Freedom in Ancient Near Eastern Societies

Eva von Dassow

in The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199557301
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Freedom in Ancient Near Eastern Societies

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  • Classical Studies
  • Historical Archaeology



This article examines freedom in ancient Near Eastern societies based on evidence from cuneiform writing. It explains that freedom, both the idea and the reality, has conventionally been denied to the ancient Near East. It attempts to formulate a theory of freedom in the ancient Near East drawing mainly from the second millennium and from regions where Mesopotamian cuneiform was employed. It shows how ideas of rights and liberty formed part of the conceptual architecture of ancient Near Eastern communities and argues that the autonomy and the liberty of individual members of the community are deeply engrained in Ancient Near Eastern culture.

Keywords: freedom; Near Eastern societies; cuneiform writing; rights; liberty; autonomy; culture

Article.  10222 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Historical Archaeology

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