The Code of Ur-Nammu: When Ancient Sumerians Laid Down the Law, Everyone Obeyed

The Code of Ur-Nammu: When Ancient Sumerians Laid Down the Law, Everyone Obeyed


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The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest surviving law code. The Code of Ur-Nammu may be divided into two parts, the first is the prologue and the second is the laws themselves. Apart from being the oldest surviving law code, the Code of Ur-Nammu is also important as it gives us a glimpse of the way justice was conceived in ancient Sumerian society.

A Law Code Divided in Pieces

Earlier law codes, such as the Code of Urukagina, are known to exist. Nevertheless, the Code of Ur-Nammu is different in the sense that the text itself has survived to a large extent. The actual contents of the Code of Urukagina, by comparison, is now lost, and is only known through references made by other texts that have been discovered.

The first known version of the code in its current location, Istanbul.

As for the Code of Ur-Nammu, the first copy of this legal text was discovered in two fragments at Nippur, an ancient Sumerian city situated in modern day Iraq. Unfortunately, due to the poor state of preservation, only the prologue and five of the laws were discernible. They were translated into English in 1952 by the renowned Assyriologist, Samuel Kramer. Subsequently, other fragments of the code were unearthed. The ones found in Ur, for example, were translated in 1965, and resulted in the reconstruction of about 40 laws. Fragments were also discovered in another Sumerian city, Sippar, though with some slight variants.

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Ruins of a temple platform in Nippur—the brick structure on top was constructed by American archaeologists around 1900. () Fragments of the Code of Ur-Nammu were found at this site.

Creator of the Code of Ur-Nammu

The Code of Ur-Nammu has been attributed to Ur-Nammu, as the laws are credited directly to him in the prologue. Others, however, have argued that the law code was written by Shulgi, the son and successor of Ur-Nammu. In any case, Ur-Nammu was a king of the Sumerian city state of Ur. Scholars are not entirely in agreement as to when this king reigned, though it may have been during the last century of the 3rd millennium BC. Nevertheless, the reign of Ur-Nammu is generally regarded to have been a peaceful and prosperous one, with some considering it to be part of the ‘Sumerian Renaissance’.

An "Ur-Nammu Hymn", one of a group of texts that are composed in the voice of king Ur Nammu, probably intended to be sung as a hymn. (Rama/ CC BY SA 2.0 )

The Code of Ur-Nammu begins with a prologue, which is a standard feature of Mesopotamian law codes. Here, the deities for Ur-Nammu’s kingship, Nanna and Utu, are invoked, after which the king is said to have established equity in the land. This included the banishment of malediction, violence, and strife, as well as the protection of society’s weakest individuals. After the prologue, the text deals with the laws themselves.

From the royal tombs of Ur, the Standard of Ur mosaic, made of lapis lazuli and shell, shows peacetime.

“If (Insert Crime), Then (Insert Punishment)”

The laws in the Code of Ur-Nammu follow a set pattern, i.e. If (insert crime), then (insert punishment). This formula would be followed by almost all law codes that came after the Code of Ur-Nammu. In the law code, different categories of crime, as well as their resulting punishments, may be distinguished. For example, there are a number of capital offences, such as murder, robbery, and rape. The punishment for such crimes was death. For example, “If a man commits murder, that man must be killed.”, and “If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.”

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Statue of a Sumerian man, Ebih-Il - intendant, Early Dynastic.

Those who committed offences that were less serious in nature, on the other hand, would have been punished by imprisonment and / or fines. For instance, “If a man commits a kidnapping, he is to be imprisoned and pay 15 shekels of silver.”, and “If a man knocks out a tooth of another man, he shall pay two shekels of silver”.

There are also laws that ensure that if the innocence of an accused person is proven, his / her accuser would be punished instead. For example, “If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo ordeal by water; if he is proven innocent, his accuser must pay 3 shekels”, and “If a man accused the wife of a man of adultery, and the river ordeal proved her innocent, then the man who had accused her must pay one-third of a mina of silver.”

Statue of a Sumerian woman c. 2400 BC (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/ CC BY SA 4.0 )


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1. Strictest but not the oldest

One very commonly held belief about these set of laws is that they are the oldest law codes from the ancient world. The truth is-they are not. Before these law codes were two others, namely Ur-Nammu and Code of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin, a Sumerian law code. Ur-Nammu law code was inscribed by Ur-Nammu, a ruler of ancient Sumer in 2100-2050 B.C, whereas, the Lipit-Ishtar of Isin law code was drawn up two centuries before Hammurabi came up with his own set.

However, the Code of Hammurabi was definitely the strictest of all ancient laws. Some historians claim that the codes are, in-fact, vengeful, unlike other two ancient codes. The law drawn up had different outcomes for different people. These were not uniform for all classes. Also, the punishments meted out were far more gruesome than those that were prescribed in the earlier Sumerian law codes.


12 Fascinating Ancient Mesopotamian Inventions

Illustration/CGI by Bruce Long.

Posted By: Alok Bannerjee August 24, 2017

Mesopotamia as a regional toponym relates to a conglomeration of areas from various modern-day nations, including Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and even Iraq-Iran borders. Now historically, the relevance of this ‘meta-region’ relates to it being the focal point of earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution, circa 10,000 BC. In essence, Mesopotamia is widely considered to have fueled some of the most crucial inventions in human history, ranging from the cursive script, advanced astronomy to complex mathematics.

However, at the same, we must understand that the Mesopotamian culture was not a homogenous entity rather it was the melting pot of different civilizations, factions, city-states and even ethnicities (from the Semitic Akkadians to the Indo-European Hurrians) – and most of them were influential during various periods of time. And almost mirroring the abstruse nature of the so-called Mesopotamian culture comes forth the scope of ‘Mesopotamian inventions’. In essence, we as history enthusiasts shouldn’t view these Mesopotamian inventions as singular events that happened overnight. On the contrary, many of these historical innovations were brought forth by centuries of development since the epoch of the Neolithic Revolution. So without further ado, let us take a gander at 12 ancient Mesopotamian inventions you should know about.

1) Copper Fabrication –

Imdugud relief, dating from circa 3100 BC. Credit: British Museum

When it comes to the history of metals, copper became the first metal to be smelted from its ore (circa 5000 BC), the first metal that was cast in a mold (circa 4000 BC), and the first metal that was alloyed with yet another metal (tin) to create bronze (circa 3500 BC). And while copper counts among the few metals that can be used (to some degree) in its natural form, as opposed to extraction from ore, its full-scale usage in a fabricated form was probably kick-started by the Sumerians, around 5,000 years ago. In fact, the fabrication of copper as one of the major Mesopotamian inventions rather coincides with the growth of organized urban spaces into veritable cities like Sumer, Uruk, Ur, and al’Ubaid.

In terms of ‘products’, the Mesopotamians started out with copper arrowheads, harpoons, razors, and other smaller objects. Over the next centuries, they made their transition to more complex geometric forms, like chisels, elaborate jugs, and drinking vessels. Suffice it to say, there are some exquisite copper objects that are a fitting testament to the ancient craftsmanship of the Sumerians. One pertinent example would relate to the impressive Imdugud Relief (pictured above), found at Al’Ubaid, dating from about 3100 BC. Depicting a lion-headed eagle holding two stags by their tails, the exquisitely-crafted relief flaunts its beaten copper arrangement within a copper frame on a wooden background.

2) Free Spinning Wheel –

Chariot of Lagash, circa 2500 BC. Illustration by Angus McBride.

When it comes to the scope of the wheel, our popular notion harks back to faster modes of transportation. However archaeological evidence of the world’s first free spinning wheel actually pertains to the potter’s variety, with the oldest surviving specimen being found in the southern Mesopotamian city of Ur, dating from circa 3100 BC. Such designs were already in use in the earlier centuries of the 4th millennium BC (possibly as early as 4000 BC). And interestingly enough, in spite of its 6000-year old legacy, the free-spinning wheel is considered as one of the relatively ‘late’ Mesopotamian inventions, considering that by circa 4th millennium BC, humans had already made innovations in other fields, including woven cloth, rope, basket weaving, and even sailboats.

Furthermore, as opposed to the majority of other inventions, the wheel was invented purely out of human imagination. Simply put, a pitchfork was inspired by forked branches or even our modern flying machines were inspired by birds but the wheel was designed solely to aid in the functioning of human-made objects like potter’s wheel and transportation carriages. And pertaining to the latter, the wheel-axle combination for vehicles/chariots was possibly developed by circa 3500 BC. To that end, quite intriguingly, the oldest evidence of such a wheel-axle system doesn’t actually come from Mesopotamia rather it hails from the Stare Gmajne site near Ljubljana in Slovenia (dating back to circa 3200 BC).

