Western Legal Tradition Essay Research Paper Western

Western Legal Tradition Essay, Research Paper

Western Legal Tradition Paper #1

Oct. 7, 1996

When Machiavelli wrote of whether it was more important to be feared

than loved, he had definitely studied the cases brought up in this paper. He

talked of how politics and power were all that a real leader should be

concerned with, and, if he isn’t how he will not be a strong leader. When

Machaivelli writes of being loved, he may have had the love for the gods in

mind, as is the case of the examples given in the assignment. The main

difference between the law and conceptions of law held by the ancient

Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and Hebrew leaders versus rule by a band of

thieves, is just that- a distinction between love versus power.

All conceptions of law in ancient civilizations had one thing in

common: they were all supposed to be enforced by a more supreme being.

For the Egyptians that being was the Pharaoh; for the Mesopotamians, the

Gods and the rulers descended from them; and for the Jews, their God. The

people and the rulers both believed that if you violate the rules, then the

Gods would punish you. If you followed the Gods, then, conversely, they

would see to it that you were rewarded. In rule by a band of thieves, you

may have small amounts of love for the leaders, but the real reason that

keeps you following them is fear.

In ancient Egypt, rule was kept by a class of people known as

Pharaohs. These men were seen to have been descended from God, so they

were considered more than men- but just short of real gods. The earliest

Pharaohs were seen as some kind of shaman, or holy men with almost

mystical powers, sometimes wearing animal tails and “the beard of their

goat-flocks”(Course Packet, 6). Their conceptions of law had everything to

do with being “able to sustain the entire nation by having command over the

Nile flood”(Course Packet, 7). The Pharaoh was an omnipotent power and

was able to control everyone and everything- in all lands. The Egyptian

people were said to believe that He controlled the rain in other lands

because, as they felt, that rain was nothing but a Nile in the sky- and why

shouldn’t he control it? The Egyptians also believed, in conjunction with

belief in the Pharaoh, that there was a sense of “‘Ma’at’, which may have the

meaning of order, truth, justice, according to it’s context”(Course Packet,

13). Ma’at was believed to control the Nile. When there was a period of

Ma’at, the Nile was kind to the people, giving them favorable tides and

floods. Usually, the anti-Ma’at times were in between Pharaohs, and when

the Pharaohs were reanointed, Ma’at was restored. This all contributed to the

Egyptians’ belief in law and order and the conceptions that were held by the

Egyptians in loving their Pharaohs and seeing that their love was what makes

their lives better. The only fear involved may have come with the power that

the Pharoah’s had. The citizens may have feared the Pharoah’s power over

the Nile and other assorted natural occurences, but it was also in the

Pharoah’s best interests to keep everything running smoothly. He did this

because Pharoahs, when their powers began to wane, they were ritually

sacrificed.(Course Packet, 6)

As far as ancient Mesopotamia goes, the Code of Hammurabi was the

defining document of it’s time. It is seen as a document of prophetic

proportions because its ideas, such a personal injury, criminal law, and

others would be considered fair even to this day. It also, however, made no

mention of religion. The code also praises Hammurabi, exalting him for

causing justice to prevail in His land and for destroying the wicked and the

evil. This was so because Hammurabi loved his people and wanted to be

loved by them, all the while keeping social order. He set rules for legal

procedure and then stated the penalties for the crimes such as unjust

accusation, false testimony, and injustice done by judges. Also, laws on

property rights, loans, deposits, and debts were inacted. In possibly the

most modern laws, he put into place laws which offered equal protection to

all of the classes of society; they sought to protect the weak and the poor,

and women and even children in a time when they were considered property.

Hammurabi’s fair laws and judgment made him loved and be followed by his

people, not just because he, too, had been called upon by the Gods to

protect this land from the “wicked and the evil”.

For the case of the ancient Hebrews, they believed in and followed

their true ruler, God. They had faith in His commandments and followed

them to the letter. They do this, of course, out of love. They love their God

and do not necessarily fear him. They want please him, so any fear that they

may have is one of failure to please the God that they love. A main part of

this theory is their conception of the laws. They believed that law, since it

came from their God, it is good, and they should follow it. Failure to do so,

in their minds, would have meant disobeying God, and that was no good.

The basis of these laws were the Ten Commandments, which lead the

Hebrews in all aspects of their lives. This basis was founded solely on their

religion and the beliefs associated with it. They could fear the wrath of God,

if you angered him, as the Egyptians did, but their love for him was stronger

than the fear of his power.

With a band of thieves, however, rule is of a different sort. Whoever

had the most power at the time had all the power. That is all that it is about-

power. If you have it, you can control the band; if you do not, someone

else will take it from you. Along with this power came an element of fear.

These criminal societies had no moral code, killing and injuring meant

nothing, so, even in the most evolved of criminal societies, the Mafia, you

can be killed if someone more powerful than you questions your dedication or

character. Order was kept, just like in other societies, but it was enforced in

a different manner. People in a Pharoah’s Egypt followed his rule because

they loved him and did not want to dissapoint him, not that they feared his

power. The underlings in a complex organized crime syndicate follow the

leader’s rule because they feared his wrath. This alone kept them from going

against the established rule, not love.

All the leaders of the societies shown had complete power over their

people, except for the band of thieves. Through love and trust, the leaders

of the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and the ancient Hebrews had that

in common. They could rule without inducing the element of fear, their

subjects loved them because they were good, and their rules were thought to

be good, as well. If the rulers were happy, and the people were happy, then

the Nile would flow, order would be intact, and God would be happy.


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