Hammurabi


In his position as King of Babylonia, Hammurabi managed to
organize the world’s first code of laws and establish Babylon as the
dominant and successful Amorite city of its time. “Records written on
clay tablets show that Hammurabi was a very capable administrator and a
successful warrior. His rule spanned from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C. When
he became king in 1792, he was still young, but had already become
entrusted with many official duties in his administration”(Grolier). In
the early years of his reign, Hammurabi mostly participated in
traditional activities, such as repairing buildings, digging canals, and
fighting wars. Yet later in his rule, Hammurabi organized a unique code
of laws, the first of its kind, therefore making himself one of the
world’s most influential leaders.

Hammurabi was primarily influential to the world because of his
code of laws. This code consisted of 282 provisions, systematically
arranged under a variety of subjects. He sorted his laws into groups
such as family, labor, personal property, real estate, trade, and
business. This was the first time in history that any laws had been
categorized into various sections. This format of organization was
emulated by civilizations of the future. For example, Semitic cultures
succeeding Hammurabi’s rule used some of the same laws that were included
in Hammurabi’s code. Hammurabi’s method of thought is evident in present
day societies which are influenced by his code. Modern governments
currently create specific laws, which are placed into their appropriate
family of similar laws. Hammurabi had his laws recorded upon an eight
foot high black stone monument. Hammurabi based his code on principles
like, the strong should not injure the weak, and that punishment should
fit the crime. As for punishment, “legal actions were initiated under
the code by written pleadings; testimony was taken under oath. The code
was severe in it’s penalties, prescribing “an eye for an eye, a tooth for
a tooth.”"(Grolier). This code of laws was able to be maintained by
invoking the authority of the gods and the state. Although the
punishments were different than those of today, the authority of the
state (government) is similar. Currently, punishments are issued
through the state’s law enforcement system, comparable to the way
punishment was determined and enforced in ancient Babylon. In the code,
crimes punishable by death required a trial in front of a bench of
judges. Included in these crimes were: bigamy, incest, kidnapping,
adultery and theft. There were also laws similar to today. For example,
a husband who wished to divorce his wife, was required to pay alimony and
child support. By creating the world’s first set of organized laws,
Hammurabi constituted a model set of moral codes for other civilizations
to duplicate.

“The code of Hammurabi is believed to have greatly influenced the
development of Near Eastern civilizations for centuries after it was
written”(Britannica). Although Hammurabi failed to establish an
effective bureaucratic system himself, his ideas were successful in
establishing laws in Babylonia. Since Babylon was the world’s first
metropolis, the large population needed to be bound by a strict set of
organized civil laws. The way Hammurabi constructed his laws is
influential to the world today, because laws can be more easily
understood by the people.

Bibliography
“Code of Hammurabi.” Encyclopedia Britannica (1989), X, 682.
“Hammurabi.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1994).
“Hammurabi.” Compton’s Encyclopedia (1990), XI, 225.