Chapter 4. The Farmer

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To the king, queen, princes, and to all the land of Hatti, give life,

health, strength, long years, and joy in the future! And to them

give future thriving of grain, vines, fruit, cattle, sheep, goats,

pigs, mules, asses—together with wild animals—and of human


In our investigations of almost all aspects of Hittite life and society

we are constantly aware of one basic fact: the prosperity and wellbeing

and sustenance of the kingdom depended, to a critical degree,

on the industry of its food-producers, the productivity of its soil, and

the benevolence of the elements. That a country needs to produce

sufficient quantities of food to feed its population may appear selfevident.

Yet in poor-yielding years many countries have been able to

supplement their own production and buffer themselves against

famine by accessing stores of supplies accumulated in good years, or

by importing supplies acquired through trade or war or as tribute

from subject states. The Hittites too sometimes boosted local food

supplies with imported grain, probably only on an occasional basis

during the earlier years of the kingdom, more regularly towards its

end. But to a very large extent their ability to ‘keep alive the land of

Hatti’ depended on what they themselves could produce annually

from their own resources—their own crop and orchard and grazing

lands, worked by their own labour forces.

The task was a challenging one. The central Anatolian plateau

provides a harsh and often hostile environment for an agriculturally

based society. In summer it was, and still is, a hot, dry, thirsty land,

poorly served for irrigation purposes by its meagre, unnavigable

rivers.The rainfall for the whole year rarely exceeds 500 millimetres

and is often considerably less. The winters can be bitterly cold, with

the land often buried deep in snow and at least in ancient times often

cut off totally from the outside world for months at a time. River

valleys and pockets of land between mountain ranges offered the

best opportunities for cultivation of the soil, but even in these areas

soil fertility was often low, and in between lay rugged tracts of virtual

wasteland. It was a land chronically vulnerable to the vagaries of

climate and to the whims of the gods who controlled it. Drought and

famine were seldom more than a poor-yielding harvest away, the

result of a labour shortage or a low seasonal rainfall or a devastating

storm at harvest time, or the depredations of vermin, which included

mice and a wide range of insect pests. The land lacked the capacity

to absorb such setbacks—which any agriculturally based society

must accept as a matter of course—without serious and sometimes

devastating consequences for large sections of the population.

Seton Lloyd wonders why the Hittites should ever have chosen for

their homeland and seat of government what he refers to as ‘this

unprepossessing region of Anatolia’. ‘One is even tempted’, he

says,‘to attribute certain aspects of the Hittite character . . . to overfamiliarity

with the “unupholstered” virility of the plateau landscape,

or even to an ascetic appreciation of the austerities imposed

on them by such an environment.’2

Yet for those who lived close to the land (and that applied to

persons at all levels of Hittite society and in almost all occupations),

who understood it and used it efficiently, there could be prosperity

and good quality of life. Indeed for the Hittites it was hard to envisage

any kind of life which did not have a farming or agricultural

basis. Their gods—who could presumably have chosen to do otherwise

if they wished—lived much of their lives on celestial pastoral

estates, and their kings retired to similar estates specifically allocated

to them after their deaths, well stocked for their sustenance and

diversion with sheep, cattle, and game.

The Workers of the Land

Efficient use of the land meant in the first instance intensive

exploitation of relatively small areas suitable for orchards and crop

production.When this was done, and provided the gods were cooperative,

the land was capable of producing grain crops, fruit, and

vegetables in some abundance.There was little that one might find in

well-stocked markets today that was missing from the Hittite range

of produce. Grain crops included four kinds of wheat and two or

three kinds of barley. Vegetables included a wide range of legumes

(like peas, beans, broad beans, chickpeas, lentils), root and bulb

vegetables (carrots, onions, leeks, garlic), cucumber and watercress

and parsley, and that ubiquitous Mediterranean product the olive.

Various herbs and spices such as cumin and coriander were cultivated.

Orchards produced figs, apples, pears, apricots, grapes, pomegranates,

and perhaps plums and tamarisks. Apiaries produced

honey, dairies milk, cream, and cheese.3

The key unit in the agricultural economy of the Land of Hatti was

almost certainly the small mixed farm, whose success depended

primarily on two factors: intensive cultivation, and diversification

of produce. On each farm one would expect to find a variety of fruit,

vegetable, and grain crops, with perhaps some crop rotation being

practised, complemented by a range of domesticated livestock—

cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, donkeys, horses, and poultry, including partridges

and ducks.

