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Join the conversation! There are now 7 comments on this chapter's page 100. Delegation and Dynasties: Ensuring the State’s Survival. What are your thoughts?
  1. STM says

    Plenty of sand for him to pound in those parts.

  2. B.J. says

    If they’d just obey when I told them to, I wouldn’t have to rule by force!

  3. Stephen Peter says

    “I can delegate royal authority!”
    “Is someone getting all this down?”
    “Ah, time to invent some sort of writing then.”

    And perhaps a Code of Laws too, while we’re at it.

    • Believe it or not, the first known law code (that of Ur-Nammu of Ur) wouldn’t come along for another thousand years. Though there is much debate over whether such law codes (there were many in Mesopotamia, including the code of Hammurabi fifteen hundred years later) are really, well, laws.

      On the surface, they do look like laws, generally taking the form of “if this happens, then that must be done” prescriptions. But the recorded outcomes of actual cases tend not to comport with these supposed rules. In fact, virtually none of the recorded judgments were based on anything like an existing legal principle, instead focusing purely on the facts of the case. Some have argued, therefore, that these early codes were attempts at summarizing a general trend, like an early attempt at common law. The explanation that has gained the most traction with scholars of Mesopotamian literature, however, is that these weren’t laws at all but rather a way of expressing that the king took seriously his responsibility to provide justice, by describing the ideal justice he aspired to in contrast with the messier outcomes of real life.

      I personally lean towards the view that these were expressions of political power, announcements that the king has the authority to render such judgments and impose such penalties. Not laws dictating what he would do, but rather examples of the kinds of things he has the power to do. And lest anybody forget it, they’re inscribed on these public stelae right here so just you watch yourself.

      There really wasn’t such a thing as written laws (rather than unwritten custom) until the early days of what we’d consider Western Civilization. Stuff we would recognize as laws don’t come along until the Bible started getting written during Josiah’s reforms in 622 BC and during the Babylonian Exile from 586 to 539 BC. Then came the Twelve Tables of early Rome in 451 BC, followed by a whole mishmash of written decrees, legislative acts, and judgments that wouldn’t really get sorted out and codified until Justinian commanded it in 527 AD. Though of course Justinian’s code wouldn’t have much effect on European civilization until it was discovered, quite by accident, in a-

      Hold up. I’m getting ahead of the comic. All of this is very important to Constitutional Law, and it’s all coming up in my outline fairly soon. So enough with the spoilers, Nathan!

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