Translation of legal texts

Law has an inherent social and cultural element attached to it. Inadvertently or through a well planned system, law regulates almost every aspect of our lives. It’s possible that you operate a business or work as a professional or maybe a student who just wants to add a degree in your portfolio, like it or not, we all have to follow the laws that govern our society.

But whenever a legal text is to be used by a person or in a country or state, which uses a different official language than that of the source document, such legal texts require professional translation. Be it an Employment Contract written in Japanese or a Power of Attorney legal document written in Arabic, when it is to be used in an English speaking country, it will require proper certified translations before being used.

Legal Texts have been translated for centuries and in modern world, where information flows across borders at the speed of light and globalization has become the norm, the need for quality translation of legal texts is far higher than it ever was.

History of translation of legal texts

Legal translation history

Unlike today’s modern era where business has become truly global (governed by numerous domestic and international laws) the need for cross border legal translation during historical times was not so much. Another significant factor that negatively affected the growth of legal translation in earlier eras was the lack of inter cultural dependency. People belonging to different cultures just didn't coincide that easily as they do today.

However in history there are several legal texts of great importance that were translated even as early as the Bronze Age. One such legal text is the Egyptian Hittite peace treaty, or the Eternal Treaty also known as the Silver Treaty, which dates back to the year 1271 B.C. It was found by archaeologists much later in the modern age. This treaty was originally written in the Akkadian language by the Hittites and later translated to Egyptian by the Egyptians.

Legal translation of the Egyptian–Hittite peace treaty (1271 B.C.)


Hittite king, Hattusili III drew this peace treaty with the pharaoh of Egypt, Ramesses II after the Battle of Kadesh on the Orontes River in what is present day Syria. The tensions between Egypt and Hatti had long been growing, when after defeating the kingdom of Mittanis, Hattis became the new master and controller of Syrian territories, which had for two centuries been under the control of Mitanni.

This quest for control of land bought Hatti to the frontiers of Egyptian territories in Southern Syria and Palestine. Tensions started rising when both the great forces claimed control of local kingdoms such as Qadesh (Kadesh) and Amurru, located in between their territories. This ultimately led to the great battle of Kadesh.


Hittites won the battle. But due to the rising Assyrian tensions, Hittite empire didn't want to risk going into further battles with Egypt. Eventually Hattusili III drew a peace treaty, originally written in Akkadian and inscribed on a silver tablet. He sent the treaty to Egypt where it was translated by professional translators into Egyptian.

Thereafter the Egyptian version of the peace treaty was made and translated into Akkadian. Inscribed on a silver tablet it was sent to Hattusili III. The peace treaty was signed later and ratified in the year 1258 B.C. between the two great kings of Hatti and Egypt.

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