3) Cursive Writing –

Boat Rental Receipt, circa 540 BC. Credit: Spurlock Museum

Writing directly relates to the greatest of human and Mesopotamian inventions – language, and as such represents the physical manifestation of our power of speech. But while the spoken language was probably in use by 35,000 BC, its fully developed written form (as opposed to proto-writing) only made the ‘debut’ during the latter part of the 4th millennium BC (circa 3500-3100 BC) in Sumer, southern Mesopotamia. This form of early cursive writing is known as the cuneiform – and it is widely viewed as the greatest contribution of the city of Uruk. Interestingly enough, ancient Egyptians also formulated their native writing system by 3100 BC and one hypothesis, though hotly debated, suggests that their system (corresponding to First Dynasty) was partly influenced by the Mesopotamian cuneiform.

The very word ‘cuneiform’ is derived from Latin cuneus, meaning a ‘wedge’. This is because this ancient writing style resembled wedge-like marks that were made in wet (soft) clay with a reed implement known as a stylus. The earlier forms of the writing mostly consisted of pictographs (or word-signs) that mainly focused on tangible subjects, like flood, gods or kings. Over time, the Mesopotamian writing took the route of phonograms, thus allowing to depict more complex, intangible subject matter, like the will of the gods or the honor of a man.

4) Literature –

A scene from the Epic of Gilgamesh, by Wael Tarabieh. Source: Saatchi Art

Pertaining to one of the major Mesopotamian inventions – cursive writing, the development of literature was a direct effect of written language, an achievement generally attributed to the Sumerians circa 3400 BC. And while these ‘written’ cuneiform texts, inscribed on clay tablets and reliefs, started out as recording devices for administrative purposes, over time Sumerians also copied literature pieces that presented tales, myths, and essays. In that regard, the world’s oldest known literature pieces pertain to two such surviving specimens – the Kesh Temple Hymn and the Instructions of Shuruppak.

The Kesh Temple Hymn (also known as the Liturgy to Nintud) is basically related to a series of Sumerian clay tablets that were inscribed circa 2600 BC. From the archaeological perspective, several fragments of the tablets were discovered in the early 20th century, mostly from the temple library at the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur. Since then experts have been able to compile much of the myth by various translations, along with analytical and comparative procedures that entailed the assessment of similar (yet different versioned) tablets.

The other literary work that is generally considered among the oldest in the world (and possibly the world’s oldest surviving written text) pertains to the Instructions of Shuruppak. Touted as one of the better examples of Sumerian wisdom literature, the ‘piece’ comprises a group of cuneiform tablets dating from around 2600-2500 BC, originally discovered at Abu Salabikh (around 12 miles from ancient Nippur). These fragments contain a list of counsels that are presented like proverbs – comprising one to three lines of cuneiform. The range of wisdom offered by a father to his son (and eventual hero) oscillates between simple practicality to upholding morality –

You should not locate a field on a road.

You should not make a well in your field: people will cause damage on it for you.

A loving heart maintains a family a hateful heart destroys a family.

You should not play around with a married young woman: the slander could be serious.

Do not pass judgment when you drink beer.

5) Standard Beer Recipes and Economy –

Babylonian cylinder seal from Ur, circa 2600 BC, showing two people drinking beer out of a jar using straws. Image Source: Biblical Archaeology

Beer in its various forms has been consumed at least since the 5th millennium BC, due to the easy fermentation processes involved in cereals with sugar-content. However, like many of the oldest cultural achievements pertaining to humanity, the oldest known standard recipe for brewing beer comes from the land of Mesopotamia. These earliest beer ‘inventions’ were possibly concocted with the aid of barley that was extracted from bread. Intriguingly enough, the Sumerians even had a tutelary goddess of beer (and alcohol) who was called Ninkasi. In fact, some of the excerpts from a 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi (the Hymn to Ninkasi), translated by Miguel Civil, read like this –

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
.
.
.
When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Interestingly enough, beer was also related to the feudal economy of many Mesopotamian city-states. For example, a 5,000-year old artifact originally salvaged from the city of Uruk (in modern-day Iraq) was inscribed with the pictorial language of cuneiform. This tablet dating from around 3300 BC, depicts a human head eating from a bowl and drinking from a conical vessel. The bowl represents ‘ration’, while the conical glass alludes to the consumption of beer. And more than just this human visage, the tablet is also marked with scratches that basically record the quantity of beer assigned to each worker. Simply put, the ancient Mesopotamian artifact is the world’s oldest known payslip that rather hints at how the hierarchical system of workers and employers existed even five millenniums ago – and they were connected by the exchange of beer (as payment).

6) Urban Planning –

Reconstruction of Uruk, circa 4th millennium BC. Source: Pinterest

Quite intriguingly, the first known description of urban planning was found in the Epic of Gilgamesh (which alludes to this scope being one of the Mesopotamian inventions) –

Go up on to the wall of Uruk and walk around. Inspect the foundation platform and scrutinize the brickwork. Testify that its bricks are baked bricks, And that the Seven Counsellors must have laid its foundations. One square mile is city, one square mile is orchards, one square mile is claypits, as well as the open ground of Ishtar’s temple. Three square miles and the open ground comprise Uruk. Look for the copper tablet-box, Undo its bronze lock, Open the door to its secret, Lift out the lapis lazuli tablet and read.

The paragraph pertains to the city of Uruk, a settlement that played its leading role in the early urbanization phase of Sumer (by circa 3500 BC), the southern part of Mesopotamia. Now while practically, the very scope of urban planning relates to a development pattern (that started from the Neolithic Revolution) rather than being one of the ‘sudden’ Mesopotamian inventions, most historians believe that it was the Sumerians who emerged as the first society to construct planned cities as an extension of their burgeoning economy.

In essence, these economic strongholds were planned to some degree, while also being affected by the organic growth of populated sprawls. Such early forms of urban planning some 5000-years ago were mainly relegated to the arrangement of the defensive walls, the central district of temples and palaces, the main canal that functioned as the economic lifeline of the settlement, and the major roads that connected the transportation network of the stronghold. It should also be noted that many of these cities were planned around the temple due to the fact that these core religious structures often predated the founding of the settlement itself.

7) Board Games –

The Royal Game of Ur, circa 2600 BC. Image Source: British Museum

The oldest known archaeological evidence of a board game comes from 49 small carved painted stones that were discovered inside a burial mound at Başur Höyük, in southeast Turkey (traditionally, the northern extent of Mesopotamia), dated from circa 5000 BC. Experts have also found similar pieces in both Iraq and Syria, thus alluding to the prevalence of some rudimentary form of a board game that was played by the inhabitants of Mesopotamia. Now considering that playing games are perceived as recreational activities, the scope does hint at increased levels of urbanization with fully developed agricultural systems that allowed folks (especially the richer ones) free time to pursue their fun hobbies.

Now beyond their narrow categorization as one of the Mesopotamian inventions, we must understand that over the course of centuries the complexity and appeal of board games must have increased – so much so that indoor gaming (as a recreational activity) spread to other parts of the world. For example, the earliest mention of Senet, one of the oldest known board games, was found in an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph dating from 3100 BC. Mesopotamians also had their dedicated board game, in the form of what is known as the Game of Twenty Squares (or the Royal Game of Ur), as could be evidenced by two surviving boards dating from 2600 BC.

8) Soap –

Ancient Sumerian workshop. Source: Pinterest

The history of soap, unlike its function of cleaning, is a bit murky. According to most scholars, the first evidence of a soap-like substance harks back to 2800 BC. But the confusion arises when it comes to this substance’s original inventor, with some sources pointing towards the ancient Babylonians. But historically, Babylonia as a political entity emerged several centuries after the stated date. So we must attribute the honor of inventing soap to their culturally-linked brethren – the Sumerians, who held sway over Mesopotamia for most of 3rd millennium BC (which makes soap one of the incredible Mesopotamian inventions).

In any case, what we know is that such a concoction was made by mixing animal fats with wood ash and water. As for its functionality, the ancient Mesopotamian people probably used their concocted cleaning products for washing wool used in textiles. The oldest ‘soaps’ were also used for ritualistic purposes by Sumerian priests when they purified themselves before sacred rites. And in later years, some of the modified versions were possibly even used for treating skin diseases. Given these variant modes of uses, it comes as no surprise that a few Mesopotamian tablets even make mention of the different methods for making soap in the pictorial cuneiform script.

9) Advanced Cartography –

The Nippur Map, circa 1500 BC.

