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Demotic Legal Code of Hermopolis West

Annuity and inheritance laws

The contracts for an annuity which will be made, their form:
 
    [Such and such a year, such and such a month, so-and-so son] of so-and-so has [said] to so-and-so son of so-and-so, 'You have given me [X money for an annuity] for the woman so-and-so daughter of so-and-so, whose mother is so-and-so, to give you X money [for her subsistence annually at the] house which you desire. You are the one who is entrusted [by me with the arrears] of her subsistence. Everything which is mine and that which I will acquire is the security [for her subsistence. If an oath is required] of you to do it for me, it is in the place in which [the judges are] that you will take it.'
 
- Ptolemaic Period
 
  year: year of the reign of some king or ruler
  so-and-so son of so-and-so: the main identifier was the name of the father, others were origin, trade or profession, physical description
The likeness of this (document):
    If a man makes it and the man [for whom he made it says, 'He did not give me the] arrears of subsistence,'
the man who made the document will be asked, saying, 'This document, [did you make it?'
If he says,] 'I made it,' he will be told, 'Give him subsistence.' ...
 
    If a man brings suit against a man saying, 'He wrote for me an annuity for X money for subsistence and he did not give it to me,'
if the man against whom the suit is brought [says, 'I did not write for him an annuity,'
they shall say] to the man who brought suit, 'Establish the validity of your document.'
If he proves the validity of his document, they will say to the one against whom suit was brought, 'Give him [subsistence in accordance with the document to give it] to him which you made.' ...
 
    If the man against whom suit is brought says, 'The document which I made [for him, he has not given me] the money which is written in the said document. X money has remained due from him, he has not given it to me.'
The owner of the document will be interrogated. If he says, 'X money, [I gave it to him; he has] X amount owing from me for the document of annuity,' it is in proportion to [the] money which was given to him that the man who [made the] document is required to give [subsistence]. ...
 
    [If a man] writes for a man concerning arrears of subsistence in a document of annuity which he has not been able to give, the document is complied with until he has given the arrears [of subsistence]. ...
 
    If the man for whom the annuity contract was made dies without having written [for] another man concerning [the] annuity contract in the name of the woman concerning [whom] the document was made, if the woman brings suit against the man who wrote the document saying, 'Require that he give me sub[sistence for the year (or years) that has] elapsed,' [he shall be required to give her the] arrears of the subsistence.
    If the woman says, 'Require that he give [to me subsistence,'
and the one against whom suit is brought] says, 'I have nothing,'
he will be required to swear concerning that which is written above. He will be required to make a document concerning the money. They will order [that which] is written above.
    [If a man brings suit against a man saying,] 'He wrote for me an annuity document. Require that he give me subsistence,'
and the one against whom suit was brought says, 'The woman for whom the document was made is dead,'
[if the man who brings suit against] him [is interrogated], and he says, 'It is true, the woman is dead,'
he shall be told, 'The money which he gave to you previously, give it to him.'
[If he says, 'I do not have (it),'
he will be required to take an oa]th, and he will be required to write concerning it. They will [act in accord]ance with that which is written above. Those [who] write them for him shall leave the annuity contract in his possession until he pays [him ...]
[I]f the possessor of the annuity contract says, 'The woman of whom he said, "She is dead" is alive,'
he will be told, 'Bring the woman before the ju[dges]' ... saying, '... which is in the annuity contract which you made for me and her in year [X month X].' ...
 
    If a man [dies] possessed of fields, gardens, temple-shares, (or) documents, he having a son, he not having ascribed shares to his children while he was alive, his eldest son is the one who takes possession of his property. If the younger sons bring suit against their older brother saying 'Let him give us a share of the property of our father!' the eldest son shall write the list of his younger brothers, the children of his father (those who are alive and those who died before their father died) and likewise the eldest son [i.e., his own name] and he shall be <given> whichever share he prefers of the field[s, the garden]s and the houses. What is fitting to be given to him, it is given <to him>.
The documents and the sale contracts, the grain, and the property which are owed to his father by people are given to him. Except the document which is written on behalf of his father and another man, it is not given to him. The remainder of (the) property belonging [to him] is finally divided into shares according to the number of his children. Afterwards, his male children take a share according to their order [of birth] and his female children take after them according to their order of birth.

