Western Legal Tradition Paper Essay, Research Paper
Western Legal Tradition Paper #1 Oct. 7, 1996When Machiavelli wrote of whether it was more important to be fearedthan loved, he had definitely studied the cases brought up in this paper. Hetalked of how politics and power were all that a real leader should beconcerned with, and, if he isn’t how he will not be a strong leader. WhenMachaivelli writes of being loved, he may have had the love for the gods inmind, as is the case of the examples given in the assignment. The maindifference between the law and conceptions of law held by the ancientEgyptians, the Mesopotamians, and Hebrew leaders versus rule by a band ofthieves, is just that- a distinction between love versus power. All conceptions of law in ancient civilizations had one thing incommon: they were all supposed to be enforced by a more supreme being.For the Egyptians that being was the Pharaoh; for the Mesopotamians, theGods and the rulers descended from them; and for the Jews, their God. Thepeople and the rulers both believed that if you violate the rules, then theGods would punish you. If you followed the Gods, then, conversely, theywould see to it that you were rewarded. In rule by a band of thieves, youmay have small amounts of love for the leaders, but the real reason thatkeeps you following them is fear. In ancient Egypt, rule was kept by a class of people known asPharaohs. These men were seen to have been descended from God, so theywere considered more than men- but just short of real gods. The earliestPharaohs were seen as some kind of shaman, or holy men with almostmystical powers, sometimes wearing animal tails and “the beard of theirgoat-flocks”(Course Packet, 6). Their conceptions of law had everything todo with being “able to sustain the entire nation by having command over theNile flood”(Course Packet, 7). The Pharaoh was an omnipotent power andwas able to control everyone and everything- in all lands. The Egyptianpeople were said to believe that He controlled the rain in other landsbecause, as they felt, that rain was nothing but a Nile in the sky- and whyshouldn’t he control it? The Egyptians also believed, in conjunction withbelief in the Pharaoh, that there was a sense of “‘Ma’at’, which may have themeaning 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 ofMa’at, the Nile was kind to the people, giving them favorable tides andfloods. Usually, the anti-Ma’at times were in between Pharaohs, and whenthe Pharaohs were reanointed, Ma’at was restored. This all contributed to theEgyptians’ belief in law and order and the conceptions that were held by theEgyptians in loving their Pharaohs and seeing that their love was what makestheir lives better. The only fear involved may have come with the power thatthe Pharoah’s had. The citizens may have feared the Pharoah’s power overthe Nile and other assorted natural occurences, but it was also in thePharoah’s best interests to keep everything running smoothly. He did thisbecause Pharoahs, when their powers began to wane, they were rituallysacrificed.(Course Packet, 6)As far as ancient Mesopotamia goes, the Code of Hammurabi was thedefining document of it’s time. It is seen as a document of prophetic
proportions because its ideas, such a personal injury, criminal law, andothers would be considered fair even to this day. It also, however, made nomention of religion. The code also praises Hammurabi, exalting him forcausing justice to prevail in His land and for destroying the wicked and theevil. This was so because Hammurabi loved his people and wanted to beloved by them, all the while keeping social order. He set rules for legalprocedure and then stated the penalties for the crimes such as unjustaccusation, false testimony, and injustice done by judges. Also, laws onproperty rights, loans, deposits, and debts were inacted. In possibly themost modern laws, he put into place laws which offered equal protection toall 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 hispeople, not just because he, too, had been called upon by the Gods toprotect this land from the “wicked and the evil”.For the case of the ancient Hebrews, they believed in and followedtheir true ruler, God. They had faith in His commandments and followedthem to the letter. They do this, of course, out of love. They love their Godand do not necessarily fear him. They want please him, so any fear that theymay have is one of failure to please the God that they love. A main part ofthis theory is their conception of the laws. They believed that law, since itcame 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 theHebrews in all aspects of their lives. This basis was founded solely on theirreligion 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 strongerthan the fear of his power.With a band of thieves, however, rule is of a different sort. Whoeverhad 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, someoneelse will take it from you. Along with this power came an element of fear.These criminal societies had no moral code, killing and injuring meantnothing, so, even in the most evolved of criminal societies, the Mafia, youcan be killed if someone more powerful than you questions your dedication orcharacter. Order was kept, just like in other societies, but it was enforced ina different manner. People in a Pharoah’s Egypt followed his rule becausethey loved him and did not want to dissapoint him, not that they feared hispower. The underlings in a complex organized crime syndicate follow theleader’s rule because they feared his wrath. This alone kept them from goingagainst the established rule, not love. All the leaders of the societies shown had complete power over theirpeople, except for the band of thieves. Through love and trust, the leadersof the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and the ancient Hebrews had thatin common. They could rule without inducing the element of fear, theirsubjects loved them because they were good, and their rules were thought tobe good, as well. If the rulers were happy, and the people were happy, thenthe Nile would flow, order would be intact, and God would be happy.