Intriguingly enough, the earliest known maps in human history denote the stars instead of the earth landscape. And while there are numerous pieces of evidence entailing cave paintings and rock carvings that represent local topographical elements like hills and rivers (dating from as early as 25000 BC), cartography as a scientific pursuit with accurate surveying techniques, was developed in Mesopotamia, which hints at it being one of the Mesopotamian inventions. One example would pertain to the Nuzi map, dated from circa 2360-2180 BC – sometimes touted as the world’s oldest known roadmap. The particular clay tablet is inscribed only on the obverse, and it possibly depicts a city on the lower-left corner (probably Maskan-dur-ebla) along with topographical features like two mountain ranges and a river (or canal).

But since we are talking about Mesopotamian inventions, a more ‘precise’ example of advanced cartography would relate to the 15th century BC clay tablet that focuses on a part of the ancient Babylonian city of Nippur. The 18 x 21 cm fragment (pictured above) aptly marks the principal ziggurat complex, Ekur, and Ekiur on the right edge, along with storehouses, a verdant ‘park’ like zone and another enclosure by the river Euphrates. Additionally, the tablet represents a wall around the city, pierced by seven gates – and many of these man-made features are named and marked by measurements as we find in our modern sitemaps.

10) Law Code –

The Ur-Nammu Stele, circa 2097-2080 BC. Source: Art History 201

A common misconception relating to the Code of Hammurabi is its presumed nature of being the oldest set of codified laws in human history. That is however not true from the historical perspective, with the honor (of the oldest surviving law code) probably belonging to the Code of Ur-Nammu, which was inscribed circa 2100 – 2050 BC. In any case, both of these sets of laws are Sumerian in origin, thus counting as one of the major Mesopotamian inventions. Moreover, many scholars have also put forth their views regarding an even older law code encompassing the legal reforms of Urukagina, the king of city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia, from circa 24th century BC. Unfortunately, no extant text has survived from this legal code, and so much of its content has been surmised from other ancient references.

From the literary perspective, the Code of Ur-Nammu was composed in Sumerian, and as such 30 of its 57 prescribed laws have been reconstructed by historians. Some fascinating (and often bizarre) examples are presented as follows –

If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.

If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo ordeal by water if he is proven innocent, his accuser must pay 3 shekels.

If a man knocks out a tooth of another man, he shall pay two shekels of silver.

If a man appeared as a witness, and was shown to be a perjurer, he must pay fifteen shekels of silver.

If a man stealthily cultivates the field of another man and he raises a complaint, this is however to be rejected, and this man will lose his expenses.

11) Scientific Astronomy –

The ‘Jupiter tracking’ tablet, circa 350 – 50 BC. Image Credit: Trustees of the British Museum/Mathieu Ossendrijver

Before delving into the history of astronomy, we must understand that both Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans had quite an advanced grasp of astronomy, as could be evidenced from the prehistoric arrangements of the Goseck circle to the so-called Golden hats. However, what we know as scientific astronomy (or ironically ‘Western’ astronomy) had its origins in Mesopotamia. Essentially considered as one of the Mesopotamian inventions of the Sumerians, our present-day knowledge of Sumerian scientific astronomy is unfortunately limited to place-value number systems. However, the latter Babylonians more than make up for it with their incredible star catalogs (dating from circa 1200 BC) that recognize the periodic scope of astronomical phenomena, along with the importance of mathematics in determining the related predictions.

One pertinent example comes from the Tablet 63 of the renowned Enūma Anu Enlil texts (compiled during 1595–1157 BC), also known as the Venus tablet of Ammi-saduqa, which tabulates the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years. Simply put, it is the first known record of a planet being recognized as periodic. In another instance, a Babylonian tablet dating some time from 350-50 BC displays some form of abstract geometry (precursor to calculus) that was used to plot the changeable movements of Jupiter.

12) Complex Mathematics –

Babylonian tablet listing Pythagorean triples. Source: JSTOR

Once again, if we assume the practical course of action, the development of language must have heralded the adoption of simple mathematics, with finger counting and even decimal systems making their way into daily affairs. Early humans must have also furnished their recording and counting systems with the use of sticks for making notches. However, as we fleetingly mentioned in the earlier entry, the oldest known evidence of geometrical and algebraic calculations (i.e., complex mathematics) comes from a plethora of Babylonian clay tablets, dating from circa 1750 BC.

In fact, ancient Sumerians are known to have devised the earliest forms of written mathematics, including the system of metrology (dating from 3000 BC) and multiplication tables (dating from 2500 BC) – thus alluding to the scope of Mesopotamian inventions in this vast field. On the other hand, the later Babylonians could boast one of their major mathematical Mesopotamian inventions in the form of the sexagesimal (base-60) numeral system, which led to the modern day use of 60 for seconds, minutes and degrees. Furthermore, the Babylonian notational system could represent both fractions and whole numbers, and as such was considered as the most advanced system until the emergence of Renaissance. History World has aptly described the ancient Babylonian form of complex mathematics –

A typical Babylonian maths question will be expressed in geometrical terms, but the nature of its solution is essentially algebraic. Since the numerical system is unwieldy, with a base of 60, calculation depends largely on tables (sums already worked out, with the answer given for future use), and many such tables survive on the tablets.

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Parallel Lives, Also BC Afterglows In AD

Owing to the parlous state of the conventional archaeology and chronology, one has to dig very deeply to ‘lay spade’ on the true era of King Solomon of Israel. Quite useless have proven to be the shallow efforts of contemporary archaeologists like Israel Finkelstein and his colleagues. These, scratching around in an impoverished phase of the Iron Age in hopeful pursuit of – or is that hopeful good riddance to? – evidence for kings David and Solomon, and finding absolutely nothing of relevance, then boldly proclaim themselves to have destroyed the likes of Solomon.

We have already learned about Berlin chronologist Eduard Meyer’s most unfortunate off-setting of Egyptian history in relation to the biblical record – his artificial Sothic theory – and how it has served to push King Solomon’s Egyptian contemporaries, the Eighteenth Dynasty’s Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, into the C15th BC, about 500 years before Solomon.

And yet another chronologist – what is it about them? – Dominican Fr. Louis-Hugues Vincent, of the École Biblique in Jerusalem, has been instrumental in throwing right out of kilter the Palestinian archaeology, so that, for instance, the destruction of Jericho is now dated about a millennium before the time of Joshua (when the destruction actually occurred).

In 1922 Fr. Vincent, a pottery-chronologist to be specific, worked out this new arrangement in partnership with his very good friend W.F. Albright – sadly, because Albright was one who was at least capable of, from time to time, arriving at brilliant conclusions that burst out of the suffocating straightjacket of conventional thinking.

Another era needing to be tied to David and Solomon is, as we have found, c. 1800 BC (conventional dating) Syro-Mesopotamia. This is the era of King Hammurabi of Babylon and Zimri-Lim of Mari, amongst many others (some biblical identifiable to the Davidic/Solomonic era). Most confusingly, the Solomonic era recurs again in the conventional system in c. C15th BC Syro-Mitanni.

At least this synchronises with the C15th BC (mis-)placement of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty.

Now I, just to ‘complicate’ matters even further, am going to suggest that yet another era, Sumerian c. 2100 BC, must also be merged with Hammurabi and the golden age of Solomon.

Since what follows on this score is brand new material, it will be presented only as a non-detailed working hypothesis at this early stage.

UR NAMMU MAY BE HAMMURABI

Ur Nammu (c. 2100 BC, conventional dating), according to the usual explanation, reigned about three centuries before the Hammurabi with whom he shares some strong similarities: https://www.facebook.com/crazymesopotamians/posts/2467692739943585/

“300 years before Hammurabi, King Ur-Nammu founded the 3rd Dynasty of Ur, and laid the foundation of the Ziggurat dedicating it to the revered Moon God Nanna.

Ur-Nammu is credited to have established the first legal code in history. In it, he put laws, rules, and guidelines that defined the rights of the individual, the consequences of disobedience, and forms of punishments in violation of the laws with two main currencies for exchange, the life of the individual and/or their money.

It is worth noting that the similarities between Ur-Nammu’s Code and Hammurabi Code are many, including the depiction of the king and the sitting god on the throne with a scepter in one hand and a ring and a rod in the other. …”.

Regarding the depiction, now of Ur Nammu, now of Hammurabi, I actually find these to be so alike that I have begun to wonder if Ur Nammu was in fact Hammurabi.

With Hammurabi now moved down to the time of King Solomon, then one might expect a similar necessary downward shifting of Ur Nammu.

