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3-05-2015, 18:43

The Edict of Ammi-saduqa

A king ‘established justice in the land’ by abolishing debts on interest loans. However, the edict had to avoid, through specific clauses, the inclusion in the remission of other types of loans, from investments in commercial endeavours to solidarity loans. Here is an abstract from the Edict of Ammi-saduqa:

[§ 2] ‘Whoever has given silver or barley to an Akkadian or Amorite as an interest-bearing loan, or to gain a return (ana melqetim), and had a written document (lit. a tablet) executed, because the king has established justice in the land (mesaram sakanum), his document is voided (lit. his tablet is broken). He may not collect the barley or silver on the basis of this document.’

[§ 5] ‘If anyone had given barley or silver as an interest-bearing loan (ana hubullin) and had a document executed, but retained the document in his hand and stated: “I have certainly not given it to you as an interest-bearing loan or to gain a return; the barley or silver which I have given you, I have given as an advance on purchases (ana semim), or without interest (ana tadmiqtim), or for some other objective,” the person who had received the barley or silver from the creditor shall produce his witnesses to the wording of the document which the lender had denied. They shall speak before the god (that is, under oath). Because he (that is, the creditor) had distorted his document and denied the matter, he must pay six-fold. If he cannot fulfil his duty, he must die.’

[§ 6] ‘An Akkadian or an Amorite who has received barley, silver, or (other) goods either as merchandise for a (commercial) journey, or as a joint enterprise for the production of profit (ana tapputim), or without interest, his document is not voided (lit. his tablet is not broken): he must repay (the creditor) in accordance with the stipulations of his agreements.’

[§ 7] ‘Whoever has given barley, silver, or (other) goods to an Akkadian or an Amorite either (as an advance) for purchases, for a (commercial) journey, or a joint enterprise for the production of profit, or without interest, and had a document executed, and in the document he had executed he had stated: “At the expiration of the term (of the contract) the money would accrue interest,” or if he made any additional stipulations, (the debtor) shall not repay on these terms. He shall repay the barley and silver that he had borrowed, but the (additional) stipulations upon the Akkadian or the Amorite are remitted.’

For now, the king of Babylonia managed to present himself to his subjects and act like a devoted father and a just and fair king (sar kittim u mesarim). However, in this case, justice is not meant as the unchangeable application of the law regardless of whether or not it leads to harmful consequences. Justice meant the care that went into creating a better social balance. In order to maintain it, the king had to pay particular attention to the more vulnerable classes and prevent those developments in the market that would eventually enslave his entire population.