ancient Near East, and more recently Femmes, Droit et Justice dans l’Antiquité orientale by Sophie Lafont in 1999 and Women of Babylon by Zainab Bahrani in 2001. Women’s dowries have themselves been the subject of several studies, notably those of Martha Roth in a series of articles in JAOS 111/1, 1991 and AfO 42-43, 1989.

The term dowry, nudunnû in Akkadian, comes from the root NDN meaning to give. Dowry promises and receipts are at the heart of numerous administrative documents. This aspect was studied by K. Abraham in “The Dowry Clause in Marriage Documents”, RAI 38, 1992. Dowries are mentioned in the great majority of marriage contracts in the first millennium, between 635 and 203[1] BC. Dowry contracts are drawn up in the following manner: at the beginning of the period, the clause consists of two components, a list of items composing the dowry and its donation to the new couple by the bride’s agent (K. Abraham listed 14 deeds of this type, dated between 556 and 486 BC). We will study two dowry contracts that follow this model. In later texts, in addition we find a document summarising the items contained in the dowry, its receipt by the groom (mahir) and in some cases, the receipt (eṭir).

In this presentation, I would like to introduce several women whose personal trajectories are quite distinct from each other, thus explaining the different management of their dowries and the matrimonial strategies that surround this question:

– Ina-Esagil-ramât (IER), daughter of Balaṭu and Kaššaya and descendant of Egibi, married to Iddin-Nabû of the Nappahu family (not to be confused with the grand-mother of Marduk-naṣir-apli/Itti-Marduk-balaṭu//Egibi, who was also called IER and was married to a man bearing the name Iddin-Marduk of the Nur-Sîn family);

– Šikkuttu, daughter of royal judge Marduk-šakin-šumi, of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, married to Ea-šuma-uṣur of the Eṭiru family;

– Amat-Baba (AB), daughter of Kalbaya from the Nabaya family, who married the famous Marduk-naṣir-apli (MNA), son of Itti-Marduk-balaṭu of the Egibi family (see K. Abraham’s study dedicated to the archives of this individual linked to the state Business and Politics under the Persian Empire, Bethesda, 2004).    

Our questions will be the following: to which degree were women able to manage their dowry and make them fructify? And what are the limits of this management?

We should note beforehand that it will not be possible here to establish one model that will apply to all women encountered. We can only present specific cases.

  1. The composition of these women’s dowries: between recurring items and exceptional goods

M. Roth has studied in a most thorough manner the dowry composition in the neo-Babylonian period[2]. Items contained in dowries are divided into two categories: those a woman brings for herself, that is to say the udê biti (household items), either furniture, jewellery items, even female slaves who may be used as domestics or ladies-in-waiting, and those items destined for the settling in of the new couple and for their financial well-being, that is money, real estate, and slaves to sell. Dowry lists as a whole may appear disparate because the composition of a dowry depends on the specific and inherent circumstances of the marriage arranged between the protagonists’ two families: whether the bride comes from a wealthy family or not, whether she is coming to a house independent of her mother-in-law’s own or a house already existing and therefore already equipped.

But the sources we have must be studied with due circumspection. Indeed, we do not have marriage contracts at our disposal to complete our view point on the arrangements the two families would have made regarding the utilization of the dowry.

1.1. Attractive dowries: the cases of Ina-Esagil-ramât and Amat-Baba

1.1.1. Ina-Esagil-ramât’s dowry: the appeal of the land

Text BM 77600, studied by H. Baker in The Archive of the Nappahu Family, AfO Beih. 30, 2004, contains IER’s dowry:

“Balaṭu, son of Ibnaya, descendant of Egibi, voluntarily gave as a dowry with Ina-Esagil-ramât, his [daught]er, to [Iddi]n-Nabû, son of Nabû-ban-zeri, descendant of Nappahu, (the following) : 0.4 kur of land planted (with date palms) out of his land in Kār-Taš[mētu] which is next to (the property of) Marduk-naṣir, son of [FN descendant of AN, and n]ext to (the property of) Nabû-nadin-šumi and [Bēl-ēreš, sons of Mušezib]-Marduk, descendant of Gahal […(3 lines largely lost) … (the slave) Ni]nlil-Silim [… …], a foot[stool], a chair, […], a lamp, a bronze lamp stand and a bronze lantern, 2 cups, a bowl, a brazier and a g[ra]te. [Not including] the 0.1 kur of land planted (with date palms) which Iddin-Nabû purchased [fro]m [Bal]āṭu for the full price of [x minas x shek]els of silver. …Witnesses… [Babylon], 26th day of [Nisan]nu, [x year of RN, ki]ng of Babylon [(…)]”.

The marriage of these two individuals seems to have taken place at the end of Nabonidus’ reign, bordering on the beginning of Cyrus’ reign, around 537[3] BC. The composition of IER’s dowry is rather typical and after studying her sisters’ dowries, we notice that she is given more assets than her younger siblings, and this is also a common trait as the eldest daughter’s dowry is generally the most advantageous. Thus Ṣiraya’s dowry, one of IER’s younger sisters, is composed of slaves almost exclusively. Similarly, Amat-Ninlil’s dowry – also known under the name of Gigītu – is a little more consequential but not as important as her sister’s own (0.2.3. kur of a field, that is, what remains of Kār-Tašmetu’s estate and one female slave).

We thus see emerging the roles of each and the relationships that arise within the family unit. Further, the fact that IER is given a larger share than her younger sisters is not an isolated case. Indeed, IMB’s daughters, Tašmetu-tabni and Ina-Esagila-belet, are not given an equivalent dowry: it is a dowry worth double that of her younger sibling which is given to the eldest daughter. Thus when Tašmetu-tabni receives five slaves and two plots of land, her younger sister is given three slaves and one plot of land[4] (for the dowries of Tašmetu-tabni and Ina-Esagila-belet, see IMB’s will, dated Cyrus’ accession year).

We can also trace the origin of certain items in IER’s dowry from text BM 77600. Her parents are Kaššaya, daughter of Šuma-iddin, from the Kutimmu family, and Balāṭu, son of Ibnaya, descendant of Egibi – it does not seem that this Egibi family should be linked to the branch of the Egibi family that we know so well thanks to the studies of C. Wunsch and K. Abraham, and of which Amat-Baba, one of the other ladies in this study, is part. Kaššaya – whose real name seems to be Tašmetum-damqat[5] – bequeaths certain assets to her daughters, IER and to her sister Amat-Ninlil/Gigītu, assets which she herself had received in her dowry. For instance, this is the case of the bequest she makes in favour of IER in the form of her mulugu-slave’s son (a mulugu is a special term for a slave. Slaves said to be mulugu are included in certain dowries, but all slaves in a dowry are not necessarily mulugu-slaves. According to M. Roth, the difference between a mulugu-slave and a slave who does not bear this title, lies in the fact that the children of mulugu-slaves are susceptible to remain in the dowry’s legal and economic orbit). However, Kaššaya changes her mind later, and leaves her two daughters a field she had received from her husband as compensation for her 4 minas of silver, the gold value of her “box” (quppu). Briefly presented, the quppu according to M. Roth is “a cash sub-category” which in certain cases is associated with the nudunnû.  A husband can use his spouse’s quppu, but he must give her a pledge, and when it has been exhausted, he must convert it into other goods for his spouse. The land bequeathed by Kaššaya to her daughters is located at Nabatu, a locality probably situated near Nār-ša-aḫḫē-šullim and Bit-Ašani next to Babylon.

IER’s dowry can be completed by documents VS 3 94 et VS 3 95 which mention another field part of the young girl’s dowry: “8 kurru de dattes, la redevance-imittu du champ de Kār-Nabû au bord du Nār-ša-aḫḫē-šullim, appartenant à la dot de Saggil-ramât (sic)”. This field is not very far from Babylon on the Aḫḫē-šullim canal and most probably constitutes a personal donation given by her father. Among the numerous goods IER brings with her, the most precious in the eyes of the Nappahu family is undeniably land. The ownership of agricultural land is indeed lacking in the family’s estate. Iddin-Nabû’s mother, Zunnaya owned one kur of land next to the Šamaš gate in Babylon which she shared with a woman named Ramûa, who seems to be her sister. But this land left the economic orbit of the Nappahu family upon the marriage of Iddin-Nabû’s sister, Ṣiraya, who received it as part of her dowry around 540[6] BC. After examining IER’s dowry, it would seem that the fact IER is apparently a young girl from a wealthy family, and brings a valuable asset with her, is going to determine her status as a spouse and her future actions within the Nappahu family.

1.1.2.     The case of Amat-Baba: the appeal of a rich dowry

Amat-Baba appears for the first time in a contract for a land sale in Dar 26 (see C. Wunsch CM 20b, text 177). Her future husband, Marduk-naṣir-apli is the buyer and her father Kalbaya is the seller. The land mentioned in this contract is next to the one promised for AB’s dowry. This latter’s dowry is particularly important (BM 34241 and duplicate BM 35 492):

“Kalbaya, son Sillaya, descendant of Nabaya, voluntarily gave as a dowry with Amat-Baba, his daughter to Marduk-nasir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balatu of the Egibi family, son of the daughter of Iddin-Marduk and Ina-Esagil-ramât: 30 mina of silver, 2 kur of land planted out of his land, which is next the irrigation ditch of the Ilu-tillati family, situated in Litamu, 5 slaves and udê biti. Iddin-Marduk son of Iqišaya and descendant of Nur-Sîn received the 30 mina of silver from the hands of Kalbaya, son of Sillaya, descendant of Nabaya. They each took a document […] to Amat-Baba […] 5 slaves…[…] Marduk-nasir-apli”.[7].

In this dowry, we note that MNA is presented as a descendant of Iddin-Marduk and IER, who are in fact his paternal grand-parents. In addition, it is Iddin-Marduk, the grand-father, who receives the dowry. We can therefore conclude together with M. Roth that Itti-Marduk-balaṭu (IMB), MNA’s father, died suddenly and that the transfer of his estate has taken time to happen[8]. We indeed see that twelve years go by before IMB’s holding-company is divided between his three sons[9]. This situation surely explains in part MNA’s behaviour with regard to his wife’s dowry. Moreover, a dowry so considerable is rather surprising. Through this marriage, Amat-Baba is going to enter an influential family and one already wealthy. Thus the Egibis are most probably asking for colossal dowries for the young women to marry one of them, and inversely when a young Egibi woman marries into another family, dowries are less consequential as the Egibi family’s prestige reflects on them. Previously the Nupta family had to pay a considerable sum to marry their daughter to MNA’s father, IMB[10].

1.2.Šikkuttu’s marriage and dowry: a problematic reconstruction

The third woman in our study is Šikkuttu, the daughter of Royal Judge Marduk-šakin-šumi who practiced under the reigns of Neriglissar and Nabonidus. C. Wunsch assembled the documents relating to Šikkuttu in Urkunden zum Ehe-, Vermögens- und Erbrecht aus verschiedenen neubabylonischen Archiven, 2003. The deeds are found in the Babylonian archive of the Šangu-Ninurta family as one of Šikkuttu’s daughter, Amat-Ninlil, is married to Hariṣanu from the Bēl-apla-uṣur family, and this family line is itself linked to the Šangû-Ninurta family[11]. Šikkuttu has several types of documents to her name: a house purchase, two transfers of properties to her children, a debt note in which she is the creditor, two field rentals with imittupromissory notes and a lawsuit, which we will study later.

Already before her marriage, Šikkuttu was engaging in financial activities as text BM 46646 shows: Šikkuttu lent 10 and a ½ shekels to Kabtiya/Na’id-Marduk//Ṣahit-ginê in year 5 of Neriglissar, and she therefore has probably received an education orienting her towards this type of activity: 10 ½ shekels of silver belonging to Šikkuttu, daughter of Marduk-šakin-šumi, descendant of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, is the debt of Kabtiya, son of Na’id-Marduk, descendant of the Sahit-ginê family. In the 11th month (Šabattu), he will pay with his own silver […]. Witness. In Babylon, the 5e of Arahsamnu (8th month), the second year of  Neriglissar. The previous debt note of 5 ½ shekels of silver is cancelled”[12].

We have the rather broken marriage contract between Šikkuttu and her future husband, Ea-šuma-uṣur of the Eṭiru family (BM 48 562), which dates from Nabonidus’ reign. This text, from which only ten fragmentary lines are preserved, deals with an u’iltu promissory note and a nudunnu dowry[13]. Indeed, the name of Šikkuttu’s spouse is lost, only text BM 46581 enables us to reconstruct it: Ubartu, one of Šikkuttu’s children is called “daughter of Ea-šuma-uṣur”. As Ea-šuma-uṣur never appears in the documentation, C. Wunsch has proposed that Šikkuttu may have found herself widowed quite quickly with three children, two daughters Amat-Ninlil and Ubartu and one boy, Nabû-nadin-šumi, and she would thus have had to find the means to sustain her family. The fact that Šikkuttu has become widowed is never mentioned, but the documents we have suggest this. Further, the term widow, almattu, is only very seldom attested during the neo-Babylonian period, and according to M. Roth occurs only once in text Dar 43[14] .

  1. Women’s management and its limits

2.1.The dowry conversion phenomenon: the example of Amat-Baba

Amat-Baba’s dowry conversion is recorded in BOR 2 3, Babylon, 5-III-16 Darius I, in 506 BC: “Marduk-nasir-apli, son of Itti-Marduk-balatu and descendant of Egibi voluntarily gave to Amat-Baba, daughter of Kalbaya, descendant of Nabaya:  a planted field, which is in Bit-rab-kasir, on the Nar-Tupašu, his property, with his slaves Madanu-bēl-usur, Nannaya-bēl-usur, Zababa-iddin, Madanu-iddin, Bēl-gabbi-belumma, Nabû-rehti-usur, Ahušunu, Hašdayitu, her daughters and Ahassunu: instead of 30 mina of white silver, 2 mina of gold, 5 mina of refined silver and a ring; instead of Nabû-ittiya and Nana-killili-aha the slaves, the dowry of Amat-Baba. Witnesses. In Babylon, the 5th of Simanu, 16th year of de Darius”.

Dowry conversions were studied by M. Roth[15] also.  Converting a dowry means converting an asset into another, but the value must remain identical. Thus, when a husband or father-in-law wishes to use part of a young girl’s dowry, in particular silver or another precious object, he must substitute the item for something of equal value. The dowry conversion phenomenon regularly occurs. Indeed, IER’s mother, Kaššaya, saw part of her dowry property converted by her husband. She owned gold, estimated at four minas of silver, which was converted by her husband into a field and a slave, and this is rather typical for dowry conversions, according to M. Roth: “Real estate and slaves were the only property into which the original dowry components were converted, and silver was the most common original component to be converted”[16].

We may wonder if this dowry conversion was made to the advantage of Amat-Baba or of MNA, and it seems clear that MNA is the primary beneficiary. Indeed, he seizes part of his wife’s assets and the land he gives her in exchange seems to be largely under his control as revealed by numerous contracts in MNA’s archives which were drawn up at Bit-rab-kaṣir. AB takes no active part in the running of the estate.

