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From the “Word of the King” to the “Middle Assyrian Laws”

Subproject by Prof. Dr. Eva Cancik-Kirschbaum

In the mid-2nd millennium B.C., the Middle Assyrian kingship became a decisive power factor in northern Mesopotamia, combining independent developments with takeovers from neighboring cultures. The project examines the emergence of written, epistemic legal knowledge and its interaction with contemporary legal practice. While 14th–12th BC documents of legal content testify to legal practice, the Middle Assyrian Laws and Palace Decrees, which were given their final version in the 12th century, represent systematized legal knowledge. Their legal-historical significance is well researched, but their genesis and function(s) are controversial. The project argues that territorial expansion confronted the Assyrian state with foreign legal practices and the need to adapt legal structures to the requirements of territorial rule. Against the background of the legal documents, it examines which role political-social situations, older local traditions, and cultural contacts with Babylonia played for the emergence of systematized knowledge, what initiated systematization processes, and how they took place.