By Raymond Westbrook, Gary M. Beckman
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Additional info for A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Handbook of Oriental Studies; Handbuch der Orientalistik)
The exact words of the statute are quoted, analyzed and obeyed by the courts, or in the inverse process, a legal ruling is justiﬁed by reference to the exact words of the statute. The reason is that, as in modern law, the words of the text have become the ultimate point of reference for the meaning of the law. The text is both autonomous, meaning that once a law is promulgated, it is regarded as the lawgiver itself, and it is exhaustive, meaning that what is not in the text is not regarded as law (unless covered by another text).
A single decree may contain provisions concerning more than one area; the Edict of Irikagina covers all three. 1 In the sphere of constitutional law, the Edict of Telipinu lays down rules for succession to the Hittite throne. The Edict of Irikagina restructures the royal control of some of the temples. A unique document from the Old Assyrian trading colony at Kanish, the “Statutes of the Colony,” sets out rules for convening the assembly of the colony and for its making decisions. 2 A source of administrative law was the genre of royal instructions, noted above, which were issued to various high oﬃcials in the administration but also to such purely household institutions as the Hittite royal bodyguard and the Assyrian royal harem.
What the hierarchy within the household meant was that the head of household could to some extent use the subordinate members of household, even the free ones, as the objects of legal transactions. He could certainly enter into legal obligations on their behalf. By the same token, the subordinate members had limited legal capacity when acting on their own behalf but could, as agents, create rights and duties in the head of household. They might also suﬀer the consequences of his criminal acts, through the doctrines of vicarious and collective liability (see 8 below).
A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (Handbook of Oriental Studies; Handbuch der Orientalistik) by Raymond Westbrook, Gary M. Beckman