2.2.Withholding a dowry and its consequences: the case of Šikkuttu

The documents concerning Šikkuttu show that this woman led a rather independent life. Indeed, as IER, she seems to manage an estate herself and especially, she is greatly concerned with ensuring her children’s situation, in particular her daughters. While we do not find any documents related to the activities of Šikkuttu’s husband, relations between Šikkuttu and her in-law family are abundant in our texts, particularly her interaction with her brother-in-law Bēl-ikṣur. Šikkuttu’s father-in-law, Ea-aḫḫē-iddin, has probably taken control of the dowry management, and upon the pater familias’ death, it is Šikkuttu’s brother-in-law, Bēl-ikṣur, who takes charge of the family’s affairs. A compensation for Šikkuttu’s dowry must therefore be found. Then follows a series of documents in which emerges the process for the dowry compensation. Text BM 46581 could be said to deal with the compensation that Šikkuttu receives for her dowry from her brother-in-law Bēl-ikṣur l.2: ahi zēri zittu [x-x]-tu4 mehrat abul dzababa that is: “a half field, the share of […], in front of the Zababa Gate”. This field is mentioned in no other documents and it could be the compensation Bēl-ikṣur found for Šikkuttu.

During the eighth year of Cyrus’ reign in 531 or 530 BC, Šikkuttu had a document drawn up concerning all the assets she received from her father (BM 46838): thus we find 11 slaves that Šikkuttu’s father, Marduk-šakin-šumi had given her and whom she bequeaths to her daughters in an official contract (taknuk-ma). Ten years later, around 521, at the beginning of Darius’ reign, she acquires from her nephew Bēl-nadin-apli, son of Bēl-ikṣur (see BM 47795+BM 48712) part of a land in Alu eššu in Babylon, with a reed hut, the total area measuring around 144 m². We do not know the price Šikkuttu paid. Then text BM 46581 mentions a transfer of assets between Šikkuttu and her daughters, she lets them have five slaves (but in BM 46 838 eleven were mentioned, therefore according to C. Wunsch, they were either hired or transferred). This land enables her to harvest dates like BM 46830 illustrates: “58 kur of dates, imittu of the harvest of the field owned to Šikkuttu, daughter of Marduk-šakin-šumi, descendant of the URÙ.DÙ-mansum family, by Ina-Esagil-Budiya and Dininni, her wife,  Šikkuttu’s slaves.”

Finally, Šikkuttu will attempt everything she can to secure the position of her daughters, no doubt in view of the hazards she herself has known. Indeed, this mother seems to rather favour her daughters, Amat-Ninlil and Ubartu, compared to her son Bēl-nadin-apli. For example in BM 46581 (asset transfers between Šikkuttu and her daughters), even though the house is divided into three parts, the land, slaves and money are shared only between the daughters. She also uses the formula taknuk-ma pani…tušadgil (she has sealed and transferred property to…) for this donation, thereby not strictly treating it as a dowry. Finally the daughters have the right to use and to dispose of these assets but not their husbands. Šikkuttu, an independent woman by the force of events or by her own will, wishes the same for her children.

2.3.Between personal involvement and being pushed aside          

2.3.1.     The involvement of Ina-Esagil-ramât in the management of her land and its consequences

The most interesting element in IER’s dowry is of course the land she obtains from her father at Kār-Tašmetu, in the environs of Borsippa and Babylon. The families of IER and IN are both going to find reciprocal benefits and advantages in this marriage. IER’s family owns real estate, seemingly rather consequent considering the land donations we know, and the Nappahu family, presented like a middle-class family by H. Baker[17], disposes of a certain prestige due to their numerous prebends in Babylon which keep them linked with the religious powers. In fact, a large part of the Nappahu archive studied by H. Baker shows the family’s activities linked to prebends. IER’s husband, IN, owns prebends for the temple of the gods Karibu and Išhara at Babylon, which he received as inheritance from his father, and another prebend which he acquired from his adoptive father, Gimillu, husband of Tappaššar.

But let us return to the land of Kār-Tašmetu. It is a palm grove measuring 0.4.0 kur, which had apparently previously produced very good quality dates (in text 139 of H. Baker’s edition/ VS 5 66, deals with Dilmun dates). In addition to this property there is also 0.1.0 kur of land which IN previously bought from her father-in-law, thus forming a field of 1 kur. In addition to this land, there is the field at Kār-Nabû. IER finally has at her disposal a third plot of land at Nabatu, but it does not form part of her dowry as such. IER wants to exploit the land at Kār-Tašmetu with her sister Amat-Ninlil/Gigītu: numerous imittu-deeds benefitting the sisters illustrate this. She also exploits the Kār-Nabû plot of land but this time with her brother Nabû-tabni-uṣur, who also owns a part of this land. We may deduce that due to these different exploitations IER obtains certain liquidities, and this may be confirmed by the fact she has acted as a money lender on several occasions.

IER’s activities therefore do not concentrate only around agriculture. Indeed, in VS 4 186, in 520, she lends 26 and a ½ shekels of silver to Iqiša-Marduk, of the Nappahu family. She lends him again 24 shekels a month later. Finally, she is the creditor of Nabû-aplu-iddin, Nidintu and Eribaya, of the Ir’āni family for a debt of one mina and 20 shekels and during the 8th year of Cyrus’ reign, she takes a house as an antichretic pledge for this money debt. According to H. Baker: “the document, though styled as a promissory note, contains some of the standard features of a house lease contract: the term for which the house was to be at her disposal is specified (2 years), and she was to bear responsibility for the repairs to the house” (p. 54). But no other additional information has come to us regarding the person who potentially occupies the house when IER was the owner, and if she has kept it for the family to use, or if she sublet it. Finally, in the 2nd year of Darius, she takes a field as guarantee for a debt she is owed by the sons of Nabû-balassu-iqbi, descendant of Nappahu.

2.3.2.     Pushed aside from the dowry management: the case of Amat-Baba

AB’s role in the Egibi family perfectly illustrates the matrimonial politics that govern lineage. Besides, as IMB is dead and the transfer of his estate delayed, MNA must find the funds to establish himself financially and socially. Dar. 26 is a good example of MNA’s will to build his own estate[18]. This text mentions the purchase of a field made by MNA from his father-in-law Kalbaya. This field is next to the one Kalbaya had given as dowry to AB (see the similar situation between Iddin-Nabû and IER’s father). According to a note, the field is to be considered as MNA’s specific property and therefore must not be linked to the family’s estate.

Over the years, MNA is also going to try to seize what is left of his spouse’s personal goods. Thus, after the conversion of her dowry, AB tries to regain control of her capital selling seven of the nine slaves that her husband had given her in exchange. Dar 429 highlights the difficulties present between husband and wife because of this dowry: AB wants to sell them to Marduk-belšunu, son of Arad-Marduk from the Šangû-Ea family for 24 minas of silver, maybe to redress the financial situation but the sale is later annulled and we do not know clearly who is at the source of this annulment.

Contract annulments were studied by C. Waerzeggers. All the documents relating to AB mention that she executes these deeds “by her own will” (ina hūd libbišu), but we cannot be duped.  We can compare Amat-Baba’s documents with those of Inṣabtu from the Naggāru family at Borsippa, studied by C. Waerzeggers in “The Records of Inṣabtu from the Naggāru Family”, AfO 46-47, 1999-2000. Inṣabtu is the daughter of Iddin-Nabû and lived at the beginning of 5th century BC. Among the twelve tablets that make up her archive, we count two annulments. Inṣabtu is married to Murānu, son of Nabû-šuma-šukun from the Malahu family. She appears in documents dated between the 20th year of Darius’ reign, until the first year of Xerxes’ reign. However the status of Inṣabtu remains unclear according to C. Waerzeggers. Indeed, even though she has had the opportunity to conclude contracts previously, Inṣabtu is only designated as being “the wife of Murānu” in document Dar. 36 and this date could be the year of her marriage to Murānu even though at this time she was already about thirty years-old: “The possibility that Dar. 36 was the year in which Inṣabtu and Murānu married, should therefore be considered. This would be, however, against the general assumption that Mesopotamian girls married in their teens […]. Maybe she was a widow or a divorcee who remarried in Dar. 36. Two cancellation documents from Dar. 36 offer more, though vague, evidence for a previous marriage” (p. 193).

Inṣabtu is involved in several cases, among which are slave sales subject to two annulments. The first transaction concerns the sale of a slave belonging to Inṣabtu, named Ninlil-silim and of this latter’s son, Ina-qātê-Nabû-šakin (see BM 79048 and BM 79122). In the sale contract, it is specified that it was drawn according to the wish (ana našê ṣibûti ša NP) of Inṣabtu with Itti-Marduk-balaṭu, son of Nabû-aha-iddina.  This latter bought the two slaves for the sum of 3 minas and 20 shekels of silver. However, Inṣabtu never received the money of her sale and neither did she recover her slaves. The annulment was then confirmed. The second case is similar and only concerns Ninlil-silim (BM 79122). The contract states that Inṣabtu wished to sell Ninlil-Silim for 2 and a ½ minas of silver to Bēl-iddina, son of Zababa-šuma-iddina, descendant of Zeriya. But as before, she does not receive the sale money nor does she recover her slave. The sale is thus annulled. According to C. Waerzeggers, in light of Inṣabtu’s matrimonial situation, it would in fact be Inṣabtu’s first husband, Nabû-aḫḫē-iddina, son of Šula, descendant of Imbu-iniya, who had decided to sell the slaves. This leads us to think that, in the cases of Amat-Baba and Inṣabtu, the initial contracts were not drawn up by the women themselves but by a person who acts for them, most probably their husband, who thereby seizes all or parts of their assets.

In the case of AB and of the annulled sale of the slave family, we can suppose that it is in fact MNA who wished to make this transaction and not his spouse. When she was made aware of this, she attempted to have it annulled. Following this when AB regains possession of her slave family, she gives them as a donation with a field to her three daughters (BM 33997). But this gift is also later annulled (DT 233), and we cannot clearly tell why nor by whom. As C. Waerzeggers writes: “the gift document was treated as a sale contract and the three girls were considered as substitute-buyers operating on behalf on their father MNA”. Thus MNA would have gained full control of his wife’s assets, most probably after her death.

Conclusion

After this presentation on dowry management, it would seem that it was often made at the expense of the wife, as the cases of Amat-Baba, and in part that of Šikkuttu clearly demonstrate. In this rather negative picture, the only positive light emanates from the person of Ina-Esagil-ramât, who, according to the documents we have, seemed to certainly have enjoyed prerogatives.

Dowry management cannot be subject to a stereotyped norm as so much is left at the discretion of the husbands and their families, with very little left to the women. These women can only take an active part in the management of their assets if they dispose of a real prestige before their marriage, as the bringing of numerous valuable assets illustrates.


[1] See K. Abraham, RAI 38, 1992, p.311

[2] See M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36/37, 1989-1990, p.1-55

[3] H. Baker, p. 20

[4] See C. Wunsch, “Die Frauen der Familie Egibi”, AfO 42/43, 1995-1996, p. 41-42

[5] See H. Baker, The Archive of the Nappahu Family, AfO Beih. 30, 2004, p. 28

[6] Besides, H. Baker adds at p. 63: “While it is true that the only documentation of Nabû-bān-zēri’s estate concerns his temple prebends, if Iddin-Nabû had inherited any agricultural holdings we would expect to find some evidence for its exploitation, in the form of rental contracts, promissory notes for imittu and the like. Nor did Iddin-Nabû give any land as part of the dowry of his daughter, Tabluṭu”.

[7] Copy and transliteration, C. Wunsch, AfO 42/43, p. 54

[8] M. Roth, JAOS 111/1

[9] M. Roth, “The dowries of the women of the Itti-Marduk-balaṭu family”, JAOS 111/1, 1991, p. 19

[10] See M. Roth, “The Dowries of the Women of the Itti-Marduk-balaṭu Family”, JAOS 111/1, 1991

[11] See the very useful family tree for this family in C. Wunsch, “The Šangû-Ninurta archive”, AOAT 330, 2005, p. 367

[12] For the transliteration and copy of the tablet: C. Wunsch, Urkunden zum Ehe, p. 93-94

[13] Copy and transliteration: C. Wunsch, “Und die Richter berieten… Streitfälle in Babylon aus der Zeit Neriglissars und Nabonids”, AfO 44/45, 1997-1998, text 28, p. 95

[14] See M. Roth, “The Neo-Babylonian Widow”, JCS 43-45, 1993, p. 3

[15] M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36-37, 1989-1990, p.5-6

[16] M. Roth, “The Material Composition of the Neo-Babylonian Dowry”, AfO 36-37, 1989-1990, p.5-6

[17] See RGTC 8, p. 198

[18] For a translation of this text, see C. Wunsch, Das Egibi-Archiv, I. Die Felder und Gärten, CM 20B, p.210-212, text n.177.

La place des femmes dans l’économie domestique néo-babylonienne

La place des femmes dans l’économie domestique 

à l’époque néo-babylonienne

Francis JOANNÈS (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne — UMR 7041-ArScAn (CNRS))

Évaluer la place des femmes, du point de vue économique, dans le cadre de la maison privée à l’époque néo-babylonienne, revient à essayer de reconstituer les mécanismes qui gouvernent la société néo-babylonienne. Le sujet de la condition féminine à cette époque a déjà été abordé, mais la situation économique des femmes doit être appréciée en fonction d’autres critères et de réponses à d’autres questions que celles posées habituellement: on part évidemment des contrats mettant en scène des femmes pour apprécier leur situation. Mais on est assez vite cantonné alors à la reconstitution des dots, de leur utilisation (prêts, achats d’esclaves), de leur transmission, et des droits des femmes sur les patrimoines familiaux et de la manière dont elles servent de vecteur à sa transmission.

Historiographiquement, cela a été traité en grande partie pour le Ier millénaire par M. Roth, partiellement par K. Abraham, H. Baker, C. Waerzeggers et C. Wunsch, et par les deux ouvrages généraux de B. Lesko et de E. Specht[1]. Le reste est fondu dans des synthèses plus générales comme celle de M. Dandamaiev sur les esclaves.

On ne doit, évidemment, pas faire dire aux sources plus qu’elles ne nous fournissent, et l’on est ici typiquement dans un cas d’approche «oblique», dans la mesure où ce qui nous intéresse (la part que prennent les femmes à l’activité économique domestique) n’est pas documentée en tant que telle. On sait à peu près quel est le régime juridique qui gouverne les transferts de biens au moment des mariages, des successions, des donations. Mais les activités propres aux femmes et, surtout, la manière dont elles les contrôlent, n’avaient pas de raison particulière de donner lieu à un enregistrement écrit dans le cadre de l’économie domestique privée. Archéologiquement, il est également très difficile de repérer ou d’identifier des zones «féminines» d’activité. Il faut donc regrouper les maigres indices disponibles pour cette époque, en fonction de questions qui leur donnent le sens voulu. Ces questions sont, fondamentalement au nombre de deux:

1) quelles activités mènent les femmes dans la maison, ou, sous une autre forme, quelle est leur part dans l’ οἰκονομία « l’administration du foyer »?

2) de quelle autonomie disposent les femmes dans la gestion des ressources de la maisonnée? Cette autonomie s’exerce par rapport au mari, mais aussi par rapport à la belle-famille, et enfin par rapport à la société locale. On ne trouve d’ailleurs que de très rares exemples assurée de femmes exerçant des responsabilités abandonnées par leur époux pour cause de maladie[2].

3) existe-t-il des femmes qui assurent en totalité la direction de leur maison? et jusqu’à quel degré d’indépendance vis à vis de la société contemporaine peuvent-elles aller?

