Babylonians and Assyrians, Life and Customs
Babylonians and Assyrians, Life and Customs
Archibald Henry Sayce
A. H. Sayce
Babylonians and Assyrians, Life and Customs
Semitic studies, both linguistically and archæologically, have advanced by rapid strides during the last two decades. Fresh light has fallen upon the literary, scientific, theological, mercantile, and other achievements of this great branch of the human family. What these peoples thought and achieved has a very direct bearing upon some of the problems that lie nearest to the hearts of a large portion of the intelligent peoples of Christendom to-day. Classical studies no longer enjoy a monopoly of attention in the curricula of our colleges and universities. It is, in fact, more and more plainly perceived by scholars that among the early peoples who have contributed to the ideas inwrought into our present civilization there is none to whom we owe a greater debt than we do to the Semitic family. Apart from the genetic relation which the thought of these peoples bears to the Christianity of the past and present, a study of their achievements in general has become a matter of general human interest. It is here that we find the earliest beginnings of civilization historically known to us—here that early religious ideas, social customs and manners, political organizations, the beginnings of art and architecture, the rise and growth of mythological ideas that have endured and spread to western nations, can be seen in their earliest stages, and here alone the information is supplied which enables us to follow them most successfully in their development.
The object of this series is to present, in brief and compact form, a knowledge of the more important facts in the history of this family in a way that will be serviceable to students in colleges, universities, and theological seminaries, to the clergy, and to intelligent lay readers.
It has been the good fortune of the Editor and Publishers to secure the interest and co-operation of scholars who are fitted by their special knowledge of the subjects entrusted to them. Works written on Semitic subjects by those whose knowledge is gained from other than the original sources are sure to be defective in many ways. It is only the specialist whose knowledge enables him to take a comprehensive view of the entire field in which he labors who is able to gain the perspective necessary for the production of a general work which will set forth prominently, and in their proper relations, the salient and most interesting facts.
Each contributor to the Series presents his contribution subject to no change by the Editor. In cases where it may be deemed of sufficient importance to notice a divergent view this will be done in a foot-note. The authors, however, will aim to make their several contributions consistent with the latest discoveries.
James Alexander Craig.
University of Michigan,
Chapter I. Babylonia And Its Inhabitants
Babylonia was the gathering-place of the nations. Berossus, the Chaldean historian, tells us that after the creation it was peopled by a mixture of races, and we read in the book of Genesis that Babel, or Babylon, was the first home of the manifold languages of mankind. The country for the most part had been won from the sea; it was the gift of the two great rivers, Euphrates and Tigris, which once flowed separately into the Persian Gulf. Its first settlers must have established themselves on the desert plateau which fringes the Babylonian plain rather than in the plain itself.
The plain is formed of the silt deposited each year by the rivers that flow through it. It is, in fact, as much a delta as Northern Egypt, and is correspondingly fertile. Materials exist for determining approximately the rate at which this delta has been formed. The waters of the Persian Gulf are continually receding from the shore, and Ainsworth[1 - Researches in Assyria, Babylonia, and Chaldea (1838), p. 131 sqq.] calculates that about ninety feet of land are added annually to the coast-line. But the rate of deposit seems to have been somewhat more rapid in the past. At all events, Mohammerah, which in 1835 was forty-seven miles distant from the Gulf, stands on the site of Spasinus Charax, which, in the time of Alexander the Great, was not quite a mile from the sea. In 2,160 years, therefore, no less than forty-six miles of land have been formed at the head of the Persian Gulf, or nearly one hundred and fifteen feet each year.
