Hammurabi's Code: Just or Unjust?

Topics: Code of Hammurabi, Law, Mesopotamia Pages: 5 (1585 words) Published: May 9, 2009
Mesopotamia, “the Land between Rivers,” was one of the greatest and the oldest ancient civilizations of the world. This civilization flourished around 3000 B.C. on the piece of fertile land, now known as Iraq, between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. Before 1792 B.C., the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia were not united and constantly clashed in turmoil and warfare. In 1792 B.C., King Hammurabi conquered and merged the neighboring city states of ancient Mesopotamia, creating a Babylonian empire and becoming the sixth king of its capitol city, Babylon. During his reign, Hammurabi established law and order and funded irrigation, defense, and religious projects. He personally took care of and governed the administration. In fact, in 1786, he wrote two hundred eighty-two laws governing family, criminal punishment, civil law, ethics, business, prices, trade, and every other aspect of ancient life—this set of laws became known as “the Code of Hammurabi.” Carved upon a black stone eight feet high where everyone could read them, this Code was an improvement from previous lawless dynasties. However, these laws—compared to some other ancient laws such as the Mosaic Law and Roman Justinian Code—were unfair, unjust, and based on the social classes. Hammurabi’s laws were based on the harsh “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” mentality of the ancient era, requiring a death penalty for many slight offenses. For example, according to the twenty-first law in Hammurabi’s code, “if any one breaks a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried” (citation). In accordance to this law, anyone who tried—it did not matter if he actually did—to steal and was caught would be sentenced to death instantly. In fact, the Code further stated that even people who were discovered merely buying items from a robber would also be sentenced to death. This was not fair because if the robber is found but did not steal has still right to live but is sentenced to death according to the laws. Also sometimes when a wrong person is caught for the robbery he was sentenced to death instantly . This was also a major drawback of these laws because innocent people were also suffering from this laws which they should not have. During that time, these laws were never introduced in any part of the world but the Babylonian civilization. This was very unjust compared to Roman law by the Justinian code. Emperor Justinian compiled the Roman laws and also added new ones to it and formed in twelve tables. According to Roman law in Justinian code, robbery was not considered a crime. According to the law a person can sue a robber and the robber has to return the items that he had stolen and also fines. Also, the Roman laws were fair because according to these laws no one was considered a criminal as long as it wasn’t proved and no action would had been taken until then. These laws were just as it provided the right judgment and also protection for the people who are innocent. Also death was not the punishment for robbery which had a positive impact on the people as they can have a another chance for their if found guilty to improve and make up their living.Hammurabi’s laws were also based on social classes. These laws were not applicable to the upper class which consisted of the kings and nobles. Also, for wealthy landowners these laws were modified and they could get away from the death penalty easily. For example, the laws two hundred and two to two hundred and five were: “If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public” , ” If a...
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