Code of Hammurabi

An Eye for an Eye and Other Laws by Hammurabi

A view of part of the code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest systems of law. It was named after the ruler of Babylon who reigned from 1795 - 1750 BCE. (Kean Collection/Getty Images)

The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest known law codes and was probably compiled at the start of the reign of the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792–1750 B.C.). The Code of Hammurabi is famous for demanding punishment to fit the crime (the lex talionis, or an eye for an eye) with different treatment for each social class. The Code is thought to be Sumerian in spirit but with a Babylonian inspired harshness.

Its laws cover land tenure, rent, the position of women, marriage, divorce, inheritance, contracts, control of public order, administration of justice, wages, and labor conditions.  The prologue of the Code gives a glimpse of the relationship between the Babylonian gods and kings.

A 2.3 m high diorite or basalt stele of the Code of Hammurabi was found at Susa, Iran, in 1901. At the top is a bas-relief image. The text of laws is written in cuneiform. This stele of the Code of Hammurabi is at the Louvre.

Source: James A. Armstrong "Mesopotamia" The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Brian M. Fagan, ed., Oxford University Press 1996. Oxford Reference Online.


Also Known As: Hammurabi's Code, Codex Hammurabi

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Gill, N.S. "Code of Hammurabi." ThoughtCo, Jun. 22, 2017, Gill, N.S. (2017, June 22). Code of Hammurabi. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Code of Hammurabi." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 18, 2017).