The deposit of soil, however, may not have been so rapid in the flourishing days of Babylonian history, when the canals were carefully attended to and the irrigation of the country kept under control. It is safer, therefore, to assume for the period preceding the rise of the Macedonian Empire a rate of deposit of not more than one hundred feet each year. The seaport of primitive Chaldea was Eridu, not far from Ur, and as the mounds of Abu-Shahrein or Nowâwis, which now mark its site, are nearly one hundred and thirty miles from the present line of coast, we must go back as far as 6500 B.C. for the foundation of the town. “Ur of the Chaldees,” as it is called in the Book of Genesis, was some thirty miles to the north, and on the same side of the Euphrates; the ruins of its great temple of the Moon-god are now known by the name of Muqayyar or Mugheir. It must have been founded on the sandy plateau of the Arabian desert at a time when the plain enclosed between the Tigris and the Euphrates was still too marshy for human habitation. As the Moon-god of Ur was held to be the son of El-lil of Nippur, Dr. Peters is doubtless right in believing that Ur was a colony of the latter city. Nippur is the modern Niffer or Nuffar in the north of Babylonia, and recent excavations have shown that its temple was the chief sanctuary and religious centre of the civilized eastern world in the earliest epoch to which our records reach. Eridu, Ur, and Nippur seem to have been the three chief cities of primeval Babylonia. As we shall see in a future chapter, Eridu and Nippur were the centres from which the early culture and religion of the country were diffused. But there was an essential difference between them. Ea, the god of Eridu, was a god of light and beneficence, who employed his divine wisdom in healing the sick and restoring the dead to life. He had given man all the elements of civilization; rising each morning out of his palace under the waters of the deep, he taught them the arts and sciences, the industries and manners, of civilized life. El-lil of Nippur, on the contrary, was the lord of the underworld; magical spells and incantations were his gifts to mankind, and his kingdom was over the dead rather than the living. The culture which emanated from Eridu and Nippur was thus of a wholly different kind. Is it possible that the settlers in the two cities were of a different race?
Of this there is no proof. Such evidence as we have tells against it. And the contrast in the character of the cultures of Eridu and Nippur can be explained in another way. Eridu was a seaport; its population was in contact with other races, and its ships traded with the coasts of Arabia. The myth which told how Ea or Oannes had brought the elements of civilization to his people expressly stated that he came from the waters of the Persian Gulf. The culture of Eridu may thus have been due to foreign intercourse; Eridu was a city of merchants and sailors, Nippur of sorcerer-priests.
Eridu and Nippur, however, alike owed their origin to a race which we will term Sumerian. Its members spoke agglutinative dialects, and the primitive civilization of Babylonia was their creation. They were the founders of its great cities and temples, the inventors of the pictorial system of writing out of which the cuneiform characters subsequently developed, the instructors in culture of their Semitic neighbors. How deep and far-reaching was their influence may be gathered from the fact that the earliest civilization of Western Asia finds its expression in the Sumerian language and script. To whatever race the writer might belong he clothed his thoughts in the words and characters of the Sumerian people. The fact makes it often difficult for us to determine whether the princes of primitive Chaldea whose inscriptions have come down to us were Semites or not. Their very names assume Sumerian forms.
It was from the Sumerian that the Semite learnt to live in cities. His own word for “city” was âlu, the Hebrew 'ohel “a tent,” which is still used in the Old Testament in the sense of “home;” the Hebrew 'îr is the Sumerian eri. Ekallu, the Hebrew hêkal, “a palace,” comes from the Sumerian ê-gal or “great house;” the first palaces seen by the Semitic nomad must have been those of the Chaldean towns.
But a time came when the Semite had absorbed the culture of his Sumerian teachers and had established kingdoms of his own in the future Babylonia. For untold centuries he lived in intermixture with the older population of the country, and the two races acted and re-acted on each other. A mixed people was the result, with a mixed language and a mixed form of religion. The Babylonia of later days was, in fact, a country whose inhabitants and language were as composite as the inhabitants and language of modern England. Members of the same family had names derived from different families of speech, and while the old Sumerian borrowed Semitic words which it spelt phonetically, the Semitic lexicon was enriched with loan-words from Sumerian which were treated like Semitic roots.