Given that the – albeit most significant – Ur III dynasty was hardly recognised by the later Mesopotamians (see below) had led me to the conclusion that the dynasty was in need of an alter ego dynasty. Ur III presents historians with the conundrum of a super-abundance of documentary materials, on the one hand, coupled with a seeming total disinterest in the dynasty by later Mesopotamians, on the other. Marc Van de Mieroop writes of both the massive amount of documentation from the period and the strange disinterest in Ur III by the later generations (A History of the Ancient Near East, p. 72):

Virtually no period of ancient Near Eastern history presents the historian with such an abundance and variety of documentation. Indeed, even in all of the ancient histories of Greece and Rome, there are few periods where a similar profusion of textual material is found. ….

But, despite this incredible fact:

Remarkable is the lack of interest in this period by later Mesopotamians when compared to how long they remembered Akkad’s kings were remembered. In the first centuries of the second millennium, Ur III rulers were known primarily through the school curriculum. ….

Obviously this cannot be right. We are talking here about a dynasty that was responsible for the construction of the magnificent ziggurat at Ur. Kings of this sort of grandeur are not going to be virtually forgotten by later generations. The situation demands that Ur III be merged with another dynasty. I have been trying to find that partnership match in the Akkadian dynasty. However, I now think that I should have been looking much further down the historical track, to the First Dynasty of Babylon, Hammurabi’s dynasty.

Ur Nammu to be merged with Hammurabi.

With Ur Nammu dated to c. 2100 BC, then his famous laws could rightly be considered to have preceded those of Moses by about half a millennium. However, if Ur Nammu is lowered on the time scale to fold into Hammurabi, then it would be more likely that the Torah of Moses, filtered through, say, a King David, had influenced Ur Nammu.

Whilst Ur Nammu’s laws are considered to be less harsh than Hammurabi’s, this could be simply due to alterations over time, or different uses in different locales, e.g. Ur and Babylon.

“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. ….

Marc Madrigal has discerned a clear distinction between the Torah of Moses and the Mesopotamian codes (“The Mosaic Law in light of ancient Near Eastern law codes”): http://evangelicalfocus.com/blogs/3114/The_Mosaic_Law_in_Light_of_Ancient_Near_Eastern_Law_Codes

There are many skeptics today that argue that the laws contained in the Old Testament are written on the basis of earlier Sumerian and Babylonian law codes.

The purpose of such theses is to question the Divine inspiration of Scripture and to demonstrate that the underlying principles in these texts are merely human, and dare I say, imitative in nature.

For someone who does not have a grasp on the subject, these theses can be quite persuasive at first sight. To give a popular example it is possible to find the maxim “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand” (Exodus 21:23, ESV) in the Code of Hammurabi which dates to a period at least 400 years prior [sic]: “If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out” (Article 196) or “If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.” (Article 200).

What’s more, these similarities are not limited to the laws of Hammurabi only. For example, the Code of Ur-Nammu, which is at least 300 years older and thought to be by some the oldest Law code, states: “The man who committed the murder will be killed.” (Article 1) Compare this to the Mosaic Law which tells us that “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” (Ex. 21:12, ESV).

Such similarities often lead to a very simplistic preliminary judgment that the Old Testament has perhaps copied these laws. Similarities may indeed exist, but similarity is not synonymous with causality. Moreover, similarities in wording and expression should be fairly normal for these laws, considering they all proceed from a common age and geography. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that similar laws point to humanity’s shared concern for justice more than to a mere causality.

To me, what is truly fascinating is the astonishing picture one is left with upon cross-examining the underlying principles of these law codes. I would go so far as to say that the laws of Moses show great differences with the spirit of Mesopotamian laws codes. In fact so much so, that I honestly believe that many do not realize the revolutionary character of the Mosaic laws for its day and age. In the following paragraphs I will be contrasting the differences between the Mesopotamian Codes and the Mosaic Law under four main headings, with special attention given to the Code of Ur-Nammu:

1) DIVINE SOURCE VS HUMAN SOURCE

The Introduction to the Code of Ur-Nammu reads as follows: “After An and Enlil had turned over the Kingship of Ur to Nanna, at that time did Ur-Nammu, son born of Ninsun, for his beloved mother who bore him, in accordance with his principles of equity and truth… Then did Ur-Nammu the mighty warrior, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad, by the might of Nanna, lord of the city, and in accordance with the true word of Utu, establish equity in the land he banished malediction, violence and strife, and set the monthly Temple expenses at 90 gur of barley, 30 sheep, and 30 sila of butter.”

From this statement, it is understood that this law code emerged at the initiative of King Ur-Nammu. The reason for the writing of this law is not necessarily a particular god but the king’s own will. Although the king emphasizes that some deities may have provided spiritual support and direction to him, this is quite different from the claim of divine origin made in the Mosaic Law. Contrast this with the introduction and direct voice of God found in Exodus 20:1-2, “And God spoke all these words, saying “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (ESV)

It is evident that Ur-Nammu and other similar ancient laws were recorded at the initiative of the kings themselves. Whereas the Old Testament text clearly states that the laws came directly from God. In this context, the Old Testament is making a revolutionary claim, a claim of divine legal authority that had not been heard of until that day.

2) THE CONCEPT OF EQUALITY AND THE REASONS FOR PUNISHMENT

In the Mesopotamian understanding of justice, the aim of the law is to bring order to society. But it is quite difficult to say that this method is equitable to today’s understanding of equality under the law. For example, in the case of Hammurabi’s Code, those who have a higher social class undergo lighter forms of punishment compared to those who commit the same crime but belong to a lower class. Compare the three levels of class-based-punishment found in articles 202, 203, and 204 of the Code of Hammurabi:

– Article 202: If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.

– Article 203: If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.

– Article 204: If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.

The Mosaic law is quite different in this regard, because punishment depends on the nature of the crime rather than the social class. One of the most important reasons for this is that the law of Moses is not based on class sensibilities.

Rather, it is based on the sanctity of each individual life created in “the image of God.” Its concept of law is anchored in the idea of “God’s holiness” rather than the protection of the socially elite: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26, ESV)

3) A DIFFERENCE IN FOCUS WHEN IT COMES TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AND MONETARY COMPENSATION

Perhaps one of the most striking differences between the Old Mesopotamian codes and the Mosaic Law is the nature of punishments for crimes committed against human dignity. In the most general sense (though there are some exceptions), in the laws of Ancient Mesopotamia crimes committed against human dignity are punished with fines, while crimes against property are punished with death. In the Mosaic Law we observe an opposite approach. For while sins against human dignity are punishable by death, property crimes are converted into fines. The following examples make this difference quite obvious:

– Ur-Nammu, Article 2: “If a man commits a robbery, he will be killed.”

– Mosaic Code, Exodus 22:1: “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” (ESV)

– Ur-Nammu, Article 3: “If a man commits a kidnapping, he is to be imprisoned and pay 15 shekels of silver.”

– Mosaic Code, Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (ESV)

– Ur-Nammu, Article 28: “If a man appeared as a witness, and was shown to be a perjurer, he must pay fifteen shekels of silver.”

– Mosaic Code: Deuteronomy 19:18-19: “The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (ESV)

4) GREAT DIFFERENCES IN PUNISHMENTS GIVEN TO WOMEN

The position of women in ancient law codes is of course far from our 21st century sensibilities. However, when we compare these laws with the Mosaic code, we do find that the Mosaic code draws a more just and equitable line. For example, in the Ur-Nammu code, a woman committing adultery is subjected to capital punishment while the man is set free. In contrast, in the Mosaic Law both men and women convicted of adultery are subject to capital punishment. In the Ur-Nammu code the penalty given to a man who abuses a virgin is 5 shekels of silver. In the Mosaic Code the punishment is 10 times harsher, 50 shekels. Additionally, it was expected that the abusing man marry the virgin and lose all his rights for divorce. This is, in case the virgin’s father were to accept the arrangement. If the virgin’s father refused, she could continue to live under her father’s protection.

The culprit was expected to pay the dowry price regardless. This last measure may seem rather strange and cruel to our modern ears, but what it meant to achieve was to shame the perpetrator and insure the material support of the woman for the rest of her lifetime. Here we can take a glance at such laws:

– Ur-Nammu, Article 7: “If the wife of a man followed after another man and he slept with her, they shall slay that woman, but that male shall be set free.

– Mosaic Code, Leviticus 20:10: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (ESV)

– Ur-Nammu, Article 8: “If a man proceeded by force, and deflowered the virgin female slave of another man, that man must pay five shekels of silver.”

