Most recently the Laws of Eshnunna and the Code of Hammurabi got me thinking about the societies of ancient Mesopotamia — and about what kinds of crime stories one could set in those societies.
As nearly as I can tell, legal life in the ancient Near East involved property, contracts, and beer. The forty-first article of the Laws of Eshnunna, for example, specifies that
"If an unbarum, a naptarum or a mudum wants to sell his beer, the sabitum shall sell his beer for him at the current price."And what are unbarum, naptarum and mudum? "Social classes who seem to be entitled to a ration of beer." *
(Sumerian beer tablet)
Not that Eshnunnites were entirely licentious. The forty-second article provides penalties for possible results of excessive consumption of that price-controlled brew:
"If a man bites the nose off another man and severs it, he shall pay 1 mina of silver ... "
The edict of Hammurabi's great-great-grandson Ammisaduqa, meanwhile, suggests that beer was a valued, carefully regulated commodity and that Mesopotamian barmaids were not to be messed with:
"A taverness who has given beer or barley as a loan may not collect any of what she had given as a loan. A taverness or a merchant who ... dishonest weight shall die."I don't know about you, but I see vast potential for Prohibition-like gangster tales and strong female characters.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011