What Is The Code Of Hammurabi History Essay

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In 1901 a French archaeological expedition, digging up the city of Susa in Elam (east of Babylon), discovered a basaltic pillar with all sides covered with cuneiform writing. This unique finding was the discovery of the oldest law code in the world.

The text of Code of Hammurabi (Codex Hammurabi) consists of a prologue, 282 articles and an epilogue. Laws are carved in cuneiform on both sides of the pillar on the classical Babylonian dialect of Akkadian. At the top of the column there is Hammurabi depicted, receiving the laws from the hands of the sun god Shamash (or god Marduk). The part of the text of the Code was struck and can be partially reconstructed from other sources (for example, quotes of the laws on clay tablets).

Laws reflected rather high level of class and social differentiation. While the cuneiform law did not know the division on civil and criminal, articles are grouped thematically: the process, property, royal service, marriage and family obligations, etc. Every topic is treated from the criminal point of view civil legal point of view.

Nowadays the Code of Hammurabi is displayed in the Paris Louvre. The exact copy of the column can also be seen in Moscow in the Training Art Museum of casts named after Tsvetaeva and in Asia Minor Museum in Berlin.


2250 B.C- The Code of Hammurabi was compiled. It is the earliest code ever known.

1901 BC -The stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was found by the Egyptologist Gustav Jéquier, a member of the expedition, headed by Jacques de Morgan.

1792 BC to 1750 BC middle chronology - Hammurabi was the sixth king of Babylon (1728 BC - 1686 BC short chronology)

1897 - The beginning of excavations in Susa(the capital of ancient Elama), where lately the code of Hammurabi was found.

1894 B.C - The foundation of Amorite dynasty founded by Shumu-Abum whose sixth ruler was the king Hammurabi.

1787 BC - The king Hammurabi began his military by conquering the cities of Uruk and Isin to the south.

Ð’ 1764 BC- Hammurabi defeated a coalition of Ashur, and Eshnunna Elam - the main force in the east of the Tigris, threatened to block his access to metal producing territories of Iran.

1763- Hammurabi fought against a coalition east of the Tigris that threatened to block access to metal-producing areas in Iran. That year he also conquered the city of Larsa.

1762 BC- Hammurabi expelled Rimsin from the boundaries of Sumer., Lars fell, and the thirty-year struggle between Hammurabi and Rimsinom ended.

1761 BC. - Hammurabi came against his long-term ally Zimrilima king of Mari.

1759 BC - Hammurabi conquered the kingdom of Mari, and that city was razed by his orders.

1750 BC - Hammurabi died.

The Code of Hammurabi (Codex Hammurabi) is a set of laws of slave state, named after the king of Babylonia in 1792-1750 BC Hammurabi, who gave great importance to the legislative process and started it in the very beginning of his reign. The first codification was undertaken on the 2nd year of the reign, the king "established the law of the country." But it was not preserved. Famous Code of Hammurabi refers to the end of his reign. They were carved on a big black basalt column (Harper 2009).

Unlike the Romans, and Slavs, who were writing their own laws on wooden boards, Oriental Orthodox peoples used stone. There is too little wood there, but a lot of stone. Exhibited in the town square the "pillar of the laws" was to serve justice perpetrated there, and at the same time, to recall: No one can plead ignorance of law.

On the top of the pillar the king is depicted, standing in front of the sun god Shamash - the patron saint of the court. Under the relief text of laws is engraved, filling both sides of the column. The text consists of 3 parts. The first is the extensive introduction, in which Hammurabi declares that the gods gave him the kingdom in order, "to the strong do not oppress the weak." The introduction is followed by articles of law, which end with substantive conclusion.

Total monument consists of 282 articles. Its foundation was laid the old customary law, Schumer Statute Book, the new legislation. The laws are incomplete and very categorical. Texts are composed mainly in casuistic form. The Code does not contain general principles; there is no system in the presentation, although there is certain logic. The Code of Hammurabi, unlike other eastern codifications do not contain religious and moral element.

With the help of these laws, Hammurabi was trying to consolidate the social system of the State, the dominant forces of which were to be small and medium slaveholders. This is the first known collection of laws covered the slave system and private property. The laws contain remnants of the tribal system; it is manifested in the severity of punishment, maintaining the principle of Talion. During the reign of Hammurabi, the private ownership has reached full development. In Babylon there were different types of land ownership: the land was royal, temple, community, private. The king ruled the temple and the king's land; it was a major source of income. The king's land was given in the land use to the sharecroppers. The value of the royal household was great in the field of trade and exchange. The development of private land ownership was contributed by the extension of network channels. Private land ownership was different in scope; large landowners used slave labor and wage workers; small cultivated their land themselves. The development of private land ownership led to a reduction of communal land, the decline of the community. Land could easily be sold, rented, inherited; there were no any limitations. There was a special legal regime in respect of property of Warriors (ilku property). The Code of Hammurapi has a number of articles governing the rental of land, which probably, played a major role in land relations of that time. The fee for a leased field was usually equal to one third of the crop. At lease for half of the crop conditions, the landlord obligated to participate in the cost or the work of processing field. Garden, which gave more profit, was given for two-thirds of the crop. The rent was short-term (1 or 2 years); only surrendered land was given for longer-term lease. The law which defined the relationship between the land owner and the tenant, contributed to the development of the economy. If the tenant did not cultivate the land, he had to pay the owner of the field according to the amount of crop grown by neighbors. In addition to rent of a field and a garden, the code of Hammurabi mentions the different types of tenancy: the premises, pets, boats, chariots, slaves. The Code established not only the fee for the things rent, but also responsibility in case of loss or damage of rented equipment (Alberge 2003).

