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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

This paper examines the sector of society generally known as the "palace dependents" in Late Bronze Age Syria. The discussion, however, is not centred on the notion itself (and the whole model of two economically divided sectors of society), but rather on the empirical evidence found in the cuneiform archives of Ugarit, Alalakh and Emar. Therefore, the social designations "king's man" in Ugarit (Ugaritic bunušu malki), and (Hurrian) eǵelli in Alalakh are revaluated, with the result of a new interpretation which seems to find confirmation in the terminology used in Emar. Rather than a designation based on modern economic notions, the dependent nature of these social categories seems to reveal a juridical ground, namely antichretic debt service.

Cet article examine le secteur de la société connu généralement comme les "dépendants du palais" en Syrie à l'âge du Bronze récent. L'étude, cependant, n'est pas centrée autour de cette notion-ci (ou de l'idée plus générale qui met en cause une division bipartite de la société selon des critères d'ordre économique), mais vise plutôt à analyser l'évidence empirique des textes cunéiformes d'Ougarit, Alalakh et Emar. Il s'agit, donc, d'un réexamen de la terminologie sociale: d'une part les "hommes du roi" à Ougarit (en Ougaritique, bunušu malki), et, d'autre part, la désignation hourrite eǵelli à Alalakh. Le résultat c'est une nouvelle interprétation qui semble trouver une certaine confirmation dans la propre terminologie attestée à Emar. Plutôt qu'une terminologie basée sur des notions économiques modernes, la nature dépendante de ces catégories sociales semblent révéler une base d'ordre juridique, notamment le service antichrétique pour dettes.


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