Laying down the law: to Hammurabi, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" meant justice.** Objective
Students should be able to:
* make the connection between the ancient written laws laws deriving their force from express legislative enactment, as contradistinguished from unwritten, or common, law. See the Note under Law, and
See also: Write of Hammurabi and law in society today, especially as exemplified by the U.S. Constitution.
** Words to Know
* conviction: a declaration of guilt made in a court of law.
* oppressed op·press
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.
2. : crushed by abuses of power or authority.
Since the discovery of Hammurabi's Code in 1901, archaeologists have found evidence of codes of law older than Hammurabi's. The oldest is from Ur in Sumer (birthplace of Abraham, patriarch patriarch, in the Bible
patriarch (pā`trēärk), in biblical tradition, one of the antediluvian progenitors of the race as given in Genesis (e.g., Seth) or one of the ancestors of the Jews (e.g. of the Jews), and dates from the mid-21st century B.C. None of the codes uncovered have been nearly as complete as Hammurabi's. But they do show that the concept of law was accepted in other ancient societies.
** Critical Thinking
RECALLING DETAILS/COMPREHENSION: What is a trial by ordeal Noun 1. trial by ordeal - a primitive method of determining a person's guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was usually taken as a sign of innocence
ordeal ? (determining guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused to dangerous tests in order to determine "guilt" or "innocence")
FORMING SUPPORTED OPINIONS: The Eighth Amendment forbids "cruel and unusual punishments Such punishment as would amount to torture or barbarity, any cruel and degrading punishment not known to the Common Law, or any fine, penalty, confinement, or treatment that is so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the moral sense of the community. ." Do you consider Hammurabi's Code "cruel and unusual"? Explain. (Answers will vary.)
PUT IT IN WRITING: Write a sentence or short paragraph explaining why having written laws available to everyone is an improvement over unwritten laws such laws as have been handed down by tradition or in song. Such were the laws of the early nations of Europe.
See also: Unwritten .
SOCIAL STUDIES, GRADES 5-8
** Power, authority, and governance: Hammurabi's Code is the most complete known ancient standard of people's rights and responsibilities.
** Bryant, Tamera, The Life and Times of Hammurabi (Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2005). Grades 5-8.
** Chaves, Eva Bargallo I., Mesopotamia (Chelsea House, 2006). Grades 6-9.
** Ancient Mesopotamia: Law and Government oi.uchicago.edu/OI/MUS/ED /TRC/MESO/law.html
** The Code of Hammurabi The Code of Hammurabi was a comprehensive set of laws, considered by many scholars to be the oldest laws established; they were handed down four thousand years ago by King Hammurabi of Babylon. gale.edu/lawweb/avalon /medieval/hamframe.htm
Imagine that you are far from home in a strange land. Two men lead you into a dreary courtroom, where a stern judge sits behind a mammoth bench.
"The accused is guilty under Section 21 of the Official Secrets Act," the judge thunders, pounding his gavel gavel
small mallet used by judge or presiding officer to signal order. [Western Culture: Misc.]
See : Authority . "Off to prison with you!"
You have no idea what you did wrong. You have never even heard of the law you are accused of violating.
Does this sound far-fetched? Such forbidding scenes still play out in countries around the world. America's criminal justice system, too, can sometimes fail its citizens.
In ancient societies, people didn't even have a courtroom in which to plead their cases. Kings ruled according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. their whims and desires, and ordinary people enjoyed few rights.
Hammurabi wanted to change this. The powerful king, who ruled ancient Babylon from 1792 to 1750 B.C., had a keen sense of right and wrong. He was one of the first rulers to display the laws of the land for all to see. First, he had the laws inscribed in·scribe
tr.v. in·scribed, in·scrib·ing, in·scribes
a. To write, print, carve, or engrave (words or letters) on or in a surface.
b. To mark or engrave (a surface) with words or letters. (carved) on a huge slab of stone.
This stone, called a stela, was then put in a place where townspeople could see and discuss it. Hammurabi clearly thought a lot of himself. "Let the oppressed, who have a case at law, come and stand before this my image as King of righteousness," he wrote. "Let him read the inscription, and understand my precious words."
