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Hammurabi’s Code: What Does
It Tell Us About Old Babylonia?
Code of Hammurabi
Stele: inscribed, upright
Made of basalt, a hard,
black volcanic rock
The text is written in
cuneiform script and
the Akkadian
Who made the stele?
• King Hammurabi, who
ruled from 1792-1750
BC had his laws
inscribed on a stone
steles and placed
them in various
temples throughout
his empire.
What was the purpose of the stele?
• The purpose of this stele was to display King
Hammurabi’s right to rule, as well as to allow
the people of different cities to come to the stele
to pray to their god for legal assistance.
What was the purpose of the stele?
As ancient communities grew larger, they needed
a stronger central government to complete and
take care of necessary public projects -such as
the canals that enabled Babylon to grow surplus
foods- and to maintain law and order for keeping
life in cities running smoothly.
We know from records on clay tablets that
Babylonia had an organized justice system.
Such a system requires some standardization of
the law as well as an educated class to serve as
judges and court recorders.
What is happening at in the scene
at the top?
The scene at the top shows
King Hammurabi standing
before the sun god Shamash,
the god of justice.
Shamash is seated on a throne.
Shamash gives Hammurabi the
rod and ring, symbols of a king
and divine justice.
In Mesopotamia they believed
laws came from the gods.
The text is divided into three parts
1. a historical story about King Hammurabi and
his role as "protector of the weak and
oppressed," and the formation of his empire
and achievements
2. a poetic story summing up his legal work
3. laws and legal decisions governing daily life in
the kingdom of Babylon. The legal part of the
text uses everyday language and is here
simplified, because the king wanted it to be
understood by all.