Code of Hammurabi

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The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1700 BCE (short chronology). The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man.[1]

One nearly complete example of the Code survives today, on a diorite stele in the shape of a huge index finger,[2] 2.25 m or 7.4 ft tall (see images at right). The Code is inscribed in the Akkadian language, using cuneiform script carved into the stele, today on display in the Louvre.



Hammurabi ruled for 42 years, 1792 to 1750 BC, in the preface to the law code, he states, "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land."[3]

In 1901 Egyptologist Gustave Jéquier, a member of an expedition headed by Jacques de Morgan, found the stele containing the Code of Hammurabi in what is now Khūzestān, Iran (ancient Susa, Elam), where it had been taken as plunder by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century B.C.

It is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.[4]


The Code of Hammurabi was one of several sets of laws in the Ancient Near East.[5]

Earlier collections of laws include the Code of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (ca. 2050 BCE), the Laws of Eshnunna (ca. 1930 BCE) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1870 BCE), while later ones include the Hittite laws, the Assyrian laws, and Mosaic Law.[6] These codes come from similar cultures in a relatively small geographical area, and they have passages which resemble each other.[7]

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