I don’t post much about my personal life here, but the fact of the matter is that I’m getting married in October. I furnish that information not as a ploy to solicit felicitations, but as context for the main thrust of this post, namely that I’ve set out to draft an marriage contract in the Old Babylonian style.
While the operative terms and conditions of these contracts vary, there are a number of legal forms that regularly recur throughout the genre. Technical clauses I would like to use include the introductory [husband name] [wife name] ana mutūtim u aššūtim īḫuz, along with a statement of our satisfaction with the agreement, and the idiom that sets out remedies in the event of a default of either party.
On the other hand, I’m probably going to avoid a number of traditional expressions, primarily because they’re inapplicable to a modern setting. These include any reference to a dowry or a bride-price, or the husband taking ownership of the wife’s property.
I have, however, always liked the flavor of the list of property found in PBS 8/2, no. 252 (shown above), even if it is otherwise unusual. Translating this tablet for the first time brought me to the realization that Old Babylonian “marriage contracts” are more analogous to modern prenuptial agreements — with their statement of property and suggestions in the event of default — than any kind of legal solemnization of the marriage.
In any case, at this point I’ve entered the research phase, reviewing VAS VIII, 4 and 5, CT VI, 37, and PBS 8/2, no. 252 among others.
Once I’ve set down the phrasings I want, the next issue I’m going to run into is one of names. Transliterating our modern names into cuneiform doesn’t exactly feel authentic to me, but nor does coming up with Akkadian-named proxy identities.
Great idea. Congratulations.