Jules Jallet-Martini

Title:  Inheritance Practices and Family Strategies in Mesopotamia During the 2nd Millenium BCE

University: Université Paris-Panthéon-Assas

Supervisor: Sophie Démare-Lafont

Abstract: This PhD dissertation examines a previously unexplored legal hypothesis suggesting distinct inheritance practices between the north of Mesopotamia where testaments or wills were likely prevalent, and the south of Mesopotamia where ab intestat successions were the prevailing legal custom. 

In order to test this hypothesis, a rigorous legal analysis and systematic comparison of various types of deeds (inheritance divisions, wills, adoptions, gifts…) and documents (letters, litigations…) is carried out, focusing specifically on the question of succession and inheritance practices. These deeds are standardised documents containing clauses regulating the division of the estate, whose differences and similarities help us to better understand the overall inheritance system. Remarkably, a single deed could combine different models of succession, incorporating, for instance, the eldest son’s preferential share to immovable property and an equal division for movable property. 

Strategies adopted by the de cujus or their heirs to preserve the family’s patrimony within the lineage are studied. The inheritance issues addressed in these documents also highlight the importance of assisting elderly or surviving parents in matters of inheritance rights. 

The significance of this work lies in its exploration of the geographical distribution of customary inheritance practices throughout Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium BCE. 

Through meticulously analysis of legal and non-legal documents spanning the entire millennium, this research aims to enhance the understanding of the intricate and evolving legal systems of these regions and offers insights into the social norms and customs that governed inheritance.

Keywords: legal history; inheritance; Old Babylonian; Emar; Nuzi; Old Assyrian

Contact: jules.jallet-martini@u-paris2.fr