The Semite improved upon the heritage he had received. Even the system of writing was enlarged and modified. Its completion and arrangement are due to Semitic scribes who had been trained in Sumerian literature. It was probably at the court of Sargon of Akkad that what we may term the final revision of the syllabary took place. At all events, after his epoch the cuneiform script underwent but little real change.
Sargon was the founder of the first Semitic empire in Asia. His date was placed by the native historians as far back as 3800 B.C., and as they had an abundance of materials at their disposal for settling it, which we do not possess, we have no reason to dispute it. Moreover, it harmonizes with the length of time required for bringing about that fusion of Sumerian and Semitic elements which created the Babylonia we know. The power of Sargon extended to the Mediterranean, even, it may be, to the island of Cyprus. His conquests were continued by his son and successor Naram-Sin, who made his way to the precious copper-mines of the Sinaitic peninsula, the chief source of the copper that was used so largely in the work of his day. “The land of the Amorites,” as Syria was called, was already a Babylonian province, and he could therefore march in safety toward the south through the desert region which was known as Melukhkha.
How long the empire of Sargon lasted we do not know. But it spread Babylonian culture to the distant west and brought it to the very border of Egypt. It was, too, a culture which had become essentially Semitic; the Sumerian elements on which it was based had been thoroughly transformed. What Babylonian civilization was in the latest days of Chaldean history, that it already was, to all intents and purposes, in the age of Sargon. The Sumerian and the Semite had become one people.
But the mixture of nationalities in Babylonia was not yet complete. Colonies of Amorites, from Canaan, settled in it for the purposes of trade; wandering tribes of Semites, from Northern Arabia, pastured their cattle on the banks of its rivers, and in the Abrahamic age a line of kings from Southern Arabia made themselves masters of the country, and established their capital at Babylon. Their names resembled those of Southern Arabia on the one hand, of the Hebrews on the other, and the Babylonian scribes were forced to give translations of them in their own language.
But all these incomers belonged to the Semitic race, and the languages they spoke were but varieties of the same family of speech. It is probable that such was the case with the Kaldâ, who lived in the marshes at the mouth of the Euphrates, and from whom classical geography has derived the name of Chaldean. The extension of the name to the whole population of Babylonia was due to the reign of the Kaldâ prince, Merodach-baladan, at Babylon. For years he represented Babylonian freedom in its struggle with Assyria, and his “Chaldean” subjects became an integral part of the population. Perhaps, too, the theory is right which makes Nebuchadnezzar of Kaldâ descent. If so, there is a good reason why the inhabitants of Babylonia should have become “Chaldeans” in the classical age.
Of wholly different origin were the Kassites, mountaineers from the east of Elam, who conquered Babylonia, and founded a dynasty of kings which lasted for several centuries. They also gave their name to the population of the country, and, in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets, accordingly, the natives of Babylonia are known as “Kassi.” Sennacherib found their kinsfolk in the Elamite mountains, and here they still lived in the age of the Greek writers. Strabo calls them Kosseans, and it seems probable that they are the same as the Kissians, after whom the whole of Elam was named. At any rate the Kassites were neither Sumerians nor Semites; and their language, of which several words have been preserved, has no known connections. But they left their mark upon the Babylonian people, and several family names were borrowed from them.
The Babylonian was thus a compound of Sumerian, Semitic, and Kassite elements. They all went to form the culture which we term Babylonian, and which left such enduring traces on Western Asia and the world. Mixed races are invariably the best, and the Babylonians were no exception to the rule. We have only to compare them with their neighbors, the more purely blooded Semitic Assyrians, to assure ourselves of the fact. The culture of Assyria was but an imitation and reflection of that of Babylonia—there was nothing original about it. The Assyrian excelled only in the ferocities of war, not in the arts of peace. Even the gods of Assyria had migrated from the southern kingdom.
