One of the earliest, and also one of the most distinctive branches of the law to be developed in the legal history of any race or nation, is that of Domestic Relations. The first step towards the construction of a social organization is the creation of the family. The tribe or nation is later developed as an enlargement of the family, or a combination of families, and the organization of the family serves as the model for the government of the larger state. Upon such organization of the state, the unit for most purposes, for a long period, is the family rather than the individual. Most property is held rather as family than individual property, and each family has its own internal government, under a head, whose almost despotic power is recognized and protected by the superior government.

It is thus apparent that among primitive races, not only does the law of Domestic Relations occupy a far more important place in the judicial system, than it does among more advanced races, but also, that this branch of the law is, in general, the first branch of the law to take any definite shape. Furthermore, no other set of laws give such an insight into the habits and character of a race as do those laws governing marriage, and regulating the mutual rights and obligations existing between the various members of the family.

The Babylonian marriage was frankly one of purchase. The daughter was considered as valuable property for which the husband paid a purchase price to the father, or to the mother, if the father was a priest. The marriage contracts were full as to the future property rights of the parties, sometimes even containing provisions as to a possible future divorce. Polygamy and divorce (by the husband) were permitted, but were rare in practice, mainly on account of the financial responsibilities which they entailed.

The following examples of a marriage contract and a divorce letter have been preserved:2

"Remu, the son of Sanhatu, has taken in marriage, Bastu, the daughter of priestess of Samas, Belisumu, the daughter of Uzibitu. - shekels of silver is her gift; since she (i. e., the mother), has received it, she is content. If Bastu says to Remu, her husband, 'thou art not my husband,' then shall she be * * * and thrown into the water. If Remu says to Bastu, his wife, 'thou art not my wife,' he will give her ten shekels of silver as her quit-money."

2 Meisner, op. cit., p. 71. See also Lee's Historical Jurisprudence, Part I, Chapter I.

"Samas-rabi has put Naramtu away. She bears her ziku (?) and has received her quit-money. If Naramtu is married to another, Samas-rabi will not love her more." (Followed by oath, date and witnesses.)

The position of a married woman under the Babylonian law was an extremely anomalous one. Her control over her property was perhaps greater than can be found under the laws of any other nation, until the changes made during the present generation. Towards her children also she stood in a position of great dignity. She was, however, personally almost the slave of her husband.

The power of a father over his children was great, but not equal to that belonging to the father under the Roman law. Adoption was recognized and became quite common, as did also the emancipation of children.