One such farm was worked by a man called Tiwatapara. He was a

family man with a wife, Azzia, and three children, a boy Hartuwanduli

and two girls Anitti and Hantawiya. A land-grant document

provides us with an inventory of his assets:

Estate of Tiwatapara: one man, Tiwapatara; one boy, Hartuwanduli; one

woman, Azzia; two girls, Anitti and Hantawiya; (total) five persons; two

oxen, twenty-two sheep, six draught oxen . . . eighteen ewes, and with the

ewes two female lambs, and with the rams two male lambs; eighteen goats,

and with the goats four kids, and with the he-goat one kid; (total) thirty-six

small cattle:one house. As pasture for oxen, one acre of meadow in the town

Parkalla. Three-and-a-half acres of vineyard, and in it forty apple trees,

forty-two pomegranate trees, in the town Hanzusra, belonging to the estate

of Hantapi.4

Though by no means a wealthy man,Tiwatapara and his family had

sufficient resources to provide for all their material needs, so long

as all the family were prepared to work hard, and they suffered no

major setbacks through drought, storms, or illness.They had a small

mixed herd of livestock, some of which were bred for ploughing the

fields, some for their meat, and some for their milk and their wool

(sheep seem to have been bred primarily for their wool).They were

able to diversify their earning capacity with a small vineyard, which

also contained apple and pomegranate trees. And very likely they

kept a vegetable garden,within an enclosure around their mudbrick,

timber-framed house, in which they grew onions, lentils, peas, beans,

and the like. We do not know how large Tiwatapara’s actual farm

was—some farms may have been as small as 600 square metres.5

Tiwatapara apparently had enough space to run most of the livestock

listed on his inventory, but needed additional pieces of land to

pasture his oxen and to cultivate his vines and fruit trees.

This was quite consistent with the general pattern of farming in

the Hittite world—small pieces of land owned or leased by or allocated

to the one person or family but scattered over several or more

locations. Even when the king made land-grants to those who had

served him well,6 he tended to do so in small parcels rather than in

single large estates. For political reasons, it has been suggested, he

thought it wise to fragment the holdings even of his most trusted subjects;

large landowners with consolidated land-holdings and a large

labour force at their disposal might be tempted to entertain ambitions

beyond their station and pose a potential threat to the stability

of the regime in Hattusa.7 But it is just as likely that there were economic

reasons for the policy. Smaller land-holdings were more likely

to be fully utilized for food production than large estates, where the

owner might have devoted only a part of his land to productive purposes.

In a later period this was amply demonstrated by the use made

of latifundia, the large estates of the Roman world, whose underexploitation

caused serious shortfalls in food production in Italy

during the later years of the Roman Republic.

Tiwatapara seems to have been in the position, probably regarded

as a fairly privileged one for a small farmer, of having several plots of

land available to him, including the one on which he and his family

lived. No doubt this was a reflection of his industry and enterprise.

He is probably a good example of the basic yeoman farmer on which

Hittite society largely depended. Land could be acquired in a

number of ways. It could be bought, or it could be leased—from the

crown, a town or village, or a wealthy neighbour. As we have already

noted, it could be bestowed on favoured individuals, and sometimes

on institutions like cult centres, as a gift from the king. The grant

might be quite substantial,including woods and meadows and sometimes

whole villages, along with livestock, equipment, buildings, and

a workforce. Lower down the scale, small farms were apparently

allocated in lieu of other forms of payment to employees in the

king’s service, including such persons as heralds, couriers, and the

king’s cupbearers and table servants.

