Front Page Titles (by Subject) XIX: THE ARMY, CORVÉE, AND OTHER CLAIMS FOR PERSONAL SERVICE - Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters
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XIX: THE ARMY, CORVÉE, AND OTHER CLAIMS FOR PERSONAL SERVICE - Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters 
Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904).
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THE ARMY, CORVÉE, AND OTHER CLAIMS FOR PERSONAL SERVICE
The levyThere was always a militia, Landwehr, or territorial levy of troops. Each district had to furnish its quota. These are called ṣâbê, or ummanâte. We have no direct statements about them, but a great multitude of references. They were called out by the king, adki ummanâtîa, “I called out my troops,” is a stock phrase. The calling out was the dikûtu. Not easily to be distinguished from this was the šisîtu of the nâgiru. That officer seems to have been an incarnate War Office. It is not clear whether he always acted solely for military purposes. The “levy” seems to have been equally made for public works. The men were “the king’s men,” whether they fought or built. The obligation to serve seems to have chiefly affected the slaves and the poorer men, the muškênu. In the Code of ammurabi1 it was punishable with death to harbor a defaulter from this “levy.”
Forced laborClaims might also be made for work on the fields. This was called ubšu and we known little about it more than that Sargon II. charged his immediate predecessors on the throne with having outraged the privileges of the citizens of the old capital Asshur, by putting them to work on the fields.
The obligation to provide a soldier for the state was tied to a definite plot, or at any rate, to all estates of a certain size. The ilku, or obligation of the land, was transferred with it. In Assyrian times, the military unit was the bowman and his accompanying pikeman and shield-bearer. The land which was responsible for furnishing a “bow,” aštu, in this fashion, was itself called a “bow” of land.1
Exemption of certain citiesSome cities claimed for their citizens a right of exemption from “the levy.” In Sargon’s time, we find that cities like Asshur had been subjected by Shalmaneser IV. to this service, and Sargon restored their rights. He freed them from dikûtu mâti, šisîtu nagiri, and miksu kâri.2 The city had not known the ilku dupsikku. Later, we find an officer, Tâb-ṣil-ešarra,3 complaining that, when he was desirous of doing some repairs to the queen’s palace in Asshur, of which city he was šaknu, Sargon’s freeing of the city had rendered the ilku of the city unavailable to him.4
In the so-called “Tablet of warnings to kings against injustice,”5 the cities of Borsippa, Nippur, and Babylon are freed from dupsikku and šisîtu nâgiri. This was drawn up in the time of Ashurbânipal, but whether it was original with him is not clear. At any rate, later, under Cambyses and Darius, these cities were again subject to the “levy.”
Classes subject to the levyThis obligation to perform forced labor, or serve in the army, fell on the agricultural population primarily. Indeed, it seems that the men who discharged it might be called upon to do field labor, and it was an aggravation of the insults put upon the old capital Asshur, that its citizens were set to do field labor.6 On all country estates, there were a number of serfs, glebae adscripti, sold with the estate, but not away from it. These, as the arran census shows, often had land of their own. But they were bound to till the soil for the owner. They included the irrišu, or irrigator, the husbandman in charge of date-plantations, gardens, or vineyards. From these were drawn the men who served in the army as “king’s men,” and on public works. They seem to have been liable to five or six terms of service, season’s work probably, or campaigns, and then were free. At any rate, the heads of families seem to be free. The daughters as well as sons were subject to service, probably to repair to the great weaving houses in the towns.Service at the royal weaving establishments We read of these weaving establishments from early times. M. Thureau-Dangin has called attention to their occurrence in the Telloh tablets of the Second Dynasty of Ur.1
The amounts of wool assigned to different cities to work up are the subject of many tablets.2 In the great cities, the temples or the palaces were the home of this industry; but quantities of stuff were served out under bond to private establishments to be worked up and returned or paid for. The work on these industries constituted the amat šarrûti, or obligation to serve as “king’s hand-maid.” It lay also upon slaves. It is doubtful whether the obligation included domestic service. From the second Babylonian Empire we have a host of tablets relating to these weaving accounts. They will be found fully discussed by Dr. Zehnpfund in his Weberrechnungen.3
Obligations of slaves to the stateThe married slave, even in the city, usually lived in his own house. His children were born to slavery, but were usually not separated in early life from their parents. They entered their master’s service, and might be sold when grown up. They might learn a trade and so earn a living, paying a fixed sum to their master. They might become agricultural laborers, and so attain a fixity of tenure as serfs. But on all these subject classes, slaves, whether domestic or living out, serfs, and artisans, there lay the obligation to do forced work for the king. After a certain number of terms of service, they were exempt.
Public obligationsThe obligations to public institutions which existed in Babylonia in later times have not yet been made the subject of a thorough study. Kohler and Peiser have noted several of the more important indications, and to them we owe what has been done up to the present.
