Ancient Mediterranean History Study Notes.docx

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Classical Studies
Chris Wallace

Ancient Mediterranean History Study NotesThe Code of HammurabiA wellpreserved Babylonian law code dating back to about 1772 BC It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world The sixth Babylonian king Hammurabi enacted the code and partial copies exist on a humansized stone stele and various clay tablets The Code consists of 282 laws with scaled punishments adjusting an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth as graded depending on social status of slave versus free man Nearly onehalf of the Code deals with matters of contract establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon Other provisions set the terms of a transaction establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses for example or property that is damaged while left in the care of another A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance divorce paternity and sexual behavior Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently A handful of provisions address issues related to military service Story of Sinuhe Sinuhe is an official who accompanies prince Senwosret I to Libya He overhears a conversation connected with the death of King Amenemhet I and as a result flees to Upper Retjenu Canaan leaving Egypt behind He becomes the soninlaw of Chief Ammunenshi and in time his sons grow to become chiefs in their own right Sinuhe fights rebellious tribes on behalf of Ammunenshi As an old man in the aftermath of defeating a powerful opponent in single combat he prays for a return to his homeland May god pity memay he hearken to the prayer of one far awaymay the King have mercy on memay I be conducted to the city of eternity He then receives an invitation from King Senwosret I of Egypt to return which he accepts in highly moving terms Living out the rest of his life in royal favour he is finally laid to rest in the necropolis in a beautiful tomb Advice to Merikare The first mostly destroyed section deals with the putting down of rebellion the second with how to treat the kings subjects The third section gives advice on how to run the army and religious services The fourth describes the kings achievements and how to emulate them Next in contrast to the continual recycling of architectural blocks the king is instructed to quarry new stone not reuse old monuments the reality of reuse is acknowledged but the ideal of new work is commended Similarly the destruction of a sacred territory at Abydos is recorded the king expresses remorse as if accepting responsibility for the unthinkable that must have recurred throughout historysacrilege in the name of the ruling king subject to divine retribution during a judgment of the dead The importance of upholding Maat the right world order is stressed The last two sections contain a hymn to the creator god who remains unnamed and an exhortation to heed these instructions Epic of Gilgamesh The epics prelude offers a general introduction to Gilgamesh king of Uruk who was twothirds god and onethird man He built magnificent ziggurats or temple towers surrounded his city with high walls and laid out its orchards and fields He was physically beautiful immensely strong and very wise Although Gilgamesh was godlike in body and mind he began his kingship as a cruel despot He lorded over his subjects raping any woman who struck his fancy whether she was the wife of one of his warriors or the daughter of a nobleman He accomplished his building projects with forced labor and his exhausted subjects groaned under his oppression The gods heard his subjects pleas and decided to keep Gilgamesh in check by creating a wild man named Enkidu who was as magnificent as Gilgamesh Enkidu became Gilgameshs great friend and Gilgameshs heart was shattered when Enkidu died of an illness inflicted by the gods Gilgamesh then traveled to the edge of the world and learned about the days before the deluge and other secrets of the gods and he recorded them on stone tablets The epic begins with Enkidu He lives with the animals suckling at their breasts grazing in the meadows and drinking at their watering places A hunter discovers him and sends a temple prostitute into the wilderness to tame him In that time people considered women and sex calming forces that could domesticate wild men like Enkidu and bring them into the civilized world When Enkidu sleeps with the woman the animals reject him since he is no longer one of them Now he is part of the human world Then the harlot teaches him everything he needs to know to be a man Enkidu is outraged by what he hears about Gilgameshs excesses so he travels to Uruk to challenge him When he arrives Gilgamesh is about to force his way into a brides wedding chamber Enkidu steps into the doorway and blocks his passage The two men wrestle fiercely for a long time and Gilgamesh finally prevails After that they become friends and set about looking for an adventure to share Gilgamesh and Enkidu decide to steal trees from a distant cedar forest forbidden to mortals A terrifying demon named Humbaba the devoted servant of Enlil the god of earth wind and air guards it The two heroes make the perilous journey to the forest and standing side by side fight with the monster With assistance from Shamash the sun god they kill him Then they cut down the forbidden trees fashion the tallest into an enormous gate make the rest into a raft and float on it back to Uruk Upon their return Ishtar the goddess of love is overcome with lust for Gilgamesh Gilgamesh spurns her Enraged the goddess asks her father Anu the god of the sky to send the Bull of Heaven to punish him The bull comes down from the sky bringing with him seven years of famine Gilgamesh and Enkidu wrestle with the bull and kill it The gods meet in council and agree that one of the two friends must be punished for their transgression and they decide Enkidu is going to die He takes ill suffers immensely and shares his visions of the underworld with Gilgamesh When he finally dies Gilgamesh is heartbroken
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