The term for such persons, ‘Man of the Weapon’ (lú GISˇ


suggests that it once applied to soldiers in the king’s service who

presumably worked plots of assigned land and produced their own

food during periods when they were not required for military

service; the government would thus be saved the administrative difficulties

of directly feeding standing army troops all year round.8 But

such an arrangement would not have been without its problems,

since soldier-farmers must often have been away on campaign at

precisely the time their farms most needed their attention or supervision,

for example during the sowing or the harvest.Also, the unsettling

effects of dividing one’s time between the excitement and

unpredictabilities of military campaigns on the one hand and the

day-to-day and often tedious routine of farming life on the other

would hardly have been conducive to the maintenance of a stable

productive agricultural workforce. The use of the system for paying

troops may have been abolished or considerably scaled down quite

early in Hittite history, while being extended to other forms of

employment in the king’s service; the original term continued in use

for persons paid in this way, although its military connotations may

no longer have applied.

At all events the state seems to have given much attention to

ensuring, through a mixture of sticks and carrots, that all land

capable of cultivation was worked to its maximum capacity. All

assigned land, whether bestowed as a gift or as payment for services

rendered,or granted as a leasehold,imposed clear obligations on the

assignee. All farming enterprises were subject to taxes, generally in

the form of agricultural produce, and under the system of socage

many farmers were also obliged to provide payment in the form

of part-time service to their liege-lord; if they were tenants of the

crown, this might involve the provision of their labour for public

works or on crown estates.9Tax and labour exemptions might sometimes

be granted in special cases or for special reasons. But to have

too many exemptees could seriously impact on overall productivity

and revenue for the state, and it appears that the originally long

list of those routinely granted exemptions had been considerably

whittled down by the beginning of the New Kingdom. The large

landowner was obliged to ensure that all tax and labour requirements

for his estates were fully met, whether from land directly

worked by himself and his own labour force or from land which he

had leased to tenant farmers. Similar obligations must have been

imposed on temple establishments, which often owned extensive

tracts of farm and pasture land, like the Church in more recent times,

and were no doubt responsible for both the efficient use of the land

and the collection of all revenues due. Small farmers who worked

plots of land as lessees or tenant farmers were also obliged to

demonstrate full utilization of their land or risk forfeiting it to

someone else. Shortfalls at this level would ultimately affect an

estate’s overall productivity, for which the large landowner was

responsible. It was his job to ensure maximum efficiency at all levels

within his ambit of responsibility.

Grain gathered as tax from the Hittite farmlands, in addition to

what may have been sent as tribute from vassal states, was stored in

a number of grain depots strategically located throughout the homeland.

We have important new information about the nature of some

of these facilities from the recently discovered silos in Hattusa.

Eleven underground grain pits have been excavated on the mountain

ridge now called Büyükkaya on the city’s north-eastern extremity.

And behind the so-called ‘postern wall’ on the south-west of the

Lower City, an underground storage complex consisting of two parallel

rows of sixteen chambers each has come to light.10 Dr Seeher,

the excavator, has estimated a storage space ranging from a possible

minimum of 128 to a possible maximum of 648 cubic metres for the

individual silos on Büyükkaya, and a total storage space of up to

9,800 cubic metres for the postern wall complex. In terms of weight,

the latter had a maximum holding capacity of some 5,880 tonnes of

grain, a sufficient annual ration for up to 32,000 people. There were

undoubtedly other grain silos,both underground and above-ground,

built in the city throughout its history,11 as also in the kingdom’s

regional administrative centres.We may suppose that the large silos

in Hattusa and elsewhere served as redistribution centres for large

areas of the homeland, and not merely for the sustenance of the

immediate population.12 None the less the considerable numbers of

troops, palace and temple functionaries, administrative officials,

and labourers who constituted the capital’s workforce clearly made

much higher demands on the state commissariat than any other

parts of the homeland, necessitating substantial food storage facilities

within the city simply to meet its own needs.

One of the crucial factors in agricultural productivity was the

availability of an adequate labour force. For the Hittites this was a

chronic problem, sometimes reaching critical proportions. Annual

military expeditions imposed a constant drain on the homeland’s

labour forces. However often Hittite armies returned home laden

with rich spoils of conquest, the fact remains that military campaigns

were conducted between spring and autumn, at precisely the time

the agricultural labour needs of the homeland were greatest.When

on top of this the homeland population, including a substantial proportion

of the labour force, was decimated by plague, the kingdom

could end up on the brink of starvation—as forcefully stated by King

Mursili II in a blunt address to the gods:

What have you done, o Gods? You have allowed a plague to enter the land

of Hatti and all of it is dying! Now there is no-one to prepare food and drink

offerings for you! No-one reaps or sows the god’s fields, for the sowers and

reapers are all dead! The mill women who used to make the bread of the

gods are all dead! All the corrals and sheepfolds from which cattle and sheep

were chosen for sacrifice are empty, for the cowherds and shepherds are all


The importation into the homeland each year of hundreds, sometimes

thousands, of transportees from conquered territories must

have contributed much to the alleviation of labour shortages.A significant

proportion of the transportees were almost certainly used to

swell the agricultural workforce on Hittite farms and pasturelands.

