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Code of Urukagina Text – English translation

“THE PRACTICES OF FORMER DAYS”

Since time immemorial, since the seed corn (first) sprouted forth, the head boatman had the boats in charge for his own benefit, the head shepherd had the asses in charge for his own benefit, the head shepherd had the sheep in charge for his own benefit; the head fisherman had the fishing places in charge for his own benefit. The incantation-priest measured out the barley rent (to his own advantage)….

The [temple] oxen of the gods plowed the gardens of the ensi; the gardens and the cucumber fields of the ensi were in the best fields of the gods; the asses and oxen of the priests were taken away (by the ensi). ne barley rations [income] of the priests were administered by the men of the ensi….

In the garden of a humble person a priest could cut a tree or carry away its fruit. When a dead man was placed in the tomb, it was necessary to deliver in his name seven jars of beer and 420 loaves of bread. ne uh-mush priest received one-half gur [about fourteen gallons] of barley, one garment, one turban, and one bed. ne priest’s assistant received one-fourth gur of barley…

The workingman was forced to beg for his bread; the youth was forced to work in the a-zar-la.  The houses of the ensi, the fields of the ensi, the houses of the Enzi’s wife, the fields of the Enzi’s wife, the houses of the Enzi’s children, the fields of the Enzi’s children – all were joined together side by side.  Everywhere from border to border there were the priest-judges [mash- kim] ….Such were the practices of former days.

“HE FREED THE INHABITANTS OF LARASH”

When the god Ningirsu, the warrior of the god Enlil, granted the lugal-ship of Lagash to Urukagina, picking him out of the entire population, he [Ningirsu] enjoined upon him (the restoration of) the divinely decreed way of life of former days. He [Urukagina] carried out the instructions of his divine lugal, Ningirsu.

He removed the head boatman in charge of the boats. He removed the head shepherd in charge of the asses and sheep. He removed the head fisher- man from the fishing places. He removed the bead of the storehouse from his responsibility of measuring out the barley ration to the incantation-priests…. He removed the palace official in charge of collecting the il-tax from the priests.

The houses of the ensi and the fields of the ensi were restored to the god Ningirsu. The houses of the ensi’s wife and the fields of the ensi’s wife were restored to the goddess Bau. The houses of the ensi’s children and the fields of the ensi’s children were restored to the god Shulshaggana.

Everywhere from border to border no one spoke further of priest-judges (mashkim).

When a dead man was placed in the tomb, (only) three jars of beer and eighty loaves of bread were delivered in his name. The uh-mush priest received one bed and one turban. The priest’s assistant received one-eighth gur of barley….

The youth was not required to work in the a-zar-la; the workingman was not forced to beg for his bread. The priest no longer invaded the garden of a humble person.

He (also) decreed:  If a good ass is born to a client and his overseer says to him, “I will buy if from you,” then if be wishes to sell it he will say, “Pay me what pleases me”; but if he does not wish to sell, the overseer must not force him. If the house of a powerful man is next to the house of a client, and if the powerful man says to him, “I wish to buy it,” then if he wishes to sell he will say, “Pay me in silver as much as suits me,” or “Reimburse me with an equivalent amount of barley”; but if he does not wish to sell, the powerful man must not force him.

CONCLUSION

He [Urukagina] freed the inhabitants of Lagash from usury, burdensome controls, hunger, theft, murder, and seizure (of their property and persons). He established freedom (of a type).  The widow and orphan were no longer at the mercy of the powerful: it was for them that Urukagina made his covenant with Ningirsu.

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