The dual character of Babylonian civilization must never be forgotten. It serves to explain a good deal that would otherwise be puzzling in the religious and social life of the people. But the social life was also influenced and conditioned by the peculiar nature of the country in which the people lived. It was an alluvial plain, sloping toward the sea, and inundated by the overflow of the two great rivers which ran through it. When cultivated it was exceedingly fertile; but cultivation implied a careful regulation of the overflow, as well as a constant attention to the embankments which kept out the waters, or to the canals which drained and watered the soil.
The inhabitants were therefore, necessarily, agriculturists. They were also irrigators and engineers, compelled to study how best to regulate the supply of water, to turn the pestiferous marsh into a fruitful field, and to confine the rivers and canals within their channels. Agriculture and engineering thus had their natural home in Babylonia, and originated in the character of the country itself.
The neighborhood of the sea and the two great waterways which flanked the Babylonian plain further gave an impetus to trade. The one opened the road to the spice-bearing coasts of Southern Arabia and the more distant shores of Egypt; the other led to the highlands of Western Asia. From the first the Babylonians were merchants and sailors as well as agriculturists. The “cry” of the Chaldeans was “in their ships.” The seaport of Eridu was one of the earliest of Babylonian cities; and a special form of boat took its name from the more inland town of Ur. While the population of the country devoted itself to agriculture, the towns grew wealthy by the help of trade.
Their architecture was dependent on the nature of the country. In the alluvial plain no stone was procurable; clay, on the other hand, was everywhere. All buildings, accordingly, were constructed of clay bricks, baked in the sun, and bonded together with cement of the same material; their roofs were of wood, supported, not unfrequently, by the stems of the palm. The palm stems, in time, became pillars, and Babylonia was thus the birthplace of columnar architecture. It was also the birthplace of decorated walls. It was needful to cover the sun-dried bricks with plaster, for the sake both of their preservation and of appearance. This was the origin of the stucco with which the walls were overlaid, and which came in time to be ornamented with painting. Ezekiel refers to the figures, portrayed in vermilion, which adorned the walls of the houses of the rich.
The want of stone and the abundance of clay had another and unique influence upon Babylonian culture. It led to the invention of the written clay tablet, which has had such momentous results for the civilization of the whole Eastern world. The pictures with which Babylonian writing began were soon discarded for the conventional forms, which could so easily be impressed by the stylus upon the soft clay. It is probable that the use of the clay as a writing material was first suggested by the need there was in matters of business that the contracting parties should record their names. The absence of stone made every pebble valuable, and pebbles were accordingly cut into cylindrical forms and engraved with signs. When the cylinder was rolled over a lump of wet clay, its impress remained forever. The signs became cuneiform characters, and the Babylonian wrote them upon clay instead of stone.
The seal-cylinder and the use of clay as a writing material must consequently be traced to the peculiar character of the country in which the Babylonian lived. To the same origin must be ascribed his mode of burial. The tomb was built of bricks; there were no rocky cliffs in which to excavate it, and the marshy soil made a grave unsanitary. It was doubtless sanitary reasons alone that caused wood to be heaped about the tomb after an interment and set on fire so that all within it was partially consumed. The narrow limits of the Babylonian plain obliged the cemetery of the dead to adjoin the houses of the living, and cremation, whether partial or complete, became a necessity.
Even the cosmogony of the Babylonians has been influenced by their surroundings. The world, it was believed, originated in a watery chaos, like that in which the first settlers had found the Babylonian plain. The earth not only rested on the waters, but the waters themselves, dark and unregulated, were the beginning of all things. This cosmological conception was carried with the rest of Babylonian culture to the West, and after passing through Canaan found its way into Greek philosophy. In the Book of Genesis we read that “darkness was on the face of the deep” before the creative spirit of God brooded over it, and Thales, the first of Greek philosophers, taught that water was the principle out of which all things have come.