Becoming in effect slaves, they were undoubtedly a valuable asset to

the homeland,and well warranted the effort and the risks involved in

getting them there. Probably for this reason rather than for humanitarian

considerations they enjoyed a higher degree of protection at

law than one generally finds in slave-owning societies.

Buying Land

As we shall see (Chapter 7),The Laws allowed slaves to accumulate

property of their own, to the point where some generated sufficient

wealth to attract free persons into their families through marriage.

This ‘enlightened’ approach to slavery (as far as any slave-owning

society can be called enlightened) was almost certainly pragmatically

based—on the principle that the best way of maximizing

human productivity is through an appropriate system of rewards and

incentives. In the case of slaves this was a particularly important consideration

at times when many of the able-bodied male population

were absent on military campaigns, and a large proportion of those

who were left to work the fields were persons who were there

because they had no choice in the matter.To the Hittite way of think-

ing, their cooperation could best be achieved by waving carrots

rather than sticks under their noses. Many such persons were apparently

given the opportunity of working one or more plots of land for

themselves, perhaps raising a few livestock, and keeping at least

some of their earnings, in addition to performing the services

required by their master. In this way they could eventually build up

sufficient resources to buy property of their own.

From the various prices recorded in The Laws it is clear that this

was well within an enterprising and industrious farmer’s capability,

however modest his starting point. Land which was suitable for

farming purposes but had not been developed was very cheap. It was

possible to buy a small uncultivated 1-iku plot, around 3,600 square

metres, for no more than two or three shekels of silver14 (the iku was

a basic unit of land measurement, with larger holdings measured in

multiples of it).15 But let us suppose that a farmer wants a piece of

land already under cultivation.This will cost him considerably more,

up to twenty times the cost of an uncultivated plot. Initially he may

not have sufficient funds to pay for it. But it is well within his reach if

he is prepared to devote several years of hard work and enterprise to

achieving it. Let us suppose that he has his sights set on a small vineyard.

Forty shekels of silver will secure him a 1-iku vineyard plot.16 In

working towards his goal, he starts off with a couple of sheep and

goats, and breeds from them over the next few years. As his stock

numbers grow, he periodically sells off some of them, or their wool,

and with the proceeds buys several calves, which he also uses as

breeding stock.Within a few years he has built up a small herd of

cattle, some of which he sells for their meat and their hides. The list

of selling prices in The Laws indicates the sort of returns he could

expect; for example, ‘one plough ox—twelve shekels of silver; one

bull—ten shekels; one full-grown cow—seven shekels; one pregnant

cow—eight shekels; one weaned calf—four shekels; one yearling

plough ox or cow—four shekels; one sheep—one shekel; two

lambs—one shekel; three nanny-goats—two shekels; two kids—half

a shekel’.17The proceeds from just a few such animals would clearly

put his vineyard within his grasp. As we shall see, once he has it he

could expect to recoup his purchase price within about four years.