Circulated rent was very popular that time. In addition to agricultural workers, physicians, veterinarians, builders could be employed. The Code determined the order of remuneration for these people, as well as responsibility for the results of work (for example, a doctor in case see patient's death). The Code of Hammurabi regulated the loan contract in details. A characteristic feature of the code of Hammurabi is the desire to protect the debtor from the creditor and to prevent debt bondage. This is evidenced by provisions restricting mining term debt (3 years), the interest charged by the moneylender, both with money and with the natural loan, lender liability in the case of debtor's death as a result of ill-treatment. In terms of private property as movable and immovable property, a contract of sale has become very popular. The sale of valuable things (land, buildings, slaves, cattle) was performed in writing (on clay tablets) with witnesses. Sellers could only be the owner of the thing. Sale of property seized from trafficking (property ilku) was void. In addition to already mentioned laws, the Code of Hammurabi explains treaties storage agreement, partnership, exchange, assignment. The Hammurabi`s Code tells about the liabilities of the injury also. Responsible is the one who causes the death of a slave (the owner should give to a slave for a slave). The mariner, who sank the ship with the property, must reimburse the cost of all drown (Johns 1904).

The marriage was valid only after the written agreement was concluded between the future husband and father of the bride. Family relations were based on the husband primacy. The wife was punished for infidelity. If she was barren, her husband could have a side wife. However, married women were not powerless. She could have her own property, reserved the right to a dowry, was able to divorce, and could inherit from her husband together with the children. The fairly strong authority of the father to the children was manifested in the possibility of selling children, to give them as hostages for debts: for the blasphemy on the parents the child could get a tongue cut out. Nevertheless, the law limits this power. So, the father had no right to disinherit his son who has committed no crime. The Code of Hammurabi recognizes the adoption of children. The inheritance by will had the power, but with certain limitations. The preferential mode of inheritance was by law. The heirs could be: children, including adopted children, grandchildren, children of the slave-concubines, if the father acknowledged them (Lawrence 1922).

The same as other ancient codification, the Code of Hammurabi do not give a general notion of crime and a list of all those acts which are deemed criminal. Nothing is said in the Code about the state and religious crimes, which are always punishable by death.

From the content of codification there can be distinguished only three types of crimes: against the person, property, and against the family. Among crimes against personality, the Code of Hammurabi mentions manslaughter (willful is not mentioned); such crimes include, for example, actions of the person who has built a house that collapsed and caused the death of the owner. The same responsibility has the doctor who caused the death of a person as a result of the operation. The Code of Hammurabi has a detailed description of various types of self-mutilation: the damaged eye, tooth and bone. In all cases, when determining the penalty, the principle of Talion works: the perpetrator perceives the same fate as the victim. In the case of causing injuries, the offender is charged with a certain fee (King 2007).

The property crimes, according to the Code are the theft of livestock and slaves. The criminal actions are harboring the slaves, and withdrawal from the stigma of slavery. The Code of Hammurabi differentiates such crimes as theft and robbery. For all property crimes there were severe penalties. It was either death or mutilation (cutting off the hand), or a huge fine, many times exceeding the value of the stolen. Failure to pay such a penalty was followed by the death. Among the crimes that undermine the foundations of the family, the Code distinguishes adultery (only form the wife's side), incest (relationships between mother and son, father and daughter). The actions which undermine the paternal authority are called the crimes (the son who hit his father loses his hands). Types of penalties set by the Code are defined by their purpose - revenge. Therefore, determining the punishment, the legislation is often guided by the principle of Talion. The main type of punishment is the death penalty in various ways: burning, drowning, amputation of hands, cutting off fingers, tongue, etc.; fines, banishments and other.

There is not so much written about the trial law in Hammurabi`s Code. Pleadings were going public on the porch of the temple. Judicial functions were implemented by special professional official, but there were also some judicial board, consisting of "the oldest and most famous people of the city." The priests were involved in process only when they took an oath of witnesses.

In difficult cases, judges committed the oath in front of the statues of gods (Shamash and Marduk). The highest court was the king (Hooker 1996).

The process was the same as for criminal and civil cases. It began with a statement of the victim. The means of evidence were the testimony, oath, ordeal (The Code of Hammurabi mentions the water test). The rules of procedural law required judges to "investigate the matter" personally. The judge could not change his decision. If he did, he paid a fine 12 times more than the amount of the claim mount, and deprived his seat without the right to judge ever.

The Codex of Hammurabi is the collection of moral precepts, or report of the king to the gods with a description of those cases that were deciphered by Hammurabi - this is how historians thing, without coming to consensus. These laws give historians a broad picture of the life of ancient Babylon.

In general, the Code of Hammurabi was meant to maintain the existing life and, according to some historians, to prevent changes in society.


The Code of Hammurabi, is a Babylonian code of laws, created by the end of the reign of Hammurabi around 1760 BC. It is the most important monuments of the ancient oriental slave law. The original text of the law written in cuneiform on dioritic stele was found in 1901-02 during excavations at the site of the ancient capital of Elam - City of Susa, where it was apparently abducted by elamityane people as a war trophy.

The Code of Hammurabi is formed from the Sumerian legal tradition and is one of the most important sources for the study of law and socio-economic structure of Mesopotamia of that time. The focus of the laws is based on business, economic and family relations. The code helps to restrict and regulate the private property relations, and allege state control over the economic life.