World History

Then Again




Hittite Inscription



This is an excerpt from a Hittite text.  The date of the text is not known precisely, but probable date from ca. 1300 BC.  The sentiments expressed, however, appear to have been fairly common among the peoples of the Ancient Near East. 

Is the disposition of men and of the gods at all different?  No!  Even in this matter somewhat different? No!  But their disposition is quite the same.  When a servant stands before his master, he is washed and wears clean clothes, and either he gives him something to eat or he gives him something drink.  And he, his master, eats and drinks something and he is relaxed in spirit and is favorably inclined (?) to him.  If, however, he (the servant) is ever dilatory (?) or is not observant (?), there is a different disposition towards him.  And if ever a servant vexes his master, either they kill him or they injure his nose, his eye, or his ears, or he (the master) calls him to account [and also] his wife, his sons, his brother, his sister, his relatives by marriage, and his family, whether it be a male servant or a female servant.  Then they revile him in public (?) and treat him as of no account.  And if ever he dies, he does not die alone, but his family is included with him.  If then anyone vexes the feelings of a god, does not the god punish him alone for it?  Does he not punish his wife, his children, his descendants, his family, his slaves male and female, his cattle, his sheep, and his harvest for it, and remove him utterly?

If a servant is in any way in trouble, he makes a petition to his master, and his master hears him and is [kindly disposed] towards him, and puts right what was troubling him.  Or if the servant is in any way at fault, and confesses his fault before his master, then whatever his master wants to do with him he will do.  But because he has confessed his fault before his master, his masters spirit is soothed and the master will not call that servant to account.

From: O. R. Gurney, The Hittites, (Penguin; London, 1952, rev. 1990)  pp. 68-69.

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