The Laws indicate many other means by which a farmer starting

out with very modest means, and whether slave or free, could eventually

buy or lease land of his own. In the slave’s case, there might

also be a further incentive beyond mere asset accumulation—the

opportunity to acquire sufficient wealth to pay a ‘bride-price’ for a

free woman, and thus ensure free status for his offspring. Everyone

stood to benefit—the slave himself from the opportunities to

improve his position as allowed by Hittite law, the owner from the

slave’s increased productivity on his master’s as well as his own

behalf, and the state which was the ultimate beneficiary of a productive


The Hire of Labour

We do not know how far down the rungs of Hittite society slaveowning

went. But for a farmer like Tiwatapara,the costs of acquiring

and maintaining a slave and securing him against escape were probably

not warranted by the return he would get from him—particularly

during the winter months when the slave would still have to be

fed and sheltered without being fully employed. At busy times of

the year Tiwatapara’s own family of five could not have coped with

all the work which the land he farmed generated. Small working

‘households’ seem to have required somewhere between seven and

ten personnel.18 Tiwatapara probably hired the labour of free

persons on a contract basis for a month or two at a time as it was

needed, particularly during the labour-intensive periods of the agricultural

year. The basic hire rate for a male was apparently one

shekel of silver per month. Female labour could also be hired, at half

that rate. But the rate and method of payment probably varied,

depending on the period of the year and the nature of the work

required. Thus The Laws stipulate that in the harvest season: ‘If a

(free) man hires himself out for wages, to bind sheaves, load them on

wagons, deposit them in barns, and clear the threshing floors, his

wages for three months shall be 1,500 litres of barley. If a woman

hires herself out for wages in the harvest season, her wages for three

months shall be 600 litres of barley’ (clause 158).19

Payment in kind was clearly the most convenient form of remuneration

at this time. The labourer simply took a share of the grain

harvested and stored it for consumption by his family in the period

before the next harvest. Professor Hoffner has calculated that 1,500

litres of barley equates to 3.75 shekels of silver, slightly better than

the standard rate of one shekel of silver per month for a male,

although the woman’s remuneration of 600 litres, equated to one

shekel of silver, is worse than the standard rate of half a shekel for

one month’s hire. The difference between the male and female hire

rates may well be a reflection of the different work each was required

to do, with the more physically demanding tasks reserved for the

male (as suggested by clause 158 above). On the other hand women

shared in many of the tasks undertaken by men, particularly at times

of labour shortages, whether due to plague, or absence of males on

military campaigns, or redeployment of males for work on public

projects. More generally we hear of women employed in a range of

manual activities—as millers,cooks,weavers, and fullers as well as in

more specialist occupations as doctors and ritual practitioners. Elsewhere

they appear as musicians, dancers, and tavern-keepers.

The Farming Communities

The various little farmsteads were probably grouped in clusters,each

of which constituted or was attached to a community or village of its

own. Each had its own council and administration which was responsible

for overall supervision of the territory within its jurisdiction,

extending up to about five kilometres or three miles from the village

centre.20The council had the task of ensuring effective use of the land

and the payment of taxes due, as well as arbitrating on disputes

between landholders and other members of the local community.

Apart from the land which was owned or leased by small farmers,

there was also land owned communally by the village, which might

earn revenue for the village by being leased out, or by the villagers

themselves apportioning a certain amount of their time to it.

The intensive cultivation of small plots of land located next to

each other, and probably in many cases without clear lines of demarcation

between them, must often have been a source of tension and

dispute between neighbours. And indeed a number of clauses in The

Laws deal with offences committed by a careless or malicious neighbour.

A landholder was, for example, responsible for damage done

by any of his stock which, presumably through lack of adequate

supervision, strayed into an adjoining orchard or vineyard: ‘If a

person lets his sheep into a productive vineyard, and ruins it, if it is in

fruit, he shall pay ten shekels of silver for each 3,600 square metres.

But if it is bare (i.e. already harvested), he shall pay three shekels of

silver’ (clause 107). The ten shekels probably represents the estimated

annual earnings of a vineyard of the specified size, which the

offender must now pay to the owner as compensation for his loss of

income. (On this basis our supposed vineyard purchaser, discussed

above, could expect to recoup his initial outlay of forty shekels in

perhaps no more than five years, allowing for a year’s income to

cover his labour and other recurrent costs.)

Among the hazards faced by those who lived in the closely settled

farming communities, fire must have been one of the most feared,

particularly in the hot dry months of the central Anatolian summer.

