Hammarabis Law Code Essay

This essay has a total of 1091 words and 5 pages.


Hammarabis Law Code





Many people may not know it, but they have heard part of Hammurabi’s Law Code
before. It is where the fabled “eye-for-an-eye” statement came from.
However, this brutal way of enforcing laws was not always the case in ancient Mesopotamia,
where Hammurabi ruled. The Laws of Ur-Nammu are much milder and project a greater sense
of tolerance in an earlier time. The changing Mesopotamian society dictated this change
to a harsher, more defined law that Hammurabi ruled from. It was the urge to solidify his
power in Mesopotamia that led Hammurabi to create his Law Code.

It must first be noted that the Laws of Ur-Nammu were written some time around 2100 B.C.,
around three hundred years before Hammurabi’s Code. Because of this, The Laws of
Ur-Nammu are much less defined in translation as well as more incomplete in their
discovery. However, it is apparent from the text that these laws were concerned with
establishing Mesopotamia as a fair society where equality is inherent. In the prologue
before the laws, it is stated that “the orphan was not delivered up to the rich man;
the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man; the man of one shekel was not delivered
up to the man of one mina.” This set forth that no citizen answered to another, or
even that each citizen answered to each other, no matter their wealth, strength, or
perceived power.

This distinction of an equal society was important to the growing territory that was
Mesopotamia. It allowed each person to feel important to their community because they
were not lorded over by a superior class. Also, the sheer amount of different bands of
people that made up the initial Mesopotamian society dictated that no distinction between
origin or race could be made without destroying the careful balance that was set up.

The Laws of Ur-Nammu were also distinct in that most penalties were fines or payments.
One law stated that “if someone severed the nose of another man with a copper knife,
he must pay two-thirds of a mina of silver.” Another contains that “if a man
proceeded by force, and deflowered the virgin slave-woman of another man, that man must
pay five shekels of silver.” According to these laws, the crimes of assault and
rape were reduced to payment for injury.

Hammurabi’s Code was not nearly as forgiving. While The Laws of Ur-Nammu doled out
fines as penalties, Hammurabi’s Code delivered death for many crimes. Hammurabi
also has a much different view concerning the treatment of rape: “If a man violate
the wife of another man...and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to
death, but the wife is blameless.” Also, assault was no longer punishable by just a
fine: “If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.”
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