The Public Management of War Prisoners Within and Outside the bīt asīrī
This paper presents some reflections on the management of war prisoners in South Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian period. In particular, it analyses data from texts in which “the house of prisoners of war,” the bīt asīrī, is mentioned. The majority of these texts date back to the reign of Rīm-Anum, who held power in Uruk for about two years during the rebellion of South Mesopotamia against Samsu-iluna of Babylon (1742‒1740 BC). This archive provides unparalleled evidence for the study of war prisoner management during the Old Babylonian period, which seems to have been exclusively administrated by the State. A specific study will be carried out on the usage of war prisoners as forced workers: in fact, many texts indicate that they were given to individuals or houses as a temporary labor force under a designated person’s authority. Nevertheless, the prisoners remained under the superior authority of the bīt asīrī, where they returned after they had finished working, without being included in the slave trade. The paper also analyses the way in which the prisoners’ geographic provenance affected the treatment they received and, finally, the release of prisoners upon payment of a ransom or following a royal action.
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