– Mosaic Code, Deuteronomy 22:28-29: “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.” (ESV)

– Mosaic Code, Exodus 22:16-17: “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.” (ESV)

In conclusion, we observe many differences between the Mosaic law and Mesopotamian codes. While the Mosaic code emphasizes that laws come directly from the Deity, the texts of other civilizations emphasize that the laws are based on the initiative of a ruler. While the Mosaic code is based on the holiness of God and the sanctity and of human life, the laws of Mesopotamia are based on preserving or protecting a particular social class or elite. While the Mosaic code applies the death penalty to crimes against human dignity, Mesopotamian laws implement this punishment to crimes mostly against property. While the laws of Mesopotamia draw a highly prejudiced line against women, the Mosaic code proves to be more equidistant. In short, the Mosaic code is quite revolutionary for the times! So, where did this understanding of law come from? I’m fully aware that this study in of itself doesn’t prove beyond a doubt the Revelation of Scripture. However, it is plain to see that claims that the Mosaic code is somehow an imitation or inspired from Mesopotamian texts are rather simplistic and naive.

If there is something definite, it is that the Mosaic code offers an innovative thought approach unseen until its day. Definitely not seen in Mesopotamian civilizations for sure. ….

As I made so bold to do in the case of the earlier Akkadian dynasty, folding its two major king-names (Sargon and Naram-Sin) into the one person (and identified as the biblical Nimrod), so I am now inclined to do the same with Ur Nammu and the deified Shulgi, identifying these names as the one mighty king.

My reason is that common situation according to which scholars are not entirely sure whether to credit some new initiative, building work, document, to Ur Nammu or to Shulgi – the same situation that frequently arises in the case of Sargon II and Sennacherib (as we shall find) – which can often mean that there is only the one king involved, but he is represented by two different names.

Shulgi is supposed to have finished the famous ziggurat of Ur begun by Ur Nammu.

The one combined king would then fold into the great Hammurabi of somewhat similar reign length to Shulgi (more than four decades).

Shulgi of Ur (r. 2029-1982 BCE) is considered the greatest king of the Ur III Period in Mesopotamia (2047-1750 BCE).

His father was Ur-Nammu (r.2047-2030 BCE), who founded the Third Dynasty of Ur and helped to defeat the occupying forces of the Gutians, and his mother was a daughter of King Utu-Hegel of Uruk (her name is not known) who first led the uprising against the Gutian occupation.

Shulgi inherited a stable kingdom after his father was killed in battle with the Gutians and proceeded to build upon his father’s legacy to raise Sumer to great cultural heights.

A literate man, he reformed the scribal schools and increased literacy throughout the region. He allocated funds for the continued maintenance of the cities, improved the existing roads and built new ones, and even instituted the first roadside inns so that travelers could stop, rest, eat, and drink as they traveled (an innovation later adopted by the Persian Empire). He declared himself a god during his lifetime and seems to have been worshipped by the people following his death.

His reign is well documented as he had many scribes making inscriptions of his accomplishments but this documentation has been challenged on the grounds of inaccuracy. While it does seem clear that Shulgi reigned well, the majority of the documents relating to the details of his rule were those he ordered to be set down. Later chroniclers would accuse him of impiety and falsification of records, but the archaeological evidence seems to support his version of his reign fairly well.

In a single day, Shulgi ran 200 miles (321.8 km) through a great storm in order to officiate at religious festivals in Ur and Nippur.

Early Reign and Shulgi’s Run

Ur-Nammu’s rule had stabilized the region and enabled it to prosper following the expulsion of the Gutians and, thanks to the poem The Death of Ur-Nammu and His Descent to the Underworld, he had become an almost mythic hero shortly after his death.

His successor might be expected to have struggled to distinguish himself from the former’s rule, but this does not seem to be the case with Shulgi.

In order to ensure the stability of his kingdom, he created a standing army which he formed into specialized units for specific military purposes (an infantryman was no longer just a `foot soldier’ but specialized in a certain tactic, formation, and purpose on the field). He then drove this army against the remaining Gutians in the region to avenge his father’s death and secure the borders.

To raise money for his army, he initiated the unprecedented policy of taxing the temples and temple complexes which, though it may have made him unpopular with the priests, could have bolstered his popularity among the general populace who did not have to suffer an increase in taxation.

Scholar Stephen Bertman notes that, “Ur-Nammu’s imperialistic dreams were fulfilled by his son Shulgi” in the expansion of the Kingdom of Ur from southern Mesopotamia near Eridu up the Tigris River valley to Nineveh in the north (57). This area corresponds roughly to modern-day Kuwait in the south to northern Iraq. The kingdom was maintained efficiently through the unified central administration instituted by Ur-Nammu, which Shulgi improved upon, and was protected and enlarged by the standing army which, since it needed no mobilization, could respond quickly to any disturbance on the borders. With his state secure, Shulgi could devote himself to encouraging art and culture, as his father had done.

He introduced a national calendar and standardized time-keeping so that the whole of his kingdom recognized the same day and time, replacing the old method of different regions reckoning dates and times in their own way. He also instituted agricultural reforms and standardized weights and measures to ensure fair trade in the market place. Prior to Shulgi’s reforms, prices varied – sometimes widely – between trade goods in Ur and the same goods in Nippur. All documents were written in Sumerian (instead of the traditional state language, Akkadian), perhaps in an effort to differentiate Shulgi’s reign from those of the past.

Even so, he seems to have purposefully presented himself to his subjects as a new Naram-Sin (r. 2261-2224 BCE) of Akkad, the last great ruler of the Akkadian Empire. Ur-Nammu had also understood the value of linking his reign to that of the legendary Akkadian kings, but Shulgi went further in proclaiming himself a god, as Naram-Sin had also done, and signing his name to documents with the divine determinative.

While his accomplishments were many, he still seems to have felt that he was merely carrying on the policies and building projects instituted by his father.

The scholar Paul Kriwaczek writes:

Construction work on Ur-Nammu’s ziggurats continued well into his son’s reign, which left Shulgi with the problem of how to establish his own superhuman persona in his people’s awareness. He chose to run. (156)

In a single day, Shulgi ran from Nippur to Ur, a distance of 100 miles (160.9 kilometres), in order to officiate at the religious festivals in both cities, and then ran back from Ur to Nippur completing a run of 200 miles (321.8 kilometres) in one day. His motivation in making the run is made clear in one of his inscriptions:

So that my name should be established for distant days and never fall into oblivion, that it leave not the mouth of men,

That my praise be spread throughout the land,

That I be eulogized in all the lands,

I, the runner, rose in my strength, all set for the course

I resolved to traverse as if it were but a distance of one `double-hour’

Like a lion that wearies not of its virility I arose,

Put a girdle about my loins

Swung my arms like a dove feverishly fleeing a snake,

Spread wide the knees like an Anzu bird with eyes lifted toward the mountain. (Kramer, 286)

The run certainly accomplished its objective, since Shulgi was associated with the event, and with great stamina, in later chronicles. His courage and determination were also praised because his run took place in the midst of a great storm. His inscription continues:

On that day the storm howled, the tempest swirled/The North Wind and the South Wind roared violently/Lighting devoured in heaven alongside the seven winds/The deafening storm made the earth tremble. (Kramer, 287)

So famous, in fact, did Shulgi become for his run that he became a popular figure featured in erotic poetry throughout Mesopotamia not long afterwards and was noted for his virility and stamina as the lover the goddess Inanna.

Regarding the famous run, Kriwaczek writes:

Could he really have done it? An earlier generation of Assyriologists thought the achievement impossible, dismissing it as fiction. More recent consideration, however, suggests otherwise. An article in the Journal of Sport History quotes two relevant records: `During the first forty-eight hours of the 1985 Sydney to Melbourne footrace, Greek ultra-marthoner Yannis Kouros completed 287 miles. This impressive distance was accomplished without pausing for sleep.’ In the 1970’s a British athlete running on a track completed 100 miles in a time of eleven hours and thirty-one minutes. There is no reason to believe that the Sumerians were any less athletically able. Theirs was, after all, a far more physical world than is ours: speed, strength, and stamina would have been much more important to them that they are to us. (157)

Shulgi’s run spread his fame across the land, as he had hoped it would, and distinguished his reign dramatically from his father’s.

While Ur-Nammu had presented himself to his people as a father-figure guiding his people, Shulgi claimed the status of a god. He made his run in the seventh year of his reign and, from then on, was able to do as he pleased. It was customary in Mesopotamia to name years after great feats accomplished by the king, usually military victories, and the year of Shulgi’s run was thereafter known as ‘The Year When the King Made the Round Trip Between Ur and Nippur in One Day’.

