Hammurabi (standing), depicted as receiving his royal insignia from Shamash (or possibly Marduk). Hammurabi holds his hands over his mouth as a sign of prayer (relief on the upper part of the stele of Hammurabi's code of laws).
|Born||c. 1810 BC|
|Died||c. 1750 BC middle chronology(modern-day Iraq)|
(aged c. 60)
|Known for||Code of Hammurabi|
|Title||King of Babylon|
|Term||42 years; c. 1792 – c. 1750 BC (middle)|
Hamurabi is a text-based strategy video game of land and resource management.It was first developed under the name King of Sumeria or The Sumer Game by Doug Dyment in 1968 at Digital Equipment Corporation as a computer game for fellow employee Richard Merrill's newly invented FOCAL programming language. Feb 13, 2014 Kongregate free online game Hamurabi Reloaded - The classic city building game Hamurabi, upgraded with upgrades. (I realize Hammurabi is miss. Play Hamurabi Reloaded.
Hammurabi[a] (c. 1810 – c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of the First Babylonian dynasty, reigning from c. 1792 BC to c. 1750 BC (according to the Middle Chronology). He was preceded by his father, Sin-Muballit, who abdicated due to failing health. During his reign, he conquered Elam and the city-states of Larsa, Eshnunna, and Mari. He ousted Ishme-Dagan I, the king of Assyria, and forced his son Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute, bringing almost all of Mesopotamia under Babylonian rule.
Hammurabi is best known for having issued the Code of Hammurabi, which he claimed to have received from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. Unlike earlier Sumerian law codes, such as the Code of Ur-Nammu, which had focused on compensating the victim of the crime, the Law of Hammurabi was one of the first law codes to place greater emphasis on the physical punishment of the perpetrator. It prescribed specific penalties for each crime and is among the first codes to establish the presumption of innocence. Although its penalties are extremely harsh by modern standards, they were intended to limit what a wronged person was permitted to do in retribution. The Code of Hammurabi and the Law of Moses in the Torah contain numerous similarities, but these are probably due to shared background and oral tradition, and it is unlikely that Hammurabi's laws exerted any direct impact on the later Mosaic ones.
Hammurabi was seen by many as a god within his own lifetime. After his death, Hammurabi was revered as a great conqueror who spread civilization and forced all peoples to pay obeisance to Marduk, the national god of the Babylonians. Later, his military accomplishments became de-emphasized and his role as the ideal lawgiver became the primary aspect of his legacy. For later Mesopotamians, Hammurabi's reign became the frame of reference for all events occurring in the distant past. Even after the empire he built collapsed, he was still revered as a model ruler, and many kings across the Near East claimed him as an ancestor. Hammurabi was rediscovered by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century and has since become seen as an important figure in the history of law.
Reign and conquests
Hammurabi was an AmoriteFirst Dynasty king of the city-state of Babylon, and inherited the power from his father, Sin-Muballit, in c. 1792 BC. Babylon was one of the many largely Amorite ruled city-states that dotted the central and southern Mesopotamian plains and waged war on each other for control of fertile agricultural land. Though many cultures co-existed in Mesopotamia, Babylonian culture gained a degree of prominence among the literate classes throughout the Middle East under Hammurabi. The kings who came before Hammurabi had founded a relatively minor City State in 1894 BC, which controlled little territory outside of the city itself. Babylon was overshadowed by older, larger, and more powerful kingdoms such as Elam, Assyria, Isin, Eshnunna, and Larsa for a century or so after its founding. However, his father Sin-Muballit had begun to consolidate rule of a small area of south central Mesopotamia under Babylonian hegemony and, by the time of his reign, had conquered the minor city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar.
Thus Hammurabi ascended to the throne as the king of a minor kingdom in the midst of a complex geopolitical situation. The powerful kingdom of Eshnunna controlled the upper Tigris River while Larsa controlled the river delta. To the east of Mesopotamia lay the powerful kingdom of Elam, which regularly invaded and forced tribute upon the small states of southern Mesopotamia. In northern Mesopotamia, the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I, who had already inherited centuries old Assyrian colonies in Asia Minor, had expanded his territory into the Levant and central Mesopotamia, although his untimely death would somewhat fragment his empire.