The fertility of the Babylonian soil was remarkable. Grain, it was said, gave a return of two hundred for one, sometimes of three hundred for one. Herodotus, or the authority he quotes, grows enthusiastic upon the subject. “The leaf of the wheat and barley,” he says, “is as much as three inches in width, and the stalks of the millet and sesamum are so tall that no one who has never been in that country would believe me were I to mention their height.” In fact, naturalists tell us that Babylonia was the primitive home of the cultivated cereals, wheat and probably barley, and that from the banks of the Euphrates they must have been disseminated throughout the civilized world. Wheat, indeed, has been found growing wild in our own days in the neighborhood of Hit.
The dissemination of wheat goes back to a remote epoch. Like barley, it is met with in the tombs of that prehistoric population of Egypt which still lived in the neolithic age and whose later remains are coeval with the first Pharaonic epoch. The fact throws light on the antiquity of the intercourse which existed between the Euphrates and the Nile, and bears testimony to the influence already exerted on the Western world by the culture of Babylonia. We have, indeed, no written records which go back to so distant a past; it belongs, perhaps, to an epoch when the art of writing had not as yet been invented. But there was already civilization in Babylonia, and the elements of its future social life were already in existence. Babylonian culture is immeasurably old.
Chapter II. The Family
Two principles struggled for recognition in Babylonian family life. One was the patriarchal, the other the matriarchal. Perhaps they were due to a duality of race; perhaps they were merely a result of the circumstances under which the Babylonian lived. At times it would seem as if we must pronounce the Babylonian family to have been patriarchal in its character; at other times the wife and mother occupies an independent and even commanding position. It may be noted that whereas in the old Sumerian hymns the woman takes precedence of the man, the Semitic translation invariably reverses the order: the one has “female and male,” the other “male and female.” Elsewhere in the Semitic world, where the conceptions of Babylonian culture had not penetrated, the woman was subordinate to the man, his helpmate and not his equal.
In this respect nothing can be more significant than the changes undergone by the name and worship of the goddess Istar, when they were carried from Babylonia to the Semites of the West. In Babylonia she was a goddess of independent power, who stood on a footing of equality with the gods. But in Southern Arabia and Moab she became a male divinity, and in the latter country was even identified with the supreme god Chemosh. In Canaan she passed into the feminine Ashtoreth, and at last was merged in the crowd of goddesses who were but the feminine reflections of the male. A goddess whose attributes did not differ from those of a god was foreign to the religious ideas of the purely Semitic mind.
It was otherwise in Babylonia. There the goddess was the equal of the god, while on earth the women claimed rights which placed them almost on a level with the men. One of the early sovereigns of the country was a queen, Ellat-Gula, and even in Assyria the bas-reliefs of Assur-bani-pal represent the queen as sitting and feasting by the side of her husband. A list of trees brought to Akkad in the reign of Sargon (3800 B.C.) speaks of them as having been conveyed by the servants of the queen, and if Dr. Scheil is right in his translation of the Sumerian words, the kings of Ur, before the days of Abraham, made their daughters high-priestesses of foreign lands.
Up to the last the Babylonian woman, in her own name, could enter into partnership with others, could buy and sell, lend and borrow, could appear as plaintiff and witness in a court of law, could even bequeath her property as she wished. In a deed, dated in the second year of Nabonidos (555 B.C.), a father transfers all his property to his daughter, reserving to himself only the use of it during the rest of his life. In return the daughter agrees to provide him with the necessaries of life, food and drink, oil and clothing. A few years later, in the second year of Cyrus, a woman of the name of Nubtâ, or “Bee,” hired out a slave for five years in order that he might be taught the art of weaving. She stipulated to give him one qa, or about a quart and a half of food, each day, and to provide him with clothing while he was learning the trade. It is evident that Nubtâ owned looms and traded in woven fabrics on her own account.
Nubtâ was the daughter of Ben-Hadad-amara, a Syrian settled in Babylonia who had been adopted by another Syrian of the name of Ben-Hadad-nathan. After the latter's death his widow brought an action before the royal judges to recover her husband's property. She stated that after their marriage she and Ben-Hadad-nathan had traded together, and that a house had been purchased with a portion of her dowry. This house, the value of which was as much as 110 manehs, 50 shekels, or £62 10s., had been assigned to her in perpetuity. The half-brother Aqabi-il (Jacob-el), however, now claimed everything, including the house. The case was tried at Babylon before six judges in the ninth year of Nabonidos, and they decided in favor of the plaintiff.
