Bernard J. Hibbitts; Assoc. Dean for 

Comm. & Info. Tech.; U. Pgh. School of Law
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Courses: Ancient Law
This seminar explores the laws and legal practices of six ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Israel, Greece and Rome. This page contains a full course description, a list of required readings and hyperlinks.

This seminar will introduce students to the very beginnings of Western legal history. Through a comparative examination of the legal systems and practices of ancient Mesopotamia (including Hammurabi's Babylon, c. 1700 B.C.), ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, ancient Anatolia (the Hittite Empire, c. 1500 B.C.), ancient Greece and ancient Rome, we will investigate the historical origins of "law" as an idea. We will see how each of these societies created law in the image of its own beliefs and needs. We will look at what differentiated the resulting legal systems, and what united them. We will examine not merely the ancient "law in the books" (the formal written codes that have received so much historical and philological attention over the years) but also the ancient "law in action" (the performances, rituals and ceremonies that created legal rights and duties in all these proto-literate societies). We will look at some of the earliest surviving trial records. Throughout the seminar, emphasis will be placed on developing a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the ancient legal cultures examined; readings will be drawn not only from the fields of law and history, but also from religion, anthropology, archaeology, literature and communication studies. Evaluation will be based on a paper and a class presentation. Enrollment limited to 12 students.

Listed below are the required readings on the legal cultures of each of the six ancient civilizations studied in this course.

Mesopotamian Law Hittite Law Greek Law
Egyptian Law The Law of Ancient Israel Roman Law

Mesopotamian Law

Egyptian Law

Hittite Law

The Law of Ancient Israel

Greek Law

Roman Law

The following links provide connections to ancient law resources on the Internet.

ARGOS Limited Area Search of the Ancient World

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