Il est certain que c’est bien la «maison» est l’endroit privilégié où s’exerce l’activité féminine et qu’il est rare, dans la vie courante des familles urbaines, que les femmes sortent isolées à l’extérieur; même si certaines activités comme l’acquisition de l’eau ou la fréquentation des lieux de commerce de détail impliquait que des femmes sortent de la maison, c’était très probablement en groupe. Car la rue n’est pas sans danger pour une femme isolée: un texte atypique mais révélateur rapporte un incident survenu en pleine rue de Babylone sous le règne de Nabonide: deux témoins certifient sous serment :

«(qu’ils ont vu) le 14 Nisan (de l’an 11), un individu retenir de force une femme et la contraindre à entrer dans une maison située dans la ruelle du fils de Zannā, à côté de la maison de Nabû-uballiṭ fils de Bēl-šar-uṣur, qu’ils ont entendu les cris de protestation de la femme et de la jeune esclave qui l’accompagnait, et que c’est bien de force qu’elle a été emmenée dans cette maison»[3].

 

1. Femmes et production

Le cas de Tappašar

On peut partir du dossier très éclairant rassemblé par H. Baker dans Nappāḫū, p. 000, à propos des textes n°35-40. Il s’agissait de régler les relations entre Iddin-Nabû et la veuve de son père adoptif, Tappašar, épouse de Gimillu. D’après la reconstitution plausible qu’en propose H. Baker, Gimillu aurait été très diminué physiquement peu de temps avant sa mort, ce qui aurait conduit Iddin-Nabû à assurer la conduite de ses affaires financières et immobilières, et à utiliser, pour lui-même et pour le couple Gimillu-Tappašar, une maison prise en gage d’un prêt d’argent comme lieu d’habitation. Après la mort de Gimillu, un premier règlement financier intervint entre Iddin-Nabû et Tappašar aux termes duquel ils se retrouvèrent habiter toujours la même maison, mais chacun dans une aile différente. Dans ce cadre, Tappašar prêta un serment qui stipulait qu’elle ne prenait pour son usage personnel qu’un certain nombre d’objets et de meubles de la maisonnée (texte n°33). Un second document (n°34 = VS 6 246) énumérait ce qui est sans doute la totalité du mobilier de la maison: il constitue ainsi une sorte d’inventaire après décès et il est particulièrement intéressant puisqu’il s’agit de l’un des rares cas où c’est l’ensemble de ce mobilier et des objets de la vie courante qui est ainsi inventorié[4].

Or, en comparant les deux listes: celle des meubles laissés à la disposition de Tappašar et l’inventaire général, on constate que la veuve ne garde pour elle que du mobilier dont elle a un usage personnel, à l’exclusion de tout ce qui peut servir à la préparation de la nourriture, si ce n’est une marmite. La conclusion la plus logique est qu’elle n’était pas en mesure de s’occuper de cette préparation, et que c’est probablement une ou des servantes d’Iddin-Nabû[5] qui assuraient l’artisanat alimentaire de l’ensemble de la maison.

 

Tableau récapitulatif des objets et meubles disponibles dans la maison de Gimillu

(en gras, les meubles gardés par Tappašar):

 

akkadien

français

matériau

quantité

eršu ša musukkannu lit bois 1
šupal šēpe escabeau bois 1
eršu ša giškìm lit bois 1
arannu ša giškìm coffre bois 1
mušāḫḫinu ša 0,0.3 (= 18 litres) marmite bronze 1
mušāḫḫinu ša talammu (= entre 6 et 10 litres ?) marmite bronze 1
kasu coupe à boire bronze 2
mukarrīšu huilier bronze 1
baṭû plateau bronze 1
dug ha-aṣ!-ba-tu …… cruche (à bière) argile 20
Namzītu vase à fermentation argile 2
kankannu support bois 2
ḫuttu jarre argile 2
namḫāru sorte de cratère argile 2
na4-har + na4 narkabu meule complète pierre 1
kussu chaise bois 2
littu tabouret bois 2
šāšitu (3 kg!) lanterne fer 1

 

On trouve ainsi un ensemble cohérent énuméré pour la préparation et la consommation des nourritures à base de céréales, de viande et de légumes (meule, marmite(s), huilier, écuelle) et de boisson alcoolisée (vase à fermentation, cratère, cruche, coupe à boire). On remarque aussi que la préparation de la nourriture de la maison est très probablement prise en charge de manière collective, par une ou plusieurs personnes.

Encore à l’époque séleucide[6], la donation faite par un mari à son épouse reprend les biens et les éléments de mobilier dont elle a besoin pour vivre (YOS 20 n°20, ll. 10-12), mais, à l’inverse du cas précédent, lui laisse la disposition de trois objets indispensables pour la préparation de la nourriture:

giš-šub-ba é du-ú-du zabar mu-kar-riš zabar u na4-har-har mu-meš  «la prébende, la maison, la marmite-dūdu de bronze[7], l’huilier-mukarrišu de bronze et les (deux) meules (…)»

a) Le mode collectif de fonctionnement

C’est sans doute sur cet aspect collectif de la production domestique qu’il faut mettre l’accent. Dans le rassemblement et l’analyse des données textuelles qui documentent la famille en Babylonie, on privilégie en général sa forme nucléaire, en considérant que l’unité de base de la maison est constituée du mari, de sa femme, et de leurs enfants. Il faut clairement élargir et modifier cette base, en considérant qu’il y a souvent une ou plusieurs domestiques féminines de statut servile qui travaillent sous les ordres de la «maîtresse de maison», et que même dans les familles non urbaines, ou relevant de catégories sociales qui ne sont pas en mesure de disposer d’esclave(s), la maison réunit dans un fonctionnement commun plusieurs familles nucléaires, associant des relations verticales (grands-parents/parents/enfants) ou horizontales (frères et soeurs).

La «transition domestique»

Cette hypothèse d’un mode de fonctionnement fondamentalement collectif à l’intérieur de la maison trouve confirmation, me semble-t-il, dans les données que fournissent les contrats de mariage où sont énumérées des dots. Si l’on suit l’analyse éclairante de M. Roth 1989/1990, on note que les jeunes épouses peuvent être accompagnées dans les familles aisées d’une ou plusieurs domestiques féminines, qui leur sont souvent fournies spécifiquement par un membre féminin de leur famille d’origine: mère, grands-mères maternelle et paternelle, tante. Selon M. Roth, il s’agit là de faciliter la «transition domestique» en permettant à la jeune épouse de garder un lien avec son environnement humain d’origine, et de ne pas être «aspirée» par une structure familiale nouvelle dans laquelle sa belle-mère et/ou ses belles-soeurs sont en position de force. Il s’agit aussi, clairement, de constituer une force de travail en mesure de répondre aux besoins de la maison, sans que tout repose sur la seule épouse. Il faut d’ailleurs imaginer certainement toute une série de situations mixtes, depuis l’épouse accompagnée d’une seule servante jusqu’au groupe féminin (dans les formes les plus collectives d’habitation) constitué des épouses des divers membres masculins de la famille, de leurs soeurs, des servantes de chacune, le tout étant placé sous l’autorité et la gestion de la mère de famille.

De fait, la société urbaine traditionnelle fonctionne par cercles concentriques allant de la famille proche jusqu’aux affidés et au voisinage, selon une organisation dont on retrouve de très nombreux exemples dans les sociétés méditerranéennes traditionnelles[8]. On comprend mieux dès lors comment un bien immobilier peut être l’objet de revendications émanant de la communauté familiale au sens large désignée par les termes de kimtu, nešūtu, sallatu[9].

La composition de la dot

Le second point à noter est que ne figurent dans les dots, en général, que ce qui peut intéresser le mari ou la belle-famille. Ces dots, comme le montre M. Roth, se répartissent clairement en trois postes:

a) des éléments de patrimoine: terre agricole, maison, esclaves

b) des biens de prestige: vêtements de luxe, bijoux et métal précieux, mobilier

c) certains objets de la vie domestique

mais certains biens ont une fonction intermédiaire: ainsi, les esclaves domestiques sont à la fois un élément de patrimoine et un auxiliaire de la vie dans la maison; comme le note M. Roth[10] le mari peut convertir un esclave en argent, ou, plus souvent, de l’argent en esclave; elle note ailleurs[11], que les donations supplémentaires d’esclaves faites à l’épouse par sa mère, sa grand-mère maternelle, par sa tante paternelle, par sa grand-mère paternelle consistent toujours en une esclave féminine[12]; le métal précieux est à la fois un bien de prestige et un élément de patrimoine; et, naturellement, certains biens de prestige ont aussi une utilisation dans la vie quotidienne (meubles en bois semi-précieux).

Mais, à l’exception de «l’inventaire après décès» signalé plus haut, les inventaires de mobilier des dots ne sont pas à prendre comme des reflets exacts de l’ensemble des biens mobiliers présents dans la maison. Pour les meubles, on notera le fait qu’en dehors des meubles ne bois semi-précieux, figurait certainement du mobilier en bois de palmier ou en roseaux, qui n’est jamais cité; de même que ne figurent pas les nattes, coffres, couffins, paniers qui sont pourtant bien présents dans l’environnement de la Mésopotamie contemporaine[13].

Les contrats d’apprentissage

Un autre ensemble de renseignements est fourni par les contrats d’apprentissage que l’on trouve dans la documentation néo-babylonienne, et qui concernent souvent (mais pas exclusivement) des esclaves. La dernière mise au point à ce sujet est celle de J. Hakl dans Jursa 2005, p. 700sq. Hackl répertorie 34 contrats d’apprentissage entre le règne de Kandalānu et la période séleucide. Par rapport à la répartition qu’il fournit[14], on peut présenter la liste selon un autre principe de tri, en distinguant entre:

– les métiers relevant de l’artisanat spécialisé (barbier, joaillier, maître-maçon, menuisier-ébéniste, orfèvre, potier, tanneur, vannier et tresseur de nattes), soit 11 occurrences

– les métiers relevant de l’artisanat de l’alimentation (cuisinier/boulanger et producteur de farine): 8 occurrences

– les métiers relevant de l’artisanat des textiles (blanchisseur, fabricant d’habits lamḫuššu, tisseur, tisseur d’étoffes multicolores, tresseur de sacs): 7 occurrences

– métiers hors artisanat (chasseur de rats, acteur/danseur, chantre): 3 occurrences

– métier non spécifié (ou cassé): 5 occurrences

 Hors cette dernière sous-catégorie, on constate que les métiers liés à la préparation de la nourriture et des textiles représentent un peu plus de la moitié, dont 7 cuisiniers/boulangers, deux tisserands et deux blanchisseurs. Dans tous les cas, les apprentis sont des hommes, et 6 des 7 apprentis cuisiniers sont des esclaves, alors que dans le domaine textile les apprentis sont plutôt de statut libre.

On peut donc se demander s’il s’agit d’esclaves à qui l’on apprend un métier destiné à leur faire tenir boutique de manière autonome, ou s’il ne s’agit-il pas plutôt de l’optimisation de l’organisation économique interne d’une «grande maison» urbaine? Il semble qu’à partir d’un certain niveau social, la «maîtresse de maison» se libère de tâches qu’elle accomplissait directement ou en collaboration, ou qu’elle dirigeait, et qu’elle les confie à un technicien spécialisé. Si les aspects techniques, voire marchands l’emportent sans doute pour le traitement des étoffes, on peut se demander si l’emploi d’un cuisinier spécialisé n’est pas aussi une question de prestige, mais il faut avouer que la documentation est peu explicite sur ce point. On remarque surtout que s’il y a spécialisation technique, elle entraîne le recours à un homme. Il n’est pas exclu d’autre part que certains de ces spécialistes (en particulier pour les cuisiniers/boulangers) tiennent aussi une boutique accolée à, ou insérée dans, la structure de la demeure à laquelle ils sont attachés[15]

Cette forme de sous-traitance ne se rencontre, à ce degré de spécialisation, que dans les familles de la société urbaine supérieure et l’on peut estimer qu’à ce moment la maîtresse de maison accède à des activités autres. La question, qui sera à voir ensuite est de savoir si cela lui confère une autonomie personnelle accrue. Mais il est évident que nous n’avons que très peu de renseignements sur les activités de loisir ou de sociabilité[16].

On notera également les remarques pertinentes de C. Waerzeggers, à propos des activités de blanchissage:

 «It is generally assumed that families of means owned a small number of domestic slaves who worked in the household as nannies, kitchen maids, servants, cooks, house-keepers etc. We would be inclined to add ‘washermen, or -women’ to this list.»[17]

 Pour récapituler, et d’après les artisanats représentées, ainsi que par les listes de dot, on voit apparaître deux secteurs majeurs dans lesquels s’exerce l’activité domestique féminine: la préparation de la nourriture et la confection des étoffes d’habillement. Mais — et ce point est particulièrement important à souligner — ces activités ne sont pas individualisées, elles impliquent un travail en groupe ainsi qu’un mode d’occupation collective de certains espaces de la maison. S’il y a autonomie féminine dans l’exercice de ce travail, c’est une autonomie collective et cela n’empêche pas l’existence d’une hiérarchie interne qui pouvait être très marquée entre les différentes femmes de la maison.

 

b) les productions courantes

Les deux secteurs identifiables sont l’alimentation et l’habillement. On les présentera ici à la suite. Le premier est lié à une certaine forme d’occupation de l’espace domestique, en particulier les endroits où l’on peut procéder à la cuisson: P. Miglus enregistre ainsi[18] trois sortes de dispositifs, présents soit dans la cour intérieure, soit dans une pièce attenante: four, tannour, et foyer à même le sol. Le second est plus difficile à localiser, mais il n’est pas impossible que certaines des pièces que P. Miglus qualifie de «Gegenzimmer», des grands espaces ouvrant directement sur la cour par une ou plusieurs ouvertures aient été réservées à ce genre d’activité[19].

Le cadre même des activités économiques des femmes néo-babyloniennes, la maison, n’est d’ailleurs pas un espace figé. Comme le remarque C. Castel (Castel 1992, p. 98):

 «Il est très vraisemblable finalement que le «temps de la vie quotidienne et la successiond es situations selon les heures de la journée, (aient) modelé les lieux de la maison (néo-assyrienne et néo-babylonienne), les affectant de fonctions successives, au gré des circonstances, tandis que la destination de certaines pièces rest(ait) constante», selon le même principe que celui que l’on retrouve dan certaines maisons contemporaines. Les déplacements quotidiens ou la fixation temporaire d’une activité en un lieu précis de l’habitation pourrait s’expliquer notamment par la chaleur, le froid, l’ombre, la lumière. (…) La maison paraît avoir été vécue comme un ensemble organique multifonctionnel.»

 Production alimentaire

Comme le montrent en général les objets cités dans les listes de dot, il s’agit d’abord de la préparation du pain et de celle de l’alcool de dattes fermentées[20]; il est intéressant de noter cette spécialisation de la préparation de la bière de dattes comme une activité féminine, que confirment les textes en rapport avec les cabarets. Les femmes qui les tiennent ont en effet aussi à préparer la bière de dattes. La lettre YOS 21 151 de Šum-ukīn à Ea-ušallim montre cependant que la préparation de la bière de qualité supérieure, à base d’orge, est une activité plutôt masculine[21]

L’autre activité, plus attendue, est celle qui consiste à moudre et à préparer la nourriture, dont la base est formée par les céréales. Curieusement, alors que les mentions de meules existent dans les textes de dot paléo-babyloniens, on ne les trouve que très rarement au Ier millénaire. Il n’y a pas de changement technologique, mais sans doute plutôt une transformation du marché qui fait que les pierres à meule sont d’un accès plus commun. On en a d’autre part retrouvé suffisamment en fouille pour que leur présence comme élément de base des activités domestiques soit assurée[22].

