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Hammurabi's Code

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The Ancient Mesopotamian Law

Hammurabi was an Amorite who lived and reigned from 1792 BC to 1750 BC. He is remembered in history as the 6th king of the Mesopotamian Society. He is known as a great leader who conquered and brought many different kingdoms under the protection and governance of the one great umbrella of Babylon. As a ruler of a large society, Hammurabi recognized the need for organized law and knew that in order to govern effectively he had to establish his authority as a fair and impartial ruler.

It is generally accepted that Hammurabi’s Code was developed around 1780 BC, during his 44 year rule as king. The Amorites believed that kings were appointed by the gods to administer the law and protect the kingdom. Hammurabi’s Code was a set of 282 laws which established rules for bringing accusations against another and the corresponding punishments to fit the crimes committed, through an “eye for an eye” mentality.

The development of Hammurabi’s Code gave structure and order to the kingdom by addressing each of the three social classes; the poor (mushkenu: a free person who was essentially lower or middle class), the rich (awilu: a free person of the upper class), and the slaves (wardu). The code also shows consideration for the protection of women and children and for the weak and the poor (that they might not be destroyed by the strong or the rich and powerful).

The code also addressed unpaid debt, allowable reasons for a man or a woman to divorce and provisions to be made for spousal and child support. It also established severe consequences for bringing false accusations, or for verdicts and punishments rendered in error. “If a judge tries a case, reaches a decision, and presents 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…...

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