The First Lawgiver
The Laws of the Medes and Persians have acquired universal fame; and the following pages will show how fully deserved that fame was. Iranian history starts in the beginnings of human life on earth, and yet the first Iranian ruling house was a dynasty of lawgivers. Hence Iranian law began to take shape ever since humanity started forming itself society, and indeed that happened far far away in the past when we consider that man has been living on this globe for over ten million years, or probably for much more many ages than that huge period of time.
Although the rulers of the first ancient royal house of Iran have all been distinguished as lawgivers, the first personage to have rendered special service in framing and codifying laws was Prince Uruvakhshaya, the brother of the immortal hero Krsaspa (Garshasp) and the son of King Thrita, the father of medicine. They were the immediate descendants of great Yima, the brilliant antediluvian monarch. This definitely shows that Law started in Iran in the beginnings of human history.
It is apparent that customs and laws would have to be recognised immediately the primitive men formed themselves into social units. Then wise men would appear and give them laws as necessity arose. Hence apparently jurisprudence should have a very ancient history in all annals of humanity, and every civilized nation of antiquity must have had a fair system of laws to guide and govern it.
Some Ancient Codes of Law
So far however the most ancient code of laws is understood by Western scholars to be the code of Hammurabi, an ancient king of Babylonia, who ruled about 2100 B.C. Babylonia, having an ancient culture, was in a fairly advanced state of civilization even at that early date; hence Hammurabi's Code was only a revised and systematized collection of Babylonia's old laws. But while some of her laws were sensible measures, the principle of retaliation vitiated the whole system and its imposition of vicarious punishments violated the spirit of pure justice.
The Code of Moses is supposed to have followed; but Sparta in ancient Greece probably had the next system of codified law in known history; for, in B.C. 900, Lycurgus, the king of that country, gave his people a new set of laws. In Greece itself Dracon drew up a sever code of laws at Athens in 621 B.C. Solon who followed however gave that state a more humane system of legislation.
Roman laws are said to have started with Romulus who is supposed to have lived about the year 753 B.C. Numa and Servius Tullius were the next Roman legislators. About 451 B.C. the Decemvirs gave Rome laws which were rather rigorous. The Twelve Tables which the Decemvirs had framed continued as standard Roman law until Emperor Hadrian promulgated the Perpetual Edict which was a fair code prepared by the lawyer Salvius Julian. The emperors who followed him gave new codes or imposed new laws, but the principal fame of having given a final shape to Roman law belongs to Justinian, the contemporary of Khosrow the Great of Persia who was more popularly known as Anoshervan. At Justinian's command a commission under the lawyer Tribonian brought out those works of law for which the emperor's memory has been kept fresh up to the present day.
The Ancient Laws of Iran: Their Wide and Varied Scope
It is apparent however that the more ancient civilizations of Iran, China, India and Egypt should have had earlier systems of law. The laws of the Vendidad among the Iranians and the laws of Manu among the early Indians are well-known. But it is not equally known that the laws of the Vendidad formed only a fragment of the vast jurisprudence of the ancient Iranians. Since the days of Zarathushtra when human knowledge was raised into the sanctity of religion and formulated into twenty-one Nasks or Holy Books, one third of that great knowledge comprised Law, one-third Science, and one-third pure Religion.
The Books of Law dealt with Court and Magisterial Law, Law of Accusations, Law for Injuries to Person and Property; Laws pertaining to Theft, Misappropriation and Cruelty to Animals; Laws applying to Soldiers and Military Organisations; Church Law, Family Law and Law of Pedigree and Descent; Law applying to Medical Practice; Law of Business Transactions in relation to Property, Animate and Inanimate; Laws relating to Debt and Interest, the other Mutual Obligations; Laws of Purity, Health and Sanitation, Private and Public; Laws applying to the Cultivation of the Soil and Colonizing Schemes; and finally, the Law of the Heavenly Kingdom and the Divine Government of the Universe.
It will thus be seen that the matter dealt with in the following pages is concerned with only a few portions of the above vast field of Law.
2- Religion and Divinity as the Foundations of Law
Law founded on Religion and Divinity in the System of Zarathushtra
Law thus forms an essential part of the religious system of the Zarathushtra, as full one-third of their sacred literature comprises Law in its various phases and spheres. Indeed Law in a wider sense would coincide with Religion itself, for essentially the domain of Religion covers the universal field of Law. Hence it is that as Science too stands fully on the foundation of Law, Science constitutes the middle third of the Religious system of the Zarathushtrians and forms an essential link between God and Man. This is little to be wondered at when we know that Law abidingness is one of the most meaningful of the names of the Supreme Being in Zarathushtrian Theology.
Law having thus been enthroned by the Zarathushtrians on the lofty pedestal of Religion and Divinity, Farrukh-Mart Vahram, the learned compiler of this work, rightly observes that the aim of Law is to further the Mighty Word of the All-Knowing Creator and to defeat Falsehood, and thus to compass in the end the immortal, the illustrious and the most Brilliant and Perfect Sovereignty of the Kingdom of God. This would be possible, he adds, because Law-abidingness is deeply imbedded in the very nature of Humanity, and so the Divine Being has created the world and implanted man in it to live the Live of Righteous Progress; and this instinct of Law-abidingness is to prove useful and valuable in the distant end by means of knowledge and education, and discrimination and enlightenment and learning.
Thus the great Farrukh-Mart and the enlightened men of Iran of his time acknowledged and followed the wise principle that the spirit of Law-abidingness would progress in the world by educating the masses and spreading learning, enlightenment and science among them. Indeed the world would be the better and the happier if it followed this belief and practice of the ancient Iranians.
While real knowledge gives enlightenment and promotes law-abidingness, Farrukh-Mart rightly observes that knowledge that can be obtained by mere planetary experience is bounded by limits, whereas knowledge which is boundless and eternal can be obtained only be the higher guidance of the Divine Impulse. Hence he would maintain that Law should always be subservient to Religion if it is to have an eternally moral basis. Indeed he proceeds to say that there can be no right perceptain of things, no true knowledge about facts, and no recognition of real duty in man if he is devoid of religious sense or knowledge. Right conduct therefore depends on that higher knowledge, for knowledge in all its splendour can be revealed by reflection and meditation on the Holy Word, and research in all fields opened by them. Hence human salvation would depend on temporal as well as spiritual knowledge, and the subjection of Desire to the Good Reason in accordance therewith; and indeed as this last constitutes Law-abidingness, Law can never be independent of Religion. Religious principle therefore should always underlie the basis and the application of Law.