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Its first scholarly publication in led to the development of a special branch of comparative jurisprudence, the study of cuneiform law. Following the division made by the first editor, Jean-Vincent Scheil,….

In fact, the code reflects no…. This code includes laws relating to the practice of medicine, and the penalties for failure were severe. Sumerian physician-pharmacists prescribed beer c. Later Egyptian doctors, in their medical papyri c. Ancient Mesopotamia case form In ancient Middle East: Retribution as a philosophy stela promulgation In stela use in Mesopotamia In history of Mesopotamia: Babylonian law use of cuneiform In cuneiform: Spread and development of cuneiform View More.

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What's so important about the Code of Hammurabi?

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Because of this, modern scholars do not regard the code as a manual that would have guided judges in their decisions, and many prefer to call it a proclamation of the king as guarantor of justice rather than a legal code. Granted, there is some generality to the list, as it is not a record of actual court cases. So we can extract some legal principles from it, such as the law of talion Latin talio in the example above: If he injures someone of lower rank, he only pays a fine.

It represents the most elaborate formulation of a style of law collections that was current throughout the ancient Near East , a style that also appears in Exod At the end of his law code, King Hammurabi of Babylon wrote these words of advice to his citizens:. Let any wronged man who has a court case come to the statue of me as King of Justice and let the words of my stela be read out to him. Let him hear my precious words. Let my stela make his court case clear to him. Let him see his verdict, and set his mind at ease.

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Hammurabi announced loud and clear that there was a system of justice in his land and that all its inhabitants could rely on it. His artists carved several copies of the text on stone monuments, but only one of them is well preserved; it now stands in the Louvre Museum in Paris. At the end of the inscription, Hammurabi urges future generations to admire the work as a sign of his greatness.

Since we still read the text today, his wish has come true. He has also taught at the University of Oxford and at Yale. He is the author of more than 80 articles and reviews and has published 16 books on various aspects of ancient Near Eastern history, including a biography of Hammurabi. There were laws protecting a woman in the event that her husband was taken captive in war and had to live with another man when her food ran out. There were also laws that governed the support a temple-woman should receive from her brothers after her father had died.

In the laws, it is clear that not only is there a burden on the accused but also on the accuser should they be unable to prove their case. Judges were also held to a certain standard in the laws. Hammurabi ruled a vast empire and would not have been able to rule on every case himself.

Code of Hammurabi: Ancient Babylonian Laws

Hammurabi was not the first ruler in the Middle East to write down laws. The oldest was written by Ur-Nammu, a king of Ur, who reigned B. In addition, Hammurabi would probably have drawn on his own personal experiences in putting together his laws, basing them in part on past cases that he had ruled on. For instance, van de Mieroop notes that the code does not cover every dispute that could have arisen and contains inconsistencies.


Another problem that researchers face is what was the purpose of the stele, now in the Louvre, that originally would have been displayed at Sippar? Charpin notes that, even if one could read, the stele would be difficult to use as a reference to look up a law. The second point the epilogue makes is that the kings who succeed Hammurabi should not change or disregard these laws or try to alter the identity of the person who made them.

If any future ruler does try this Hammurabi puts a lengthy curse on them.

Burden on the accuser and judges

Owen Jarus writes about archaeology and all things about humans' past for Live Science.