you're reading...
Art, travels

Hammurabi’s code of Law

Hammurabi’s laws are generally believed to be the oldest written laws, though that is not the case. The (mostly)preserved laws of Ur-Nammu predate these by about three centuries, and there is mention of older codices that have not yet been found (oh, the possibilities!)

Hammurabi’s code, though remains the better-known and better-preserved legal codex, dating to the 18th century BCE. Compared to the earlier Sumerian versions, Hammurabi’s laws are more blood-thirsty: while the Sumerian laws provided for monetary compensation for most offences (imprisonment as a punitive concept for general law arose much later), the Babylonian code elucidates the “eye for an eye” concept of retributory law principle. This is the basic principle that evolved into the biblical law of a later millennium. Common with most laws (right up the renaissance), punishments were more severe if the victim was of a higher social status: for example, a doctor could have his hands cut off if a rich patient of his died, but could get away with a fine if the same happened to a slave.

I waited for a long time, but couldn’t get a clear shot, with people constantly milling around. Zoom in quite a bit and the cuneiform text covering the entire stela becomes visible.

The top of the stela shows Hammurabi receiving the laws from Shamash, the god of justice. Isn’t it a little odd to have a god of justice before you have laws etc.? I mean what was Shamash doing all those years before Hammurabi came along? 😀

Shamash is the seated figure (sitting on a symbolic temple) and holding a rod and ring. Considered to represent a measuring rod and a measuring rope (though many disagree), these are nonetheless symbols of regal authority and equivalent to the sceptre modern kings and queens hold.


About hbhatnagar

I need to fill this up with much better content than I had populated it with earlier. Why I write a blog maybe? I started blogging in 2009 or thereabouts. I was a newly turned atheist and wanted to converse with others of the same persuasion. We're not exactly a big population group in India! It didn't go very well and I sort of lost interest, posting a few things now and then. I got a lot more regular over the last few months and have been posting almost daily since February '15. There were many reasons why I gradually became more regular in posting, but one way or the other, here I am! So this blog has taken shape, being at different points in time my showcase, my comedy club, my art gallery, my book club, my therapist, my close friend, my innermost self....but always my little corner of the world. You are all welcome to visit and I hope you stay awhile! A few points about me because I don't want to lead anyone on(and trust me this does become an issue more often than I'd care to admit). I'm Indian, the brown-skinned variety; if race, ethnicity or skin colour is an issue, you don't have to get to know me any more than what you see on my blog. I'm 40, so if age is an issue, please be informed accordingly. I was a doctor, an ophthalmic surgeon for 10 years before I quit practice.


9 thoughts on “Hammurabi’s code of Law

  1. Hey, its good to see you still active here. Hammurabi’s code written in cuneiform is interesting. It is well preserved! I don’t know much, especially the timeline, but what do you think of Manusmriti? Wasn’t it some a book full of written laws or am I mistaken?


    Posted by Trablogger | 27/10/2020, 9:12 PM
  2. Wow… well preserved. Thank you for the historical information, Dr. Hb.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Amy | 25/10/2020, 10:05 PM
  3. Grammarly sucks. (Which explains why my iPhone ate it). Ha ha ha


    Posted by Sabiscuit | 22/10/2020, 11:35 AM
  4. I might have an answer for you. The laws existed before the writing of it. As you know, ancient societies had oral traditions. They used to make legal agreements through verbal contracts. In some cultures, it was forbidden to write (things) down as anything written could be corrupted. It’s possible the statue was a way of establishing that a specific social or justice system was in place in the area where it was erected? Hence the apparent discrepancy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Sabiscuit | 22/10/2020, 2:28 AM
    • Yes, oral traditions predate written conventions by millenia, agreed. From what we see of Sumerian society though shows that writing was held in high esteem: a written agreement was inviolate. Older versions of Sumerian law were probably written on more perishable clay tablets and didn’t survive in pristine form but maybe there is some undiscovered royal library out there still!

      Liked by 1 person

      Posted by hbhatnagar | 22/10/2020, 6:11 AM
      • Got it. Thanks for this information, which certainly explains why the writings of the statutes, etc. did not survive. Perhaps someone’s dog ate it, and a clever little archeologist will dig it out of their stomach?

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by Sabiscuit | 22/10/2020, 11:25 AM
      • I’d say let sleeping dogs lie, but that doesn’t seem to be the flavour (yes, Grammarly, I’ll continue to add a ú’there) of the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

        Posted by hbhatnagar | 22/10/2020, 11:34 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: