The concealed crime of the nadītu priestess in §110 of the laws of Hammurabi

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    LH 110 is part of the ancient Near Eastern scholarly debate regarding the function and role of the nadiātu-priestess groups in Old Babylonian society. Seemingly, LH 110 forbids the uncloistered nadītu from opening up or entering a business place associated with the sābītu; the penalty for such a crime is public execution by burning. Mainstream scholars view the nadiātu through the lens of either (a) indulging in illicit behaviour or (b) that LH 110 reflects a prohibition for the nadītu to compromise her chastity. In contrast, Martha Roth (1999) opines that LH 110 is an economic regulation of the nadītu, prohibiting her from overshadowing the money-lending business of the sābītu. However, what poses a problem is the horrific penalty, which seems to suggest and be justification for a seemingly terrible crime committed in concealment. I propose that when this prohibition is transgressed, a horrific crime is committed - tax evasion - which is a furtive crime that endangers the continuous welfare of the king/state. LH 110 is a fiscal regulation protecting the state/king's revenues. The intention is to prevent a specific group of the nadiātu – an uncloistered priestess - to enter or open an enterprise, which the OB state administration is unable to regulate. Consequently, the nadītu could effortlessly conceal her yielded profits and thus evade paying tax to the king/state.