The Law Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi was born in Babylon, nowadays – Iraq. Hammurabi and his reign is remembered for his laws, which were written on twelve stones. The laws were well displayed publicly for everyone in his empire to see. Hammurabi ruled Babylon as the King and his empire was located along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The king regarded himself as a religious leader who observed the rights of the people.

The king became famous because of his law codes, that demanded fair punishment to the wrong doer. The punishments varied from one class to the other. The laws covered areas like land ownership, marriage, divorce, wages and labor. The Hammurabi law code was made of several laws which he used to govern his empire. The laws were written on a stone tablet for everyone to see what was required of them. One of the most common in the Hammurabi laws called for fairness in the punishment to the one who committed the crime. Hammurabi laws applied differently according to the economic and social class of the people in his empire. The laws were divided according to the class they applied to and each crime one committed had its form of punishment which varied from one class to the other. Almost half of the code dealt with transaction matters like the wages and properties. The property codes applied differently from one class to another and each had a punishment if one acted against what the laws stated.

An example of such laws regarding the property and transaction ’If the seller has in the meantime died, the buyer shall take from his estate fivefold the value sued for’. The other code addressed matters concerning family relationships like inheritance, divorce and man-wife relationships. The law codes under this class dealt with the people’s relationship and how they interacted in their daily lives. The code mostly described family matters especially between a man and his wife. Other things covered in this class were issues of divorce in case there was a marital disagreement between a man and his wife. One of the laws stated the if a wife is accused by her husband, and there is no evidence that she was lying with another, the man shall swear her innocent and welcome the wife back to his house.

In the Hammurabi Empire, the women were regarded as property in times of marriage because they could be purchased by payment of dowry. Despite the integral part the women played in the Babylonian society, they were still dominated by men and they were subject to the commands given by their husbands. Some laws in the Hammurabi code protected women from the patriarchal rule. An example is if a woman was not pleased to stay in her husband’s house, the man was to let the wife go and claim his dowry which he paid to the parents.

The law codes were very important tools for governing the empires in the ancient times. By use of these laws, the kings could be able to implement justice and maintain order in their empires. In the early civilization, the rulers had to put the laws into writing for everyone to see. This played a vital role as the people could read and know what was expected of them. The law codes are a rich source of history that help us connect the past and the present as we try to compare the way the ancient rulers administered justice in relation to our present leaders.

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