The Code of Hammurabi
King Hammurabi is arguably one of the most well-known rulers of Ancient Mesopotamia, alongside Ur-Nammu, Great King Sargon, and Tiglath-Pileser to name a few. Shortly after 1900 B.C., the Amorites – the Semites from the west who weakened the Third Dynasty of Ur, took Babylon as their capital. Gradually and carefully, they consolidated their position in the north. By the eighteenth century, the Old Babylonian dynasty attained full strength under King Hammurabi, who had a long and prosperous reign of forty-two years from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C. (Jones, 1960, page 54).
Many of the relics of his reign have been preserved, which allowed historians to study the remarkable king and the empire he governed. But according to Charles Horne, by far the most noteworthy of the Hammurabi relics is his code of laws, known today as the ‘Code of Hammurabi’. Ever since its discovery a century ago, it is not only one of the most precious artifacts in the world, but it also provided great insight into the kind of King Hammurabi was, and shed light to the concept of law and justice and the civilization’s culture almost four millennia ago. (Horne, 1915).
Unearthed by French archaeologist, Jean Vincent-Scheil, in 1901, the stone pillar that bears the inscription of the Code of Hammurabi holds the most well-preserved and comprehensive lists of ancient laws in existence. This day, that eight-foot monument can be found in the Louvre museum in Paris. From its physical appearance, clearly it was meant for public display in the ancient Babylonian city. The top is engraved with a depiction of Hammurabi with Shamash, the sun-god and the god of justice. The tablet has sixteen columns of text on the front and twenty-eight on the back, with almost three hundred laws are enumerated. (McGrath, 2009). Tom B. Jones writes that Hammurabi was not the first “lawgiver”. There are four codes uncovered that preceded the Hammurabi Code, three of which were written in Sumerian,...
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