The motives for the mesarum edict of King Ammiṣaduqa of the old Babylonian period : ethics, ego or economics?

Gaertner, Lorraine (2008-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Ancient Studies)--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.


Ammißaduqa, penultimate king of the Ôammurabi dynasty in the Old Babylonian period, reigned from 1646-1626 BCE, and issued a mēšarum edict which Finkelstein described as “a single tablet, inscribed with a most unique text of an importance for the socio-economic life of Babylonia second to no other.” It is essential to define ancient royal edicts within their cultural context. This thesis examines, within the broad legal, religious, political and social background of the Ancient Near East, the design of royal edicts, their aims, beneficiaries and legal implications. The primary goal of this thesis is to improve our understanding of the motives for the promulgation of mēšarum decrees within the ancient cultures, and in particular, the motives for Ammißaduqa’s first edict. There is a strong scholarly tendency to seek the motives in the economic faction, even likening this decree to a “modern-day economic stimulus package,” a type of “RDP”. Kraus noted that the first promulgation was designed and executed for ideological purposes, subsequent mēšarum edicts were economic emergency measures. Nel agreed that the proclamation of a mēšarum was part of the propaganda strategy to strengthen the royal administration and to legitimize its power. The mēšarum was not designed to bring prosperity, but to stimulate agricultural production and prevent uncontrolled urbanization. Olivier noted that the mēšarum was intended, not to reform the economic system, but to remedy the unbearable economic situation. The economic motive is therefore of prime importance for all subsequent edicts, although an overlapping of all three motives – ethics, ego and economy – is highly likely. The base-line conclusion is that the motive and the occasion are inseparable. The aim of this thesis was to produce sufficient evidence that king Ammißaduqa was primarily inspired by ethics and ego, and not economics, when declaring his first mēšarum edict.

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