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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Law                                  201
had been handed over to Ka-servants was called 'eternal
property', dt. These contracts are very similar to the medieval
donations pro anima by which pious persons used to bind some
monastery to read masses on feast-days for the salvation of their
souls. Medieval law regarded the lord of the monastery which
was thus bound, or the saint of the monastery, as the owner of
the property, who held it upon trust to carry out the terms
of the endowment. The Egyptians may have regarded their
'eternal property5 in the same way. The Belgian scholar Pirenne
has advanced the theory that they had gone even further than
that conception and that they had treated the'eternal property*
as a legal personality, a construction which even the Romans
accepted only very reluctantly and which has not been clearly
developed until we come to modern legal systems.
A will, either in its Roman or in its modern sense, was as
unknown in Egypt as it was to the Code of Hammurabi. If a
man desired that after his death part of his property should go
to some other person, he gave it to that person by means of a
'house-document', inter vivos. But we do not know how he
ensured that the things thus given away remained his own
property until his death. He may possibly have secured this
by retaining the 'house-document'.
As in the early Middle Ages procedure was, it would seem,
closely hedged about by the strictness of the law of evidence.
In one action, a record of which has been preserved, the decision
depended upon the genuineness of a document. The court
decided that if one party were to bring three witnesses who
would swear to its genuineness, he should be successful, other-
wise he should lose the action. There was thus no independent
weighing of the evidence; a rigid formalism prevailed. Three
witnesses were to take the oath, but the question whether they
had been present when the document had been drawn up was
not raised. As in the case of the medieval oath-helpers, all that
was required was that the witness should have sufficient faith