The first few years of Hammurabi's reign were quite peaceful. Hammurabi used his power to undertake a series of public works, including heightening the city walls for defensive purposes, and expanding the temples. In c. 1801 BC, the powerful kingdom of Elam, which straddled important trade routes across the Zagros Mountains, invaded the Mesopotamian plain. With allies among the plain states, Elam attacked and destroyed the kingdom of Eshnunna, destroying a number of cities and imposing its rule on portions of the plain for the first time.
In order to consolidate its position, Elam tried to start a war between Hammurabi's Babylonian kingdom and the kingdom of Larsa. Hammurabi and the king of Larsa made an alliance when they discovered this duplicity and were able to crush the Elamites, although Larsa did not contribute greatly to the military effort. Angered by Larsa's failure to come to his aid, Hammurabi turned on that southern power, thus gaining control of the entirety of the lower Mesopotamian plain by c. 1763 BC.
As Hammurabi was assisted during the war in the south by his allies from the north such as Yamhad and Mari, the absence of soldiers in the north led to unrest. Continuing his expansion, Hammurabi turned his attention northward, quelling the unrest and soon after crushing Eshnunna. Next the Babylonian armies conquered the remaining northern states, including Babylon's former ally Mari, although it is possible that the conquest of Mari was a surrender without any actual conflict.
Hammurabi entered into a protracted war with Ishme-Dagan I of Assyria for control of Mesopotamia, with both kings making alliances with minor states in order to gain the upper hand. Eventually Hammurabi prevailed, ousting Ishme-Dagan I just before his own death. Mut-Ashkur, the new king of Assyria, was forced to pay tribute to Hammurabi.
In just a few years, Hammurabi succeeded in uniting all of Mesopotamia under his rule. The Assyrian kingdom survived but was forced to pay tribute during his reign, and of the major city-states in the region, only Aleppo and Qatna to the west in the Levant maintained their independence. However, one stele of Hammurabi has been found as far north as Diyarbekir, where he claims the title 'King of the Amorites'.
Vast numbers of contract tablets, dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and his successors, have been discovered, as well as 55 of his own letters. These letters give a glimpse into the daily trials of ruling an empire, from dealing with floods and mandating changes to a flawed calendar, to taking care of Babylon's massive herds of livestock. Hammurabi died and passed the reins of the empire on to his son Samsu-iluna in c. 1750 BC, under whose rule the Babylonian empire began to quickly unravel.
Code of laws
The Code of Hammurabi is not the earliest surviving law code; it is predated by the Code of Ur-Nammu, the Laws of Eshnunna, and the Code of Lipit-Ishtar. Nonetheless, the Code of Hammurabi shows marked differences from these earlier law codes and ultimately proved more influential.
The Code of Hammurabi was inscribed on a stele and placed in a public place so that all could see it, although it is thought that few were literate. The stele was later plundered by the Elamites and removed to their capital, Susa; it was rediscovered there in 1901 in Iran and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The code of Hammurabi contains 282 laws, written by scribes on 12 tablets. Unlike earlier laws, it was written in Akkadian, the daily language of Babylon, and could therefore be read by any literate person in the city. Earlier Sumerian law codes had focused on compensating the victim of the crime, but the Code of Hammurabi instead focused on physically punishing the perpetrator. The Code of Hammurabi was one of the first law code to place restrictions on what a wronged person was allowed to do in retribution.
The structure of the code is very specific, with each offense receiving a specified punishment. The punishments tended to be very harsh by modern standards, with many offenses resulting in death, disfigurement, or the use of the 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth' (Lex Talionis 'Law of Retaliation') philosophy. The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence. However, there is no provision for extenuating circumstances to alter the prescribed punishment.
A carving at the top of the stele portrays Hammurabi receiving the laws from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice, and the preface states that Hammurabi was chosen by Shamash to bring the laws to the people. Parallels between this narrative and the giving of the Covenant Code to Moses by Yahweh atop Mount Sinai in the BiblicalBook of Exodus and similarities between the two legal codes suggest a common ancestor in the Semitic background of the two. Nonetheless, fragments of previous law codes have been found and it is unlikely that the Mosaic laws were directly inspired by the Code of Hammurabi.[b] Some scholars have disputed this; David P. Wright argues that the Jewish Covenant Code is 'directly, primarily, and throughout' based upon the Laws of Hammurabi. In 2010, a team of archaeologists from Hebrew University discovered a cuneiform tablet dating to the eighteenth or seventeenth century BC at Hazor in Israel containing laws clearly derived from the Code of Hammurabi.
