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Marriage secretly arranged

Cyr 311 and Cyr 312 (Alternate Title)

Cyr 311 (BM 30975)
Nabû-etir, son of Arad-Bel from the Arrabtu family, the witness of the tablet, and Rimut-Nabû, his son, the scribe of the document, will bear witness that Mušezib-Bel, the slave of the one in charge of the king’s private quarters, has come on behalf of the one in charge of the king’s private quarters and spoke thus: (l. 1-3, 7a-9)
"The one in charge of the king’s private quarters has sent me, saying thus: ‘Write the marriage contract for Kupputtu and give (her/it) to Nabû-ahhe-bullit, son of Nargiya!'" (l. 4-7)
In the courthouse they will testify and give (the document about it) to Nargiya. (l. 9a-11)
If they do not [testify], they will pay 30 Minas (ca. 15 kgs.) of silver (for) the loss that has been inflicted upon Nargija. (11a-14)
Names of four witnesses, scribe (l. 15-19)
Babylon, 8th day of the 5th month, year 8 of Cyrus, king of Babylon and the lands.
Cyr 312 (BM 33065)
Nargiya, the courtier, son of Hanunu, has brought Amurru-šar-usur, the courtier in charge of the king’s private quarters, before the high officials and judges of Cyrus, king of Babylon and the lands, and spoke thus: (l. 1-5)
"Amurru-šar-usur, the courtier in charge of the king’s private quarters, and Nabû-uballit, son of Nabû-šamâ, who belongs to the household of the one in charge of the king’s private quarters, have issued a marriage document for Tablut, the sister of Nabû-uballit, without me (i.e. with out my knowing and consent), and have given (her in marriage) to Nabû-ahhe-bullit, my son." (l. 5a-9)
The high officials and judges asked the one in charge of the king’s private quarters, and an oath he has sworn, thus: "This [tablet] I did not issue and I have not been present (when it was issued)." (l. 10-12) [half line broken]
They asked [Nabû-uball]it (and) Tablut and they confessed (lit. "testified against [them]selves"), and Nabû-uballit said [thus]: "I had the marriage contract issued for Tablut, my sister. To [Nabû-ahhê]-bullit, the son of Nargiya I have given (it/her)." (l. 13a-17)
[…] and they annulled (it). (l. 18; l. 19-21 too damaged for translation)
[… Should the original or any copy of] the marriage record for Tablut that Nabû-uballit issued and gave to Nabû-ahhê-bullit without (knowledge and consent of) Nargiya, his father, be seen in some other place, it is void (lit. "broken"). (l. 22-25)
If from now on Tablut is seen with Nabû-ahhe-bullit, she will receive a slave-mark. (l. 26-28)
This record was drafted before:
Bûr-iadê, the sartennu (chief judge),
Marduk-zakir-šum, the governor of Babylon,
Nabû-šar-usur, the sukkallu (high judge),
Nabû-apla-iddin, Nabû-balassu-iqbi, Kabti-(ili)-Marduk, Nabû-ušallim, Rimut-Bel, Nabû-etel-ilani, the judges.
Scribe: Marduk-nasir, son of Banâ-ša-ilija. (l. 28-34)
Babylon, 11th day, 5th month, year 8 of Cyrus, king of Babylon and the lands. (l. 34a-36)

Explanatory Notes:  Translations are based upon collations of the original tablets by C. Wunsch<br /><br />Synopsis<br />These two records pertain to a clandestine marriage in lofty circles, its legal consequences and final annulment. <br /><br />The son of a courtier has married without his father's knowledge and consent and had an official marriage document issued. The bride is the sister of an subordinate of the official in charge of the king’s private quarters. Although the hierarchical order and social standing of the persons involved cannot clearly be defined there seems no doubt about the son "marrying down", to which the father objects and goes to court to have the arrangement voided. <br /><br />But there may be much more at stake for the father that escapes us. He suspects the one in charge of the king’s private quarters to have been actively involved in the plot to bring the marriage about and brings claim against him. This story background is described (though in terse words) in the litigation record Cyr 312.<br /> <br /> For his purpose the father needs proof. The method he employs is shown in Cyr 311, written before the trial. He obliges the scribe of the marriage document to testify in court that he had acted upon instruction from the one in charge of the king’s private quarters, communicated by one of the latter’s slaves. Should he choose not to testify he has to pay a heavy fine that in itself should be prohibitive. This record makes one wonder if the father tries to force the scribe to give false testimony in court.<br /><br />Three days later the matter is dealt with by the highest-ranking judges (Cyr 312). The one in charge of the king’s private quarters declares under oath not to have anything to do with the marriage arrangement. The brother of the bride admits to have arranged the marriage without the father's consent and the marriage therefore is voided by the judges. His statement helps to exonerate the defendant, probably much to the chagrin of the father. The brother does not seem to face any legal consequences (after all, he is entitled to act on behalf of his sister), though the fact that his sister’s marriage got annulled (after being consummated, as we may suspect) certainly attests to his reputation and standing. His sister faces enslavement should she ever be seen with her not-meant-to-be-husband again. <br /><br /> What happened to the scribe is not clear. The trial record does not mention any statement of his (unless it is lost in the damaged lines, but the preserved words do not point in this direction). Did the one in charge of the king’s quarters put pressure on him not to testify? Did he buy the scribe’s silence (and thereby pay a heavy sum to the father)? The idea that this case lead to out-of-court monetary consequences may be supported by the fact that our records have survived in the archive of a man who was entirely unrelated to the parties involved. The records come from the Egibi family archive. These merchant-entrepreneurs are known to have dealt with difficult financial and legal matters on behalf of noble clients. We therefore can assume the preservation of precisely these records had something to do with the settlement of the those 30 minas of silver mentioned as a penalty in Cyr 311.<br /><br />The name of the bride is given as Kubbuttu in one record, and Tablut in the other, but there is no doubt about her identity. Either one of the scribes was careless (after all, what does the name of the girl matter in this context?) or he employed the girl’s nickname (cf. Joannès)<br /><br />Collation results:<br />Cyr 311: <br />Line 9 read ina É DI*.KU5*, line 12 read mi-t.i*-tu4<br />Cyr 312: <br />Line 15 restore ia-a]-tú im.DUB áš-šu-[ti], cf. Nbn 356:4; line 18 read ]-ma ú-pa-as-si-su (this line does not appear in the copy).
Publication:  cf. F. Joannès in Rendre la Justice en Mésopotamie, Saint-Denis 2000, no. 149f. [in French]
Source:  J.N. Strassmaier, Inschriften von Cyrus… Leipzig 1890
Date:  531 BC
Language:  Neo-Babylonian
Medium:  clay tablet
Find Spot:  Babylon