Marriage Law & the Role of Women in Ancient & Medieval Society
The marriage laws of ancient Sumer, the earliest civilization, created a form that would eventually appear in many later cultures and centered on the approval of the bride’s family Gero, J. M. & Margaret, W. (1995). Women in a Men's World: Images of Sumerian Women. Honeypage Press, Cardiff. The dominant marriage law was the ‘law of Nisaba and Hani’ Delaporte, L. (1970). Mesopotamia: The Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Civilizations. Routledge, London, p74-79 which stated that the suitor must ask a girl’s parents before they could marry. If the family agreed, a monogamous partnership would be legalised with a marriage contract. The paterfamilias (the husband) took responsibility for all relatives and slaves, but legal institutions and literary evidence (for instance the Gilgamesh epic George, A. (2000) The Gilgamesh Epic. Penguin, London. ) suggest that Sumerian women endured far less oppression than their counterparts.
Marriage in the Near East was confirmed by a written document that sealed the specific terms for both spouses Delaporte, L. (1970). Mesopotamia: The Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian Civilizations. Routledge, London, p74-79. The husband specified the responsibilities of the wife, the sum he would pay her for divorce, the punishment if she was unfaithful, and all other matters Postgate, J.N. (1992). Mesopotamian: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. Before this contract could be executed, the bride’s parents signed a preliminary agreement.
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