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Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

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Collection of laws and edicts of King Hammurabi of Babylonia dating to the middle of the 18th century BCE. The laws in this collection were not devised by Hammurabi, but were based upon older Sumerian law.
Today we have more than one source for the laws, but the most important single one was discovered in Susa in 1901, and is now exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. This is a stone of black diorite, about 2,2 meter high, and was made around 1740 BCE. It was originally placed in the Marduk temple in Babylon.
The block was found in three pieces, but it has been restored. On this stone, the text is written in the Akkadian language with cuneiform writing. There are 282 case laws, which altogether cover 16 columns on the front side (the side where Hammurabi is depicted, receiving the symbols that allow him to administer the divine law from the sun-god Shamash) and 28 on the back side.

The code covers mainly 4 fields: economic provisions, family, crime and civil matters. The legal system is quite detailed, and it even contains information on rates for services and trade. The criminal law is based upon equal retaliation, according to the eye-for-an-eye principle.
The laws are quite humane, and there are few tribal customs. For example, no blood feud or any private retribution or marriage by capture is allowed. The code explains how legal procedures should be conducted, and there are details about penalties for unjust accusations and false testimony.
All citizens in the Babylonian society were protected under the legal system, even slaves.
There are no laws concerning religion.

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By Tore Kjeilen