Developing Ideas of Governance and Faith: Codes of Conduct
Directions: Please read the two excerpts of ancient SW Asian codes presented below (Mesopotamian and Persian). Then, with the collaboration of your groupmates, attempt to identify the distinct quality of each code by referring to the “List of Traits”. Identify and then match the appropriate ‘trait’ in the proper space of the ‘Table’ provided.
List of Traits
– Retaliatory (eye for an eye,…)
– Proactive (Action)
– Gender Bias (Relates to a specific gender)
– Gender Absent (No reference to a specific gender)
– ‘Class’ Bias (Relates to a specific ‘class’ of persons)
– ‘Class’ Absent (No reference to a specific ‘class’ of person)
– State involved (Ex. Punishes for crimes)
– Emphasis on Individual responsibility
– Reactive (A ‘condition’ must exist before a person’s action can be judged)
– Judgement is yet to come
The Zoroastrian Creed
A ‘Creed’ is a set of beliefs that form the foundation of a philosophy or faith. This is an excerpt of the Zoroastrian Creed (Persia). (Zoroaster is referred to as Zarathustra in texts)
1. I curse the Daevas. I declare myself a Mazda-worshipper, a supporter of Zarathushtra, hostile to the Daevas, fond of Ahura’s teaching, a praiser of the Amesha Spentas, a worshipper of the Amesha Spentas. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda, ‘and all the best,’ the Asha-owning one, splendid, xwarena-owning, whose is the cow, whose is Asha, whose is the light, ‘may whose blissful areas be filled with light’.
2. I choose the good Spenta Armaiti (Holy Spirit) for myself; let her be mine. I renounce the theft and robbery of the cow, and the damaging and plundering of the Mazdayasnian settlements.
3. I want freedom of movement and freedom of dwelling for those with homesteads, to those who dwell upon this earth with their cattle. With reverence for Asha, and (offerings) offered up, I vow this: I shall nevermore damage or plunder the Mazdayasnian settlements, even if I have to risk life and limb.
4. I reject the authority of the Daevas, the wicked, no-good, lawless, evil- knowing, the most druj-like of beings, the foulest of beings, the most damaging of beings. I reject the Daevas and their comrades, I reject the demons (yatu) and their comrades; I reject any who harm beings. I reject them with my thoughts, words, and deeds. I reject them publicly. Even as I reject the head (authorities), so too do I reject the hostile followers of the druj.
5. [Omitted by Editor]
6. As Ahura Mazda taught Zarathushtra at all discussions, at all meetings, at which Mazda and Zarathushtra conversed — even as Zarathushtra rejected the authority of the Daevas, so I also reject, as Mazda-worshipper and supporter of Zarathushtra, the authority of the Daevas, even as he, the Asha-owning Zarathushtra, has rejected them.
7. [Omitted by Editor]
8. I profess myself a Mazda- worshipper, a Zoroastrian, having vowed it and professed it. I pledge myself to the well-thought thought, I pledge myself to the well-spoken word, I pledge myself to the well- done action.
9. I pledge myself to the Mazdayasnian religion, which causes the attack to be put off and weapons put down; which upholds khvaetvadatha (kin-marriage), which possesses Asha; which of all religions that exist or shall be, is the greatest, the best, and the most beautiful: Ahuric, Zoroastrian. I ascribe all good to Ahura Mazda. This is the creed of the Mazdayasnian religion.
From: the Avesta Web Server. Thanks to Belle Tuten. Edited by Mr. V for classroom use. Accessed 1999.
A ‘Code’ is a set of rules or laws that governs a society’s (or large group’s) conduct. This is an excerpt from the Code of Hammurabi (~18th C. BCE, Babylonian Empire).
1. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
2. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.
3. If any one steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.
4. If any one buy from the son or the slave of another man, without witnesses or a contract, silver or gold, a male or female slave, an ox or a sheep, an ass or anything, or if he take it in charge, he is considered a thief and shall be put to death.
5. If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirty fold therefore; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.
6. If any one steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.1
7. If any one takes a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death.
8. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
9. If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.
10. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let her go.
11. If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.