 On remarque d’autre part que cette spécialisation féminine ne vaut que pour la sphère privée. On sait que la part des femmes dans le processus de production artisanale des temples néo-babyloniens était restreinte[23]. L’étude récente de C. Waerzeggers le confirme, à propos des gens chargés de moudre le grain destiné à préparation des offrandes alimentaires[24]:

 «(…) we find slaves, free persons from little known families, as well as members from the established baker clans in the milling houses. Despite theses liberal rulesnof access, women played no part whatsoever in thesesa ctivities, indicating that gender restrictions on temple access were severe».

 Pour préparer les galettes de pain cuites au four, on a recours le plus souvent à un dispositif de four (tinūru) de type tanour, identifié dans les espaces à ciel ouvert de plusieurs maisons d’époque néo-babylonienne[25]; on s’en sert également pour les préparations bouillies mijotées dans les marmites de bronze et dans des récipients en argile (que les textes ne citent pas). On utilise aussi le gril sous diverses forme (kišukku, naṭilu), placé sur le four. La mention du réchaud (kinūnu) servant à la fois de radiateur et de four portatif n’est pas attesté dans ce type de documentation à l’époque néo-babylonienne. Le travail des femmes est donc de moudre ou de concasser les céréales, puis de les transformer en diverses préparations et de les faire cuire, avec, éventuellement un accompagnement de viande et de légumes bouillis ou grillés. Pour la bière, il s’agit de préparer le mélange à base de dattes destiné à fermenter puis de le filtrer et de stocker le contenu dans des jarres prêtes à la consommation. Une partie de cette bière peut être commercialisée.

Tout cela est documenté par la littérature épistolaire contemporaine:

 CT 22 n°40 (lettre d’Ardi-Bēl à son épouse Epirtu)

ll. 6-10 ……lìb-bu-ú-a il-ṣi ki-i te-re-’e en-na dìb-bi x x [ o o o ] kaš bi-šu-’u-a 1 ma-na kù-babbar bi in-ni-i «…mon coeur s’est réjoui de te savoir enceinte. Maintenant, l’affaire [………], ma bière de mauvaise qualité, vends-la, s’il te plaît, pour 1 mine d’argent»

Jursa 2010 p. 223 évoque un couple d’esclaves des Egibi, Nabû-utēr et Mīṣatu, qui brassent et vendent de la bière et produisent un bénéfice de plusieurs dizaines de sicles d’argent en une année, reversés à leur propriétaire:

 Nbn 815, ll. 15-21

«2 mines 15 sicles d’argent comptabilisés depuis le mois d’Ulūlu de l’an 13 (de Nabonide), (plus) 16 sicles d’argent précédent, argent qui s’ajoute lui-même aux 1/3 de mine 4 sicles d’argent précédents de Nabû-utēr et sa femme Mīṣatu; 50 jarres de bière de bonne qualité de l’an 13. Total: 2 mines 55(!) sicles 1/2 d’argent et 50 jarres de bière de bonne qualité, se trouvent chez Nabû-utēr, sans compter les jarres vides et le mobilier.

Si les femmes ont en général la mainmise sur ces préparations culinaires, comment ont-elles accès aux produits alimentaires bruts? [26] Les lettres néo-babyloniennes montrent que certaines femmes reçoivent ou donnent des instructions pour recueillir et redistribuer le produit des récoltes agricoles ou de la viande:

 NBB 149 recueille les instructions fournies à une femme nommée Belit sur la répartition à opérer de la récolte des dattes et de l’orge de la maisonnée

 NBB 151 est une lettre à une femme mentionnant une livraison d’orge:

Lettre de Nabû-zēr-ušabši[27] à Šikkū, mon épouse. Puissent Bēl et Nabû prononcer le bien-être physique et moral de mon épouse! Ça va bien pour moi, et ça va bien pour Bēl-iddin. Vois: j’ai écrit à Iddin-Marduk, fils d’Iqīšaia: il va te donner 10 gur d’orge. Ne néglige rien de ce qui concerne la maison! Je suis abattu: prie les dieux en ma faveur! Et qu’une nouvelle de toi m’arrive rapidement par n’importe quel messager!

 Waerzeggers 2001 n°18 cite la création d’une société commerciale à base d’argent et de jarres vides pour fabriquer et commercialiser de la bière de dattes, dont les revenus servent à nourrir la famille et le personnel de la maison de Bēl-iddin:

 ll. 14-15 (…) l’épouse de Bêl-iddin et ses filles tireront leur nourriture de l’association commerciale; les domestiques de la maison de Bêl-iddin travailleront au service de l’association commerciale et tireront leur nourriture de l’association commerciale

dam Iden-mu u dumu-mí-šú-meš ninda-há ina kaskalII ik-ka-lu!(RI) lú un-meš é šá Iden-mu na-áš-par-tu4 šá kaskalIIšú-nu il-la-ku ninda-há ina kaskalII ik-ka-lu!(RI)

 Les renseignements que l’on peut tirer des textes à ce sujet, restent dans l’ensemble assez maigres et la question des espaces de stockage et de leur gestion dans le cadre domestique doit faire l’objet d’études complémentaires. De la même manière l’accès à l’eau n’est pratiquement pas documenté: qui puise l’eau? à quel endroit? est-ce une activité réservée à certaines personnes de la maisonnée?[28] De fait, seule l’archéologie nous permet d’identifier des jarres sur support qui devaient servir aux besoins journaliers de la maison en eau: pour la boisson, mais aussi les préparations culinaires et pour les ablutions. Par ailleurs, comme le remarque C. Castel[29]: «L’absence totale de citerne, la rareté des adductions d’eau et des puits conduit à penser, dans la plupart des cas, que le ravitaillement en eau se faisait “à la main”, au cours d’eau le plus proche, ce qui ne laisse pas d’étonner quand on songe au raffinement de certains aménagements.»

 

Production d’étoffes

Le second artisanat est lié au textile, et implique toute une série d’opérations allant de la préparation de la laine puis du filage jusqu’au tissage. Pourtant presque aucune mention n’existe des instruments utilisés pour cette activité: quenouille, métier, pesons ne sont pas cités[30], alors même qu’on parle à plusieurs reprises de la production textile de la maisonnée:

 La lettre NBB 226, entre deux femmes, concerne de la laine (à traiter?):

Lettre de Qutnānu à Inṣabtu, ma soeur. Puissent Bēl et Nabû décréter santé et bien-être de ma soeur! Vois: je t’ai envoyé mon garant avec 4 mines de laine. Tu la mesureras et [… reste cassé…]

La production la plus courante, susceptible d’être distribuée ou vendue en dehors de la maison est celle du sari’am, qui est clairement un vêtement de dessus que l’on porte à l’extérieur, et qui peut vraisemblablement être ouvert (type kaftan) ou fermé (type djellaba ou dichdacha), et de la karballatu[31] . Les données rassemblées dans Jursa 2010 montrent que des sociétés commerciales privées écoulent ainsi de la production textile d’origine familiale. Dans ce cas, l’activité économique des femmes de la maisonnée dépasse les simples besoins familiaux et touchent à la sphère de l’économie commerciale.

 On note ainsi dans Jursa 2010, p. 221:

«In NBC 6189 from the Ṣāhit-ginê B archive, one reads of a female worker’s spinning duties which are supervised by the wife of one of the archive’s chief protagonists, Ninurta-ahu-uṣur. This must refer to work for the family’s trading business which was done by women weaving and spinning from their home. Since the temple archives also refer to women weaving and spinning in their homes, one can assume that this was a typical arrangement rather than an exceptionnal one.»

 L’on trouve aussi des habits-gulēnu[32], dont les veuves prises en charge par le temple de Šamaš à Sippar doivent tisser trois exemplaires par an, selon le texte Dar. 43[33], ll. 2′-8′:

 (…) au 1er du mois de Tašrītu de l’an 2, à l’exclusion des 19 membres d’équipe, [ils ont été remis(?)] à Šamaš-iddin; aucune des femmes [= les veuves] n’aura le droit de résider auprès d’un mār banî, ni de donner fils ou fille en adoption à un mār banî. Parmi elles, Idintu, Mistaia et Bazītu devront donner chaque année 3 habits-gulēnu, en tâche assignée (iškaru) à Šamaš, réalisée par leurs propres soins; elles n’auront pas le droit de s’installer dans une autre ville (…)

Les vêtements mentionnés dans les dots sont soit des vêtements de la vie courante (en quantités qui peuvent être importantes: jusqu’à 20), soit des vêtements de luxe. Le texte TBER n°00, cite pourtant un túg kirku ša ina bīti maḫṣu «un rouleau d’étoffe qui a été tissé à la maison»

Les fibres autres que la laine sont très peu documentées en contexte privé: il est cependant possible qu’un filage et un tissage du lin ait existé[34], mais il reste impossible de savoir si cette activité artisanale à domicile servait uniquement aux besoins privés ou fonctionnait également pour les sanctuaires.

De même le traitement et la conservation des habits n’ont laissé que peu de traces dans la documentation écrite[35]. Une reconnaissance de dette des archives des Egibi (Nbn 340) prévoit qu’en échange d’un prêt de 30 sicles d’argent pour un mois, le débiteur met à la disposition de Nabû-aḫḫē-iddin sa servante Šalmu-dīninni, blanchisseuse (pu-ṣa-’i-i-tu4); le contrat ne prévoit pas de versement d’intérêt; le travail de la blanchisseuse est donc estimé valoir 1/2 sicle d’argent par mois, soit 6 sicles par an.

Enfin, si l’on considère que ce qui constitue les rations d’entretien courantes (epru, piššatu, lubuštu) relève des bases de l’artisanat domestique, et passe donc par les mains féminines, on pourrait supposer que la fabrication de l’huile relève aussi de leur compétence: l’huile de sésame est extraite (bouillie et non pressée) pour un usage de toilette, soit en application directe[36], soit pour fabriquer une sorte de savon;il suffisait de mélanger l’huile à de l’argile et à la cendre de plantes à soude (salicorne et soda) qui poussent facilement sur les terres salées[37] .

 

Tableau des fonctions artisanales féminines attestées (contexte privé et professionnel)

 

FONCTION MÉTIER MASCULIN MÉTIER FÉMININ
tisserand išparu oui oui (išpartu)
blanchisseur puṣayu oui oui (pūṣa’ītu)
foulon ašlāku oui non
cuisinier nuḫatimmu oui non (seulement Mari)
parfumeur muraqqu oui oui (muraqqītu dans le palais de Babylone)
brasseur sirāšu oui non (pas après Nuzi, sirāšītu)
cabaretier/marchand de bière sābû oui oui sābītum (mais pas domestique)
boucher ṭābiḫu oui non
meunier ṭē’inu oui oui (ṭē’intu/ṭē’ittu ou ararratu mais pas attesté en tant que tel !) mí-meš ša qēme i-ṭe4-en-na-a’ Bongenaar Ebabbar p. 113
presseur d’huile ṣāḫitu oui non (1 attestation nA ṣaḫittu)
jardinier/arboriculteur nukarribu oui non (1 attestation OB nukarribatu)
médecin asū oui non (1 attestation OB mí a-zu)
gardien de volaille usandu oui non
vannier atkuppu oui non
faiseur de nattes paqqu oui non
musicien/chanteur naru oui non (nartu)
sage-femme oui (šabsūtu: NBC 4787 cf. Jursa 2005 p. 632 et note 3346)

Existe-t-il des métiers féminins spécialisés ?

Jursa 2010 p. 727-728 considère qu’un grand nombre de productions sont externalisées et monétisées à l’époque néo-babylonienne, y compris pour des produits de la vie courante. Il y a une forte spécialisation du travail qui pemret à des artisans de vivre de leur production, et qui fonctionne selon un système de «reciprocal exchange». Cette argumentation tire parti du dossier des blanchissaeurs professionnels étudié par C. Waerzeggers[38]

Il reste cependant nombre de tâches remplies par les femmes dans le cadre familial. Mais plus on sort du cadre urbain, plus la documentation devient mince sur cet aspect spécifique de la main-d’oeuvre féminine. On doit souvent procéder par analogie, à partir de la documentation des grands temples, et il faut sans doute intégrer dans les tâches féminines certaines activités de production agricole ou assimilée: on ne trouve pas de femme dans les travaux des champs proprement dits, mais le temple du dieu Šamaš à Sippar emploie, par exemple, pour l’entretien ou l’acquisition de sa volaille destinée aux offrandes alimentaires, quelques femmes[39].

Plus la famille est riche, plus elle recourt à du personnel spécialisé; on a vu qu’on assiste alors à une migration de la technicité de la sphère féminine à la sphère masculine: les grandes maisons ont un cuisinier, des spécialistes de divers artisanats qui leur sont attachés à demeure, et recourent probablement à la gestion écrite de l’utilisation de leurs ressources. Dans les cas les plus complexes, comme la famille Egibi de Babylone, la famille peut se répartir sur plusieurs maisons, voire sur plusieurs villes. Ainsi les Egibi ont-ils des implantations à Babylone, mais aussi à Borsippa et à Kiš, et leur personnel circule, semble-t-il, entre ces trois centres urbains.

Il faut également envisager la possibilité, dans les familles de la classe la plus élevée, de servantes et de serviteurs spécialisés dans les soins personnels, si l’on considère que la «cour divine» des temples peut reproduire non seulement la cour royale, mais aussi certaines très riches maisons: A. George[40] cite les «Filles de L’Ezida» et les «Filles de l’Esagil», qui servent de coiffeuses (ṣepirtu); et il faut penser aussi à un ou plusieurs barbier(s) dans ce genre de maison.

Le texte YOS 6 5, daté du 26-xii de l’année inaugurale de Nabonide rapporte d’ailleurs l’acquisition pour 58 sicles d’argent par Šum-ukīn, le Fermier Général de l’Eanna d’Uruk, d’un esclave barbier (lú qal-la lú šu-i) auprès d’un dénommé Nabû-mukīn-apli.

 Il existe d’autres femmes aux activités spécialisées: ainsi, comme en témoignent BE 8/1 47 et 000 (= Zawadzki 2010) des contrats de nourrice[41] existent.

