BMCR 2007.10.20

Recht gestern und heute: Festschrift zum 85. Geburtstag von Richard Haase. Philippika: Marburger altertumskundliche Abhandlungen, vol. 13

, , , Recht gestern und heute : Festschrift zum 85. Geburtstag von Richard Haase. Philippika, 13. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006. xxvii, 380 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.. ISBN 9783447053877. €78.00.

Richard Haase, dedicatee of this volume, has enjoyed two distinguished careers: first, as a jurist in Leonburg, Bavaria, and author of a standard textbook on German law, and second, as an authority on the legal practice of the ancient Near East, particularly of the Hittites of second-millennium Anatolia. As indicated by its title, this Festschrift includes essays by students, colleagues, and admirers that address questions of law and/or administration in both the ancient and modern worlds. The eleven contributions on “Recht heute,” which focus on the topic of arbitration, and the three pieces assigned to the “Zwischenraum” will not be discussed here, lying as they do beyond the interests and comptence of this reviewer.

Within the section on “Recht gestern,” seven essays treat cuneiform law, the Jubilar’s own province, although none is centered specifically on the law of the Hittites. Three consider Hellenistic or Roman topics, and one each addresses Biblical torah and legal mediation in the caravan city of Petra during the Roman period.

On the whole, the contributions on pre-modern topics are rather technical and likely to be of interest primarily to specialists. For instance, Walter Sommerfeld, “Der Beginn des officiellen Richteramts im Alten Orient,” examines the earliest attestations of the Sumerian term di-ku5, “judge,” and concludes that this profession did not become established before the Old Akkadian period (24th – 23rd centuries BCE). In this same vein, Rosel Pientka-Hinz, “Der rabi sikkatim in altbabylonischer Zeit,” gathers the textual material pertinent to a governmental official of the Old Babylonian period (first half of the second millennium), demonstrating its development over several hundred years from a military rank to that of a local governor.

In “Zu spätbabylonischen Urkunden aus Ur und dem Archiv der Familie gallabu ‘Barbier,'” Joachim Oelsner presents a model description of a small private archive from southern Mesopotamia in the mid-first millennium, while Michael Heltzer, “A Royal Garantee (sic!) with the Donation of Immobiles,” edits a document in which a king of Ugarit (13th century) affirms the right of the recipient of a royal gift of real estate to distribute the property among his sons.

More theoretical is Hans Neumann’s “Schuld und Sühne. Zu den religiös-weltanschaulichen Grundlagen und Implikationen altmesopotamischer Gesetzgebung und Rechtsprechung,” in which the author considers the role of the gods as embodiments of the community interest as well as guardians of their own possessions and dignity in earlier Mesopotamian legal affairs.

Although his title suggests a more general topic, in “Die Wirtschaft im Spiegel altorientalischer Rechtssatzungen” Gerfrid G. W. Müller ponders a detail in Paragraph 11 of the Code of Hammurabi (18th century): Why is it an offense for a tavern keeper to refuse payment in barley and demand silver for her beer?

The final essay on a cuneiform topic is by Raymond Westbrook, “Witchcraft and the Law in the Ancient Near East,” wherein the author attempts to identify a general pattern among the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and Anatolia concerning the punishment of practitioners of black magic. In order to achieve harmony among his data, however, he is forced to postulate the existence of distinctions “not articulated in the sources” (p. 50), which illustrates the pitfalls in seeking to establish legal principles valid across cultures.

Eckart Otto, “Völkerrecht und Völkerordnung in der Tora der Hebräischen Bibel in achämenidischer Zeit,” demonstrates that once it has been recognized that the Pentateuch received its final form in the Persian period, the depiction of the behavior of Moses over against the Amorites in Numbers 20:14-21 may be understood to pose a subtle challenge on behalf of the Judean YHWH to the claim of the Achaemenid Ahuramazda to be the lord of the world.

For the Graeco-Roman world, Christian Koch, in “Fremde im Dienst der Wiedererrichtung von Volksherrschaften in griechischen Stadtstaaten,” discusses the function played in Greek poleis by the prospect of the granting of citizenship to foreigners who became involved in their factional strife—on the winning side, of course! The participation of (semi-) professional legal experts in litigation in post-pharonic Egypt is the subject of Joachim Hengstl’s “Rechtspraktikern im griechisch-römischen Ägypten.”

In a nod to the theme of the second part of the Festschrift, Alberto Maffi, “L’arbitrato nell’esperienza giuridica greca e romana,” considers extra-judicial resolution of disputes in the Hellenistic world. Similarly, in “Aussergerichtliche Streitbeendigung in Petra im 6. Jh. n. Chr.: Der Papyrus Petra Inv. 83,” Matias Buchholz investigates the use of arbitation in a long-standing property dispute in Petra as described in one of the charred papyi from the sensational discovery of 1993.

This book is a worthy tribute to an influental scholar, but given its so varied contents, most readers will probably prefer to consult it in a law library rather than purchase it for their own collections.