Commemoration after his death
Hammurabi was honored above all other kings of the second millennium BC and he received the unique honor of being declared to be a god within his own lifetime. The personal name 'Hammurabi-ili' meaning 'Hammurabi is my god' became common during and after his reign. In writings from shortly after his death, Hammurabi is commemorated mainly for three achievements: bringing victory in war, bringing peace, and bringing justice. Hammurabi's conquests came to be regarded as part of a sacred mission to spread civilization to all nations. A stele from Ur glorifies him in his own voice as a mighty ruler who forces evil into submission and compels all peoples to worship Marduk. The stele declares: 'The people of Elam, Gutium, Subartu, and Tukrish, whose mountains are distant and whose languages are obscure, I placed into [Marduk's] hand. I myself continued to put straight their confused minds.' A later hymn also written in Hammurabi's own voice extols him as a powerful, supernatural force for Marduk:
I am the king, the brace that grasps wrongdoers, that makes people of one mind,
I am the great dragon among kings, who throws their counsel in disarray,
I am the net that is stretched over the enemy,
I am the fear-inspiring, who, when lifting his fierce eyes, gives the disobedient the death sentence,
I am the great net that covers evil intent,
I am the young lion, who breaks nets and scepters,
I am the battle net that catches him who offends me.
After extolling Hammurabi's military accomplishments, the hymn finally declares: 'I am Hammurabi, the king of justice.' In later commemorations, Hammurabi's role as a great lawgiver came to be emphasized above all his other accomplishments and his military achievements became de-emphasized. Hammurabi's reign became the point of reference for all events in the distant past. A hymn to the goddess Ishtar, whose language suggests it was written during the reign of Ammisaduqa, Hammurabi's fourth successor, declares: 'The king who first heard this song as a song of your heroism is Hammurabi. This song for you was composed in his reign. May he be given life forever!' For centuries after his death, Hammurabi's laws continued to be copied by scribes as part of their writing exercises and they were even partially translated into Sumerian.
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During the reign of Hammurabi, Babylon usurped the position of 'most holy city' in southern Mesopotamia from its predecessor, Nippur. Under the rule of Hammurabi's successor Samsu-iluna, the short-lived Babylonian Empire began to collapse. In northern Mesopotamia, both the Amorites and Babylonians were driven from Assyria by Puzur-Sin a native Akkadian-speaking ruler, c. 1740 BC. Around the same time, native Akkadian speakers threw off Amorite Babylonian rule in the far south of Mesopotamia, creating the Sealand Dynasty, in more or less the region of ancient Sumer. Hammurabi's ineffectual successors met with further defeats and loss of territory at the hands of Assyrian kings such as Adasi and Bel-ibni, as well as to the Sealand Dynasty to the south, Elam to the east, and to the Kassites from the northeast. Thus was Babylon quickly reduced to the small and minor state it had once been upon its founding.
The coup de grace for the Hammurabi's Amorite Dynasty occurred in 1595 BC, when Babylon was sacked and conquered by the powerful Hittite Empire, thereby ending all Amorite political presence in Mesopotamia. However, the Indo-European-speaking Hittites did not remain, turning over Babylon to their Kassite allies, a people speaking a language isolate, from the Zagros mountains region. This Kassite Dynasty ruled Babylon for over 400 years and adopted many aspects of the Babylonianculture, including Hammurabi's code of laws. Even after the fall of the Amorite Dynasty, however, Hammurabi was still remembered and revered. When the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte I raided Babylon in 1158 BC and carried off many stone monuments, he had most of the inscriptions on these monuments erased and new inscriptions carved into them. On the stele containing Hammurabi's laws, however, only four or five columns were wiped out and no new inscription was ever added. Over a thousand years after Hammurabi's death, the kings of Suhu, a land along the Euphrates river, just northwest of Babylon, claimed him as their ancestor.
