This series has twelve easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: His Introduction.
The Code is important because it is the first time that an attempt at a comprehensive list of laws was left in writing so that everyone (at least in theory) could know what the laws were. Written laws inhibited judges from judging people’s situations arbitrarily and applied uniformity throughout the empire. It also gives insights into the life of ancient Babylon.
The Code was discovered at Susa, Persia, in December and January, 1901-2, by M. de Morgan’s French excavating expedition. The monument on which the laws are inscribed, a stele of black diorite nearly eight feet high, has been fully described by Assyriologists, and the inscription transcribed. It has been completely translated by Dr. Hugo Winckler, whose translation (in Die Gesetze Hammurabis, Band IV, Heft 4, of Der Alte Orient) furnishes the basis of the version herewith presented. Following an autobiographic preface, the text of the code contains two hundred and eighty edicts and an epilogue.
The Code was chiseled on an oblisk by Hammurabi. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Hammurabi, the first emperor of Babylon established the Babylonian Empire.
Time: 2250 BC
When Anu the Sublime, king of the Anunaki, and Bel [god of the earth], the Lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk [or Merodach, the great god of Babylon] the over-ruling son of Ea [god of the waters], God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it [Babylon], whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash [the sun-god], and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.
Hammurabi, the prince, called of Bel am I, making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare, sublime patron of E-kur [temple of Bel in Nippur, the seat of Bel’s worship]; who reëstablished Eridu and purified the worship of E-apsu [temple of Ea, at Eridu, the chief seat of Ea’s worship]; who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon, rejoiced the heart of Marduk, his lord who daily pays his devotions in Saggil [Marduk’s temple in Babylon]; the royal scion whom Sin made; who enriched Ur [Abraham’s birthplace, the seat of the worship of Sin, the moon-god]; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth to Gish-shir-gal; the white king, heard of Shamash, the mighty, who again laid the foundations of Sippana [seat of worship of Shamash and his wife, Malkat]; who clothed the gravestones of Malkat with green [symbolizing the resurrection of nature]; who made E-babbar [temple of the sun in Sippara] great, which is like the heavens; the warrior who guarded Larsa and renewed E-babbar [temple of the sun in Larsa, biblical Elassar, in Southern Babylonia], with Shamash as his helper; the lord who granted new life to Uruk [biblical Erech], who brought plenteous water to its inhabitants, raised the head of E-anna [temple of Ishtar-Nana at Uruk], and perfected the beauty of Anu and Nana; shield of the land, who reunited the scattered inhabitants of Isin; who richly endowed E-gal-mach [temple of Isin]; the protecting king of the city, brother of the god Zamama [god of Kish]; who firmly founded the farms of Kish, crowned E-me-te-ursag [sister city of Kish] with glory, redoubled the great holy treasures of Nana, managed the temple of Harsag-kalama [temple of Nergal at Cuthah]; the grave of the enemy, whose help brought about the victory; who increased the power of Cuthah; made all glorious in E-shidlam [a temple], the black steer [title of Marduk] who gored the enemy; beloved of the god Nebo, who rejoiced the inhabitants of Borsippa, the Sublime; who is indefatigable for E-zida [temple of Nebo in Babylon]; the divine king of the city; the White, Wise; who broadened the fields of Dilbat, who heaped up the harvests for Urash; the Mighty, the lord to whom come sceptre and crown, with which he clothes himself; the Elect of Ma-ma; who fixed the temple bounds of Kesh, who made rich the holy feasts of Nin-tu [goddess of Kesh]; the provident, solicitous, who provided food and drink for Lagash and Girsu, who provided large sacrificial offerings for the temple of Ningirsu [at Lagash]; who captured the enemy, the Elect of the oracle who fulfilled the prediction of Hallab, who rejoiced the heart of Anunit [whose oracle had predicted victory]; the pure prince, whose prayer is accepted by Adad [god of Hallab, with goddess Anunit]; who satisfied the heart of Adad, the warrior, in Karkar, who restored the vessels for worship in E-ud-gal-gal; the king who granted life to the city of Adab; the guide of E-mach; the princely king of the city, the irresistible warrior, who granted life to the inhabitants of Mashkanshabri, and brought abundance to the temple of Shid-lam; the White, Potent, who penetrated the secret cave of the bandits, saved the inhabitants of Malka from misfortune, and fixed their home fast in wealth; who established pure sacrificial gifts for Ea and Dam-gal-nun-na, who made his kingdom everlastingly great; the princely king of the city, who subjected the districts on the Ud-kib-nun-na Canal [Euphrates?] to the sway of Dagon, his Creator; who spared the inhabitants of Mera and Tutul; the sublime prince, who makes the face of Ninni shine; who presents holy meals to the divinity of Nin-a-zu, who cared for its inhabitants in their need, provided a portion for them in Babylon in peace; the shepherd of the oppressed and of the slaves; whose deeds find favor before Anunit, who provided for Anunit in the temple of Dumash in the suburb of Agade; who recognizes the right, who rules by law; who gave back to the city of Assur its protecting god; who let the name of Istar of Nineveh remain in E-mish-mish; the Sublime, who humbles himself before the great gods; successor of Sumula-il; the mighty son of Sin-muballit; the royal scion of Eternity; the mighty monarch, the sun of Babylon, whose rays shed light over the land of Sumer and Akkad; the king, obeyed by the four quarters of the world; Beloved of Ninni, am I.
When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I did right and righteousness in…, and brought about the well-being of the oppressed.
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