Every day quarrelling in the ancient Near East

We have already had the garden variety domestic squabble, in which women regularly crushed their men’s testicles. Some other common features of arguments have also turned. To begin with, there’s biting from the laws of Eshnunna:

If a man bites the nose of another man and thus cuts it off, he shall weigh out and deliver 60 shekels of silver; an eye – 60 shekels; a tooth – 30 shekels; an ear – 30 shekels; a slap to the cheek – he shall weigh out and deliver 10 shekels.

No wonder they wore out their teeth so early. This one is perhaps my favourite, from the Hittite laws:

If anyone steals a door in a quarrel, he shall replace everything that may get lost in the house, and he shall pay 40 shekels of silver.

That is the first thing that comes mind if I’m in a quarrel: I’ll steal his door!


8 thoughts on “Every day quarrelling in the ancient Near East

  1. How can you speak of the ancient Near East at all, speaking as you do from a place of modern privilege, European privilege, Antipodean privilege, male privilege, and multiple-doored-housing privilege? Any attempt to understand the Other is subjugation of the Other and neo-colonialism!

      1. Perhaps you could employ a mixture of scare-quotes and slashes, both of which still seem to be trendy in Biblical Studies, going by some recent article titles I’ve seen.

        The ‘ancient Near East/West’.

        You know, what really gets me about scare-quotes is not the scare-quoting itself. It’s the decision not to scarequote some nouns. So you get these religious scholars who spend their entire careers justifying why “religion” should always be in scare-quotes, as though almost every other classification somehow exists in some unproblematic relationship of verisimilitude with “reality”. And then you’ll find that they immediately go on to speak of something as hairy as “culture” or “society” without scare-quotes. It’s disciplinary myopia, that’s what it is.

        If ‘one’ are going to start scare-quoting ‘nouns’, then at least be consistent, and ‘scare-quote’ the whole damn lot of ‘them’.

        It’s ontofuckingtheology at its purist, Roland, that’s what it is.

        There – I’ve called it.

      2. Just as, to ‘quote’ Freud, a cigar is sometimes a cigar, a double scare-quote is just a quote, Roland.

        One could, however, scare-quote a scare-quote – but I think you’d have to use a space in-between:

        e.g. The ‘ ‘religion’ ‘ of religion scholars.

        Speaking of spurious Freud quotes, this is one of my favourite jokes of his:

        Three new arrivals in a Gulag camp start talking about why they were sent there. “I kept showing up for my job five minutes late. They accused me of sabotage”, says the first.
”Understandable,” says the second “but I used to come to work five minutes early and they accused me of spying”. Both then look at the third prisoner, with an air of eager expectation, knowing that there will be a punch line.
”Ha! I always got to work exactly on time. And they suspected I owned a western clock”.

  2. One of Mao’s Five Commandments to the PLA was to “replace doors”. They were often the only planks around, and so stolen to sleep on or for firewood. Important enough that peasants resented the loss.

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