Le texte NBC 4787 d’Uruk, cité dans Jursa 2010 p. 632 et note 3346 est l’un des rares à documenter les aspects économiques de l’accouchement:

ll. 5′ (…) 0,0.3 zú-lum-ma a-na a-la-du šá ina-é-an-na-al-si-iš 0,0.1 zú-lum-ma egir-ú-tu ina igi gu-gu-ú-a 0,1 munu4 0,1.2 še-bar la-bi-ri 4-tú a-na mí šab-su-tú

18 litres de dattes pour l’accouchement de Ina-Eanna-alsiš, 16 litres de dattes, fourniture supplémentaire, à la disposition de Gugūa, 36 litres de malt, 48 litres d’orge des réserves, 1/4 de sicle d’argent pour la sage-femme…»

 BE 8 47 (cf. San Nicolo 1935 p. 22)

Urki-šarrat, fille de Nabû-nakuttu-alsi, allaitera en tant que nourrice la fille d’Ardiya, fils de Gimillu, descendant d’Eppeš-ili, jusqu’à son sevrage. Chaque mois, Ardiya donnera à Nabû-nakuttu-alsi 1/3 de sicle d’argent. Urki-šarrat n’aura pas le droit d’abandonner la fille d ‘Ardiya; elle n’aura pas le droit d’aller dans un autre lieu jusqu’à la fin du mois d’Ululu de l’an 6; Urki-šarrat allaitera la fille d’Ardiya à partir du 1er Tašrītu de l’an 5, [………] à la fin du mois d’Ulûlu de l’an 6, Ardiya donnera à Nabû-nakuttu-alsi x sicles d’argent, valeur d’un habit (túg-kur-ra). (3 témoins, 1 scribe. Babylone, le 28 Ulûlu de l’an 5 de Nabonide, roi de Babylone. Fait en présence d’Equbuta, épouse de Nabû-nakuttu-alsi, mère d’Urki-šarrat. Courant jusqu’au Ier Nisannu , Nabû-nakuttu-alsi a reçu 2 sicles d’argent des mains d’Ardiya.

Deux explications sont possibles: la plus probable étant qu’on ait affaire, à une famille de simples particuliers dont la fille-(mère ?)[42] vient d’accoucher. Elle est en mesure d’allaiter la fille (sans nom…) d’Ardiya/Gimillu/Eppeš-ili pour une période d’un an, mais la transaction est passée avec ses parents et ce sont eux qui reçoivent ses gains (dont les six premiers mois versés en une seule fois). L’autre explication est qu’on ait affaire au produit d’une relation entre Ardiya et la fille d’un couple (servile?): Ardiya reconnaît l’enfant comme sienne, mais ne considère juridiquement la mère que comme une nourrice, et la rétribue en ce sens (cf. CH 6 170 sur la reconnaissance des enfants d’esclaves)

Au total, la part féminine dans l’économie domestique apparaît bien fondamentale, puisqu’il s’agit de transformer un certain nombre de matières premières de base en produits consommables et de veiller au bien-être des habitants, plus ou moins nombreux, de la maison. Selon le niveau social et la taille de la famille, les tâches sont plus ou moins déléguées, effectuées par des domestiques, voire par des esclaves spécialisés, libérant alors du temps pour la maîtresse de maison. Mais, de manière générale, il faut penser la vie à l’intérieur de la maison de manière collective, et la structure du ménage isolé n’est certainement pas celle qui rend le mieux compte de la réalité du rôle économique des femmes dans ce cadre.

2. Quel degré d’autonomie?

 a) Autonomie ou délégation de gestion
 Une gestion autonome? Le cas de Re’indu

Certaines femmes sortent du cadre étroit de l’activité productrice et assurent une partie de la réception des produits et de la gestion des stocks. Il leur arrive même de gérer des paiements courants, comme le montre un petit dossier constitué par les «archives» de Re’indu, une femme donnant des ordres de virement et d’achat sous le règne de Xerxès. Les contours de l’ensemble de l’archive restent très difficiles à cerner et il est probable que plusieurs des paiements effectués ou reçus par Re’indu soient à mettre au compte de la gestion d’une prébende; mais le fait demeure qu’une femme est ici clairement impliquée dans des mouvements de métal précieux correspondant à des paiements.

VS 6 192

VAT 4927

NRVU 798

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu

nd

VS 6 303

VAT 4973

NRVU 854

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 6 315

VAT 4982

NRVU 862

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 6 317

VAT 4995

NRVU 863

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 6 313

VAT 4996

NRVU 860

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 4 202

VAT 4997

NRVU 793

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 3 204

VAT 4998

NRVU 790

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

VS 4 193

VAT 5016

NRVU 574

 lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

Xerxès 01

VS 6 142

VAT 5017

NRVU 597

Borsippa

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

Dar I 24

VS 6 191

VAT 5043

NRVU 797

lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

NR 01 (= Xerxès)

VS 6 311

VAT 5048

NRVU 859

 lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

nd

A 182

OECT 12

 

 lieu non précisé

fRe’indu/Bazûzu 

22-ii-Xerxès 2

Les femmes du dossier Nabû-ēṭir

On note également la situation particulière de certaines femmes dans des dossiers de transfert de produits alimentaires, tel celui rassemblé par R. Zadok à propos de Nabû-ēṭir[43]. Il s’agit d’un ensemble de courts billets, provenant très vraisemblablement de Borsippa, enregistrant des fournitures de produits alimentaires, pain et viande essentiellement, à des particuliers. Même si le contexte cultuel est très probable, il ne s’agit pas d’un dossier propre à l’administration de l’Ezida, comme le note C. Waerzeggers[44]. On serait plutôt dans la sphère des circuits personnels privés de redistribution de la nourriture servie ou simplement préparée pour les offrandes aux dieux et qui concerne au premier chef les prébendiers du temple.

On voit donc qu’à côté d’un circuit quasi commercial de la viande, dont fait état C. Waerzeggers à Borsippa, il en existe un autre, qui procède de la redistribution et des échanges personnels, dans lequel des femmes interviennent, comme bénéficiaires ou même comme donneuses d’ordre. On peut supposer que certaines d’entre elles sont mentionnées parce qu’elles ont la propriété nominale des prébendes qui fournissent ces revenus alimentaires, mais il n’est pas exclu que les interventions féminines traduisent aussi une forme de droit de regard sur l’acquisition des produits alimentaires destinés à leur communauté familiale.

Tout au long des années 26 et 27 de Darius Ier, on voit revenir certains noms de manière régulière: ceux de Amtiya, de Mullissu-iddin, de Balāṭ-napišti(?), de Mullissu-silim, de Bānītu-ittiya. Certaines reçoivent purement et simplement farine, pain, ou viande[45]; d’autres (et parfois les mêmes…) les transmettent, elles-mêmes ou par un intermédiaire à qui elles donnent des instructions écrites ou orales. Le n°13 (BM 29309), enregistre, de manière intéressante la livraison, sur ordre de Nabû-eṭir, d’un pain-ṣibtu par Bêl-eṭir à Mullissu-iddin à la place de 22 sicles de laine.

On remarque en particulier la place non négligeable, que tient Amtiya comme donneuse d’ordre[46]. Cela permet de rattacher à ce dossier la lettre CT 22 221 (même série de cote de musée), dans laquelle Amtiya indique à Bēl-ēṭir comment préparer la viande.

 NBB 221:

Lettre d’Amtiya à Bēl-eṭir. Maintenant, lorsque tu l’auras sous la main, la viande qui est à ta disposition, ouvre[47]-la et place-la dans du sel. Et si tu ne l’as pas sous la main à partir du 9ème jour, donne-la viande à Naṣir: que ce soit lui qui (l’)ouvre. Vois: c’est par l’intermédiaire d’Itti-Nabû-gūzu que je t’ai écrit.

Mais dans la majorité des cas, si la maîtresse de maison est habilitée à participer à la gestion, c’est le plus souvent en suivant les instructions de son mari. C’est ce dont témoigne BIN 1 28 d’Uruk(?), une lettre d’Innin-eṭerat à Nabû-šum-ukīn, «son seigneur». Elle l’informe de l’état de son domaine agricole et d’opérations financières qu’elle effectue selon ses instructions:

 (ll. 26sq.) «(…) à propos de ce que tu m’as écrit en ces termes: “J’ai laissé 5 sicles 1/2 d’argent dans la maison; il y a aussi 1 sicle (de) [……]ia et 1/2 sicle (de) Nadin, fils de Nabû-zēr-ukīn, plus 3 sicles moins 1/4 d’argent, soit un total de 10 sicles d’argent [que ……]… j’ai déposé” (…) 2 paires de chaussures et 2 bourses en cuir-parūtu de ………, voici que je les ai données en cadeau

 Une autonomie juridique ?

L’autonomie juridique de la femme dans le cadre du mariage est un sujet en soi, mais elle a des rapports certains avec l’autonomie économique. La question se pose pour la formation du couple: on sait, depuis les études de M. Roth, que l’épouse n’a que très peu d’initiative dans la conclusion du mariage. Elle est ensuite insérée dans un groupe familial plus ou moins étendu avec sa hiérarchie propre (cf. ci-dessous). Et elle ne sort du mariage, le plus souvent que par le décès de son époux. Il existe quand même quelques très rares cas de dissolution, qui ont été analysés par C. Wunsch[48]: l’un à la suite de la rupture d’une promesse de mariage (Wunsch BA 2 p. 40 n°9), l’autre qui est un véritable cas de divorce (Wunsch BA 2 p. 32sq. n°8).

On trouve également un autre aspect de l’autonomie domestique des femme qui est celui de l’intervention dans la gestion des biens, tout particulièrement les biens dotaux. La situation la plus répandue est que ces biens soient pris en charge par le chef masculin de la famille dans laquelle entre une jeune épouse: il peut s’agit de son beau-père, d’un beau-frère, ou, naturellement, de son époux. C. Waerzeggers a montré que ces gestionnaires ont toute latitude pour exploiter les biens dotaux et qu’il leur arrive même de les dilapider[49]. On observe aussi que plus le niveau de richesse de l’épouse est élevé, plus son degré d’autonomie est grand, et les études sont nombreuses à avoir mis en évidence ces situations où une femme gère elle-même ou avec des membres de sa famille d’origine ses biens dotaux: le cas le mieux connu est celui d’Ina-Esagil-ramat, épouse d’Iddin-Nabu/Nappāḫu. On y note en particulier la présence d’esclaves féminines qualifiées de mulugu, pour lesquels M. Roth[50] a montré qu’elles peuvent être utilisées par le mari (en particulier comme gage antichrétique d’une dette), mais qu’elles et leur éventuelle descendance restent la propriété de l’épouse au titre de la dot.

On n’entrera pas outre mesure dans l’utilisation de la dot, dans la mesure où cet aspect concerne aussi de près les problèmes de transmission du patrimoine qui sont une autre partie de la recherche, et où ce qui est ici en cause est avant tout de déterminer la part prise par la femme dans l’économie de la maison et le degré d’autonomie dont elle peut y disposer. Il apparaît, de toute manière assez clairement que si la femme mariée garde normalement la propriété de ses biens dotaux, et qu’elle est protégée par la loi dans ce cadre, elle n’en a que très rarement la disposition: s’il s’agit de biens fonciers, ils sont le plus souvent gérés par la partie masculine de la famille et leur revenu sert à l’entretien de la famille: cf. la mention du procès Edinburgh n°69 «Bel-apla-iddin pourra prendre auprès d’Etellitu son épouse le coût de sa nourriture et de son habillement, à concurrence du montant de sa dot»2

b) la hiérarchie interne de la maisonnée

Quand on envisage les choses en termes de maisonnée, on voit qu’il existe une hiérarchie féminine interne qui reproduit d’une certaine manière la hiérarchie masculine de la maisonnée. La lettre CT 22 6 [BM 31121 = S+ 76-11-17, 848] rend assez bien compte de cette situation: elle est envoyée par Itti-Marduk-balāṭu, descendant d’Egibi, qui écrit sous son diminutif d’Iddinaia, à sa famille[51]. La destinataire principale est sa mère, Qudāšu; il s’adresse ensuite spécifiquement à ses beaux-parents, Iddin-Marduk et Ina-Esagil-rāmat, (mais pas à son épouse Nuptaia !); il s’enquiert ensuite de la santé d’un certain nombre de personens, dont ses fils et ses filles. On a clairement l’impression que ce groupe familial est localisé dans un espace sinon unique, du moins commun à beaucoup de ses participants.

 Les femmes de la maison

Selon le niveau social de la famille, selon sa taille, aussi, on peut avoir une mère de famille assistée de sa ou ses filles puis de sa ou ses belles-filles, puis une maîtresse gouvernant un certain nombre de domestiques de statut serviles plus ou moins jeunes: en général on les appelle «petite» (qallatu), mais il existe aussi des stades plus expérimentés, y compris nourrices, cuisinières et préposées à la toilette. Il faut évidemment supposer des systèmes mixtes associant filles et belles-filles de la famille et esclaves domestiques. Une partie de leurs activités est consacrée aussi à la production des vêtements.

Mais la hiérarchie féminine interne peut être encore plus compliquée: il faut partir ici des remarques développées par K. Abraham[52] à propos des jeunes épouses dont le père est absent au moment du mariage: il s’agit soit d’orphelines, soit de «filles sans père», qui sont très souvent des enfants trouvées, recueillies et adoptées par des femmes de familles aisées:

«The difference between the orphaned and the father-less brides can be traced interestingly enough to the time long before they were married, when they were taken in as babies or small children. (…) We can see that orphaned girls were formally adopted, then served (palāḫu) their adoptive parent(s), but wer free to go, once the latter has/have died. On the other hand, foundling girls were taken in by well-to-do Babylonian women or by the temple, but without being formally adopted. They were to remain with their foster parentsin order to serve (palāḫu) them. They could have left their foster parents on the condition that they were to be married to a hal-free person (…) or that they were to enter another household as half-free».

 Esclaves et dépendantes

La structure interne de ces familles est normalement liée à l’habitat urbain, mais on sait que chaque famille de notables dispose de domaines agricoles proches de la ville, qu’elle fait exploiter par des familles d’esclaves ou de dépendants. Il est alors probable qu’à l’occasion les forces de travail ou les compétences de ces fermiers et fermières servile sou dépendants soient aussi mobilisés dans le cadre du fonctionnement de la maison de ville (au moment du transport des récoltes ou du filage de la laine par exemple).

Les frontières du groupe familial sur lequel les femmes exercent une autorité en rapport avec les taches spécialisées qui leur sont affectées restent floues, en l’état actuel de nos connaissances. On a vu qu’il comprend vraisemblablement plusieurs familles nucléaires, ainsi que des domestiques de statut servile, plus ou moins gérés en commun. Les esclaves figurent en bas de la hiérarchie familiale, mais il y a sans doute une distinction à opérer entre ceux et celles qui sont une propriété de la famille dans son ensemble, sans rattachement particulier, et ceux et celles qui sont plus spécialement attachés à une personne, ou un couple, à l’intérieur du groupe familial. Le groupe des esclaves domestiques est globalement qualifié par le terme de nišê bīti. Une sous-catégorie possible est celle des esclaves féminines qui ont des enfants de l’un des membres de la famille, puisque les amours ancillaires existent et que le veuvage de l’un des membres de la famille élargie n’entraîne pas forcément un remariage. Mais les enfants nés de ces unions ne sont pas forcément reconnus par le père comme héritiers et gardent alors un statut inférieur.

Dans les familles les plus riches, on doit aussi compter des formes d’association impliquant une forme de dépendance, voire de clientélisme. C’est-à-dire que des membres de la maisonnée sont attachés à la famille ni par les liens du sang, ni par une appartenance en tant qu’esclave, mais par une dépendance volontaire qui en fait les client(e)s de cette famille. C’est peut-être ce qui, au fond, est exprimé par la mention des «maisons de mār banî» dans lesquelles «entrent» des personnes en situation précaire[53]. Sans vouloir régler ici la difficile question de ce que sont ces maisons de mār banî, il est possible que le cas parfois litigieux du rattachement de certaines personnes à la «maison d’un mār banî», fasse allusion à l’existence de semblables maisonnées et au système de clientèle qui en résulte. Dans ce cas, les clauses de garantie, dans les ventes d’esclaves, concernant la non appartenance au statut d’esclave royal (arad-šarrūṭu), d’oblat (širki-ilūtu) de serf (šušānūtu), de personnel de tenure militaire (bīt sīsi, bīt narkabti) ou de domaine royal (bīt kussi), s’appliqueraient aussi à l’état de «clientèle» (mār banûtu).

