Courts were located around the ziggurat
The ancient Sumerians are credited for the invention of government. They were affected politically and economically by it. It was invented to organize labor and officials were appointed to sort out problems and work on construction projects. Because of this newly-organized labor, people could work together to form an economy by building canals and roads that made trading easier. Socially, the people now had something to do, and a way to earn a living. They had also set-up government to make laws. These laws, enforced by courts, were made so the Sumerian people would know what was expected of them.
The ancient Mesopotamia's created a government that was a combination of monarchy and democracy. The kingdoms of Sumer were organized into city-states and the Kings ruled each city-states for the gods. They were assisted by priests, scribes, and nobles. But before 3500 BC priests ruled Sumer. They attended the gods who really ruled.
While Scribes measured land into square units and decided taxes to be paid. They also kept accounts of foreign goods unloaded from ships. Elected officials who served in the Assembly also ruled the people. Even kings had to ask the Assembly for permission to do certain things.
Lawmaking in Sumer was performed by a two-house legislature, who enforced the laws. The Upper House - composed of elders and the Lower House - composed of free male citizens, who were also the soldiers. Sumerian laws were not written down, but people knew what they were and they knew what could happened if you broke the law. The laws clearly stated how you had to behave and what your punishment would be if you did not. The laws that were later written down by the ancient Babylonians were, for the most part, laws first created by the ancient Sumerians.
The Babylonian King Hammurabi made his 'Code' or collection of laws very successful. It was modeled on existing laws, but this was the largest law code assembled. The Code has 282 provisions which dealt with many aspects of life, including family rights, trade, slavery, tariffs, taxes, prices and wages. The Code tells us much about Babylonian society and is inscribed on a stone slab over 6ft high. At the top, the King is shown receiving laws from the Babylonian sun god, Shamash (a.k.a. Sumerian god Enlil). The laws are not the same for rich and poor, but the weak were given some protection against the tyranny of the strong. The Code was not the only law code in Mesopotamia, but the only one written in stone. The code was based on retribution, not justice and varied unfairly between social classes.
You gotta read some of these laws. Some of them are kind-of funny. Like if I went into a bar and got a drink, the law states I then need to be burned to death because I’m a woman. And then it got me wondering, how much has it changed in current Iraq? Is it still in the books that a woman needs to be burned for drinking alcohol?
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