One of the documents that have come down to us from the age of Abraham records the gift of a female slave by a husband to his wife. The slave and her children, it was laid down, were to remain the property of the wife in case either of divorce or of the husband's death. The right of the woman to hold private property of her own, over which the male heirs had no control, was thus early recognized by the law. In later times it is referred to in numberless contracts. In the reign of Nebokin-abla, for instance, in the eleventh century B.C., we find a field bequeathed first of all to a daughter and then to a sister; in the beginning of the reign of Nabonidos we hear of a brother and sister, the children of a naturalized Egyptian, inheriting their father's property together; and in the fourth year of Cyrus his son Cambyses sued for the payment of a loan which he had made to a Babylonian on the security of some house-property, and which was accordingly refunded by the debtor's wife. Other deeds relate to the borrowing of money by a husband and his wife in partnership, to a wife selling a slave for a maneh of silver on her own account, to a woman bringing an action before six judges at the beginning of the reign of Nabonidos to recover the price of a slave she had sold, and to another woman who two years previously was the witness to the sale of a house. Further proofs are not needed of the independent position of the woman, whether married or single, and of her equality with the man in the eyes of the law.
It would seem that she was on a level with him also in the eyes of religion. There were priestesses in Babylonia as well as priests. The oracles of Istar at Arbela were worked by inspired prophetesses, who thus resembled Deborah and Huldah and the other prophetesses of Israel. When Esar-haddon inquired of the will of heaven, it was from the prophetesses of Istar that he received encouragement and a promise of victory. From the earliest period, moreover, there were women who lived like nuns, unmarried and devoted to the service of the Sun-god. The office was held in high honor, one of the daughters of King Ammi-Zadok, the fourth successor of Khammurabi or Amraphel, being a devotee of the god. In the reign of the same king we find two of these devotees and their nieces letting for a year nine feddans or acres of ground in the district in which the “Amorites” of Canaan were settled. This was done “by command of the high-priest Sar-ilu,” a name in which Mr. Pinches suggests that we should see that of Israel. The women were to receive a shekel of silver, or three shillings, “the produce of the field,” by way of rent, while six measures of corn on every ten feddans were to be set apart for the Sun-god himself. In the previous reign a house had been let at an annual rent of two shekels which was the joint property of a devotee of the Sun-god Samas and her brother. It is clear that consecration to the service of the deity did not prevent the “nun” from owning and enjoying property.
Like Samas, the Sun-god, Istar was also served by women, who, however, do not seem to have led the same reputable lives. They were divided into two classes, one of which was called the “Wailers,” from the lamentations with which each year they mourned the death of the god Tammuz, the stricken favorite of Istar. The Chaldean Epic of Gilgames speaks of the “troops” of them that were gathered together in the city of Erech. Here Istar had her temple along with her father, Anu, the Sky-god, and here accordingly her devotees were assembled. Like the goddess they served, it would appear that they were never married in lawful wedlock. But they nevertheless formed a corporation, like the corporations of the priests.
Babylonian law and custom prevailed also in Assyria. So far as can be gathered from the contracts that have come down to us, the Assyrian women enjoyed almost as many privileges as their sisters in Babylonia. Thus, in 668 B.C., we find a lady, Tsarpî by name, buying the sister of a man whose slave she was, for reasons unknown to us, and paying half a maneh of silver (£4 10s.) for the girl. Tsarpî was a “prefectess,” like another lady who is called “the prefectess of Nineveh,” and who, in 683 B.C., purchased seventeen slaves and a garden. It is plain from this that women could hold civil offices and even act as governors of a city.