Au final, on se trouve donc en présence d’une hiérarchie complexe des statuts féminins au sein des maisons urbaines, qui commande très certainement le type d’activité attribuée à chacune des femmes de la maison, depuis les jeunes esclaves jsuqu’à la maîtresse de la maison. Cette hiérarchie peut être résumée dans le tableau suivant, de sens descendant, dont il faudrait pouvoir encore moduler la répartition en fonction des âges et des qualifications propres, mais celles-ci nous restent cependant inconnues la plupart du temps.

 

Statut juridique       

Place dans la famille

 

 

libre

maîtresse de maison (bēlet bīti)
épouse des fils de la maison
fille de plein droit (non encore mariée)
fille (orpheline) adoptée (non encore mariée)
fille d’une esclave et du maître de maison (reconnue)
   

dépendante

fille (enfant trouvée) adoptée
femme dépendante (cliente de mār banî)
   

servile

esclave personnelle
fille d’une esclave et du maître de maison (non reconnue)
esclave de la famille

 

3. Une économie de femmes seules?

 a) marginalisation accidentelle: les veuves

On peut partir de la remarque de M. Roth[54]:

 «(…) women first married between the ages of fourtheen and twenty and men between the ages of twenty-six and thirty-two. This decade or more age difference between spouses suggests that many women, surviving childbirth , would outlive their husbands, producing a relatively young widowed female population, still fertile and capable of reproduction».

Outre la possibilité d’un nombre élevé de veuves, cette remarque suggère également que l’inégalité d’autonomie était renforcée par la différence d’âge quand il s’agissait d’un premier mariage féminin: une jeune épouse de 17 à 18 ans n’était guère en situation de s’imposer à un époux trentenaire, et encore moins à la mère de celui-ci, probablement quinquagénaire. Par contre, comme le remarque M. Roth, le nombre de familles monoparentales dirigées par des veuves était sans doute assez élevé. Il faut cependant faire la part de l’entourage familial: le rôle de la communauté familiale est précisément d’aider à la prise en charge de ceux de ses membres dont la famille nucléaire a souffert d’une disparition. Même dans le cas des jeunes veuves avec enfants, on n’avait donc que peu de cas de femmes réellement isolées.

Cependant une femme se retrouvant veuve et sans enfants pouvait être amenée à réintégrer sa famille d’origine. Comme le remarque M. Roth[55]:

«the death of a husband, then, would not necessarily make a woman legally and economically independant if there was a prior jural authority to reassort control».

 Dans l’ensemble, le veuvage féminin apparaît comme un moment de fragilité et de vulnérabilité: on notera par exemple le cas de Zunnaia, une veuve remariée dont le beau-père refuse que son fils du premier lit devienne l’héritier de son second mariage[56]. De même, le texte de mariage Nbk 101 (= Roth n°4) a bien été analysé par G. van Driel[57] comme comportant une compensation pour la mère, veuve, de la jeune femme épousée, à laquelle le mari fournit un esclave et une somme d’une mine et demi d’argent. Il ne s’agit pas à proprement parler de l’«achat» de l’épouse, mais de la prise en charge forfaitaire des besoins de la mère de cette dernière, auprès de qui l’épouse remplissait la fonction de soutien économique primordial:

 ll. 4-9: «Ḫammaia l’a écouté favorablement, et elle lui a donné comme épouse sa fille La-tubāšinni. Et Dagil-ilāni, de son plein gré, a donné à Ḫammaia, en échange (kūm) de sa fille La-tubāšinni, l’esclave Ana-muḫḫī-bēl-amur qui avait été acheté pour 1/2 mine d’argent, plus 1 mine 1/2 d’argent avec lui.»

 b) marginalisation professionnelle: les prostituées et les cabaretières

 La justification d’une présence féminine à la tête des débits de boisson, qui n’est par ailleurs pas exclusive, peut trouver sa raison première dans le fait qu’il s’agit d’un substitut de la maison privée, où l’on peut boire et manger, et dont la production est à ce titre d’abord considérée comme relevant des femmes.

Ce point fera l’objet d’une recherche spécifique et de développements ultérieurs

Conclusion provisoire

            Au terme de cette enquête, un certain nombre de faits apparaissent assez clairement: la société néo-babylonienne, dans sa composante urbaine, la seule vraiment bien documentée par les textes de la pratique, est structurée par le modèle de la famille collective. Une répartition des tâches entre hommes et femmes en fonction des compétences — plus ou moins supposées — fait que les femmes assurent l’entretien courant (toilette, nourriture, habillement) et prennent en charge les enfants en bas-âge et les personnes âgées. Mais très peu de ces femmes le font à un stade individuel: elles constituent, soit par le réseau des relations familiales, soit par le biais de la domesticité féminine, un groupe suffisamment nombreux et structuré pour répondre aux besoins. À l’intérieur de ce groupe règne une hiérarchie plus ou moins forte, mais qui assigne à chacune des femmes une place stricte. Au sommet, la maîtresse de maison (bēlet bīti) jouit d’une considération suffisante pour bénéficier dans certaines transactions juridiques de cadeaux spécifiques[58]. Il semble également qu’elle dispose d’une forme de délégation de gestion lorsque le chef de famille est absent, comme en témoigne la correspondance privée.

Plus la situation sociale de la famille est élevée, plus le groupe féminin est susceptible d’être nombreux, mais également diversifié, certaines des domestiques prenant en charge des activités très spécifiques. Les esclaves ont par ailleurs un double statut: elles participent à la production domestique, mais peuvent aussi être placées dans d’autres familles en tant que gages antichrétiques. Si cette situation n’est pas réservée aux femmes, et si elle n’est pas toujours le fruit d’une décision volontaire, elle permet en général à une famille aisée de disposer d’un revenu complémentaire

On observe aussi que certaines tâches sont prises en charge par un technicien, qui est en général un homme: c’est typiquement le cas des cuisiniers/boulangers (nuḫatimmu) dans les grandes maisons. Il n’est pas impossible qu’une partie de la production domestique ait été externalisée, soit par le biais de boutiques accolées à une grande maison (mais rien n’indique qu’elles aient été tenues par des femmes), soit mise sur le marché, en particulier pour certains vêtements.

De ce fait, un débat particulièrement intéressant est à mener sur le degré d’insertion de l’économie familiale dans le processus général de production et de commercialisation à l’oeuvre en Babylonie au Ier millénaire. Si l’on suit les conclusions de Jursa 2010, on est en présence d’une société urbaine très insérée dans l’économie de marché et susceptible de produire, dans le cadre familial, des biens qui sont ensuite vendus (ou troqués ?) à l’extérieur. Cette vision des choses suppose une importante monétarisation des échanges (même si la monnaie de métal n’existe pas en tant que telle), une forte activité des sociétés commerciales privées (visibles à travers les contrats ana ḫarrāni), et une spécialisation du travail déjà très avancée. On serait alors dans un type de société urbaine particulièrement actif et diversifié (ce qui, après tout, correspond assez bien à la vision traditionnelle de la Babylone du Ier millénaire…).

À l’inverse, l’aspect très traditionnel du cadre dans lequel s’exerce la production familiale dont les femmes ont la responsabilité (artisanat alimentaire et artisanat textile) correspond assez bien avec ce que nous documentent les textes, si l’on admet que le recours à des artisans spécialisés extérieurs est surtout une question de statut social. Cependant l’exemple paléo-assyrien des familles de marchands insérées dans un processus général de production textile montre que les deux aspects ne sont pas incompatibles.

D’autre part, on doit prêter attention au fait que les données fournies par les contrats de mariage, en particulier et les inventaires de dot reflètent des situations qui sont souvent atypiques[59] et qui traduisent parfois une situation de vulnérabilité socio-économique des familles concernées. On ne peut donc pas en déduire a priori un état systématique d’infériorité des épouses néo-babyloniennes.

            Au final, après ce premier examen de la part prise par les femmes dans l’économie domestique, des pistes de réflexion apparaissent, mais les conclusions sont encore provisoires et nécessitent une série d’études de cas spécifiques, orientées dans cette direction.


[1] Voir la «bibliographie néo-babylonienne» dans le recueil bibliographique rassemblé pour le projet REFEMA. Les transcriptions des textes présentés ici en traduction seront disponibles dans une annexe en ligne sur le site internet dédié au projet.

[2] Baker, Nappāḫu p. 32

[3] Jursa 2000, p. 498-499 (BM 64153 = Bertin 1446).

[4] On verra un peu plus loin que les inventaires des dots sont sélectifs et ne reproduisent pas forcément l’ensemble du mobilier d’une maisonnée

[5] Il est à peu près exclu qu’il se soit agi de l’épouse d’Iddin-Nabû, Ina-Esagil-ramat, car elle était d’un rang social qui lui permettait de ne pas effectuer elle-même ce genre de tâche.

[6] le texte est daté de l’an 41 de l’ère séleucide, en 270 av. n. è.

[7] dūdu est compris par les dictionnaires comme une marmite («kettle»). Il peut être placé sur un naḫmaṣu, compris comme un «support» (CAD N1 140), mais qui est plutôt un dispositif servant à transporter la marmite (chaude?), au vu du sens initial de ḫamāṣu «to tear away».

[8] Par exemple dans les cercles de voisinage des sociétés semi-urbaines d’Italie du sud aux époques médiévale et moderne («vicinato»).

[9] Ce point a fait l’objet d’une analyse détaillée dans la thèse de doctorat de Y. Watai , p. 000-000.

[10] Roth 199o, p. 13.

[11] Roth 199o, p. 15, et développé spécifiquement à propos du sex-linked dowry, p. 36.

[12] «these slaves are part of a female-to-female donation, (…) and are specifically intended to facilitate the wife’s adjustment to her new home and circumstances».

[13] Cf. dès 1978 l’article de N. Postgate dans l’Archéologie de l’Iraq, p. 000.

[14] Hackl 2005, p. 705-707.

[15] Cf. la thèse de Y. Watai, p. 000.

[16] Eventuellement, la littérature populaire (en particulier satirique: cf. le texte publié par A. Cavigneaux sur «the Rake’s porgress») peut donner des indications.

[17] Waerzeggers 2006, p. 95.

[18] Miglus 1999, p. 197-198 et Tableau 32.

[19] Cf. en partiucleir Miglus 1999 p. 198.

[20] Par commodité, on gardera ici le terme de «bière», qui ne convient pas particulièrement à la réalisation de cette boisson fermentée, mais que la tradition savante a pris l’habitude d’employer.

[21] Hackl, Jankovic, Jursa 2010, p. 216 n°28:3-10 «(…) Fais macérer les 10 kurru ((= 1800 l.) de dattes pour faire de la bière claire (pīṣu); on a fourni pour cela 30 jarres-dannu; s’il y a manque de cruches-haṣbātu, donne des dattes à Nabû-taqbi-līšir, pour qu’il les entrepose en ville et se charge de les faire macérer. (Mais) commence à faire macérer tout ce qu’il y a en plus (des 10 kurru) et fournis les dattes et l’épice-kasu.

[22] Castel 1993, p. 84.

[23] Joannès 19oo (Femmes des grands organismes)

[24] Waerzeggers 2010, p. 234. Sur la participation des femmes, en général, aux activités cultuelles, très restreinte au Ier millénaire, cf. ibid. p. 49-51.

[25] Cf. cependant la remarque de Castel 1993, p. 95: «(…) les aménagements liés au feu ne sont pas nécessairement installés dans les espaces à l’air libre. (…) Les “cuisines” sont aussi bien de grands espaces que de petits, quelle que soit la taille des maisons».

[26] Une mention très intéressante se trouve dans un texte publié par C. Wunsch (BA 2 n°17): une femme, Gagaia, s’y procure du pain «à la porte de la maison des boulangers» (1 qa ninda-há šá ká é lú mu-meš) et de la bière «à la porte de la maison des brasseurs» (1 qa kaš-sag šá ká é lú lunga-meš). On pourrait y voir une mention de boutiques où ces produits sont vendus, mais le contexte général et les mentions parallèles orientent plutôt vers le système des prébende et des ateliers du temple.

[27] Cf. Wunsch, Iddin-Marduk, n°93. Mêmes individus ?

[28] Les textes bibliques osnt plus explicite sà cet égard: cf. le récit du mariage de Jacob à Harran.

[29] Castel 1992, p. 83.

[30] cf. mémoire de master 2 de L. Quillien. Mention du tamaris comme bois pour fabriquer les métiers à tisser.

[31]  Cf. Jursa 2010, p. 221: «The karballatu cap is a headgear typically worn by soldiers», et à propos de FLP 667 (note 1273): «In this case, 240 caps are bought, or manufactured, for one mina of silver».

[32] CDA 96a: an overgarment

[33] collations de M. Roth dans RA 82 p. 136 note 17.

[34] Le mémoire de m2 de L. Quillien mentionne ainsi une(!) atetstation de lin cultivé par des particuliers.

[35] Ce dossier a été étudié dans Waerzeggers 20oo

[36] Huile de sésame: une huile utile pour la repousse des cheveux, car elle nourrit les bulbes pileux et leur fournit un milieu approprié pour la croissance. Il contient de l’acide lynolique (nom scientifique), qui lutte contre les maladies dermatologiques, telles que l’eczéma, la kératinisation folliculaire, et agit comme un écran solaire pour la peau

[37] Forbes 1965 (Studies in Ancient Technologies tome III), p. 186: «In Mesopotamia, however, some kind of soap was manufactured, certainly as early as the Ur III Period, when the Sumerians boiled oil and alkali together».

[38] Waerzeggers 2006: RA 100, p. 83-96.

[39] Pour une très grande majorité d’hommes, cependant: cf. les cas de Bābāia, Ḫimmītu, Inbāia, Nādāia, Suddirtu, Šikkû mentionnées dans Jankovic 2004.

[40] George 2000 p. 295 «Presumably position of such goddesses in the divine courts was analogous with the situation of young unmarried daughters in a human household»

[41] Pour une nourrice royale, cf. Evetts, Inscriptions, App. n°2 = Graziani, n°8: 6 gur še-bar šá ar-ti-im mu-še-ni-iq-tu4 šá it-ta-aḫ-šá-aḫ dumu-mí lugal (année inaugurale de Xerxès).

[42] Cf. Stol, CM 14 p. 182, qui y voit peut-être une jeune veuve.

[43] Zadok 2006 («The Text Group of Nabû-eṭer» AfO 51 (2005-2006), pp.147-197).

[44] Waerzeggers  2010, p. 000.

[45] n°54 (BM 29310), 148 (BM 96490), 149 (BM 29570), 150 (BM 29267).

[46] Le n°93 (BM 96543) daté du mois i de l’an 27 de Darius Ier cite une Andiya, fille de Ḫiptaia, mais il n’est pas sûr qu’il faille tout ramener à l’unité, vu le caractère trsè commun du  nom Amtiya/Andiya.

[47] šu-pal-li-ka (l. 6) et lu-šu-pal-li-ka (l. 14) sont considérés comme un impératif 2ème personne et un précatif 3ème personne, singulier, de napalkû au système III, là où l’on attendrait šupalkî et lišpalki.