The story of his run was inscribed shortly after the event, and scribes were sent throughout the kingdom to recite it in temples and present him to the people as an even greater king than his father had been.

Later Reign and Controversy

His public relations campaign was a great success. The Mesopotamian Chronicles describe Shulgi as `divine’ and `the fast runner’ and tell how he generously provided food for the cities, specifically the sacred city of Eridu. He was brother to the sun god Shamash and husband of the goddess Inanna, according to hymns and songs. When he decided to expand his kingdom to the north, the army followed him on campaign without question, and took the region of Anshan (modern-day western Iran).

His continued policies of taxation of the temples and temple complexes and the standardization of weights, measure, time, and day throughout his kingdom had robbed the various cities of their regional identities and, to a lesser degree, their economic independence (the financial factor seems fairly negligible since many cities continued to prosper economically after the fall of Ur), and yet there is no evidence of domestic strife or reference to revolt in the records of his reign.

This peaceful and prosperous version of Shulgi’s administration, however, has been challenged because first, as already noted, the history comes from state-issued documents and, more importantly, later writers claimed that Shulgi had purposefully falsified those documents to present himself as the greatest of the kings of Mesopotamia.

The same chronicles which present the king as divine also state that “Shulgi, the son of Ur-Nammu, provided abundant food for Eridu, which is on the sea shore. …. Another passage from the Chronicles claims that during Shulgi’s reign he “composed untruthful stele, insolent writings, concerning the rites of purification for the gods, and left them to posterity” (CM 27).

…. The Mesopotamian Chronicles (also known as the Babylonian Chronicles) are a history of the activities of the kings of Mesopotamia compiled by scribes at some point in the 1st millennium BCE from older sources. While scholars have long believed they were composed at Babylon, there is reason to believe they were assembled at different sites by different scribes under the direction of the Assyrian Empire, probably by King Ashurbanipal (r. 668-627 BCE) at Nineveh.

It is entirely possible, even quite likely, that these later scribes, writing from a certain point of view and wishing to advance their own agenda, edited or omitted certain details from the past in composing the chronicles, but it is unlikely that they would have completely fabricated incidents and passed them off as history. Most likely, they were drawing on the tradition of Mesopotamian Naru Literature which took “factual” information and embellished upon it for effect in order to transmit central cultural values – such as admiration for, and obedience to, the king.

The Great Wall and the Death of Shulgi

Toward the end of his reign, Sumer was becoming increasingly troubled by incursions from the nomadic tribe known as the Amorites. Shulgi had a wall constructed 155 miles long (250 kilometres) along the eastern border of his kingdom to keep the Amorites out but, as it was not anchored at either end, the invading nomads could simply walk around it. The Elamites were also at the border but, during Shulgi’s reign at least, were kept at bay by the army of Ur fortifying the wall.

After reigning for 46 years, Shulgi died and was succeeded by his son Amar-Sin (r. 1981-1973 BCE) who defeated the Elamites and strengthened the wall.

Shulgi’s death is as controversial a topic as the records which describe his reign. Scholars continue to repeat sentences such as “Shulgi may have died violently from an assassin’s blow, along with his consorts Geme-Ninlila and Shulgi-Shimti” (Bertman, 105) or “Shulgi may have died a violent death in a palace revolt” (Leick, 160) but it is uncertain whether this claim is valid. The primary suspects alluded to by modern-day scholars are always Shulgi’s sons but, in order for them to have assassinated their father and then assumed rule after him, they would have needed some kind of support from the officials of the court, their family, or by reading the discontent of the people and hoping for popular support for a coup. ….

While the state records which documented his reign have been challenged, the archaeological evidence from the period supports their claims that Shulgi’s reign was indeed prosperous and that the accomplishments he claimed for himself did happen, even if not exactly as described.

Under his reign the roads were improved, the kingdom expanded, the economy was strong, the inns were built, the calendar and time were standardized, as were weights and measures, and literacy and the arts flourished.

Whether he was guilty of fabricating aspects of his life and reign is still debated, but there can be little doubt that he was a man of enormous administrative and military talent, imagination, determination, and personal charisma. One may question whether he deserves the title he still holds as the greatest king of the Ur III Period but, when one measures his accomplishments against his deficiencies, the former outweigh the latter, and there were certainly no kings of the period who followed him who were in any way his equal. ….

Another point to be made is that the references to Ur Nammu as being the father of Shulgi tend to occur in notoriously inaccurate, and very late documents, the The Mesopotamian Chronicles (also known as the Babylonian Chronicles), for instance.

Can Hammurabi, too, be merged with his own supposed son, Samsuiluna?

The reason why I wonder this is that Hammurabi defeated his long-time foe, Rim-Sin I of Larsa, of whom we read in the Mari archive: “Ten to fifteen kings follow … Rim-Sin, the man of Larsa …”, and Samsuiluna also defeated a Rim-Sim (so-called II) of Larsa.

Marc Van de Mieroop writes of these supposedly two Rim-Sin encounters:

  1. 88: “Hammurabi waited until Rim-Sin was an old man to initiate his swift conquest of all his neighbours, including Lasa, which he conquered in 1763 [sic].”
  1. 108: “Only ten years after [Hammurabi’s] death, his son, Samsuiluna, faced a major rebellion in the south led by a man calling himself Rim-Sin after Larsa’s last ruler”.

In each case, the defeated Rim-Sin soon apparently died:

In 1764 BC, Hammurabi turned against Rim-Sin, who had refused to support Hammurabi in his war against Elam despite pledging his troops. Hammurabi, with troops from Mari, first attacked Mashkan-shapir on the northern edge of Rim-Sin’s realm. Hammurabi’s forces quickly reached Larsa, and after a six-month siege the city fell. Rim-Sin escaped the city but was soon found and taken prisoner and died thereafter. [5]

Along with many others at the time of Hammurabi’s death, Rim-Sin II sees an opportunity to lead a revolt against the rule of Samsu-iluna’s Babylonian empire. The two fight for five years, with Rim-Sin allied to Eshnunna, and most battles taking place on the Elam/Sumer border before Rim-Sin is captured and executed.


6. Conclusion

The evidence is compelling that there were indeed seven laws given to Noah after the Great Deluge to be observed by all nations which sprang up among his descendants. Several of the seven laws traditionally accepted by Judaism coincide with laws of the Ten Commandments and also from the Code of Ur-Nammu, which are the oldest laws known in history dating back to just a few hundred years after the Flood. Examination of the traditional laws shows both that one that is recorded in Genesis has been omitted and that one was added which does not seem possible to be correct. Thus, simply replacing the incorrect one (blasphemy) with the missing one (multiply and replenish the earth) produces a proposed list for the original Seven Laws of Noah given for all mankind as commandments from God.


Main keywords of the article below: standard, ruler, body, remembered, later, centuries, laws, lawgiver, served, hammurabi, code, united, best, mesopotamia, known, sargon, great, akkad, way, single, governing, time.

KEY TOPICS
Hammurabi is best remembered today as a lawgiver whose code served as a standard for later laws but, in his time, he was known as the ruler who united Mesopotamia under a single governing body in the same way Sargon the Great of Akkad had done centuries before. [1] Those were tough times and ancient as well and the laws of Mesopotamia were comparatively just. [2] The legal system of Mesopotamia is primarily derived from the laws put in place by King Hammurabi, who ruled from 1792 to 1750 B.C.E. It was the common belief of the populace that Hammurabi was placed in power by the gods to protect his people, including the weak. [3] The entire culture of the region once known as Mesopotamia was swept away in the final conquest of the area by Muslim Arabs in the 7th century CE which resulted in the unification of law, language, religion and culture under Islam. [4] As Mesopotamia was so vast a region, with so many different cultures and ethnicities within its borders, a single ruler attempting to enforce the laws of a central government would invariably be met with resistance from some quarter. [4]

Intellectual pursuits were highly valued across Mesopotamia, and the schools (devoted primarily to the priestly class) were said to be as numerous as temples and taught reading, writing, religion, law, medicine, and astrology. [4] An example would give an idea of the kind of laws in Mesopotamia. [2] Dominique Charpin, a professor at École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, writes in his book "Writing, Law and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia" (University of Chicago Press, 2010) that scholars know of the existence of three law codes, set down by kings, that preceded Hammurabi. [5] Law in Mesopotamia is frequently closely associated with Code of Hammurabi inscribed on seven foot and four inch (2,25 meter) tall stela discovered at Susa but the oldest law codes date from the Sumerian Period. [6]

