Adoption was a fairly common practice in ancient Mesopotamia, as revealed by the survival of a number of adoption contracts and other related documents, mostly dating from the second and first millennia b.c. A common reason for adopting a child was to make sure the parents had someone to take care of them in their old age, assuming they lived long enough. In fact, the law required an adopted son or daughter to financially support the elderly parents and to pay for their funeral expenses. It was also common for parents without a son to adopt a boy so that he could inherit their estate and/or belongings and then carry on the family name. Another motive for adoption was humanitarian; some parents rescued and took in abandoned children who, helpless against predators, were said to be left "to the dog." adoption
   In addition, an older child whose parents had died, leaving him or her an orphan, could pay a married couple money in exchange for a legal adoption. The money was intended to reimburse the parents for the child's upkeep. Evidence suggests that on occasion some masters freed and adopted their slaves, presumably those who had come to be seen as cherished members of the family. It was also permissible in parts of Mesopotamia for an unmarried woman to adopt a daughter.
   once an adoption contract had been signed and witnessed, it was strongly binding; the authorities frowned on any party reneging on his or her duty to uphold the agreement. This is readily apparent from a surviving adoption contract from Mari, a prosperous Mesopotamian trading city located on the upper Euphrates River. The agreement, dating from the eighteenth century b.c., protects the adoptee, a boy name Yahatti-Il, from being abandoned by his adoptive parents, who stand to lose their house if they breach the contract. Also remarkable is the fact that Yahatti-Il becomes the sole heir, no matter how many children his parents have later:
   Yahatti-Il is [from this day forward to be the legal] son of Hillalum and of Alittum. He shall enjoy their good times and suffer their bad times. If Hillalum, his (adoptive) father, and Alittum, his (adoptive) mother, say to Yahatti-Il, their son, "You are not our son," they shall forfeit [their] house and property. If Yahatti-Il says to Hil-lalum, his father, and Alittum, his mother, "You are not my father, [or] you are not my mother," they shall shave him and sell him for silver. Even if Hillalum and Alittum have many sons, Yahatti-Il is the heir [to their estate], and he shall take two shares from the estate of Hillalum, his father. His younger brothers shall divide the (remaining estate) in equal parts. A claimant who raises a claim against him infringes on the taboo of [the Sun god] Shamash, Iter-Mer (a god of Mari), [and] Shamshi-Adad [an Assyrian king who had conquered Mari and placed his son on its throne]; and he shall pay 31 minas of silver (as reparation) in a capital case. Eighteen witnesses [have overseen the creation of this contract]. (Translated by Karen R. Nemet-Nejat in Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia)
   See also: children; laws and justice; women

Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. . 2015.

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