GO JUMP IN A RIVER! Hammurabi’s Code may not seem very different from more recent laws and precedents that guide the processes of a trial. But, there are a few major differences between ancient Babylonians and today’s laws. Hammurabi’s Code required accusers to bring the accused into court by themselves.
A number of the laws refer to jumping in the Euphrates River as a method of demonstrating one’s guilt or innocence. If the accused returned to shore safely, they were deemed innocent; if they drowned, they were guilty. This practice follows the Babylonian’s belief that their fates were controlled by their gods.
From the code, it is evident that the Babylonians did not believe all people were equal. The code treated slaves, commoners, and nobles differently. Women had a number of rights, including the ability to buy and sell property and to obtain a divorce. The Babylonians understood the need for honesty by all parties in a trial and for court officers to be free of corruption so that the justice system could function effectively.
Hammurabi’s Code serves as a window into the prevailing values of ancient Babylon. (www.ushistory.org/civ/4c.asp)