As mentioned above, Hammurabi, whose law collection is the largest example from Mesopotamia, not only portrayed himself as selected by the gods to be the provider of justice for his people, but cast himself in the image of the god of justice, the sun-god Shamash. [7] Ancient Law - Professor Bernard Hibbitts   This seminar explores the laws and legal practices of six ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Egypt, the Hittite Empire, Israel, Greece and Rome. [8] Through a comparative examination of the legal systems and practices of ancient Mesopotamia (including Hammurabi's Babylon, c. 1700 B.C.), ancient Egypt, ancient Israel, ancient Anatolia (the Hittite Empire, c. 1500 B.C.), ancient Greece and ancient Rome, we will investigate the historical origins of "law" as an idea. [8]

One of the major contributions of ancient Mesopotamia to government practice was the development of written law codes. [9] Legal compilations and law codes also have pride of place in the epigraphic record of ancient Mesopotamia. [10] Mesopotamia's most important legal legacy is the law code established by Hammurabi, king of Babylonia. [11]

The creation of King Hammurabi’s code of laws was a means to provide unification for all of the people of Mesopotamia. [12] Method: Studying the translated preserved copy of the code and review of literature in Law and medicine to indicate the relevant items which cast a light on the status of law in Ancient civilization of Babylon in Mesopotamia. [13] Hammurabi’s Code is the earliest form of law that we are able to read and study because, in 1901, a French expedition to Mesopotamia uncovered a copy of the Babylonian king’s laws. [14] Hammurabi's Code of Laws was considered the first documented Code ever used by human civilization in Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, the land of Assyro-Babylonian culture. [13] During such tumultuous times in the region of Mesopotamia, the draconian laws unsurprisingly favored the the authoritative class over the subservient social classes. [15] Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged law mesopotamia or ask your own question. [16] We can presume that Mesopotamia, like all empires, developed its law code by reusing laws from their own past, as well as learning from the peoples around them -- those they conquered and those they traded with -- and then attempted to improve and formalize them into a written code. [17] Mesopotamia didn’t create the first laws!! Hammurabi’s famous code is one of the oldest law codes that survive in a written text. [17]

The Code of Hammurabi is one of the oldest deciphered writings of length in the world (written c. 1754 BCE), and features a code of law from ancient Babylon in Mesopotamia. [18] It should be kept in mind that we cannot be sure how well enforced these laws were, but it is safe to say that a powerful king in ancient Mesopotamia thought these were the laws that would guide a just society. [19]

Barton, a scientist of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania from 1922 to 1931, stated that while there are similarities between the Mosaic Law and the Code of Hammurabi, a study of the entirety of both laws "convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws." [20] Hammurabi also established a set of laws that is today called the Code of Hammurabi. [22] In the preface to the law, he states, " 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, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind." [20] The prologue describes how the god Shamash gave the laws to Hammurabi. [22] One possible explanation for the many logical flaws here is that Hammurabi himself could neither read nor write it is likely that his laws were written down one by one, whenever he saw fit to promulgate a new law. [21] It is one of the oldest recorded codes of laws in the world. [22] The code of laws was arranged in orderly groups, so that all who read the laws would know what was required of them. [20] Given this detailed list of injuries and their prices, how is one to determine the price for an injury not listed here? What if you burn a man’s arm? Cut off a finger? Break a rib? Emasculate him? (One set of Mesopotamian laws did address the case in which a woman crushed a man’s testicle, with different penalties for crushing just one or both testicles. [21] This is another factor that we moderns find inscrutable: why did they have to list everything in detail? Why not simply substitute some abstractions? For example, the last set of laws could all be reduced to "If (sex with animal) then death" -- except of course for the case of horses and mules. [21] Eshnunna’s other laws go into greater detail in regulating life: he sets prices for goods, rates for labor, and even interest rates (20% in some cases, 33% in others). [21] The second set of laws regarding the penalties for stealing or killing animals could have been boiled down to "If (steal or kill male animal) then (fine is 15 of the same animal)" and "If (steal or kill female animal) then (fine is 6 of the same animal). [21] Law #127: "If any one "point the finger" at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair)." [20] Law # 129: "If the wife of a man has been caught lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the waters. [20] Law #196: "If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye. [20]

Shamash, who is featured at the top of the diorite stele, was the Babylonian god of law, justice, and salvation. [22] At the top, or "fingertip", of the stele is a carved picture of King Hammurabi being given the laws from the Babylonian sun god Shamash. [22]

The Hittites used a common system of payments for crimes. (In ancient Germanic law, this was called "weregeld": man-gold). [21] This would have helped people to find and read just the laws that pertained to them. [22] Our next lawgiver is one Lipit-Ishtar, who ruled Nippur around 1930 BCE. His laws were more extensive than those of Ur-Namma, and probably acted only as an extension to existing criminal law. [21] Law #265: "If a herdsman, to whose care cattle or sheep have been entrusted, be guilty of fraud and make false returns of the natural increase, or sell them for money, then shall he be convicted and pay the owner ten times the loss." [20] They had laws, too, and their laws have come down to us in fairly complete form. 200 laws have been stitched together from a variety of sources, and although they do not cover all legal situations, they do address most of the important issues. [21] What I find significant about this law is its addressing of four different logical cases in a single law. [21] What constitutes "homicide" in Law #1? I suspect that the original Sumerian term was something like "killing" rather than our more precise term "homicide" -- after all, the law gives no consideration for the many variations we have on the notion of homicide: accidental killing (we call it manslaughter), accidental death due to negligence, self-defense, justifiable homicide, and so on. [21] The natural history mental module was recruited by lawmakers to specify the laws of civilized behavior. [21] The laws were based with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye" depending on social status. [20] Some of these laws follow along the rules of "an eye for an eye". [20] All of Hammurabi’s laws are simple if-then statements, but this is a complex if-then statement. [21] Clearly, the thinking behind this law went deeper than the thinking behind Hammurabi’s laws. [21] Hammurabi’s law code comes down to us complete in all its 282 laws. [21] Hammurabi’s laws differ from previous law codes only in the degree of detail to which they go. [21]

He conquered all of Mesopotamia and established the first Babylonian Empire. [22]


He instituted his famous code of laws (c. 1772 BCE), paid careful attention to the needs of the people, improved irrigation of fields and maintenance of the infrastructures of the cities under his control, while also building opulent temples to the gods. [1] The Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BCE), which originated with either Ur -Nammu or his son Shulgi of Ur, is the oldest code of laws in the world. [1]

The laws were inscribed on a clay tablet in Sumerian language and arranged in casuistic form, a pattern in which a crime is followed by punishment which was also the basis of nearly all later codes of law including the Code of Hammurabi. [6] The Code of Hammurabi : One of the earliest codes of law in the world. [1] The Code of Hammurabi refers to a set of rules or laws enacted by the Babylonian King Hammurabi (reign 1792-1750 B.C.). [5] One of the most famous ancient codes contains 282 judgements of civil and criminal law. [6] Among his many accomplishments was his famous code of laws, inscribed on the stele of the gods. [4] The Code of Ur-Nammu created by Ur-Nammu of Ur (21s century BC) is the oldest known code of law which is only partly preserved. [6] Code of Ur-Nammu is also notable for instituting monetary compensations for inflicting bodily injuries which is considered very advanced for the oldest known code of law. [6]

One of the greatest achievements of Mesopotamians are the first written codified laws which reveal the level of social, political, economical and legal development of the Mesopotamian civilization. [6] At this time, it was the king, considered to be a living god, who made the laws, though documents suggest that anyone with a substantial amount of authority could make legal decisions. [3] King enacted god's laws: The king acted as the guardian and ensured people followed the edicts laid down by god. [2] The role of the king was established at some point after 3600 BCE and, unlike the priest-rulers who came before, the king dealt directly with the people and made his will clear through laws of his own devising. [4] The second point the epilogue makes is that the kings who succeed Hammurabi should not change or disregard these laws or try to alter the identity of the person who made them. [5] Regardless of the answers to these questions, Hammurabi himself states in the prologue to his laws that his right to make them was one given by the gods themselves. [5] Hammurabi was not the first ruler in the Middle East to write down laws. [5] His codified laws are the first known examples of a ruler explicitly outlining rules and consequences of a society. [3] Prior to the concept of a king, the priestly rulers are believed to have dictated the law according to religious precepts and received divine messages through signs and omens the king, while still honoring and placating the gods, was considered a powerful enough representative of those gods to be able to speak their will through his own dictates, using his own voice. [4] Everyone under the law was expected to already know what the gods required of them, and the king was expected simply to administer the god's will. [1] Ancient Mesopotamian belief revolved around god and the people believed laws emanated from him only. [2] He created a system of 282 laws, named Hammurabi's Code, and made the set of laws under the name of their Gods. [23] After Hammurabi's death, his system of laws became something of a classic in the ancient world, and scholars have found examples of them written on tablets, which were copied as late as the 5th century B.C., more than a millennium after Hammurabi's death. [5] Hammurabi's laws reflect the shock of an unprecedented social environment: the multi-ethnic, multi-tribal Babylonian world. [1] Van de Mieroop also notes that "in the extensive documentation of court cases judged in Hammurabi's reign and afterwards there is no reference to a collection of laws that was the basis for a decision." [5] Hammurabi would probably have drawn on his own personal experiences in putting together his laws, basing them in part on past cases that he had ruled on. [5] The Mesopotamians and Egyptians addressed issues of civil and criminal law and the consequences for breaking them. [3] The Mesopotamians went to great lengths to spell out their laws, and the consequences for breaking them, in great detail. [3]

