While doing some research I stumbled upon some old Mesopotamian laws. Reading through them I found a series of conflicting laws. They state

196: If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.

197: If he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

198: If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.

The first two laws do not conflict with each other. Yet the third one makes the whole thing a mess.

Did law 198 state that they also had to pay 1 mina if they break bones or eyes (and have theirs broken), or did it mean if they pay 1 mina they did not have their bones broken, or eyes taken out?

2 Answers 2


You are looking at a poor translation: There were three classes of individuals under the law. A mushkenu was a landless freed man who had to accept monetary compensation for corporal injuries done to him. He often owed a type of feudal duty to a landholder or patron.


I look at it as 196~197 speak of as if a slave owner breaks the bone of another mans slave~ that slave would not be able to perform all his duties so you have the right to break the bone of one of his slaves. I look at 198 as a freed man meaning a free man working for some sort of pay, he was able to adjust his work with a broken bone ~ hence pay while he was learning to adjust until he was able to sustain himself again.

  • 3
    This answer would benefit from sources. Does it add anything not already documented in Mr. Geerkens' answer?
    – MCW
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 13:07
  • 1
    I just tried to put it in more of a laymans terms
    – Mitchell
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 13:11

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