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204                                  Law
on the resulting total. Nor was it unusual for a person to give
security for the performance of a future obligation by declaring
that he was ready to receive a hundred strokes should he break
his promise; but such shocking penalties for breach of contract
as we find in Assyrian law (where the debtor promised to
'sacrifice his eldest son to the god') do not occur in Egypt.
We do not know how marriages were contracted at this time,
but we have evidence of the custom of making marriage settle-
ments at the time of the marriage which safeguarded the
financial position of the wife and the children. As is well known
the Code of King Hammurabi, regarded the making of such a
settlement as essential to the validity of a marriage, and that
remained the law in the Near East until Byzantine times. It is
possible that a similar rule was in force in Egypt under the
New Kingdom., but this is still uncertain. A man who wanted
to re-marry after the death of his wife had to come to an agree-
ment with the children of the first marriage, by which two-
thirds of the property of the first marriage was given to the
children of the first marriage, and one-third to the father. It
was also possible to divorce a wife by simple repudiation.
In the law of succession we find a rule which again must be
explained by the religious belief that the burial of the body was
essential for the after life: only a person who has buried the
testator can become his heir.
The courts of law consisted of meetings of the local dignitaries
under the chairmanship of an official who presided over the
trial. The highest court consisted of a meeting of the dignitaries
of Thebes, the capital, sitting in council and presided over by
the vezir. But in exceptional cases, such as the great conspiracy
against Rameses III (1192-1161), the king established special
In the law of procedure there had been development and pro-
gress since the time of the Old Kingdom. The idea of eliciting
the truth had taken the place of rigid rules of evidence. All kinds