The Code of Hammurabi

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The Code of Hammurabi was written by King Hammurabi, who began ruling the Babylonian Empire in about 1800 BC. Hammurabi came to power using his strengths as a military leader, conquering many smaller city-states to create his Empire. Hammurabi believed that the gods appointed him to bring justice and order to his people, and he took this duty very seriously. Not long after his ascent to power, he created his Code, 282 laws written to define all relationships and aspects of life in the kingdom. The laws were displayed in a public place so that all the people could have the opportunity to study them. The laws applied to everyone, though application of the laws and punishment differed according to social class. The punishments for disobeying the laws were swift and harsh, further encouraging compliance. The form of the Code of Hammurabi is significant in the way that it is written. The simple language used to write the Code allowed the average member of Babylonian society to understand the expectations placed on them. Each of 282 laws was written separately with specific examples of indiscretions that were illegal, and the precise form of punishment that would occur. The Code also sets guidelines for the fees that were paid to doctors, veterinarians, shipbuilders, ferryboat operators, and to the owners of rented livestock. The author of the Code also makes some key assumptions while writing his laws. Hammurabi must assume that the members of his kingdom have the same values and morals that he does. He writes as if everyone will agree with each law written, and makes no provision for members of society to disagree with him. Hammurabi also assumes that the punishment he prescribes will be enough to deter crime and prevent repeat offenders. When prescribing the incentives given to doctors, Hammurabi made assumptions about how much money it would take to encourage doctors to practice medicine and shipbuilders to build ships.

The Code of Hammurabi, carved into...
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