Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

Overview
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC (short chronology). It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

and various clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.

Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Code of Hammurabi'
Start a new discussion about 'Code of Hammurabi'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

n law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC (short chronology). It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

and various clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.

Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently. A handful of provisions address issues related to military service.

One nearly complete example of the Code survives today, on a diorite
Diorite
Diorite is a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar , biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. It may contain small amounts of quartz, microcline and olivine. Zircon, apatite, sphene, magnetite, ilmenite and sulfides occur as accessory...

 stele
Stele
A stele , also stela , is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerals or commemorative purposes, most usually decorated with the names and titles of the deceased or living — inscribed, carved in relief , or painted onto the slab...

 in the shape of a huge index finger
Index finger
The index finger, , is the first finger and the second digit of a human hand. It is located between the first and third digits, between the thumb and the middle finger...

, 2.25 m or 7.4 ft tall (see images at right). The Code is inscribed in the Akkadian language
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

, using cuneiform script
Cuneiform script
Cuneiform script )) is one of the earliest known forms of written expression. Emerging in Sumer around the 30th century BC, with predecessors reaching into the late 4th millennium , cuneiform writing began as a system of pictographs...

 carved into the stele. It is currently on display in The Louvre, with exact replicas in the Oriental Institute in the University of Chicago and the Pergamon Museum of Berlin.

History


Hammurabi
Hammurabi
Hammurabi Hammurabi Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c...

 ruled for 42 years, ca. 1792 to 1750 BC according to the Middle chronology. In the preface to the law code, he states, "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared Marduk, the chief god of Babylon (The Human Record, Andrea & Overfield 2005), to bring about the rule in the land." On the stone slab there are 44 columns and 28 paragraphs that contained over 282 laws.

In 1901, Egyptologist Gustave Jéquier
Gustave Jéquier
Gustave Jéquier, born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in 1868 and died in 1946 in the same city, was an Egyptologist and one of the first archaeologists to excavate ancient Persian cities in what is now modern-day Iran...

, a member of an expedition headed by Jacques de Morgan
Jacques de Morgan
Jean-Jacques de Morgan was a French mining engineer , geologist, and archaeologist. He was the director of Antiquities in Egypt during the 19th century , and excavated in Memphis and Dashur, providing many drawings of many Egyptian pyramids...

, found the stele containing the Code of Hammurabi in what is now Khūzestān, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 (ancient Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

, Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

), where it had been taken as plunder by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century BC.

Law


The Code of Hammurabi was one of several sets of laws in the ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

.
The code of laws was arranged in orderly groups, so that everyone who read the laws, would know what was required of them.
Earlier collections of laws include the Code of Ur-Nammu
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

, king of Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

 (ca. 2050 BC), the Laws of Eshnunna
Laws of Eshnunna
The Laws of Eshnunna are inscribed on two cuneiform tablets discovered in Tell Abū Harmal, Baghdad, Iraq. The Iraqi Directorate of Antiquities headed by Taha Baqir unearthed two parallel sets of tablets in 1945 and 1947. The two tablets are separate copies of an older source and date back to ca....

 (ca. 1930 BC) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar
Lipit-Ishtar
Lipit-Ishtar , was the fifth ruler of the first dynasty of Isin, and ruled from around 1934 BCE to 1924 BCE. Some documents and royal inscriptions from his time have survived, but he is mostly known because Sumerian language hymns written in his honor, as well as a legal code written in his name ,...

 of Isin
Isin
Isin was an ancient city-state of lower Mesopotamia about 20 miles south of Nippur at the site of modern Ishan al-Bahriyat in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate.-History:...

 (ca. 1870 BC), while later ones include the Hittite laws
Hittite laws
The Hittite laws have been preserved on a number of Hittite cuneiform tablets found at Hattusa . Copies have been found written in Old Hittite as well as in Middle and Late Hittite, indicating that they had validity throughout the duration of the Hittite Empire The Hittite laws have been preserved...

, the Assyrian law
Assyrian law
Assyrian law was very similar to Sumerian and Babylonian law, however, notably more brutal than its predecessors. The first copy of the code to come to light, dated to the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I, was discovered in the course of excavations by the German Oriental Society . Three Assyrian law...

s, and Mosaic Law.
These codes come from similar cultures in a relatively small geographical area, and they have passages which resemble each other.


The Code of Hammurabi is the longest surviving text from the Old Babylonian period.
The code has been seen as an early example of a fundamental law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 regulating a government — i.e., a primitive form of what is now known as a constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

. The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence
Presumption of innocence
The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognised in many...

, and it also suggests that both the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence
Evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

. The occasional nature of many provisions suggests that the Code may be better read as a codification of supplementary judicial decisions of the king. Rather than being a modern legal code or constitution, it may have as its purpose the self-glorification of Hammurabi by memorializing his wisdom and justice. Its copying in subsequent generations indicates that it was used as a model of legal and judicial reasoning.

Other copies


Various copies of portions of the Code of Hammurabi have been found on baked clay tablets, some possibly older than the celebrated diorite
Diorite
Diorite is a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar , biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene. It may contain small amounts of quartz, microcline and olivine. Zircon, apatite, sphene, magnetite, ilmenite and sulfides occur as accessory...

 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 Museums, also has a "Code of Hammurabi" clay tablet, dated to 1750 BC, in (Room 5, Inv # Ni 2358).

In July, 2010, archaeologists reported that a fragmentary Akkadian cuneiform tablet was discovered at Tel Hazor, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, containing a ca. 1700 BC text that was said to be partly parallel to portions of the Hammurabi code. The Hazor law code fragments are currently being prepared for publication by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

.

See also


  • Hippocratic Oath
    Hippocratic Oath
    The Hippocratic Oath is an oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice medicine ethically. It is widely believed to have been written by Hippocrates, often regarded as the father of western medicine, or by one of his students. The oath is written in...

  • List of ancient legal codes
  • Urukagina
    Urukagina
    Urukagina , alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia...

     – Sumerian king and creator of what is sometimes cited as the first example of a legal code in recorded history.
  • Code of Ur-Nammu
    Code of Ur-Nammu
    The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

     – the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today, it predates the Code of Hammurabi by some 300 years
  • Code of the Assura
  • Babylonian law
    Babylonian law
    Archaeological material for the study of Babylonian law is singularly extensive. So-called "contracts" exist in the thousands, including a great variety of deeds, conveyances, bonds, receipts, accounts, and most important of all, actual legal decisions given by the judges in the law courts...

  • Cuneiform Law
    Cuneiform Law
    Cuneiform law refers to any of the legal codes written in cuneiform script, that were developed and used throughout the ancient Middle East among the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Hurrians, Kassites, and Hittites...

  • Quid pro quo
    Quid pro quo
    Quid pro quo most often means a more-or-less equal exchange or substitution of goods or services. English speakers often use the term to mean "a favour for a favour" and the phrases with almost identical meaning include: "give and take", "tit for tat", "this for that", and "you scratch my back,...

  • Code of Hammurabi translated by R.F. Harper in 1904, University of Chicago Press

External links