[48] <Référence à venir>

[49] Sur l’exploitation de la dot de la femme par le mari, cf. C. Waerzeggers , AfO 46/47 p. 183-200.

[50] M. Roth 1989/90 p. 15-17; cf. la confirmation par Baker 2004 p. 73.

[51] Itti-Marduk-balāṭu est alors en déplacement dans le pays de pa-ni-ra-ga-na (lecture non assurée), sans doute en Iran d’après ce que l’on sait de ses déplacements: cf. la thèse de G. Tolini, chapitre 000. D’après G. Tolini (communication personnelle), le toponyme serait peut-être plutôt à lire a!-sa!-ra-ga-na et serait à mettre en rapport avec Asurukanu en Médie où se trouve effectivement Itti-Marduk-balāṭu au mois vi bis de l’an 2 de Cyrus, d’après le texte Cyr. 58.

[52] Abraham 2006 p. 210-211.

[53] Voir la discussion de cette institution dans Roth 1988, 1989, et CTMMA III , p. 214 note 3. voir M. T. Roth, 1988 Women in Transition and the bīt mār bāni. Revue d’Assyriologie 82:131-138. et 1989 A Case of contested Status In DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A : Studies in Honor of A. K. Sjöberg, edited by D. L. M. T. R. H. Behrens, pp. 481-489, Philadelphia.> cf. Weisberg n°38, un esclave est affranchi à l’occasion de son mariage et transformé en client (on lui rédige une tablette de mar bani), mais il est prévu qu’il deviendra ensuite, avec ses enfants, un zaku d’Ištar d’Uruk. Cela reviendrait à dire qu’au couple ardu (esclave)/ša bît mar bani (client) dans une maison privée, correspondrait un couple širku (oblat)/zakû (client du temple) dans le sanctuaire?

[54] Roth 1993 p. 4. Cette estimation est cependnat tempérée par G. van Driel, Care of Elderly p. 173, qui observe: «M. T. Roth’s estimates of the age of the partners in the “Mediterranean marriage” are no more than acceptable intelligent guesses. We can speculate with confidence that few people could expect to reach the age of forty even if they had passed the ten year boundary».

[55] Roth 1993 p. 22.

[56] transcription et traduction la plus récente dans MMA III n°102.

[57] Care of the Elderly in the Ancient Near East, p. 188

[58] cf. dans la thèse de Y. Watai, l’hypothèse que lors des ventes de maison on reconnaît une sorte de droit de propriété virtuel à la maîtresse de maison au titre de sa présence permanente dans les lieux, qui se traduit par la remise d’un cadeau sous la forme d’un habit: cf. CAD B 191b lubāri/túg-há ša bēlet bīti.

[59] Présentation par C. Wunsch au congrès de Berlin sur Babylone en 2009 des textes de Al-Yaḫūdu.

 

The Woman in Marriage as Reflected in the Code of Hammurabi

The Woman in Marriage as Reflected in the Code of Hammurabi

Ichiro NAKATA
(Professor Emeritus of Chuo University, Tokyo)

 

A. SURVEY

 

I. The women in some Akkadian expressions of getting married

The verbs most frequently used in the CH to express the action of getting married are “to take (in marriage) or to seize” (aḫāzum)[1] and “to enter” (erēbum). The grammatical subject of aḫāzum is male and the woman appears only as the object of aḫāzum.

(1) « if a man takes a wife in marriage but does not make a contract for her, . . .  (šumma awīlum aššatam īhuzma riksātiša la iškun) « . (§ 128. See also §§ 144, 148, 162, 316, and 167) [2]

(2) « if that man has a debt incurred before he takes that woman in marraige  (šumma awīlum šû lāma šinništam šuāti iḫḫazu ḫubullum elišu ibašši) ». (§ 151)

Although the verb aḫāzum is used with a prospective husband as subject, the following expression pays some attention to the will of a woman.

(3) « a husband of her choice shall take her (in marriage) (mut libbiša iḫḫassi) ». (§ 172)

The subject of erēbum, on the other hand, is always female, as shown below. The verb is intransitive and does not require a grammatical object.

(4) « If a debt should be incurred by them after that woman enters the man’s house, both of them shall satisfy the merchant (šumma ištu sinništum šî ana bīt awīlim īrubu elišunu ḫubullum ittabši kilallāšunu tamkāram ippalū) » (§ 152). See also §§ [133a], 133b, § 134, 135, 136, 151, 152, 173, 176a and 177.

Note that the underlined paragraphs deal with cases of remarriage. §§ 133a~135 deal with cases of remarriage of a wife whose husband is a prisoner of war in an enemy land, while §136 deals with a case of a wife of a husband who has deserted his family and his town. §§ 173 and 177, on the other hand, deal with a widow who gets remarried. Thus, of ten paragraphs of the CH in which erēbum appears, seven paragraphs deal with cases of remarriage. However, the remaining three cases are most probably those of the first marriage. Thus, the use of erēbum cannot be considered limited to cases of remarriage[3].

It is important to pay attention here to the cases in which aḫāzum and erēbum are employed for referring to the same marriage. For example, at the end of § 172, we find “a husband of her choice shall take her (in marriage) (mut libbiša iḫḫassi)”. This same marriage is rephrased from the standpoint of the woman in the following paragraph (§173): “if that woman should bear children to her latter husband into whose house she entered (šumma sinništum šî ašar īrubu ana mutiša warkîm mārī ittalad) “.

The same type of rephrasing is found in § 176: “if a slave of the palace or a slave of a muškēnum marries a woman of the awīlum-class (u šumma warad ekallim ulu warad muškēnim mārat awīlim īhuzma . . .” //” (and when he marries her,) she enters the house of the slave of the palace or of the slave of a muškēnum together with the dowry brought from her father’s house (qadum šeriktim ša bīt abiša ana bīt warad ekallim ulu warad muškēnim īrubma) “ and § 151: “if that man has a debt incurred before marrying that woman (. . . šumma awīlum šû lama sinništam šuāti iḫḫazu ḫubullum elišu ibašši)”// “and if that woman has a debt incurred before entering the man’s house (u šumma sinništum šî lāma ana bīt awīlim irrubu ḫubullum eliša ibašši)”.

However, in the Old Babylonian marriage, as reflected in the CH, the father of the bridegroom and the father (or mother or brother, when the father is deceased) of the bride are considered to be parties to the marriage at least in a stage prior to the marriage of their respective son and daughter (or sister). The action of the father on the side of the future bridegroom taken toward the marriage is expressed by the verb ḫiārum (§ 155) or even aḫāzum (§ 166).

(5) « if a man selects a daughter-in-law for his son (šumma awīlum ana mārišu kallatam iḫīrma) « (§ 155)

(6) « if a man takes wives for his grown-up sons but does not take a wife for his young(est) son, . . . (šumma awīlum ana mārīšu ša irbû (text: iršû) aššātim īḫuz ana mārišu ṣeḫrim aššatam la īḫuz…) » (§ 166)

Action of the father (or mother or brother) of the bride, on the other hand, is expressed by the verb (ana mutim) nadānum.

(7) « if a father sets up a dowry for his daughter, who is a šugītum, gives her to a husband, and writes a sealed document for her, . . .( šumma abum ana mārtišu šugītim šeriktam išrukšim ana mutim iddišši kunukkam išṭuršim) » (§ 183). See also § 184.

II. Steps to the Consummation of Marriage

II-1. Prior to an Inchoate Marriage

When an agreement (riksātum) is reached between the father of a future bridegroom and the father of a future bride (or her brother or mother in case her father is deceased) regarding the marriage of the two, a ceremonial banquet (kirrum)[4] takes place. It is likely that the amount of terḫatum and the details of the dowry (šeriktum) are specified in this agreement. However, the agreement (riksātum) needs not be in a written form[5]. The existence of this process is not clear in the CH, and is only inferred from §§ 27-28 of the Laws of Eshnunna (hereafter LE)[6].

II-2. Inchoate Marriage[7]

When the biblum (presents for the wedding feast) is delivered and the terḫatum is given by the bridegroom to his father-in-law, a big wedding feast takes place[8]. After that, the bridegroom and the bride are regarded as “husband” and “wife” to the outside world. When both the bridegroom and the bride have by then reached the age ready for childbearing, the bride enters the household of the bridegroom, and their marriage are consummated by their sexual union, but when the bridegroom or the bride is too young for childbearing, the bride may either stay with her father[9] or move into the household of her father-in-law as a daughter-in-law (kallatum)[10].

The period between this wedding feast and the consummation of the marriage is regarded as a period of inchoate marriage. The bride in this period is a “wife” to the outside world and is legally protected as such from any sexual offence against her.

II-3.  Consummation of Marriage

An inchoate marriage is consummated, when both the bridegroom and the bride have reached the age ready for childbearing, by the bride’s moving into the household of her bridegroom and by the sexual union of the couple, or simply by their sexual union in the case of the kallatum-marraige[11].

III. Women in Dissolution of Marriage

III-1. Dissolution of an inchoate marriage

III-1-1. Dissolution initiated by the side of the bridegroom

Case 1:  If he (bridegroom), being attracted by another woman, declares to his father-in-law, « I will not take your daughter in marriage », the father of the daughter will take full possession of whatever has been brought to him (i.e. biblum and terḫatum). (§ 159)[12]

Case 2:  If the father-in-law lies with her daughter-in-law, before his son (i.e. the bridegroom) carnally knows her, the father-in-law must pay 1/2 mana (30 shekels) of silver and restore to her whatever she brought from her father’s house, and « a husband of her choice may take her in marriage ». (§ 156)[13]

Cf. § 155: If a man selects a bride for his son (šumma awīlum ana mārišu kallatam iḫīrma) and his son carnally knows her, after which he (the father of the bridegroom) himself then lies with her and they seize him in the act, they shall bind that man and cast him into the water.

III-1-2. Dissolution initiated by the side of the bride

Case 1:  If the father of the bride declares, after he received biblum and terḫatum, « I will not give my daughter to you, » he must return twofold everything that has been brought to him ». (§160)[14]

Case 2:  If a man has biblum brought to the house of his father-in-law and gives terḫatum, and then his friend slanders him (with the result that) his father-in-law declares to the husband (bēl aššatim), “You shall not take my daughter in marriage”, he (the father-in-law) must return twofold whatever had been brought to him; moreover, his friend shall not take his “wife (aššassu)” in marriage. (§ 161//CL § 29)[15]

Case 3a:  If a woman hates her husband, and declares, « You will not take me in marriage”[16], her circumstances shall be investigated by the authorities of her city quarter, and if she is circumspect and without fault, but her husband is wayward and disparages her greatly, that woman will not be subject to any penalty; she shall take her dowry and she shall depart for her father’s house.  (§ 142)

Case 3b: If she is not circumspect but is wayward, squanders her household possessions, and disparages her husband, they shall cast that woman into the water. (§ 143)

III-2. Dissolution of a Consummated Marriage

III-2-1. Dissolution of a consummated marriage is expressed by the verb ezēbum (abandon, leave) with a husband as subject, though it is his wife that leaves his house.

Case 1:  If a man decides to divorce (ezēbum) a šugītum who bore him sons, or a nadītum who provided him with sons, they shall give her one half of (her husband’s) field, orchard, and property, and she shall raise her children; after she has raised her children, they shall give her a share comparable in value to that of one heir from whatever properties are given to her sons, and a husband of her choice may take her for marriage (muttu libbiša iḫḫassi). (§ 137)

Cf. If a man has begotten sons, but divorces his wife and marries another woman, he must be expelled form the house and whatever there may be therein, . . . (LE, § 59)

Case 2a:  If a man divorces his first wife (ḫīrtašu) who has not born sons to him, he must give her as much silver as her terḫatum and restore to her the dowry she brought from the house of her father and he may divorce her. (§ 138)

Case 2b:  if there is no terḫatum, he (an awīlum) must give her 1 mana of silver as divorce money (uzubbûm) (§ 139). If he is a muškēnum, he shall give her 1/3 mana of silver (§ 140).

Case 3a:  If a man takes a woman in marriage, and later la’bum-desease seizes her and (if) he decides to take another woman in marriage, he may take her in marriage. (However,) he may not divorce his wife whom la’bum-desease has seized; she shall reside in the house he built and he must support her as long as she lives. (§ 148[17])

Case 3b: If that woman does not agree to reside in the house of her husband, he (the husband) may restore the dowry she brought from her father’s house, and she may go. (§ 149)

IV. terḫatum, šeriktum and nudunnnûm 

IV-1. terhatum

IV-1-1. What is terḫatum?

terḫatum was basically cash (silver), given by a bridegroom to his father-in-law. However, in some cases, it contained a female slave and/or small cattle. The total amount of terḫatum, or a portion of it was often tied to the hem of the bride’s garment and brought with her to the house of her bridegroom together with her dowry at the time of her move. The terḫatum may be placed under the custody of the bridegroom, but its ownership belongs to the bride.

P. Koschaker stated in 1917 that terḫatum was either an earnest money or bride price depending on whether it was given at the time of engagement or at the time of actual marriage[18]. Koschaker’s view of Kaufehe was challenged by E. Cuq[19], and G. R. Driver-J. C. Miles[20] among others. In 1950 Koschaker modified his view of 1917 by accepting Driver-Miles‘ inchoate marriage theory and abandoning his hypothesis on engagement together with his concept of earnest money. However, he continued to regard terḫatum as bride price to purchase the right to acquire a bride from her father[21]. R. Westbrook also took it as his task to criticize Koschaker’s theory on Kaufehe in his OBML, 1988, pp. 53-58.

Here are the main objections of scholars against the Kaufehe theory, as summarized by R. Westbrook[22].

(1) §§138-40 presupposes a marriage without terḫatum: If a man (=awīlum) intends to divorce his wife (ḫīrtašu) who did not bear him sons, he must give her silver as much as was her terḫatum . . . If there was no terḫatum, he (=awīlum) must give her 1 mana (60 shekels) of silver as a divorce settlement (uzubbûm). If (he is) a muškēnum, he must give her 1/3 mana of silver[23].

(2) If terhatum were to be a bride price, its amount would be too small. (Note that the amount of terḫatum is in generally either 5 or 10 shekels, as shown below. 10 shekels would be more or less equivalent to the average price of a slave in the Old Babylonian period, but 5 shekels would be less than the average price of a slave in the OB period[24].)

(3) If terḫatum is really a bride price, it would be very difficult to explain the institution of giving a nudunnûm to ensure the livelihood of a wife in future when she becomes widowed.

(4) The OB law did not treat her as the property of her husband.

Westbrook prefers to see an analogy between child-adoption and marriage institution rather than between the sales and marriage institution[25]. He thinks that terḫatum is a payment to a bride’s father for the right to control over their daughter[26].

IV-1-2. The amount of terḫatum

The amount of terḫatum ranged from 1 to 40 shekels of silver in the OB period apart from some rare cases, but it is normally either 5 or 10 shekels of silver. It may be noted that Šamšī-Adad I thought that 4 biltu’s (240 mana roughly equivalent to 120kg) of silver might not be sufficient as terḫatum for a daughter of the king of Qatna who was going to get married with Yasmaḫ-Addu, his son, and suggested 5 biltu’s (300 mana, roughtly equivalent to 150kg) of silver would be more appropriate as her terḫatum (ARM I, 77:11f. Cf. ARM I, 46:5).

