Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why did the Babylonians Adopt?

Typically today people adopt to have additional children to love and raise.

In Babylonia many couples no doubt adopted for the same reason. Some couples want children to fulfill emotional needs, possibly because they can not have more children or may even not be able to have any children. Also, in a second marriage, one or both partners might adopt the child of their new spouse as a way of making one family out of two.

A family might take in children from neighbors or related families if those families could no longer care for the child or if the child had been orphaned. This would serve societies need to make sure that children have a proper family to grow up in.

Another reason to adopt would be to have children to support you in your old age. In ancient Mesopotamia there were no government programs to care for senior citizens; children were expected to care for aged parents. In return, the adoptees would inherit property from the adopting parent(s).

Some adoptions are done by Naditu women. These women were not permitted to marry, so they needed to adopt children to care for them in their old age.

All of this is fairly straight forward and logical, possibly even obvious. Elizabeth Stone and David Owen in their book “Adoption in Old Babylonian Nippur in the Archive of Mannum-mesu-lissur” (see my review of the book) pointed out that there is another, not so obvious, reason to adopt. It seems that the owner of land in Babylonia could not freely sell land. Instead they must keep it within their “family”. If they wanted to sell land to someone who was not a member of their family, they needed to “adopt” that person.

Over the next few posts, I will take a look at some adoption contracts and see how they fit into these categories and what other information they provide to us.

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