Civil Law in Ancient Egypt - Where There Were No Lawyers
Law develops over time and history; throughout the world, it has always been a growing not static thing. Ancient Egyptian Law examines issues we still deal with today.
Probably one of the most famous cases is that of the the Eloquent Peasant (the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant), which examines a poor man's search for justice from high officials and the king himself. This particular story was widely told in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2055-1650) and illustrates the point that even the problems of common peasants were considered important. Although males dominated the legal system in ancient Egypt, records indicate that females enjoyed considerable rights under the law. Upon an individual's death, property was often divided equally among both male and female children. Woman could own and bequeath property, file lawsuits, be witnesses in court and file for divorce. Children and the poor had considerable legal rights, and even slaves were allowed to own property under certain circumstances. Prior to the 7th century BC most contracts and deeds were oral, but with the advent of the Demotic script, many legal transactions were required to be written, and these documents give us a better picture of legal proceedings. A plaintiff was required to bring suit, and if the case was deemed to have validity, the defendant would be ordered to appear before the court. There were no legal advocates, so both parties would present their own arguments. While witnesses were sometimes called, the judge would usually rule on the grounds of documentary evidence and the testimony of each party.
In many respects, the ancient Egyptian laws remain with us today. The Greek lawgiver Solon visited Egypt in the 6th century BC, studied their law and adapted many aspects of it into the legal system of Athens. During Egypt's Greek period, Egyptian law continued to influence the separate Greek legal system. When the Romans took Egypt, their legal system was effected by both the Greeks and Egyptians, and today, we continue to implement a number of aspects of Roman law.
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