  • 1 shekels:VAS 9, 192:5ff.
  • 1.5 shekels+15 barleycorns:CT 4, 18b:13
  • 4 shekels:CT 8, 76:9
  • 5 shekels:BIN 7, 173:8; CT 33:34:9; CT 47, 40a:10; CT 48, 55:15; PBS 8/2, 252:15; YOS 13, 440:2; TIM 4, 46:3: TIM 4,47:26; YOS 12, 457:6; YOS 13, 440:2
  • 6 shekels:CT 48, 53:10(case) (5 shekels on the tablet)
  • 10 shekels: CT 48, 51:9, 52:6, 55:15, 57:7; Donbaz-Yoffee, OB Kish, p. 72 r.7;Meissner, BAP 90:8; VAS 8, 92:8; YOS 13, 440:2
  • 20 shekels:Waterman, Business Doc. 39:2
  • 40 shekels + a slave:VAS 8, 4:11

IV-2. šeriktum (dowry)

A šeriktum in the CH is a dowry given to a bride by her father and is brought to the house of her bridegroom, when the bride enters his house as a bride or as a daughter-in-law (kallatum). šeriktum (dowry) consists of garments, accessories, oil, kitchen utensils, furniture, a slave (or slaves), small cattle, etc., and does not normally include money (silver). Although this use of the term šeriktum for dowry is found in the Middle Assyrian Laws (MAL A, §29), šeriktu(m) does not appear in the “documents of practice” in the post-OB periods. šeriktum only means “gift” in a very general sense in the post-OB periods. In the NB Laws šeriktu is used in a sense very similar to that of nudunnûm in the CH[27].

IV-3. nudunnûm

The term nudunnûm is used outside of the CH, in the documents of practice, to designate dowry[28]. This is especially true in the NB period[29], but in the CH a nudunnûm is a gift given together with a written document (ṭuppum) by a husband to his wife in order to ensure her and her children’s livelihood after his death. After the death of the wife, the nudunnûm is inherited by her sons.

The nudunnûm may include a part of the husband’s field, orchard and house and (or and/or?) movable property, if § 150 (If a man awards to her wife a field, orchard, and house and (or and/or?) movable property and makes out a sealed document for her,…) refers to a nudunnûm, as G.R. Driver-J. C. Miles (BL, I, 1952, p. 268) and R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 95-96 so suppose.

The wife (ḫīrtum) can take her dowry and the nudunnûm which her husband awarded to her in writing, and she can continue to reside in her husband’s dwelling; as long as she is alive she can enjoy the use of it, but she may not sell it; her own estate shall belong (as inheritance) only to her own children. (§171).

If her husband has not given a nudunnûm to her, they must restore her dowry and she may take a share of the property of her husband like any one of the heirs. If her sons make her life impossible so that she may go out, the judges must investigate her case and must impose penalty upon her sons; this wife does not need to go out of her husband’s house. If this woman decides to go out, she must leave to her sons the nudunnûm her husband has given her. She may take the dowry (brought) from her father’s house, and a husband of her choice may take her in marraige. (§172).

.

B. A FEW OBSERVATIONS

1. In a sharp contrast to assertive and aggressive Mesopotamian goddesses such as Ishtar who asked Gilgamesh to get married with her on his way home from his adventure into the Cedar Mountains and Adgarkidu, daughter of Numušda who insisted on getting married with Martu against strong advices of her girl friend, the woman in Mesopotamia, at least as reflected in the CH, does not seem to have had a say in her own marriage.

Usually some ones other than she decide with whom she gets married. This situation is collaborated by the lack of Akkadian expressions of getting married in which the verb takes a woman as subject and a man as object. It is true that the verb erēbum is used with a woman as subject, but erēbum is an intransitive verb and does not require an object.

An oblique expression that takes into some consideration the will of the woman is “the husband of her choice may take her in marriage (mut/mutu libbiša iḫḫassi)”. This expression appears in three paragraphs of the CH (§§ 137, 156 and 172), but they all deal with cases of remarriage. Besides, here too, the woman appears as object of the verb aḫāzum and not as subject.

This situation in the OB period reminds us of that of pre-modern Japan, when men used to say, “watashiha Hanako-sanwo yomeni morau (I take Hanako as wife.). However, women could not say, “watashiha Taro-sanwo ottoni morau (I take Taro as husband.). Women in those days could only say, “Watashiha Taro-sanno tokoroni yomeiru (I enter the household of Taro as bride/daughter-in-law.). In those days, women in Japan had little say in their marriage that was often arranged by their parents.

2. The penalty of the father-in-law who lies with his daughter-in-law (kallatum) whom his own son has known carnally is death by being thrown into water (§ 155). This would not surprise us. However, the penalty of the same act by the father-in-law that takes place before his son knows her carnally (payment of 1/2 mana of silver and dissolution of the inchoate marriage) seems to be too lenient (§156) in comparison to the penalty (death) for a sexual assault against a woman in the state of inchoate marriage by an unrelated man (§130). Is this because the father-in-law was regarded as a party to the marriage contract? (Cf. § 166: šumma awīlum ana mārīšu ša irbû (text: iršû) aššātim īḫuz ana mārišu ṣeḫrim aššatam la īḫuz . . .)

3. There are cases of dissolution of an inchoate marriage the process of which the bride initiates by declaring, “You will not take me in marriage (, meaning you will not consummate this marriage)”. (§§ 142-143) However, it is far more difficult for a bride to do so than for a bridegroom, because she has to be investigated by the authorities of her city quarter, risking her life in the worst case. A bridegroom, on the other hand, can initiate the same process, if he is willing to forfeit the biblum and the terḫatum he has presented to his father-in-law.

4. Dissolution of a consummated marriage without children (written: sons) was possible with conditions that the divorcing husband would give his wife as much silver as her terḫatum and restore to her the dowry she had brought from the house of her father (§138). If there were no terḫatum and if he were an awīlum, he would have to give 1 mana of silver to his wife as divorce money (uzubbûm) (§139). If he were a muškēnum, he would have to give 1/3 mana of silver (§140). The amount of the divorce money was large and must have had discouraging effects on a man who was contemplating a divorce.

Even if a man’s wife were to become seized by la’abum-desease so that he might not be able to beget sons, this would not be considered as an excuse for divorcing his sick wife, though he may be allowed to take a second wife, unless she (the first wife) desires to get divorced under the circumstances (§§148-149).

However, divorcing a wife who has born sons seems to have been strongly discouraged. A pertinent paragraph on this point is §137. This paragraph is concerned not with divorcing an ordinary woman, but with divorcing nadītum who provided her husband with children (written: sons) or šugītum who bore children (written: sons) for her husband. According to the prevailing principle regarding the nadītum and šugītum during the OB period, namely, “The marrier of one marries the other; the divorcer of one divorces the other“,[30] it is difficult to explain the situation of §137, because it deals with a divorce of either nadītum or (ulu) šugītum. Leaving this problem aside, they (the city authority or the elders of the town?) require the husband in this case to return to his wife her dowry and give her one half of his field, orchard, and property so that she may be able to raise her children. They also require the divorcing husband to give his wife a share comparable in value to that of one heir from whatever properties are given to her sons as well as freedom to get remarried with a man of her choice. Here I should like to draw you attention to § 59 of the Laws of Eshnunna which says: “If a man has begotten sons but divorces his wife and marries another woman, he must be expelled from the house and whatever there may be therein, . . .”

5. It is without saying that OB women had very little say in their own marriage. However, they are not without protection or security for their future life in case something happens with their husbands.

Married women according to the CH have their own possessions such as her dowry (šeriktum), a part or whole of terḫatum that is tied to the hem of their garment by their father and is returned to their husband’s household (cf. §§ 163 and 164) when they move in, and lastly nudunnûm which is given to wives probably when they have their first child. They are probably under the custody of their husband while he is alive, but if, for example, their husband dies, they can live on their own possessions at least for sometime. These possessions of the wives are inherited, when they die, by their sons.

The welfare of the wives and children of Babylonian soldiers, when they are captured in an enemy land and held as prisoners of war is another matter of concern of the CH (§ 29).

The protection of married women especially with children is well in accord with the concern of Hammurabi for the weakest of the society (orphans and widows), as can be seen in the words of Hammurabi in the epilogue of the CH as well as in those of other lawgivers before him indeed.

List of Abbreviations

AL G. R. Driver-J. C. Miles, The Assyrian Laws, Oxford, 1935
ARM Archives royales de Mari
ArOr Archiv Orientální
BAP B. Meissner, Beiträge zum altbabylonischen Privatrecht, Leipzig, 1893
BE The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania
BIN Babylonian Inscriptions in the Collection of J. B. Nies
BL G. R. Driver-J. C. Miles, The Babylonian Laws, 2 vols., Oxford, 1952-1955
Business Doc. L. Waterman, Business Documents of the Hammurapi Period from the British Museum, London, 1916
CAD The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago, 1956-
CH Code of Hammurabi
CL Code of Lipit-Ishtar
CT Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum
Droit matrimonial A. van Praag, Droit matrimonial Assyro-babylonien, Amsterdam, 1945
JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society
JCS Journal of Cuneiform Studies
Law Collections Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, SBL Writings from the Ancient World Series, 6, Atlanta, 1995
LE Laws of Eshnunna
MAL Middle Assyrian Laws
OBML R. Westbrook, Old Babylonian Marriage Law, AfO, Beiheft 23, Horn, 1988
OrNS Orientalia, Nova Series
PBS Publications of the Babylonian Section, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania
RvSGgH P. Koschaker, Rechtsvergleichende Studien zur Gesetzgebung Hammurapis, Königs von Babylon, Leipzig, 1917
Symbolae David J. A. Ankum et al. (eds.), Symbolae Iuridicae et Historicae M. David Dedicatae, Vol. 2, Leiden, 1968
TIM Texts in the Iraq Museum
VAS Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler der Königlichen/ Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
YOS Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts

[1] R. Westwood discusses the meanings and the usage of aḫāzum extensively in OBML, 1988, pp. 10-16.

[2] Marth T. Roth’s translates, “If a man marries a wife but does not draw up a formal contract for her, . . .” (Law Collections, 1995, p. 105) Here I prefer to translate aḫāzum more literally. Furthermore, riksātum does not mean a written contract. See n. 6 below.

[3] R. Westbrook seems to think that the use of erēbum with a woman as the grammatical subject is limited to second marriages (OBML, 1988, p. 51).

[4] kirrum is a metal container for beer and other liquid products. While S. Greengus, “Old Babylonian Marriage Ceremonies and Rites”, JCS 20, 1966, p. 65 proposes to translate the word “libation”, R. Yaron, The Laws of Eshnunna, 1988 (2nd ed.), p. 59 renders it by “marriage feast,” following B. Lansberger, “Jungfräulichkeit: Ein Beitrag zum Thema ‘Beilager und Eheschliessung’”, Symbolae David, II, 1968, pp. 76ff.

[5] S. Greengus, “The Old Babylonian Marriage Contract,” JAOS 89, 1969, pp. 506-514. This view is accepted by R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 29f.

[6] R. Yaron, The Laws of Eshnunna, 1988, pp. 202-205.

[7] This idea was first proposed by G. R. Driver and J. C. Miles in The Assyrian Laws, Oxford, 1935, pp. 167 and 173f. See also their BL I, 1952, pp. 322-324.

[8] No mention is made of the wedding feast in CH, but biblum must have included such edible things as corn and sheep presumably to be consumed at the feast. G.R. Driver-J. C. Miles refer us in this connection to a wedding feast of Samson which is said to have lasted seven days (Judges 14:10-13). G.R. Driver-J. C. Miles say, “In the Assyrian Laws the biblu alone is given by the man’s father and it is called the ‘present’ (Ass. Zubullû) , when it is brought by the son; in neither section (MAL A, 30-31) is the tirḫâtum mentioned by name.” (BL I, 1952, p. 249) Since zubullû in the Middle Assyrian Laws (A §30) includes “lead, silver, gold” as well as edible things, it is possible that zubullû in the Assyrian Laws was a combination of biblum and terḫatum of CH.

[9] For examples, §§ 141-142, 159-161.

[10] For examples, §§ 155-156. G. R. Driver-J. C. Miles called this mode of marriage “kallatum-marriage” and distinguished it from the inchoate marriage (BL I, 1952, pp. 251-252), However, I prefer to follow R. Westbrook (OBML,1988, p. 37) and consider that the kallatum-marriage is a form of the inchoate marriage.

[11] There seem to have been cases in which the period of the inchoate marriage unduly prolonged (CT 48, 79:9-11 and BE 6/2, 58, cited by R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, p. 45).

[12] Cf. R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 43-45.

[13] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, p. 43.

[14] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 41-43.

[15] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 42-43.

[16] This paragraph is translated variously by scholars: B. Landsberger translated, “ich werde nicht länger mit ihr verheiratet sein” (BE 6/2 58:12?); Marth T. Roth: ‘You will not have marital relations with me’ (Law Collections, 1995, p. 108; CAD A1, 1964, p. 175a: “You shall not touch me” and comments, “(here aḫāzum is) used as a euphemism (for sexual relationship)” (words in parentheses are mine); G. R. Driver: “Thou shalt not have (the natural use of) me” (BL II, 1952, p. 57). He and J. C. Miles commented that this paragraph dealt with a refusal of conjugal rights of her husband and not just a refusal of consummation of an inchoate marriage (BL I, 1952, p. 301).

[17] A parallel paragraph in the CL (§ 28) requires the second wife to support the sick wife.

[18] A van Praag regarded it as a present. However, if a man does not give that gift, then, according to van Praag, it becomes a debt for him with the result that he cannot claim his wife (Droit matrimonial, 1945, pp. 147-148). Van der Meer, on the other hand, regarded it as a payment for the first night. (“terḫātum”, RA 31, 1934, pp. 121-123.

[19] E. Cuq considered that terḫatum was “une libéralité.” See E. Cuq, Études sur le droit babylonien, Paris, 1929, p. 25.

[20] G. R. Driver-J. C. Miles, BL, I. pp. 259-265. They say, “It is therefore far more probable that its meaning is a marriage-gift or a gift given to secure a marriage with a view to procreation than that it means a price by which a bride is purchased.” (BL, I, 19952, p. 264)

[21] P. Koschaker’s theory of “Kaufehe” is accepted by J. Renger, “Who are All Those People?”, OrNS 42, 1973, pp. 259-273.

[22] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 54-56. Westbrook’s own criticisms are found in OBML, pp. 56-57.

[23] P. Koschaker thought that this paragraph reflected the Sumerian institution of marriage which did not require giving of terḫatum (RvSGgH, pp. 152f., 159-163, 178-183; ArOr 18, 1950, pp. 229-230). J. Renger thinks that there existed another type of marriages in the Old Babylonian period that did not require terḫatum, and § 139 reflects that type of marriages (OrNS 42, 1973, p. 265).

[24] See J.-M. Durand, ARM XXI, p. 193.

[25] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 58f.

[26] R. Westbrook, OBML,1988, p. 60.

[27] CAD Š3, p. 103 sub 1b.

[28] M. T. Roth translates nudunnûm as “marriage settlement” in her Law Collections, 1995, p. 114.

[29] CAD N2, pp. 310-312.

[30] R. Westbrook, OBML, 1988, pp. 109-110.