The Life of Hammurabi
Hammurabi was the sixth king of Babylonia reigning from 1792 BC until his
death. The name means "The Kinsman is a Healer" in Akkadian.
The begiining of Hammurabi's reign was peaceful. In the 1760s BC, Babylonia was at war with Elam, a Dravidian kingdom. The kingdom then expanded from
Persia to the Mediterranean Sea. The following period was a highpoint of
Babylonian literature and culture. Temples, public buildings and irrigation were improved during his rule.
Part of a stele featuring the laws of Hammurabi
Hammurabi is famous for the legal system he developed around 1780 BC. His 282 laws have been used by many later
civilisations including the Hebrews and the Romans. The laws were written
on steles and placed around the kingdom so that all citizens could read them.
The laws address business and family relations, the hiring of labour, property, personal injuries and debt. Its most famours law can be summarised as
“an eye for an eye”. Much of the legal code is drawn from earlier Sumerian and Akkadian laws.
Examples of these laws are shown below:
After Hammurabi's death a legend grew that he has climbed a mountain and received the laws from the Sun God. Similar stories were later told about
the Hebrew prophet, Moses.
- If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
- If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
- If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.
- If a man rent his boat to a sailor, and the sailor is careless, and the boat is wrecked or goes aground, the sailor shall give the owner of the
boat another boat as compensation.
- If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense
charged, be put to death.
- If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through
his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge's bench, and never
again shall he sit there to render judgement.
- If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him
shall be put to death.
- If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold therefor;
if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.
- If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
- If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
- If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the
property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
- If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
- If a man be taken prisoner in war and there be no sustenance in his house and his wife go to another house and bear children; and if later
her husband return and come to his home: then this wife shall return to her husband, but the children follow their father.
- If any one leave his house, run away, and then his wife go to another house, if then he return, and wishes to take his wife back: because he
fled from his home and ran away, the wife of this runaway shall not return to her husband.
- If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).
- If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.
- If a man marry a woman, and she bear sons to him; if then this woman die, then shall her father have no claim on her dowry; this belongs to
All images external copyright.
KryssTal Related Pages
Inventions from the period that includes Babylonia.
Words from the Akkadian language of the Babylonian empire of Mesopotamia are still used in English today.
External Hammurabi Links
These links will open in a separate window
The law code of hammurabi.