Look to me, Hammurabi seemed to say, for a model of justice. He also promised relief for the husband feuding with his brother-in-law, the son with his father. "The inscription will explain his case to him," Hammurabi continued. "He will find out what is just, and his heart will be glad."
At last, people had a clear explanation--however imperfect--of right and wrong. Known as the Code of Hammurabi, this system of laws set the standard for all future societies. Legal scholars call it the first great legal document of civilization. It even predates the Bible!
Discovering the Code
We know little about Hammurabi aside from his Code. It is a fluke fluke, parasitic flatworm of the trematoda class, related to the tapeworm. Instead of the cilia, external sense organs, and epidermis of the free-living flatworms, adult flukes have sucking disks with which they cling to their hosts and an external cuticle that that his set of rules even survived.
In 1901, French archaeologists were working at the site of Susa, an ancient Persian city. There, they made an astonishing a·ston·ish
tr.v. as·ton·ished, as·ton·ish·ing, as·ton·ish·es
To fill with sudden wonder or amazement. See Synonyms at surprise. discovery: the stela of Hammurabi's Code. Written in cuneiform cuneiform (kynē`ĭfôrm) [Lat.,=wedge-shaped], system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. , the Code was a list of 282 legal judgments that formed the basis of Babylonian law The material for the study of Babylonian law is singularly extensive. The so-called "contracts" exist in the thousands, including a great variety of deeds, conveyances, bonds, receipts, accounts, and most important of all, the actual legal decisions given by the judges in the law .
With its fancy palaces and temples, Babylon was one of the greatest cities of Mesopotamia. That historical region, home to some of the earliest human societies, is often called the "cradle of civilization This article is about society beginnings. For the beginning of humanity before writing, see History of the world. For other uses, see Cradle of Humankind (disambiguation). ." Under Hammurabi, Babylon became the dominant military and cultural power in the region.
Rulers had written down laws before. Hammurabi's were partly based on Mesopotamian traditions that were old even then. But as far as we know, never before had a system of laws been so complete, and so available to the people who lived under them.
Hammurabi's Code touched every aspect of daily life--including bad weather and the fees for renting oxen oxen
adult castrated male of any breed of Bos spp. .
"An Eye for an Eye"
What trouble could a Babylonian get into? Here is one example from Hammurabi's Code: "If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death."
That was that. Punishments were swift, to the point, and much harsher than they are today. Many of them may seem unfair to us. Some are downright inexplicable. For instance, Babylon, like many other ancient societies, practiced trial by ordeal. "If any one bring an accusation against a man," Hammurabi wrote, "let the accused go to the river and leap in. If he sink in the river, his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if [the accused] escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death."
If you survived, you must have been innocent! As one historian quips: "The gods were on the side of the best swimmers."
Two of the laws in Hammurabi's Code will sound familiar. Said Law 196: "If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out." Law 200 said: "If he knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out."
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Centuries later, this tradition re-emerged in the laws of the Jews under Moses, and became a well-known part of the Bible.
Indeed, violating Hammurabi's laws was no joke. Under the Code, a man who struck his father would have his hands cut off. So would a doctor whose patient died on the operating table.
Yet, for its time, the Code was progressive (leading to social change). Law 48 protected farmers who borrowed money to plant their crops: "If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm [destroys] the grain, or the harvest fail ... in that year he need not give his creditor [money lender Historical meaning
The historic use of the term Money lender refers to a person who as charges a fee for the use of money (i.e. a usuror). Contemporary meaning ] any grain ... and pay no rent for this year." Farmers today would love that law.
Some laws protected consumers. For instance, a builder would lose his life if his careless work led to the death of a house's occupants. Another law allowed women, who had few rights in the ancient world, to divorce their husbands under certain circumstances. Still another demanded child support from men who deserted their families. Even slaves enjoyed some rights.
The Desire for Justice
Hammurabi's laws did not contain many safeguards that we take for granted today. An individual could not appeal a conviction. As far as we know, judges could not give a less severe sentence than the Code allowed.
But Hammurabi's Code strove strove
Past tense of strive.
the past tense of strive
strove strive to be fair in ways that we can understand. He wanted, he wrote, "to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers, so that the strong should not harm the weak."