A fire that swept through crops and orchards and farm buildings had

the potential for destroying a farmer’s livelihood for years to come,

possibly forever. There could of course be a number of quite valid

reasons for starting a fire on one’s own property. But a man who did

so was obliged to exercise particular care in keeping it under control,

and was liable to pay substantial compensation if he was careless

enough to allow the blaze to spread to his neighbour’s property: ‘If

anyone sets a field on fire, and the fire takes hold of a fruit-bearing

vineyard, in the event that a vine, an apple tree, a pear(?) tree or a

plum tree is burnt up, for each tree he shall pay six shekels of silver,

and he shall re-plant the plot. And he shall look to his house for it. If

the offender is a slave, he shall pay three shekels of silver for each

tree’ (clause 105).21

Six shekels, even three shekels, per tree could amount to a very

considerable sum, even for a small orchard or vineyard, particularly

when compared with penalties imposed for other offences dealt with

in The Laws. Indeed in some cases the compensation payable could

well have reduced the culprit to ruin—for what was perhaps no more

than a moment’s carelessness—if the fire for which he was responsible

not only wiped out his neighbour’s current crop but also totally

destroyed the trees or vines from which the crop was produced.Yet

that is the nature of the compensatory principle in The Laws—the

offender must bear the full cost of reparation, forfeiting everything

he owns if necessary. No doubt too the size of the penalty emphasized

to all the need for constant vigilance in preventing what may

well have been an all too frequent occurrence in the small farming

communities of the Hatti land.

Herding and Herdsmen

In the mixed farming economy of the Hittite world, probably every

small Hittite farmer derived part of his livelihood from a modest

assortment of livestock as well as from the soil. Indeed much of the

wealth of the Hittite land depended very largely on its flocks and

herds. Professor Beckman notes, for example, the vital role played

by wool production and processing in the Hittite economy.22 Goats,

horses, pigs, and asses along with cattle and sheep figure among the

livestock run by small landowners and large landowners alike. The

latter, which included palace, temple, and royal mausoleum establishments,

had substantial flocks and herds, which were regularly

augmented by war booty. Cattle and sheep constituted the bulk of

the booty brought home as the prizes of military conquest. Some

were taken by the king for his own estates, others were distributed

among the estates of the king’s officers, as their share of the spoils of


For pasturing these animals, extensive tracts of territory not suitable

for crop cultivation were required. Central Anatolia abounded

in such tracts, but many parts of the region, then as now, could not

have sustained all-year-round grazing by large numbers of stock.

Transhumance, the shifting of stock on a seasonal basis, from winter

grazing on their owners’ estates to mountain pasture in the hot

summer months, must have been a regular feature of Hittite pastoral

life, as indeed it is in parts of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean

lands and the sub-Saharan continent today. Some stock-owners

without permanent land of their own spent much of their lives on the

move, nomads or semi-nomads living in ‘tent villages’, and moving

with their cattle and sheep from one region to another wherever

pasture was available.23 Landowners used herdsmen to accompany

their stock (which might include horses and goats as well as cattle

and sheep) to distant grazing areas as the season demanded, and

generally to act as guardians of the animals throughout the year.

In the ancient Near Eastern as well as the Classical world, the

herdsman’s lot was often a harsh, lonely, and dangerous one. It was

certainly not one to which a free man might aspire of his own accord,

no matter how humble his status, and in fact herdsmen seem generally

to have been slaves, including transported prisoners-of-war.

Their lowly status was hardly commensurate with the considerable

responsibilities which their task entailed—ensuring above all the

well-being of the herd in the harshest conditions and often for considerable

parts of the year far removed from their master’s estate.

Presumably only the most trustworthy and most reliable of those

who were legally bound to a master could be safely assigned a herdsman’s

role. As in many cultures, dogs assisted with herding activities.

A dog specially trained for this purpose was one of the farmer’s most

prized possessions, to judge from the twenty-shekel compensation

payable to him if someone struck and killed his animal (clause 87).

This was twenty times the penalty inflicted for similar injury done to

an ordinary dog, and by far the highest of a number of penalties

specified in The Laws for injury done to other farm stock, including

an ox, horse, mule, ass, and pregnant cow.24

Some forty or so of The Laws, around 20 per cent of the entire collection,

are devoted to livestock—a clear reflection of the crucial

role pastoral activities played in the welfare and prosperity of the

kingdom. The number also reflects the considerable potential for

legal disputes and claims involving livestock and the criminal activity

often associated with them. Apart from setting prices and hire

rates, the pastoral laws dealing with stock are principally concerned

with provisions covering grazing animals that have been stolen or

injured or have strayed.