In the late nineteenth century, the Code of Hammurabi became a major center of debate in the heated Babel und Bibel ('Babylon and Bible') controversy in Germany over the relationship between the Bible and ancient Babylonian texts. In January 1902, the German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch gave a lecture at the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin in front of the Kaiser and his wife, in which he argued that the Mosaic Laws of the Old Testament were directly copied off the Code of Hammurabi. Delitzsch's lecture was so controversial that, by September 1903, he had managed to collect 1,350 short articles from newspapers and journals, over 300 longer ones, and twenty-eight pamphlets, all written in response to this lecture, as well as the preceding one about the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. These articles were overwhelmingly critical of Delitzsch, though a few were sympathetic. The Kaiser distanced himself from Delitzsch and his radical views and, in fall of 1904, Delitzsch was forced to give his third lecture in Cologne and Frankfurt am Main rather than in Berlin. The putative relationship between the Mosaic Law and the Code of Hammurabi later became a major part of Delitzsch's argument in his 1920–21 book Die große Täuschung (The Great Deception) that the Hebrew Bible was irredeemably contaminated by Babylonian influence and that only by eliminating the human Old Testament entirely could Christians finally believe in the true, Aryan message of the New Testament. In the early twentieth century, many scholars believed that Hammurabi was Amraphel, the King of Shinar in the Book of Genesis 14:1. This view has now been largely rejected, and Amraphael's existence is not attested in any writings from outside the Bible.
Because of Hammurabi's reputation as a lawgiver, his depiction can be found in several U.S. government buildings. Hammurabi is one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marblebas-reliefs in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. A frieze by Adolph Weinman depicting the 'great lawgivers of history', including Hammurabi, is on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court building. At the time of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Army's 1st Hammurabi Armoured Division was named after the ancient king as part of an effort to emphasize the connection between modern Iraq and the pre-Arab Mesopotamian cultures.
- Finet, André (1973). Le trone et la rue en Mésopotamie: L'exaltation du roi et les techniques de l'opposition, in La voix de l'opposition en Mésopotamie. Bruxelles: Institut des Hautes Études de Belgique. OCLC652257981.
- Jacobsen, Th. (1943). 'Primitive democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia'. Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 2 (3): 159–172. doi:10.1086/370672.
- Finkelstein, J. J. (1966). 'The Genealogy of the Hammurabi Dynasty'. Journal of Cuneiform Studies. 20 (3): 95–118. doi:10.2307/1359643. JSTOR1359643.
- Hammurabi (1952). Driver, G.R.; Miles, John C. (eds.). The Babylonian Laws. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Leemans, W. F. (1950). The Old Babylonian Merchant: His Business and His Social Position. Leiden: Brill.
- Munn-Rankin, J. M. (1956). 'Diplomacy in Western Asia in the Early Second Millennium BC'. Iraq. 18 (1): 68–110. doi:10.2307/4199599. JSTOR4199599.
- Pallis, S. A. (1956). The Antiquity of Iraq: A Handbook of Assyriology. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.
- Richardson, M.E.J. (2000). Hammurabi's laws : text, translation and glossary. Sheffield: Sheffield Acad. Press. ISBN978-1-84127-030-2.
- Saggs, H.W.F. (1988). The greatness that was Babylon : a survey of the ancient civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN978-0-283-99623-8.
- Yoffee, Norman (1977). The economic role of the crown in the old Babylonian period. Malibu, CA: Undena Publications. ISBN978-0-89003-021-9.
- ^/ˌhæmʊˈrɑːbi/; Akkadian: 𒄩𒄠𒈬𒊏𒁉Ḫa-am-mu-ra-bi, from the AmoriteʻAmmurāpi ('the kinsman is a healer'), itself from ʻAmmu ('paternal kinsman') and Rāpi ('healer').
- ^Barton, a former professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that while there are similarities between the two texts, a study of the entirety of both laws 'convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws.' He states that 'such resemblances' arose from 'a similarity of antecedents and of general intellectual outlook' between the two cultures, but that 'the striking differences show that there was no direct borrowing.'
- ^Roux, Georges, 'The Time of Confusion', Ancient Iraq, Penguin Books, p. 266, ISBN9780141938257
- ^Beck, Roger B.; Black, Linda; Krieger, Larry S.; Naylor, Phillip C.; Shabaka, Dahia Ibo (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN978-0-395-87274-1. OCLC39762695.
