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Code of Hammurabi



A view of part of the code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest systems of law. It was named after the ruler of Babylon who reigned from 1795 - 1750 BCE.

(Kean Collection/Getty Images) codeofHammurabi.jpg

Diorite stela inscribed with the laws of Hammurabi, 18th century BC. Hammurabi (Hammurapi) king of Babylon (1792-1750 BC), sixth ruler of the 1st of Babylon, unified Mesopotamia. This stela was discovered at Susa in 1901 by Jean-Vincent Sceil (1858-1940), French Orientalist, and is inscribed with the Code of Hammurabi, the laws of the kingdom. Hammurabi sits enthroned at top of the stela. From the collection of the Louvre, Paris.

(Photo by Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images)

The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest known law codes and was probably compiled at the start of the reign of the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792–1750 B.C.). The Code of Hammurabi is famous for demanding punishment to fit the crime (the lex talionis, or an eye for an eye) with different treatment for each social class. The Code is thought to be Sumerian in spirit but with a Babylonian inspired harshness. Its laws cover land tenure, rent, the position of women, marriage, divorce, inheritance, contracts, control of public order, administration of justice, wages, and labor conditions. (See LOC article on Iraq.) The prologue of the Code give a glimpse of the relationship between the Babylonian gods and kings.

A 2.3 m high diorite or basalt stele of the Code of Hammurabi was found at Susa, Iran, in 1901. At the top is a bas relief image. The text of laws is written in cuneiform. This stele of the Code of Hammurabi is at the Louvre.

Source: James A. Armstrong "Mesopotamia" The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Brian M. Fagan, ed., Oxford University Press 1996. Oxford Reference Online.


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Also Known As: Hammurabi's Code, Codex Hammurabi

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