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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hammurabi the Lawgiver

Hammurabi the Lawgiver
Between 1790 and 1750 B.C. Hammurabi (hah»muh»RAH«bee), king of the city-state of Babylon, conquered and reunited most of Mesopotamia and the upper valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In doing this, he created a large empire. This empire became known as the Babylonian Empire.

Like Sargon, Hammurabi was more than a military leader. He improved each city- state under his rule by promoting trade, building projects, and keeping up dikes and canals. Under his rule, Babylon thrived as a center for trade.

One of Hammurabi's most important achievements was his reorganization of Mesopotamia's system of taxation. Under a system of taxation, people are required to pay taxes to support the government. Hammurabi made changes to the tax system to ensure that all the people of Mesopotamia paid their share. Tax collectors traveled throughout the region, collecting tax money. The money collected paid for all of Hammurabi's improvements.

Perhaps Hammurabi is best remembered for the work he did with the laws of his land. Each city-state had long had its own set of laws, or rules. Hammurabi collected all these laws, sorted through them, and came up with one complete listing of laws. The collection of laws compiled by the Babylonian leader is known as the Code of Hammurabi.

Hammurabi's collection consisted of 282 laws that dealt with almost every part of daily life. The laws covered such topics as marriage, divorce, adoption, slaves, murder, stealing, military service, land, business, loans, prices, and wages. Almost no area was overlooked.

The old laws were complicated and often unfair. The Code of Hammurabi explained the laws in clear statements and set standard punishments.
Some of the laws within the Code of Hammurabi followed the idea of "an eye for an eye." These laws explained that whoever caused an injury should be punished with that same injury. This means that a person who broke someone's arm in a fight would be punished by having his or her arm broken.

Not all Hammurabi's laws offered "an eye for an eye" punishment. Some laws outlined specific fines for crimes. Others imposed a penalty of death.
In describing the purpose of his code, Hammurabi explained that he wrote it

To cause justice to prevail...
To destroy the wicked ...
To enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people.

In addition to putting together a code of laws, Hammurabi introduced the idea of equal justice, or fair treatment under the law. His equal justice, however, was limited to equality within each social class. Under the Code of Hammurabi, leaders, priests,
and the wealthy were often favored over other people.

Hammurabi's code lasted over the years, but the leader's empire did not. By 1600 B.C. the Babylonians, too, had been conquered by another people.

What is an "eye for an eye" law?


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