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Code of Hammurabi
CODE OF HAMMURABI
Collection of 282 laws and edicts
Babylonian King Hammurabi <1810-1750>
oReigned 1792 to 1750 B.C.E.
oExpanded city-state of Babylon
Along the Euphrates River
oUnited all of southern Mesopotamia
Earliest legal code known in its entirety
CODE OF HAMMURABI
Copy of the code, engraved on:
oBlock of black diorite
oNearly 2.4 m (8 ft) high
oUnearthed by team of French archaeologists
Susa, Iraq, formerly ancient Elam
Winter of 1901–2.
Block, broken in three pieces, has been restored
and is now in the Louvre in Paris
Composition
Divine origin
Bas-relief shows king receiving code from sun
god: Shamash.
Quality most associated with this god: Justice.
Horizontal columns of cuneiform:
o16 columns on obverse side
o28 on the reverse.
Text begins with prologue
oExplains the extensive restoration of temples and
religious groups of Babylonia and Assyria.
Composition
28 paragraphs
Series of amendments to common law of
Babylonia, rather than a strict legal code.
Begins with direction for legal procedure and
the statement of penalties for:
oUnjust accusations
oFalse testimony
oInjustice done by judges
Composition
Then laws concerning:
oProperty rights
oLoans
oDeposits
oDebts
oDomestic property
oFamily rights
Composition
Sections covering personal injury indicate:
oPenalties imposed for injuries sustained
through
Unsuccessful operations by physicians
Damages caused by neglect in trades
Rates fixed in the code for various forms
of service in most branches of trade and
commerce.
Humane Civil Law
Code contains no laws having to do with
religion.
Basis of criminal law:
oEqual retaliation
oComparable to Semitic law: “an eye for an eye.”
Humane Civil Law
Offers protection to all classes of society
Seeks to protect the following against injustice
at the hands of the rich and powerful:
oWeak
oPoor
oWomen
oChildren
oSlaves
Humane Civil Law
Particularly humane for the time
Testament to law & justice of Hammurabi's rule
Ends with an epilogue:
oGlorifying mighty works of peace executed by
Hammurabi
Explicitly states he was called by gods to…
“…cause justice to prevail in the land,
to destroy the wicked and the evil.”
Humane Civil Law
Hammurabi describes the laws in his
compilation as enabling “the land to enjoy
stable government and good rule…”
…And, inscribed on a pillar so that…
“…the strong may not oppress the weak,
that justice may be dealt the orphan
and the widow.”
Humane Civil Law
Hammurabi counsels the downtrodden:
“Let any oppressed man who has a cause
come into the presence of my statue as king
of justice, and have the inscription on my
stele read out, and hear my precious words,
that my stele may make the case clear to
him; may he understand his cause, and may
his heart be set at ease!”