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An image of the Code of Hammurabi.
The Code of Hammurabi (Codex Hammurabi) is a well-preserved ancient law code, created ca. 1790 BC (middle chronology) in ancient Babylonmarker. It was enacted by the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi. One nearly complete example of the Code survives today, inscribed on a seven foot, four inch tall basalt stele in the Akkadian language in the cuneiform script.

~~Discovery~~

The stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was discovered in 1901 by the Egyptologist Gustav Jéquier, a member of the expedition headed by Jacques de Morgan. The stele was discovered in what is now Khūzestānmarker, Iranmarker (ancient Susamarker, Elammarker), where it had been taken as plunder by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century BC. It is currently on display at the Louvre Museummarker in Parismarker, Francemarker.

Hammurabi

Hammurabi (ruled ca. 1796 BC – 1750 BC) decreed that he was chosen by the gods to deliver the law to his people. In the preface to the law code, he states, "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land."

Law

The Code of Hammurabi was one of several sets of laws in the Ancient Near East.Earlier collections of laws include the Code of Ur-Nammu, king of Urmarker (ca. 2050 BC), the Laws of Eshnunna (ca. 1930 BC) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isinmarker (ca. 1870 BC), while later ones include the Hittite laws, the Assyrian laws, and Mosaic Law. These codes come from similar cultures in a relatively small geographical area, and they have passages which resemble each other.
View of the back side of the stele.


The code is often pointed to be a primary example of even a king not being able to change fundamental laws concerning the governing of a country which was the primitive form of what is now known as a constitution.

The Babylonians and their neighbors developed the earliest system of economics that was fixed in a legal code, using a metric of various commodities. The early law codes from Sumer could be considered the first (written) economic formula, and have many attributes still in use in the current price system today, such as codified amounts of money for business deals (interest rates), fines in money for wrongdoing, inheritance rules and laws concerning how private property is to be taxed or divided.

Examples

Here are eleven example laws, in their entirety, of the Code of Hammurabi, translated into English:

  • If a man kills another man's son his son shall be cut off.


  • If anyone ensnares another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.


  • If anyone brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.


  • If anyone brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if a capital offense is charged, be put to death.


  • If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then the builder shall be put to death.(Another variant of this is, If the owner's son dies, then the builder's son shall be put to death.)


  • If a son slaps his father, his hand shall be cut off.


  • If a man give his child to a nurse and the child dies in her hands, but the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurses another child, then they shall convict her of having nursed another child without the knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts shall be cut off.


  • If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.


  • If a man takes a woman to wife, but has no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.


  • If a man strikes a pregnant woman, thereby causing her to miscarry and die, the assailant's daughter shall be put to death.


  • If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.


There are 282 such laws in the Code of Hammurabi, each usually no more than a sentence or two. The 282 laws are bracketed by a Prologue in which Hammurabi introduces himself, and an Epilogue in which he affirms his authority and sets forth his hopes and prayers for his code of laws.

Other copies



Various copies of portions of the Code of Hammurabi have been found on baked clay tablets, some possibly older than the celebrated basalt stele now in the Louvre. The Prologue of the Code of Hammurabi (the first 305 inscripted squares on the stele) is on such a tablet, also at the Louvre (Inv #AO 10237). Some gaps in the list of benefits bestowed on cities recently annexed by Hammurabi may imply that it is older than the famous stele (it is currently dated to the early 18th century BC). Likewise, the Museum of the Ancient Orient, part of the Istanbul Archaeology Museumsmarker, also has a "Code of Hammurabi" clay tablet, dated to 1750 BC., in (Room 5, Inv # Ni 2358).

See also



References

Notes

Bibliography

  • Falkenstein, A. (1956–57). Die neusumerischen Gerichtsurkunden I–III. München.
  • Elsen-Novák, G. / Novák, M.: Der 'König der Gerechtigkeit'. Zur Ikonologie und Teleologie des 'Codex' Hammurapi. In: Baghdader Mitteilungen 37 (2006), pp. 131-156.
  • Julius Oppert and Joachim Menant (1877). Documents juridiques de l'Assyrie et de la Chaldee. París.
  • Thomas, D. Winton, ed. (1958). Documents from Old Testament Times. London and New York.


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