Contractual maintenance support of a priestess-sister in three old Babylonian sippar division agreement

12 November 2015

Generally, the family members conclude a division agreement of their inheritance received from a parental deceased estate to escape the perils of their shared inheritance by dividing it into portions of unburdened sole ownership. However, in some Old Babylonian Sippar division agreements, the family members devised and agreed to burden an elected inheritance property with a sui generis usufruct. This entails that they contractually agreed to share or appropriate to a family member the responsibility to manage the burdened property and use of its proceeds, for the maintenance and support of their priestess-sister. Only in the event of the priestess-sister's death is the burdened property restored from the restraints of the usufruct. In the article, I have applied my developed analysis method to the study of three Old Babylonian Sippar division agreements which consist of a usufruct-clause. First, I outline the prerequisite elements of the analysis method, which identify the three texts as a family division agreement from a deceased estate. Then follows a discussion of the legal practices found in the three texts of which the usufruct as a chosen legal practice receives special attention. The aim of the article is to show that family members can decide to utilise the sui generis usufruct in the division agreement for the maintenance and support of their priestess-sister, imposing on themselves lifelong personal and financial consequences, while ensuring that the family retain their property on the death of the priestess-sister.