The code of hammurabi



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THE CODE OF HAMMURABI
Hammurabi, the greatest king of ancient Babylonia, was one of the first rulers to organize and issue a single code of laws for everyone in his empire to observe. Hammurabi’s laws were of two kinds. First, there were laws of retaliation for the injury of people of the upper class. Second, there were laws of compensation for damaged property or the injury of someone of the lower classes. As you read the following selections from the code of Hammurabi, think about its similarity to or differences from other law codes.


  • If a man has accused another of laying a nertu [death spell] upon him, but has not proved it, he shall be put to death…




  • If a man has borne false witness in a trial, or has not established the statement that he has made, if that case be a capital trial, that man shall be put to death…




  • If a man has stolen goods from a temple, or house, he shall be put to death; and he that has received the stolen property from him shall be put to death…




  • If a man has stolen a child, he shall be put to death.




  • If a man has broken into a house he shall be killed before the breach and buried there.




  • If a man has committed highway robbery and has been caught, that man shall be put to death.




  • If the highwayman has not been caught, the man that has been robbed shall state on oath what he has lost and the city or district governor in whose territory or district the robbery took place shall restore to him what he has lost.




  • If a life [has been lost], the city or district governor shall pay one mina of silver to the deceased’s relatives.




  • If a man has hired a field to cultivate and has caused no grain to grow on the field, he shall be held responsible for not doing the work on the field and shall pay an average rent




  • If a man has neglected to strengthen his dike and has not kept his dike strong, and a breach has broken out in his dike, and the water have flooded the meadow, the man in whose dike the breach was broken out shall restore the grain he has caused to be lost…




  • If a man has opened his runnel for watering and has left it open, and the water has flooded his neighbor’s field, he shall pay him an average crop…




  • If a man owes a debt, and he has given his wife, his son, or his daughter [as hostage] for the money, or has handed someone over to work it off, the hostage shall do the work of the creditor’s house; but in the fourth year he shall set them free…







  • If a man has divorced his wife, who has not borne him children, he shall pay over to her as much money as was given for her bride-prince and the marriage-portion which she brought from her father’s house, and so shall divorce her…




  • If [a woman] has not been discreet has gone out, ruined her house, belittled her husband, she shall be divorced…




  • If a man has determined to disinherit his son and has declared before the judge, “I cut off my son,” the judge shall inquire into the son’s past, and, if the son has not committed a grave misdemeanor such as should cut him off from sonship, the father shall [not] disinherit his son…




  • If a son has struck his father, his hands shall be cut off.







  • If he has broken the arm of a patrician, his limb shall be broken.




  • If he has knocked out the eye of a plebian or has broken the limb of a plebeian, he shall pay one mina of silver.

  • If he has knocked out the eye of a patrician’s servant, or broken the limb of a patrician’s servant, he shall pay half his value…




  • If a man has destroyed the eye of a man of the “gentleman” [upper] class, they shall destroy his eye. If he has broken a gentleman’s bone, they shall break his bone. If he has destroyed the eye of a commoner or broken the bone of a commoner, he shall pay one mina of silver. If he has destroyed the eye of a gentleman’s slave, or broken a bone of a gentleman’s slave, he shall pay half [the slave’s] price.




  • If a surgeon has made a [deep incision] in a gentleman with a bronze knife, and has thereby saved the gentleman’s life…he shall receive ten shekels of silver. If [the patient is] a commoner, he shall receive five shekels of silver. If [the patient is] a gentleman’s slave, the slave master shall pay the surgeon two shekels of silver.




  • If the surgeon has made a [deep incision] in a gentleman with a bronze knife, and had thereby caused the gentleman to die…they shall cut off [the surgeon’s] hand.




  • If a builder has made a house for a man but has not made his work strong, so that the house he made falls down and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death. If it causes the death of the son of the owner of the house, they shall kill the son of the builder.




  • If a man has hired a boat and a boatman, and loaded it with corn, wool, oil, or dates, or whatever it be, and the boatman has been careless, and sunk the boat, or lost what is in it, the boatman shall restore the boat which he sank and whatever he lost that was in it…




  • If a man has hired an ox and has caused its death, by carelessness, or blows, he shall restore ox for ox, to the owner of the ox…




  • If a man’s ox be a gorer, and has revealed its evil propensity as a gorer, and he has not blunted his horn, or shut up the ox, and then that ox has gored a free man, and caused his death, the owner shall pay half a mina of silver…




  • If a slave has said to his master, “You are not my master,” he shall be brought to account as his slave, and his master shall cut off his ear…

  • If a man has come forward in a lawsuit for the witnessing of false things, and has not proved the thing that he said, if that lawsuit is a capital case, that man shall be put to death. If he came forward for witnessing about corn or silver, he shall bear the penalty [that would apply to] that case.




  • If a man has concealed in his house a lost slave or slave-girl belonging to the Palace or to a subject, and has not brought him [or her] out at the proclamation of the Crier, the owner of the hosue shall be put to death.




  • If a fire has broken out in a man’s house, and a man who has gone to extinguish it has cast his eye on the property of the owner of the house and has taken the property of the owner of the house, that man shall be town into the fire.




  • If a man is subject to a debt bearing interest, and…a high flood has carried [his crop] away, or because of lack of water he has not produced corn in that field, in that year he shall not return any crop to [his] creditor. He shall…not pay any interest for that year…




  • If a gentleman strikes a gentleman in a fair fight and inflicts an injury on him, that man shall swear “I did not strike him deliberately,” and he shall pay [only] the surgeon.




  • To the end of days, for ever, may the king who happens to be in the land observe the words of justice which I [Hammurabi] have inscribed on my stele [stone slab];…and let that stele show him the accustomed way, the way to follow, the land’s judgments which I have judged and the land’s decisions which I have decided.



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Name ___________________
Period ______ Date________
orld History

Rise of Democratic Ideas


HAMMURABI’S CODE

Directions: Read the handout that contains the Code of Hammurabi and then answer the following questions completely. Be prepared to discuss your answers.





  1. Who was Hammurabi and why was/is he famous?


  1. What two kinds of laws did he have?



  1. What in the code suggests that slaves were highly prized possessions?



  1. What would happen if you were to steal property from a man whose house was on fire?



  1. What allowance was made for a weather disaster?



  1. Young men….should you strike your father? Explain.



  1. Were there different classes in Hammurabi’s society? How do you know? (Give several reasons or examples.)




  1. Was a fair fight okay? Why or why not?




  1. What might happen to an unfortunate surgeon?



  1. If you were a builder in this society, would you want to do a good job? Why?






  1. What was Hammurabi’s stele?



  1. What type of government did this society have? What does that mean?



  1. Were these laws democratic? Why?



  1. Considering these laws were inscribed (written down) BCE (before the common era), why are they considered a step toward democracy?



  1. Which of these laws do you think was the most UNFAIR? Why?



  1. Which of these laws seemed the most FAIR to you? Why?




  1. These laws could be described as: “an eye for an eye and ………” (finish the statement)


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