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M3 Assignment: Nano-Historical Research Paper


Christopher Gardiner
History 134
18 September 2016

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The Hittite laws are very serious when it comes to what it believes is sexual misconduct.
Most of the laws will punish with death if their sexual guidelines are not followed. This makes
the laws of the Hittites sound very unforgiving. And while this is true, at the same time many of
those laws are still seen as ethical today. Laws banning incest, bestiality, rape, and adultery are
still in effect in many countries. The punishment for these acts is not as heinous as it was in the
past in most countries, however. The laws of the Hittites regarding incest, bestiality, rape, and
adultery would be seen as barbaric in modern times, however it was a step forward in society
defining what it believes is normal sexual behavior.
Most of the laws regarding bestiality are fairly straight forward: If someone performs
sexual activity with an animal, they would be put to death.1 The king had the option to spare the
person who performs this conduct, however the person wouldnt directly appear in front of the
king. This made this act a very dangerous one to commit, as if one was caught there was very
little they could do to defend themselves. In Hoffners Sexuality Among the Hittites, he
attempts to explain why the Hittite people might have been practicing this act.2 It is assumed that
the animals approaching humans with sexual intent could have been triggered by the odors of
the sexually receptive female animal adhering to a human or his clothes.3 Why humans might
have agreed to this sexual act, he guesses that it might be because of how the Hittites viewed sex
at the time. A Hittite ritual text states that he is not a man with a woman, which is interpreted
as meaning that as long as a sexual act is being done, a mans manliness is exemplified.4
The Hittite government must not have liked the idea of men using animals as a way to
boost their reputation. Since there might have been some conflicting views on how one should
ethically practice in sexual relationships, there are some interesting clauses regarding bestiality
laws. Though the laws put to death having intercourse with pigs, dogs, or sheep, sex with mules

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and horses was allowed.5 Why this might be so is left unknown, perhaps it was meant to appease
the people who were practicing such sexual acts.
Incest, on the other hand, was seen as just as heinous of a crime and was punishable by
death.6 This law also indirectly included some homosexual relationships, as it is mentioned that a
sexual relationship between a father and his son is punishable by death as well.7 A Hittite king
looked down upon one of his vassal states who tolerated such practices and called them
uncivilized.8 This is the only clearly defined time in which a Hittite king is mentioned as
interfering with the local practices of one of his vassal states, and perhaps emphasized the
general abhorrence the Hittites had with the practice, Trevor Bryce in Life and Society in the
Hittite World states.9
There are not many exceptions to this law like there was in bestiality. The only exception
was incest between in-laws, which was only permitted if a spouse was already dead.10 Though
whether this counts as incest or not is debatable, this exception is only there so that the widow
or widower can have a new spouse from the blood line of their dead spouse.11 Even though the
men of this time are mentioned to have sex with anything in order to boost their manliness, this
was one line they apparently did not cross.
Rape and adultery are arguably the most unforgiving Hittite law topics. If a man were to
catch his wife and another man in an adulterous act, he had the right to straight up murder the
adulterer.12 Unusually enough, this was really the only time a man could get away with murdering
the adulterer without murdering his wife in the process. The courts at this time would only
consider murder of the adulterer if the husband would plead for it, and if the husband pleaded for
the death of the adulterer, that made the wife guilty of death as well.13 If, for some reason, the
man wishes for the adulterer to be spared, a mark would be put on the adulterers forehead.14
There is a lot of debate as to whether this is the actual meaning of this scenario, as if this were to
be the case the Hittite people would be the only culture to practice using marks on adulterers.15

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Matitiahu Tsevat in The Husband Veils a Wife believes that the mark is actually a veil put
onto the wife to signify that the husband still wants to be with her.16
The most unforgiving of all of these laws, perhaps, is the unusual double standard
involving rape. Clause 197 of the Hittite laws states If a man seizes a woman in the mountains
and rapes her, the man is guilty and shall die, but if he seizes her in her house, the woman is
guilty and shall die.17 This clause basically assumes that if a woman is raped in her household
she must have been consenting, and makes it obvious that the idea of a legal gray-area must
not have been a prevalent idea for women at this point.
In the case of two unmarried minors, however, this fornication was still considered to be
technically adultery and therefore the punishment was death.18 This act was considered a sin
against the father, not the husband, and that allowed the father to kill the fornicator on the spot if
he was caught, or spare/kill them both in court.19 The people of this time respected the sanctity of
marriage to the extent of threatening minors with death if they broke it, however, this law is
slightly more forgiving most likely for the sake of the childrens lives.
The Hittite Law Code is extremely unsympathetic of those breaking its sexual conduct
guidelines. However, this Law Code has provided insight into the origin of the taboos of sexual
conduct today. It gives people a look at what the Hittite people considered ethical sexual
behavior, and many of these laws can relate to laws of modern times. Even as barbaric as the
laws might sound, it was certainly a step in the right direction for humanity, and gave
punishment for offenses such as rape, adultery, incest, and bestiality.

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Endnotes
1. The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition 149
2. Hoffner, Harry A. Sexuality Among the Hittites. Berlin: Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010. Print.
3. Sexuality Among the Hittites 427
4. Sexuality Among the Hittites 427
5. Life and Society in the Hittite World 48
6. The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition 149
7. The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition 150
8. Sexuality Among the Hittites 429
9. Bryce 50
10. Bryce 50
11. Bryce 50
12. Tsevat 235
13. Tsevat 235
14. Tsevat 235
15. Tsevat 235
16. Tsevat 236
17. Bryce 128
18. Sexuality Among the Hittites 428
19. Sexuality Among the Hittites 428

Works Cited
Hoffner, Harry A. The Laws of the Hittites: A Critical Edition. Leiden: Brill, 1997. Print.
This is the comprehensive book containing all of the laws of the Hittite people by Harry A.
Hoffner, this is the most recent edition of information about the Hittite laws. This work is
scholarly because it is published by BRILL, a scholarly publishing company.
Hoffner, Harry A. Sexuality Among the Hittites. Berlin: Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010. Print.
This was a journal entry published in the scholarly journal from Berlin, Berlin: De Gruyter. It is a
commentary on the various sexual laws in the Hittite law code.
Bryce, Trevor. Life and Society in the Hittite World. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. Print.
This was a book published that was focused on life and society in the Hittite world, published by
the scholarly Oxford press.

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Tsevat, Matitiahu. The Husband Veils a Wife; Hittite Laws 197-98. Cambridge: Baghdad School
of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1975. Print.
This work was concerning the argument over the adulterer having a mark on the forehead or the
adulteress having a veil. It was published by the scholarly journal of cuneiform studies.