 
  he having a son: The eldest son was responsible for the upkeep of his father's mortuary services. By default all his father's possessions would go to him to enable him to perform his duties.
  female children take after them: daughters were somewhat disadvantaged.
    If it happens that there is a man therein who died after their father died, he not having a son, [the] eldest [son] is the one who takes his share. The man therein who dies after his share was given to him, [his (own)] eldest son is the one who takes his share. The man therein who dies after his share was given to him and who has no [son, the] eldest [son] is the one who takes his [share].
If the younger brother brings suit saying: 'The children of whom our eldest brother said "They came into being for our father" they did not come into being as a son [to our father,' the eldest brother is made to swear concerning [the child]ren of whom the younger brother [says] 'They did not come into being for our father': 'The children whom I said came into being for [our father, they came into being for him as a son; there is no] falsehood therein.' He is made to say their names together with their mother['s name].
Copy of the oath which he will be caused to say:
'So and so, [the son of So and so, whose mother is So and so, and So and so, the son of So and so, whose mother is So and so,] they came into being as a son for my father; they died before my father died.' (For) any one about whom he does not swear, he is not given a share; [(for) any about whom he swears,] he is given a share.
If a (female) daughter is the one who was born to him, she is given the aforesaid share also.
 
  The man therein who dies after his share was given to him and who has no [son, the] eldest [son] is the one who takes his [share]: The eldest brother inherits the shares of the patrimony of his younger brothers if they die childless.
    If it happens that a man dies while [he has property concerning which he has written on behalf of his] eldest [son], if he has a younger brother and if he brings suit saying: 'Let me be given a share of the property of our father!' [it] will be divided according to the number of his children and an extra share will be given to the eldest son, making 2 shares. ...
 
    [If] the man has no property except one [house?], [it] is not divided [into shares].
 
    If a man dies having no male child while having a daughter, his property is given to the [eldest daughter] ... an extra share ... to his eldest daughter ... making 2 shares. The eldest daughter is not allowed to say 'Other children happened [to my father]; they [di]ed; let me be given their [shares].' She is not given [the shares] of her siblings who died.   extra share ... to his eldest daughter: in the absence of sons the eldest daughter assumes some of the inheritance rights of the eldest son.
    If a man dies owning property in the possession of the younger son and the eldest son brings suit against him concerning it and the younger son says '[My father] is the one who gave me the above mentioned property saying "Take them for yourself!,"'
he will be made to swear an oath saying 'My father is the one who gave me this property saying "Take it for yourself!"'
If he swears, [the property] is not [given] to his eldest brother. If he does not swear, the property is given to his eldest brother, they writing for him concerning (i.e., he being given a document asserting his ownership of) the property of his father.
    If it happens that it is a man who has no property except one house, the house is divided into shares according to the number of the sons he has, those who are living and those who died [before their] father [died], including the eldest son, and an extra share is given to the eldest son, making [2 shares], and one (share) is given to each of the rest of the sons of his according to what is written above.
 
    If a man writes for one of his children saying 'O my eldest son, I have given to you everything which [I] possess,' if the man dies without having written for another, his younger brothers can not bring suit against him concerning a share of the property of the father.
 
    If a man dies possessed of a house, he not having written concerning it to a son of his, if the eldest son sells the house [to another] man [and the house spends] 3 years in the possession of the man to whom he [sold] it without a man having brought suit against him, and the house has become (legally free and) clear for him, and the younger brothers bring suit against the older brothers saying 'Let us be given a share of the house of our father!' the money about which the eldest son swears saying 'I did not commit dishonesty concerning [the money of the price] of this house.' the amount of money about which he swears is demanded from him and is divided [into shares according to the number] of the younger brothers.
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    The man to whom is born a female child first and a male child afterwards, the male children are the ones who act for him as eldest son.
    ... No man will be able to say 'Such and such property belongs to me; it belonged to my father' except the eldest son; he is legally empowered to say 'The property is mine; it belonged to my father.' ..."

Girgis Mattha, ed. by George R. Hughes, The Demotic Legal Code of Hermopolis West, Bibliothèque d'étude, Vol. 45 (Cairo: IFAO, 1975) pp. 27-32, 92-103, 39-42, 115-23

 


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