Social Formations, military structure and ideology. A comparison in the Ancient Middle East

Although looked at from a distance might seem to be always the same, a mere succession of dynasty after dynasty; if it is observed with more detention it is possible to observe important changes in the history of the Ancient Middle East. One can compare two periods -not so distant from one another, at least in the parameters of that story, which covers around 3 millennia, of that story and find interesting differences. One can compare what is currently called the Middle Bronze age (around 1750 BC), and in particular the period paleobabilonio, the time of Hammurabi with the period of the Late Bronze (1500-1200 BC), of the ‘territorial states’ in the terminology of van der Mieroop to find differences of interest. Although there is a hiatus between the two periods, a period of little documentation, correspond to two stages is relatively sequential.

Now, in the first period, what is it that we find? One can see an ideology and a practice state oriented to the theme of justice, and justice is understood in a specific way: the rulers from time to time issued edicts of forgiveness of debts, Not all debts, given that the purely commercial stay away from them; but from those who say relationship with the situation of the small owners of land, that is endeudaban and lost their lands. To avoid the disappearance of that class free is part of the concerns of the State. The fact that these edicts are repeated, as a brand, were not fully effective, but if you give us an indication of the priorities. In fact, one can note that the recipient of the message state is many times the ‘general population’, or at least are not intended for the ruling elite. The introduction of the famous Code of Hammurabi indicates that it is intended for the babylonian read the wake and it will show (explain) your case so you can defend yourself. The ideology (which is shown in some way in practice) is that of a king as a protector.

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When one passes to the second period, the situation is different. The practice of forgiveness of debts is abandoned, and in fact we can observe that the State itself becomes a partaker of the practices of delivering loans to small business owners that ends with the loss of land by part of them (and that is passed to the State). One can observe that in the various treaties that the great powers of the time signed with petty kings of lesser importance is emphasized by the fact return to the fugitives. That is, those who try to flee bad conditions have to be returned. The concern for the free population disappears, and the State is directly interested in the control and mastery over a population of slaves. In fact, in general one can observe that communications between the States are oriented centrally to the ruling elite (and other States).

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I think that an important part of this difference is due to a change in military technology. Between the two periods, and probably in the holiday middle ‘dark’ introduces the horse-drawn cart as the weapon decisive. The armies are armies of infantry -masses of marines fighting-. In other words, the weapon central are the masses, and therefore -eventually – that includes the small owners. In that situation, worry about (and appear concerned) of these groups is significant: their loyalty and support is necessary, finally, in the military competition between states. But in the Late Bronze I don’t need this support: it is the aristocracy of those who fight in chariots, which is the key group in that competition, and therefore it is the support of that group that becomes relevant. Given the above, it is not strange that between the two periods is a change in the concerns of the State.

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Ultimately, the structure of military power is relevant to a State. It has depended, in good part of the story, the survival of this

Sources consulted. In the preparation of this input use the following texts:

2007. Marc van der Mieroop. A History of the Ancient Near East. Blasckwell

1992. Jean Bottéro. Mesopotamia. Writing, reasoning and the Gods. Chicago University Press

1992. J. N. Postgate. Ancient Mesopotamia. Routledge

1991. Mario Liverani, The Ancient East. Critical.

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