In fact, wherever Babylonian culture and law extended, the principles and practice of it were necessarily in force. The Amorite colonies from Canaan established in Babylonia for the purposes of trade in the age of Abraham were naturally subject to the Babylonian laws, and the women among them possessed all the rights of their Babylonian neighbors. At the very beginning of the dynasty to which Khammurabi belonged, an Amorite lady, a certain Kuryatum, brought an action for the recovery of a field which had been the property of her father, Asalia, and won her suit. Kuryatum and her brother were themselves subsequently sued by three other “Amorites,” the children of Izi-idrê, one of whom was a woman, for a field and house, together with some slaves and palm-trees, of which, it was asserted, they had wrongfully taken possession. The judges, however, after hearing both sides, dismissed the case.
It is not strange that the same laws and principles should have held good in Canaan itself, which was so long a Babylonian province. Sarah, who was of Babylonian origin, owned a female slave (Gen. xvi. 2, 6, 8, 9), and the Kennizzite Caleb assigned a field with springs to his daughter Achsah in the early days of the invasion of Canaan (Josh. xv. 18, 19). A Canaanitish lady takes part in the Tel-el-Amarna correspondence, and writes to the Pharaoh on matters of state, while the Mosaic Law allowed the daughter to inherit the possessions of her father (Numb. xxxvi. 8). This, however, was only the case where there was no son; after the Israelitish conquest of Canaan, when the traditions of Babylonian custom had passed away, we hear no more of brothers and sisters sharing together the inheritance of their father, or of a wife bequeathing anything which belongs to her of right. As regards the woman, the law of Israel, after the settlement in Canaan, was the moral law of the Semitic tribes. We must go back to the age of Abraham and Sarah to find a Hebrew woman possessed of the same powers as the Babylonian lady who, in the fifth year of Cambyses, sold a slave for two manehs and five shekels of silver, her husband and mother guaranteeing the value of the chattel that was thus sold.
The dowry which the woman brought with her on marriage secured of itself her independence. It was her absolute property, and she could leave it by will as she pleased. It protected her from tyrannical conduct on the part of her husband, as well as from the fear of divorce on insufficient grounds. If a divorce took place the dowry had to be restored to her in full, and she then returned to her father's house or set up an establishment of her own. Where no dowry had been brought by the bride, the husband was often required by the marriage contract to pay her a specified sum of money in case of her divorce. Thus a marriage contract made in Babylon in the thirteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar stipulates that, if the husband marries a second wife, the act shall be equivalent to a divorce of the first wife, who shall accordingly receive not only her dowry, but a maneh of silver as well. The payment, in fact, was a penalty on the unfaithfulness of the husband and served as a check upon both divorce and polygamy.
The dowry consisted not of money alone, but also of slaves and furniture, the value of which was stated in the marriage contract. In the contract just referred to, for instance, part of the dowry consisted of a slave who was valued at half a maneh. Sometimes the dowry included cattle and sheep. In the sixth year of Nabonidos we hear of three slaves and “furniture with which to stock the house,” besides a maneh of silver (£6), being given as the marriage-portion. In this instance, however, the silver was not forthcoming on the wedding-day, and in place of it a slave valued at two-thirds of a maneh was accepted, the remaining third being left for payment at a subsequent date. Where the dowry could not be paid at once, security for the payment of it was taken by the bridegroom.
The payment was made, not by the bridegroom, as among the Israelites and other Semitic peoples, but by the father of the bride. If he were dead, or if the mother of the bride had been divorced and was in the enjoyment of her own property, the mother took the place of the father and was expected to provide the dowry. In such a case she also naturally gave permission for the marriage, and it was from her accordingly that consent to it had to be obtained. In one instance, however, in a deed dated in the sixteenth year of Nabonidos, a sister is given in marriage by her two brothers, who consequently furnish the dowry, consisting of a piece of ground inherited from the mother, a slave, clothes, and furniture. It is evident that in this case both the parents must have been dead.