Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


10 September 2012

Debt Cancellation in Mesopotamia and Egypt from 3000 to 1000 BC

Eric Toussaint, Global Research, 04-09-2012

The Hammurabi Code is in the Louvre Museum, in Paris. The term “code” is inappropriate, because what Hammurabi left us is a set of rules and judgements on relations between public authorities and citizens. Hammurabi began his 42-year reign as “king” of Babylon (located in present-day Iraq), in 1792 BC. What most history books fail to mention is that, like other governors of the City-State of Mesopotamia, Hammurabi proclaimed the official cancellation of citizens’ debts owed to the government, high-ranking officials, and dignitaries. The so-called Hammurabi Code is thought to date back to 1762 BC. Its epilogue proclaims that “the powerful may not oppress the weak; the law must protect widows and orphans (…) in order to bring justice to the oppressed”. The many ancient documents deciphered from cuneiform script have enabled historians to establish beyond any doubt that four general cancellations took place during Hammurabi’s reign, in 1792, 1780, 1771, and 1762 BC.

In Hammurabi’s time, economic, political, and social life were organised around the Temple and the Palace. Those two closely enmeshed institutions, with their numerous artisans, workers, and, of course, scribes, constituted the apparatus of the State, not so very different from today’s governments. The Temple and the Palace provided their employees with board and lodge: they thus received food rations sufficient for two full meals a day. The peasantry was provided with land (which they rented), tools, draught animals, livestock, and water for irrigation, so that they could grow food for the workers and dignitaries. Thus, the peasants produced barley (their staple grain), oil, fruit, and vegetables, a portion of which, when harvested, they had to pay to the State as rent. As well as the land they cultivated for the Palace and the Temple, the peasants owned their own land, home, livestock, and tools. When the harvest was poor, they accumulated debts. They also incurred debt through loans granted privately by high-ranking officials and dignitaries eager to get rich and to seize the peasants’ property in case of default. If peasants were unable to pay off their debts, they could also find themselves reduced to the condition of serfs or slaves; indebtedness could also lead to members of their family being made slaves. In order to ensure social peace and stability, and especially to prevent peasants’ living conditions from deteriorating, the authorities periodically cancelled all debt and restored peasants’ rights.

Read more:



Παρακαλούμε τα σχόλιά σας να είναι στα Ελληνικά (πάντα με ελληνικούς χαρακτήρες) ή στα Αγγλικά. Αποφύγετε τα κεφαλαία γράμματα. Ο Αιγεύς διατηρεί το δικαίωμα να διαγράφει εκτός θέματος, προσβλητικά, ανώνυμα σχόλια ή κείμενα σε greeklish.