Hammurabi was the sixth King of Babylon. He ruled for 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. During the time he ruled he created the first written law code known to mankind. He ruled Babylon until his death in 1750 B.C.E.


The code was carved in an eight foot tall upright stone pillar, with all 282 laws engraved in the stone. "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth", is the paraphrase of the code, the main idea behind the words so to speak. The king needed a way to keep order of all the city-states, so he decided that a universal law was needed in order for him to keep full control of Mesopotamia. He sent out his best legal experts to gather all existing laws from his kingdom. The laws were first reviewed, and if worthy changed and kept, and unworthy laws were eliminated. Finally he completed his full list of 282 laws. The beginning of the code states his need "to make justice visible in the land, to destroy the wicked person and the evil-doer, that the strong might not injure the weak." Many people don't like the the idea of the code, eye for eye because it is harshly based on revenge. Another negative factor of the code was that it had different punishment for different classes of people. Some of the laws were somewhat different to ours of the modern society. Almost all punishment included excessive punishment including death.

The Laws

Of the nearly 300 laws there are mostly all extremely harsh and unusual from our modern perspective. For example, if a slave says
This is the code on dioirte stele at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France
to their master "you are not my master", the master shall cut off the slaves ear. Also if somebody knocked out an equals teeth he shall have his own knocked out. At this time in Mesopotamia they obviously didn't treat people as equals, therefore the code had different scales of punishment depending on the people class of the victim. For example if a man destroyed an eye of somebody of the gentleman's class they would have their own eye destroyed. If a man destroyed the eye of a commoner he would pay a fine (one Mina of silver). If he were to destroy a gentleman's slave he would pay half of the slaves cost. King Hammurabi didn't only have punishment for assault. His code also had punishments for issues such as family relationships and sexual behavior. There was also a code indicating payment amounts. Depending on your profession, mistakes proved very costly. For example as a doctor when performing an operation, makes a fatal mistake with the operating knife, the doctors hands shall be cut off. In his method of demonstrating guilt or innocence, the victim or witness must bring their accusation to the court elders with lengthy punishment in mind. If the elders decided there was not enough proof the accuser shall receive capital punishment (death). Following the Babylonians belief in fates being controlled by gods, some laws involved proving innocence by throwing the convicted into the Euphrates River. If they returned to shore they pleaded innocent, if they drowned they were guilty.

This is a portrait of Hammurabi

Finding of the Code

In July of 2010 a group of archeologists discovered an Akkadian cuneiform tablet in Tel Hazor, Israel. It had parallel portions of the code of Hammurabi. A more important discovery came in 1901 when Egyptologist Gustave lead by Jacques de Morgan found the black stele containing the ancient code in Modern Khuzestan, Iran.

Today's Laws (Critical Thinking)

In modern times, law in Canada is not as harsh as the ones our ancestors had to live through. Now all punishment are equal no matter what ethnic race, religion or sex you are. Also now, you must first be proved guilty by a judge in order to be sentenced to punishment. Some lower scale punishments are; serving community service and paying a fine. For committing a worse crime you will be sentenced for time in prison, but in most cases, can be bailed after paying a hefty fine. Another big difference is that in the time of Mesopotamia, they would put your crime against you following the "eye for eye" belief. Nowadays there is no capital punishment (in Canada) and we do not use physical pain as a punishment.


Writing this article has taught me lots about of interesting and useful information about the history of the Code of Hammurabi. I hope you have learned a lot from reading this article. What's your your opinion on the Code of Hammurabi?

Bibliography On this website I found some of the laws on the code especially the ones used for examples. On this website I found most of my general information regarding the code, and especially the history of it. I used this site for a bit of my very general information, like when it was discovered by archeologists.

Image Sources: I used this Wikipedia page to get my picture of the displayed code in the Louvre, in Paris. I used this site to get the picture of Hammurabi displayed in the body