To take a share in the expense of warfareThe most noteworthy obligation was what they call the ablu. This has the same sign as so commonly used in the phrase, ablu u taâzu, for “war and fighting.” But it is also the ideogram for šisîtu, the call of the nâgiru to war or the corvée. There is no doubt that it indicates the levy for war. The rikis abli was the money due from certain persons to furnish a soldier for the war. Thus we have seventy shekels paid to a certain man, in the fifth year of Darius, to go to the city Shiladu.1 Again, a certain Bêl-iddin had to find twenty-five shekels to pay a substitute to go for him to the presence of the king.2 Another man paid the wages of a soldier for two years.3 This was an œs militare. In another case we find the rikis abli for a horseman for a certain troop, for three years. It consisted of an ass worth fifty shekels, thirty-six shekels for its keep, twelve coats, twelve breastplates (?), twelve mušapallatum, twelve leather mîṭu, twenty-four shoes, thirty A of oil, sixty A of bdellium sixty A of some aromatic, all as equipment, ṣiditum, to go to the camp (?). This may be described as œs equestre.4 So5 the burgomaster of Babylon paid rikis abli for three years for a certain soldier, receiving the amount from single citizens. How this arose, what dues it was a composition for, and whether it antedates Persian times, are details not yet clear.
To pay dues for the landBesides the personal obligation to contribute “work,” dullu, a liability for contributions in kind, ilku, dues from the land, existed. We are in the dark as yet as to the exact form these took. In the Code, the ilku, or duty from an estate held as the benefice of an office, was the fulfilment of the functions of the office.1 The word does not seem to denote contributions. But the word literally is what “comes” of any holding, income, or what is “taken” from it. In a charter of Melišhiu,2 we have a long list of powers which could be exercised by the king’s officials over land. They are levies or forced contributions of wood, crops, straw, corn, wagons, harness, asses or men, rights to abstract water from canals, to drink from the water, to pasture herbage, or set on the royal flocks or herds, to pasture sheep, to construct roads or bridges. These are referred to as either a dullu or ilku. The governor is named as likely to demand right of pasture for his flocks and herds or work for roads and bridges. But we are left without information as to the proportion these levies bore to the property. All we can conclude is that the king had a right to impress such things or such labor. Few, if any, other documents are so full and explicit as to the dues exacted from the land, but all these dues are mentioned again, one or two together, in almost all the charters.
The temple titheThis is one of the most important dues from land. It was paid to the temple. Some are inclined to see it in the niširtu, from which many charters exempt land; but others consider this merely a word for “diminution,” or levy in general. There is no means of deciding yet as to the time at which the tithe first became a fixed institution.
In AssyriaThere seems to be no trace in Assyrian times of any payment of a tithe. The tithe rab ešrite, which has been rendered “tithe collector,” is more likely to be a commander of ten, a decurion.3
Common among Neo-BabyloniansThe evidence for the existence of tithe in the later Babylonian period is very full. All seem to have paid it, from the king downward. Nabonidus paid, on his accession, to the temple at Sippara, five minas of gold. It was a very large sum, but may have been a sort of succession duty rather than an income-tax.1 It is curious that we also find Belshazzar named as paying tithe, due from his sister, and that when the Persian army was already in possession of Sippara.2 This shows that the Persians were friendly invaders and respected the rights of private property and of the temples. Belshazzar also paid tithe, through his major-domo, to Bêl, Nabû, Nêrgal, and Bêlit of Erech.3
Often paid collectivelyIt was paid for a group of persons by one of their company, or perhaps we might say that certain persons collected tithe from their district and paid it in. Thus we have a document recording the payment by one man of the tithe due from a number of shepherds, cultivators, and gardeners, in the city of Maâz-Shamshi.4 In the time of Artaxerxes I., Hilprecht has shown that in some cases “the bow” of land also paid tithe.5
Usually in kindTithe was usually paid in kind, on all natural products, corn, oil, sesame, dates, flour or meal, oxen, sheep, asses, and the like, but also was liquidated by a money payment. The tablets relating to it are very numerous, but in nearly every case amount to no more than a receipt for its payment.
Tithe became property apparently and was negotiable. So at least appears from Nebuchadrezzar 270. We thus have property in income from land.
Octroi dutiesThe various dues, miksu, seem to have been a sort of octroi duty. They were levied at the quay, miksu kâri, at the ferry, miksu nibiri. They are only mentioned in the charters, granting exemptions from them, to certain estates or their owners. Closely related to these were the mikkasu, which seem to be some sort of due or tax levied upon all naturalia, and even upon the dues which were paid into the temples. We have frequent mention of them in later times, in the temple accounts.
[1 ] § .
[1 ] , ii., p. 172.
[2 ] , i., p. 404.
[3 ] , p. 89.
[4 ] , ii., p. 174 f.
[5 ] , xv., 50.
[6 ] , i., p. 404 f.
[1 ] , III., p. 140.
[2 ] , 951 ff.
[3 ] , i., pp. 492-536, 632-36.
[1 ] 164.
[2 ] 156.
[3 ] 481.
[4 ] 253.
[5 ] 276.
[1 ] § .
[2 ] , II.
[3 ] , § 236.
[1 ] Nbn. 2.
[2 ] Sayce.
[3 ] 270.
[4 ] 220.
[5 ] , ix., p. 36.