Code of Hammurabi | Ancient Mesopotamia

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The ruler Hammurabi was the first great ruler of Babylon. He founded the first Babylonian Empire and subjugated all of Mesopotamia. The Code of Hammurabi, which is still in use today, was also created by Hammurabi.

How did the Hammurabi Code come to be known?

The Hammurabi Code was inscribed in stone and on clay tablets. One of the world’s earliest recorded codes of law is this one. The “diorite stele” is one of the best surviving instances of the code.

Diorite Stele

The diorite stele is a sizable rock with the appearance of a huge finger. It is two feet broad and roughly seven feet tall. About 4000 lines of text, describing 282 separate statutes, make up this document. An image of King Hammurabi receiving the rules from the Babylonian sun god Shamash is etched into the “fingertip” or top of the stele.

The Code of Law

The real law was broken down into groups. The laws that dealt with one particular issue, such as slavery, were frequently bundled together. This would have made it easier for people to locate and read the laws that applied to them specifically. Some of the key sections of the code are listed below:

  • Prologue
  • Legal Procedures
  • Household laws
  • Slavery
  • Trade and business
  • Religion
  • Epilogue

The Code was introduced in the prologue. The prologue explains how Hammurabi received the laws from the god Shamash.

An example from the prologue is as follows:

“bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak, so that I should rule…. and enlighten the land, to further the welfare of mankind,” the prophet Isaiah wrote.

Hammurabi reiterates his call for universal justice in the epilogue: “Let the oppressed man come and stand before my image as king of righteousness.” Let him comprehend what I have said and the circumstances of his case so that he will know what is just and be joyful in his heart.

Few examples of laws

Many of the laws specify the exact wages that an employee must receive. For instance, one rule mandates that sailors receive six grams of grain in wages per year.

Some laws had heavy penalties and were quite strict.
A son’s hands will be amputated if he strikes his father.
A man’s eye must be removed if he takes another man’s eye out.
Any guy who attacks a person of higher rank will be subject to sixty ox-whip strikes.
A builder must be executed if they construct a home for a client and it falls, killing the client.

Why is the Code significant?

Archaeologists can learn a lot about the lives of the Babylonians from the code itself. Additionally, it includes several significant concepts like the need for witnesses to offer proof of a crime, the notion of innocence until proven guilty, and support for the vulnerable.

Interesting details about the Hammurabi Code:

Shamash, the Babylonian god of law, justice, and salvation, is depicted at the summit of the diorite stele.

The stele is known as “diorite” because it is composed of the black rock type diorite.

Archaeologists first discovered the diorite stele in the historic city of Susa. Today, it can be located in Paris, France’s Louvre Museum.

One of the earliest and most extensively deciphered documents is the Code of Hammurabi.

The Akkadian language and cuneiform script were used to write the code.

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