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 1–2
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 3
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 3–4
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 16
- ^Arnold 2005, p. 43
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 15–16
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 17
- ^Claire, Iselin. 'Royal head, known as the 'Head of Hammurabi''. Musée du Louvre.
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 18
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 31
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 40–41
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 54–55
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 64–65
- ^ abcArnold 2005, p. 45
- ^Clay, Albert Tobias (1919). The Empire of the Amorites. Yale University Press. p. 97.
- ^Breasted 2003, p. 129
- ^Breasted 2003, pp. 129–130
- ^Arnold 2005, p. 42
- ^ abcDavies, W. W. (January 2003). Codes of Hammurabi and Moses. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN978-0-7661-3124-8. OCLC227972329.
- ^ abBreasted 2003, p. 141
- ^ abcdeBertman, Stephen (2003). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 71. ISBN978-019-518364-1.
- ^Prince, J. Dyneley (1904). 'The Code of Hammurabi'. The American Journal of Theology. 8 (3): 601–609. JSTOR3153895.
- ^Victimology: Theories and Applications, Ann Wolbert Burgess, Albert R. Roberts, Cheryl Regehr, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009, p. 103
- ^Kleiner, Fred S. (2010). Gardner's Art through the Ages: The Western Perspective. 1 (Thirteenth ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. p. 29. ISBN978-0-495-57360-9.
- ^Smith, J. M. Powis (2005). The Origin and History of Hebrew Law. Clark, New Jersey: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 13. ISBN978-1-58477-489-1.
- ^ abDouglas, J. D.; Tenney, Merrill C. (2011). Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. p. 1323. ISBN978-0310229834.
- ^ abcBarton, G.A: Archaeology and the Bible. University of Michigan Library, 2009, p.406.
- ^ abUnger, M.F.: Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1954, p.156, 157
- ^ abFree, J.P.: Archaeology and Biblical History. Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1950, 1969, p. 121
- ^Wright, David P. (2009). Inventing God's Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 3 and passim.
- ^'Tablet Discovered by Hebrew U Matches Code of Hammurabi'. Beit El: HolyLand Holdings, Ltd. Arutz Sheva. 26 June 2010.
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 128.
- ^ abcVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 127.
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 126.
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, pp. 126–127.
- ^ abcVan De Mieroop 2005, p. 129.
- ^ abVan De Mieroop 2005, pp. 129–130.
- ^Schneider, Tammi J. (2011), An Introduction to Ancient Mesopotamian Religion, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, pp. 58–59, ISBN978-0-8028-2959-7
- ^Georges Roux – Ancient Iraq
- ^ abDeBlois 1997, p. 19
- ^Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 130.
- ^ abZiolkowski 2012, p. 25.
- ^ abZiolkowski 2012, pp. 23–25.
- ^'AMRAPHEL - JewishEncyclopedia.com'.
- ^'Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 14 - New International Version'.
- ^North, Robert (1993). 'Abraham'. In Metzger, Bruce M.; Coogan, Michael D. (eds.). The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 5. ISBN978-0-19-504645-8.
- ^ abGranerød, Gard (26 March 2010). Abraham and Melchizedek: Scribal Activity of Second Temple Times in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter. p. 120. ISBN978-3-11-022346-0.
- ^'Hammurabi'. Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
- ^'Courtroom Friezes'(PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. Archived from the original(PDF) on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2008.
- ^Biskupic, Joan (11 March 1998). 'Lawgivers: From Two Friezes, Great Figures of Legal History Gaze Upon the Supreme Court Bench'. WP Company LLC. The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Arnold, Bill T. (2005). Who Were the Babylonians?. Brill Publishers. ISBN978-90-04-13071-5. OCLC225281611.
- Breasted, James Henry (2003). Ancient Time or a History of the Early World, Part 1. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN978-0-7661-4946-5. OCLC69651827.
- DeBlois, Lukas (1997). An Introduction to the Ancient World. Routledge. ISBN978-0-415-12773-8. OCLC231710353.
- Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN978-1-4051-2660-1. OCLC255676990.