More than 3,500 years later, the Constitution of the United States Constitution of the United States, document embodying the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept. promised to "establish justice" and "security the blessings of liberty" for the citizens of a young country. The language of our rules may have changed, but the desire to seek justice endures.
Words to Know
* code: a system of laws.
* cuneiform (kyoo-NEE-uh-form): an early alphabet written in wedge shapes.
* Mesopotamia: an area of early civilization located in present-day Iraq.
* stela (STEE-luh): a carved stone slab.
* trial by ordeal: a way of determining a person's guilt or Innocence by performing dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control.
Word Match 1. code A. type of alphabet 2. creditor B. system of laws 3. cuneiform C. leading to change 4. Mesopotamia D. money lender 5. progressive E. "cradle of civilization"
1. B; 2. D; 3. A; 4. E; 5. C
Think About It
1. In your own words, why do you think Hemmurabi established a written code of behavior Noun 1. code of behavior - a set of conventional principles and expectations that are considered binding on any person who is a member of a particular group
code of conduct ?
2. What is the difference between trial by ordeal and trial by jury? Which would you prefer? Why?
How would you find the location of an ancient city? Would you consult (a) the latest political map, (b) a travel guide, or (c) a historical atlas A historical atlas is an atlas that includes historical maps and charts depicting the evolving geopolitical landscape. They are helpful in understanding historical context, the scope and scale of historical events and historical subjects (such as the expansion of the Roman Empire), ?
If you answered (c), stand up, and take a bow Verb 1. take a bow - acknowledge praise or accept credit; "They finally took a bow for what they did"
accept - consider or hold as true; "I cannot accept the dogma of this church"; "accept an argument"
When reading a map, first consider the title and key (or legend). The key explains the symbols that represent rivers and other geographical features.
This map comes from a historical atlas. It shows Hammurabi's empire in 1750 B.C. The empire was then at its largest. After Hammurabi's death that year, many of the places he had captured regained their independence.
Study the map, then answer the questions below. If you don't answer them correctly, Hammurabi might punish you!
1. Which river did the city of Ninevah border?--
2. Leaving the city of Babylon, in which compass direction The horizontal direction expressed as an angular distance measured clockwise from compass north. would you travel to reach Susa, where Hammurabi's Code was found?--
3. What was the approximate distance between Babylon and Susa?--
4. Into which body of water did the Tigris and Euphrates Tigris and Euphrates is a German strategy board game designed by Reiner Knizia and first published in 1997 by Hans im Glück in German (as Euphrat und Tigris). empty?--
5. Mesopotamia included most of which present-day country?--
6. Ancient Babylon was a part of which region?--
7. Which present-day country is located northwest of Babylon?--
8. The present-day capital of that country is shown on the map. What is that city's name?--
9. Which peninsula is located between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf Persian Gulf, arm of the Arabian Sea, 90,000 sq mi (233,100 sq km), between the Arabian peninsula and Iran, extending c.600 mi (970 km) from the Shatt al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Gulf of Oman. ?--
10. Susa was located in which present-day country?--
3. 280 miles
4. Persian Gulf
6. Mesopotamia (or Hammurabi's empire)
9. Arabian Peninsula Arabian Peninsula
Peninsular region, southwest Asia. With its offshore islands, it covers about 1 million sq mi (2.6 million sq km). Constituent countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and, the largest, Saudi Arabia.
* Use a word or phrase from this list to correctly complete each sentence.
after the Bible, after the U.S. Constitution, before the Bible, British historians, cuneiform, French archaeologists, Indiana Jones, Iraq, Mesopotamia, Palestine, stela, tough sentencing, trial by fire, trial by ordeal
16. Hammurabi's empire was in an area of the Middle East once known as--.
17. The Code of Hammurabi was a set of laws written--.
18. The original Hammurabi's Code was inscribed on a--.
19. Determining guilt or innocence by performing painful or dangerous tests is known as--.
20. We know about Hammurabi's Code today because it was found in 1901 by--.
17. before the Bible
18. stela (carved stone slab)
19. trial by ordeal
20. French archaeologists