Regardless of how vigilant their herdsmen were, stock-owners

almost inevitably experienced some losses, due to theft or misadventure,

or to individual animals straying from the main herd or flock.

Such losses may have occurred fairly frequently, particularly when

stock was being grazed on open, unfenced pasture land.Very likely

thieves accounted for most of these losses, and partly as a deterrent

measure,The Laws imposed severe penalties for theft of stock.Thus:

‘If anyone steals a plough-ox, formerly they gave fifteen cattle, but

now he shall give ten cattle: three two-year-olds, three yearlings, and

four weanlings, and he shall look to his house for it’ (clause 59).The

scaling-down of the original penalty may simply be in line with

general reductions in penalties in later versions of The Laws rather

than the adoption of a more lenient attitude towards stock-thieves.

In any case the revised penalty still went considerably beyond simple

one-for-one compensation for the victim. Here as elsewhere in

determining an offender’s liability, two factors were of particular

relevance: first, whether the offence was deliberate or due to negligence;

and secondly, the scale of the victim’s loss in terms of how

much his livelihood was likely to be affected.

The risks of an owner’s stock going missing, or getting mixed up

with someone else’s, were all the greater when flocks or herds of

several different owners were grazed together on common pasture

land.We have no clear idea of what stipulations governed the use

of such land, which legally belonged in its entirety to the king, or

who precisely had access to it. But we do know from treaties or

agreements made with a group of pro-Hittite Kaska peoples that the

herds of a number of owners might share common pasture land, and

on occasions become totally intermingled. The agreements allowed

the friendly Kaska groups to graze their herds alongside Hittite

herds in Hittite territory, but held them responsible for any losses of

Hittite stock, and prohibited them from letting their stock mingle

with those of hostile Kaska groups.25 Clearly, each stock-owner must

have had some means of identifying his own animals, some form of

branding process, which enabled him to prove ownership if it was

disputed with a neighbour, if allegedly stolen stock were recovered,

when the time came to extricate his own animals from two intermingled

herds, or if some of his animals had strayed and were recovered

by someone else. In this last case,a man who found strayed stock had

to follow a clear procedure:‘If anyone finds a stray ox,a horse,a mule

or a donkey, he shall drive it to the king’s gate. If he finds it in the

country, they shall present it to the elders.The finder shall harness it

(i.e. use it while it is in his custody).When its owner finds it, he shall

take it in full value, but he shall not have him (i.e. the finder) arrested

as a thief. But if the finder does not present it to the elders,he shall be

considered a thief’ (clause 71).

The procedure was obviously designed to prevent genuine thieves

from avoiding a charge of theft by claiming that the animals in their

possession were strays that they had found. A clear distinction is

drawn in The Laws between theft on the one hand and finding stray

livestock on the other. In the latter case the compensatory payment

for someone who finds a stray animal and makes no effort to restore

it to its rightful owner is significantly less than for an act of deliberate

theft. The distinction in this case is basically between that of a premeditated

and unpremeditated act; the offender is less culpable in

the second instance.

Apart from the identification of individual animals, the Hittites

had precise definitions for various categories of stock, from horses

(‘a stallion—if it is a weanling, it is not a stallion; if it is a yearling, it is

not a stallion; if it is a two-year-old, it is a stallion’—clause 58), to

various kinds of horned cattle, three categories of dogs,26 different

varieties of sheep and pigs, bees, and even birds, though the last may

have been kept for purposes of augury rather than as poultry.

From reading The Laws, the various land-grant documents, and

other texts relating to agricultural activity in the Hittite world, we

have the clear impression of a highly regulated society, which stipulated

forfeiture of land for failing to work it effectively,fixed penalty

scales for a broad range of offences, and apparently fixed prices and

wages and hire rates. The impression may well be an accurate one,

given the absolute importance of ensuring that all food-producing

land was worked to its maximum capacity.Those who threatened the

livelihood of their neighbours, whether through deliberate criminal

action or malice or simply through negligence, were also a threat to

the well-being of the state as a whole.Their punishment could not be

left to whim or chance. And given that many of the farming communities

on which the Hittite homeland depended for its sustenance

were closely settled, it was important to have in place strict regulations

governing the activities of these communities—more so than in

communities with farmsteads more widely spaced.