Code of Hammurabi. Babylonian Law.
Babylonian Law: The Code of Hammurabi, 7 feet 6 inches high

Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi was the king of Babylon from around 1792 to 1750 BC. These are his laws.

Why care?

Babylonians were dedicated beer brewers.

Image Above

Law Code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon 1792 - 1750 BC

2.25 meters or 7.38 feet

0.65 meters or 2.13 feet

Excavations led by Jacques de Morgan, 19011902


According to the Louvre, the Law Code of Hammurabi is . . .

... the emblem of the Mesopotamian civilization.

This high basalt stele erected by the king of Babylon in the 18th century BC is a work of art, history and literature, and the most complete legal compendium of Antiquity, dating back to earlier than the Biblical laws.

Carried there by a prince from the neighboring country of Elam in Iran in the 12th century BC, the monument was exhibited on the Susa acropolis among other prestigious Mesopotamian masterpieces.


And once more zoomed in:

Basalt Stele Containing the Law Code of Hammurabi
Basalt Stele Containing the Law Code of Hammurabi



What's On the Stone Slab?

Who's in the picture?

Utu-Shamash, the god of sun and justice, hands Hammurabi the just ("straight") laws. Refreshingly, Hammurabi is the one standing.

EB further elaborates. We are looking at . . .

... legal decisions that were collected toward the end of Hammurabi's reign and inscribed on a diorite stela and set up in Babylon's temple of Marduk, the national god of Babylonia.

These 282 case laws include economic provisions (prices, tariffs, trade, and commerce), family law (marriage and divorce), as well as criminal law (assault, theft) and civil law (slavery, debt). Penalties varied according to the status of the offenders and the circumstances of the offenses.

The existing text is in the Akkadian (Semitic) language.

Moreover, despite a few primitive survivals relating to family solidarity, district responsibility, trial by ordeal, and the lex talionis (i.e., an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth), the code was advanced far beyond tribal custom and recognized no blood feud, private retribution, or marriage by capture (bummer)


What's So Special About the Law Code of Hammurabi?

The Louvre enlightens us:

It is not a code of laws in the sense that we understand it today, but rather a compendium of legal precedents. Contradictions and illogicalities (two similar cases causing different results) can be found in the Code, because it deals with particular judgments, from which the most personal elements (the names of the protagonists, for example) have been removed.

Because justice was a royal prerogative in Mesopotamia, Hammurabi here sets out a selection of the wisest legal decisions that he had to take or ratify.

Not only does it contain a list of judicial rulings, but also a catalogue of the towns and territories annexed to the kingdom of Babylon. The stele of the Babylonian king Hammurabi constitutes a summary of one of the most prestigious reigns of ancient Mesopotamia.


Interestingly, Hammurabi's Code stipulated increased punishment the further down you were on the social ladder. For the same offense, a slave had more coming than did a free man, for example.

So then, is Hammurabi's law code a complete text of the main Babylonian laws at the time, in the style of the 10 Mosaic commandments?


Hammurabi's code highlights laws that needed amendments or otherwise current attention. It does not cover all issues.


What else does the Archaeology Desk wants us to remember?

Sets of laws were a common thing even way back then.

The Babylonian kings didn't mind micro-managing.

Besides this stele with Hammurabi's law code, archaeologists dug out many documents relating to Babylonian business dealings and administration.



Here is more on Hammurabi.

Here is the Chronology of the Rulers of Babylon.

And speaking of law making, here is more on

And here are the 10 Commandments, which came down 400 years after Hammurabi's code.



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