Law of Ur- Nammu: The First Steps

The Law of Ur- Nammu is the oldest recorded tablet of law that still exists today (Bible History, 2007, p. n. pag. ). It was carbon dated to have been written between 2100 and 2112 BC and has been estimated to exist up to 2050-2095. The poor state of the tablets of this law makes it hard for most scholars of this law to translate the specifics of this law (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 66). This set of laws was created by the third Dynasty of the Ur (Bermosa, 2009, p. n. pag. ).

Up to today there are around 57 laws which are included in the set of Ur- Nammu, although some of its major parts are still used by present day scholars to look at its vital contribution to the latter sets of laws that existed after it. Ur- Nammu laws that lie in the nature of adultery, physical injuries and even false witness are the most pronounced among this set of laws. The Law of Ur-Nammu is regarded by its subjects and creators to be a divine intervention that paved way for the ruler of Ur to end the common sicknesses of their society such as violence and strife (Finkelstein, 1968, p.

67). The moral ascendency which was secured by the ruler of Ur made him more than capable of enlisting the most appropriate social actions which can be embodied by the laws stated in the Law of Ur-Nammu. In a way, these laws are laws from a deity that the laws’ subjects worship. Given that the Law of Ur- Nammu is a set of law similar to other sets of laws in terms of its ability to incite reverence and fear, this set of laws has an undeniable inclination to economically assessing the crime committed by its subjects.

In the laws present in the law of Ur-Nammu economic valuation appears to be the main reasoning of the consequential aspect of its laws. Crimes are usually valuated and assessed through economic sanctions such as that seen in its notion of divorce where the act itself is permissible if the man who divorced his wife has to pay one mina of silver (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 67). The same line of consequences can be seen in the other parts of this law; even laws which are of moral background economic valuation can still be observed.

Sample cases are those that regard to the deflowering of a female belonging to other man, the accused has to pay five shekels of silver (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 67). Even cases of physical injuries are still valuated economically such as seen in cases where a man cut off a limb of another man; the offender simply has to pay 10 shekels of silver (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 70). The Law of Ur- Nammu also sanctions other crimes against individuals such as physical injuries through financial sanctions.

The Law of Ur-Nammu is regarded as highly trivial in nature because of its known sanctions on the failure of its subjects to live up to his or her social obligations such as in cases wherein an individual opted to false bear witness and the act was proven, the offender has to pay 15 shekels of silver (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 80). This law is not considered trivial because of its very meaning; instead it is held trivial because of the higher economic valuation imposed on offenses in the background of social obligation as compared to that of moral and physical offenses.

The notion of moral obligation in the Law of Ur- Nammu bears a great weight, enough to make it the core value that this set of laws upholds (Finkelstein, 1968, p. 80). The argumentations presented by this set of laws do not solely lie on the economic valuation that it uses as sanctions; the argumentations rather lie on the main precepts of social obligation. The Law of Eshnunna: The Missing Link As stated earlier the Law of Eshnunna unlike the other two sets of laws is burden with the lack of proper documentation.

The laws prescribed in the Law of Eshnunna can be assumed to be the results of one of history’s most fluent representations of oral tradition. This oral tradition could have been mythologized forever if not for the unearthed tablets that claim to be the Law of Eshnunna. Even if it is scientifically proven that the tablets are not the official ones, the Law of Eshnunna is still an undeniable part of Cuneiform written laws because of its similarities to both Law of Ur- Nammu and the Law of Hammurabi(Bible History, 2007, p. n. pag. ).