MESOPOTAMIA: SUMER, BABYLONIA, AND ASSYRIA in .NET

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MESOPOTAMIA: SUMER, BABYLONIA, AND ASSYRIA
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loan. The law protected such human pledges from mistreatment and they could not be sold. By the first millennium B.C., at least, banking operations similar to those of Babylonia were widespread in Assyria. We begin to hear of specialized banking firms. By law anyone starting a legal action arising from a business contract was required to deposit a large sum of money for the duration of the action. The following are translations (sometimes abbreviated) of a few business documents of Babylonia and Assyria which may serve to illustrate specific types of transactions: 1. Circa 2040 B.C.: The house property, next the house of X. . . . one end abutting on the street, . . . from the hands of I., son of S., X., son of K. has bought. The full price, two thirds mina and nine shekels of silver has he paid. The transaction is completed; his heart is satisfied. Never shall the one make any claim against the other. In the names of [gods] and King Samsu-Iluna have they sworn . . . [Names of twelve witnesses and the date]. (23) 2. Circa 2000 B.C.: Two shekels of silver have been borrowed by Mas-Schamach, the son of A., from the sun-priestess Amat-Schamach, daughter of W. He will pay the Sun-God s interest. At the time of the harvest he will pay back the sum and the interest upon it. 3. Circa 1800 B.C.: Ka-enlilla, the son of N., borrowed one mina of silver from Bur-Sin on the interest of the temple of Shamash. He will repay the capital and its interest in [the month of] Napri. [Names of 5 witnesses] 4. Assyria, probably 1000 700 B.C.: Five imer of barley belonging to the heir apparent, in the hand of Taquni II, placed at the disposal of Hamathutha of. . . . The barley increases by 50 qua the imer. (24) 5. Babylon 595 B.C.: One-half mina of silver, the possession of NabuUsabsi, the son of N., the son of N., is owed by Nabu-sar-ahesu, the son of. . . . Yearly upon one mina, ten shekels of silver shall accumulate (162 3%). All his property . . . , all that there is, shall be a pledge. . . . Another creditor has no right of disposal over it until Nabu-Usabsi gets his money, full repaid. The men he caused to appear [4 witnesses, the priest] City of Uruk, month of Ululu, 11th day of the 9th year of Nebuchadnessar, King of Babylon. (25) MESOPOTAMIAN INTEREST RATES, 3000 400 B.C. In the Sumerian period, 3000 1900 B.C., the customary rate of interest for a loan of barley was 331 3% per annum and for a loan of silver was 20% per annum. (26) There are examples, however, of silver loans at 25% and a likelihood of rates below these customary rates, including interest-free loans. (In the twenty-fourth century B.C., the Laws of Manu in India set 24% as an established rate of interest.) (27) In the Babylonian period, 1900 732 B.C., the Code of Hammurabi
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recognized the old customary interest rates and established them as legal maxima which lasted more than 1200 years: 331 3% per annum for loans of grain and 20% per annum for loans of silver. (26) Again there are examples of silver loans as high as 25%, but much more often capitalists accepted a smaller return. The state sometimes granted loans of silver at 12%, and the temple administrators sometimes demanded even less. The God Shamash, of Sippar, used to lend barley at 20% and silver at 61 4%. The normal rate on silver loans seems to have ranged between 10% and 25% in Babylonia and on grain loans between 20% and 331 3%. (22) In neighboring countries rates were often higher. During the period of Assyrian domination, 732 625 B.C., the legal interest maximum in Babylonia was still 331 3% on grain and 20% on silver; no change in the range of normal rates is reported. In Assyria, however, interest-free loans with penalties were more common; penalty rates were often high: 40%, 100%, 141%. Examples of silver loans at interest in Assyria at this time are:
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The Temple of Arbela charged ....................................................25% Unstated creditor charged ............................................................30% In 667 B.C. Nergal-shar-utsin lent 5 shekels of silver at ..............20% In 608 B.C. Suka borrowed 3 mina of silver at ............................40%(28)
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There must have been a customary rate of interest in Assyria, but since documents rarely mention the interest rate, it has not been determined. For advances in grain the interest was often 50%; in one document, it was as low as 30%. The evidence suggests that interest rates were higher in Assyria than in Babylonia. In the Neo-Babylonian Empire, 625 539 B.C., the legal maximum on silver loans remained at 20%, but the maximum on barley loans was reduced to 20%. (29) Specific examples of actual loan transactions are: 618 581 B.C. 595 B.C. Professional moneylenders lend at 112 3%. (27) One-half mina of silver borrowed by N-S from N-U on security of all his possessions, on which interest of 162 3% shall accrue each year. (25) N. borrowed 1 2 mina of silver from G. against his house at 20%. (30) Loan through an agent at 20%. (30) Banking house of Egibi loaned 1 2 mina which bore interest at 20% per annum if not paid in a month. (31) Loan at 20%. (31) Loan at 20%. (27) Loan at 162 3%. (27) Nabu-mukin-zer, a scribe, lent at 20%. (27)
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