- Ziolkowski, Theodore (2012), Gilgamesh among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic, Ithaca, New York and London, England: Cornell University Press, ISBN978-0-8014-5035-8
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The Code of Hammurabi was one of the earliest and most complete written legal codes and was proclaimed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792 to 1750 B.C. Hammurabi expanded the city-state of Babylon along the Euphrates River to unite all of southern Mesopotamia. The Hammurabi code of laws, a collection of 282 rules, established standards for commercial interactions and set fines and punishments to meet the requirements of justice. Hammurabi’s Code was carved onto a massive, finger-shaped black stone stele (pillar) that was looted by invaders and finally rediscovered in 1901.
Hammurabi was the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty, which ruled in central Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) from c. 1894 to 1595 B.C.
His family was descended from the Amorites, a semi-nomadic tribe in western Syria, and his name reflects a mix of cultures: Hammu, which means “family” in Amorite, combined with rapi, meaning “great” in Akkadian, the everyday language of Babylon.
In the 30th year of his reign, Hammurabi began to expand his kingdom up and down the Tigris and Euphrates river valley, overthrowing the kingdoms of Assyria, Larsa, Eshunna and Mari until all of Mesopotamia was under his sway.
Hammurabi Game Created In 1968
Hammurabi combined his military and political advances with irrigation projects and the construction of fortifications and temples celebrating Babylon’s patron deity, Marduk. The Babylon of Hammurabi’s era is now buried below the area’s groundwater table, and whatever archives he kept are long dissolved, but clay tablets discovered at other ancient sites reveal glimpses of the king’s personality and statecraft.
One letter records his complaint of being forced to provide dinner attire for ambassadors from Mari just because he’d done the same for some other delegates: “Do you imagine you can control my palace in the matter of formal wear?”
What Is the Code of Hammurabi?
The black stone stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was carved from a single, four-ton slab of diorite, a durable but incredibly difficult stone for carving.
At its top is a two-and-a-half-foot relief carving of a standing Hammurabi receiving the law—symbolized by a measuring rod and tape—from the seated Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice. The rest of the seven-foot-five-inch monument is covered with columns of chiseled cuneiform script.
The text, compiled at the end of Hammurabi’s reign, is less a proclamation of principles than a collection of legal precedents, set between prose celebrating Hammurabi’s just and pious rule. Hammurabi’s Code provides some of the earliest examples of the doctrine of “lex talionis,” or the laws of retribution, sometimes better known as “an eye for an eye.”
Did you know? The Code of Hammurabi includes many harsh punishments, sometimes demanding the removal of the guilty party’s tongue, hands, breasts, eye or ear. But the code is also one of the earliest examples of an accused person being considered innocent until proven guilty.
The 282 edicts are all written in if-then form. For example, if a man steals an ox, then he must pay back 30 times its value. The edicts range from family law to professional contracts and administrative law, often outlining different standards of justice for the three classes of Babylonian society—the propertied class, freedmen and slaves.
A doctor’s fee for curing a severe wound would be 10 silver shekels for a gentleman, five shekels for a freedman and two shekels for a slave. Penalties for malpractice followed the same scheme: a doctor who killed a rich patient would have his hands cut off, while only financial restitution was required if the victim was a slave.
Stele of Hammurabi Rediscovered
In 1901 Jacques de Morgan, a French mining engineer, led an archaeological expedition to Persia to excavate the Elamite capital of Susa, more than 250 miles from the center of Hammurabi’s kingdom.
There they uncovered the stele of Hammurabi—broken into three pieces—that had been brought to Susa as spoils of war, likely by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte in the mid-12th century B.C.
The stele was packed up and shipped to the Louvre in Paris, and within a year it had been translated and widely publicized as the earliest example of a written legal code—one that predated but bore striking parallels to the laws outlined in the Hebrew Old Testament.
The U.S. Supreme Court building features Hammurabi on the marble carvings of historic lawgivers that lines the south wall of the courtroom.
Hammurabi Game online, free
Although other subsequently-discovered written Mesopotamian laws, including the Sumerian “Lipit-Ishtar” and “Ur-Nammu,” predate Hammurabi’s by hundreds of years, Hammurabi’s reputation remains as a pioneering lawgiver who worked—in the words of his monument—”to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done to widows and orphans.”