The best known laws were that of King Hammurabi, who reigned from 1792-1750 BC. They were inscribed on a stone stela and placed in various temples. [2] Prior to the concept of a king, the priestly rulers are believed to have dictated the law according to religious precepts. [4] Aspects of Hammurabi's Code have carried over through time, and is a essentially an outline of many law systems today. [23] The penalties for a judge trying to change a sealed verdict was severe, "he shall pay 12 times the amount of the loss which had occasioned the trial," reads the law in question. [5] Some of his laws were arguably arbitrary, but the people were "innocent until proven guilty", so he at least was a sane leader. [23] While less explicit proof of Egyptian law exists today, evidence remains that paints a picture of a structured and progressive legal society. [3] One law reads, "if a finger has been pointed at a man's wife because of some male but she has not been caught copulating with another male, she shall leap into the River for the sake of her husband," (translation by H. Dieter Viel). [5] There were laws protecting a woman in the event that her husband was taken captive in war and had to live with another man when her food ran out. [5] Each law consists of a potential case followed by a prescribed verdict. [5] In the laws, it is clear that not only is there a burden on the accused but also on the accuser should they be unable to prove their case. [5] The Romans improved the infrastructure of their colonies significantly through their introduction of better roads and plumbing and brought Roman Law to the land. [4] Hammurabi's code differed from the earlier laws in significant ways. [1] Besides severer penalties the Assyrian law also reflects great change of social position of women. [6] "If a member of the elite strike the cheek of a member of the elite who is of a higher social status than him, he shall be flogged in public with 60 strikes of an ox-whip," reads one law (translation from van de Mieroop's book). [5]

The best known and most influential of the Mesopotamian law codes was that of King Hammurabi of Babylonia (r. 1792-1750 B.C.). [24] He is best known in the modern day for his law code which, although not the earliest code of laws, came to serve as a model for other cultures and is thought to have influenced the laws set down by Hebrew scribes, including those from the biblical Book of Exodus. [1] His law code is not the first such code in history (though it is often called so) but is certainly the most famous from antiquity prior to the code set down in the biblical books. [1] Hammurabi's law code set the standard for future codes in dealing strictly with the evidence of the crime & setting a specific punishment. [1] The Elamites, who had been so completely defeated by Hammurabi decades before, invaded and carried off the stele of Hammurabi's Law Code which was discovered at the Elamite city of Susa in 1902 CE. [1] Scholars today debate the meaning behind the stele that is now in the Louvre and whether the rules Hammurabi enacted truly represent a full law code. [5] Scholars have noted problems in reading Hammurabi's laws as a full law code in the modern sense. [5]

In ancient times, Mesopotamia impacted the world through its inventions, innovations, and religious vision in the modern day it literally changed the way people understood the whole of history and one's place in the continuing story of human civilization. [4] Archaeological excavations starting in the 1840s CE have revealed human settlements dating to 10,000 BCE in Mesopotamia that indicate that the fertile conditions of the land between two rivers allowed an ancient hunter-gatherer people to settle in the land, domesticate animals, and turn their attention to agriculture. [4] The Amorites were a nomadic people who migrated across Mesopotamia from the coastal region of Eber Nari (modern day Syria ) at some point prior to the 3rd millennium BCE and by 1984 BCE were ruling in Babylon. [1] After Cyrus II (d. 530 BCE) took Babylon, the bulk of Mesopotamia became part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and this period saw a rapid cultural decline in the region, most notably in the loss of the knowledge of cuneiform script. [4] From Mari, Hammurabi marched on Ashur and took the region of Assyria and finally Eshnunna (also conquered by damming up of the waters) so that, by 1755 BCE, he ruled all of Mesopotamia. [1] By 1755 BCE, when he was the undisputed master of Mesopotamia, Hammurabi was old and sick. [1] Hammurabi (also known as Khammurabi and Ammurapi, reigned 1792-1750 BCE) was the sixth king of the Amorite First Dynasty of Babylon, assumed the throne from his father, Sin-Muballit, and expanded the kingdom to conquer all of ancient Mesopotamia. [1] Mesopotamia was known in antiquity as a seat of learning, and it is believed that Thales of Miletus (c. 585 BCE, known as the 'first philosopher') studied there. [4]

As noted, Kramer lists 39 `firsts' from Mesopotamia in his book History Begins at Sumer and yet, as impressive as those `firsts' are, Mesopotamian contributions to world culture do not end with them. [4] Once cuneiform could be read, the ancient world of Mesopotamia opened up to the modern age and transformed people's understanding of the history of the world and themselves. [4] Van De Mieroop writes, "Mesopotamia was the most densely urbanized region in the ancient world" (as cited in Bertman, 201), and the cities which grew up along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as those founded further away, established systems of trade which resulted in great prosperity. [4] Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning 'between two rivers') was an ancient region located in the eastern Mediterranean bounded in the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and in the southeast by the Arabian Plateau, corresponding to today's Iraq, mostly, but also parts of modern-day Iran, Syria and Turkey. [4] By the time of the conquest by the Roman Empire (116 CE), Mesopotamia was a largely Hellenized region, lacking in any unity, which had forgotten the old gods and the old ways. [4] Whichever kingdom or empire held sway across Mesopotamia, in whatever historical period, the vital role of the gods in the lives of the people remained undiminished. [4]

Documents from the time attest to the efficacy of Hammurabi's rule and his sincere desire to improve the lives of the people of Mesopotamia. [1] The Babylonians began their rise to power in the region of Mesopotamia around 1900 B.C. This was at a time when Mesopotamia. [1] At the same time he was setting his troops in order and planning his campaign for the southern region of Mesopotamia. [1]

As a result of this, Mesopotamia should be more properly understood as a region that produced multiple empires and civilizations rather than any single civilization. [4] Unlike the more unified civilizations of Egypt or Greece, Mesopotamia was a collection of varied cultures whose only real bonds were their script, their gods, and their attitude toward women. [4] Compared to other civilizations, Mesopotamia was rich in culture and there was a semblance of good governance which, rubbed on other civilizations as well. [2] Mesopotamia and Egypt are two of the earliest documented civilizations. [3]

When the Elamites invaded the central plains of Mesopotamia from the east, Hammurabi allied himself with Larsa to defeat them. [1] With the southern part of Mesopotamia under control, Hammurabi turned north and west. [1]

The Guti Tribe, fierce nomads who succeeded in toppling the Akkadian Empire, dominated the politics of Mesopotamia until they were defeated by the allied forces of the kings of Sumer. [4] After Cyrus II took Babylon, the bulk of Mesopotamia became part of tHe Persian Empire & Saw a rapid cultural decline. [4]

Through daily rituals, attention to the deities, proper funeral practices, and simple civic duty, the people of Mesopotamia felt they helped maintain balance in the world and kept the forces of chaos and destruction at bay. [4] Mesopotamia gave birth to the world's first cities which were largely built of sun-dried brick. [4] Zimri-Lim had led successful military campaigns through the north of Mesopotamia and, owing to the wealth generated from these victories, Mari had grown to be the envy of other cities with one of the largest and most opulent palaces in the region. [1] Mesopotamia generally, and Sumer specifically, gave the world some of its most enduring cultural aspects and, even though the cities and great palaces are long gone, that legacy continued into the modern era. [4] The legacy of Mesopotamia endures today through many of the most basic aspects of modern life such as the sixty-second minute and the sixty-minute hour. [4]

Ur was a city in the region of Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, in what is modern-day Iraq. [4] Bertman writes, "Under Sassanian domination, Mesopotamia lay in ruins, its fields dried out or turned into a swampy morass, its once great cities made ghost towns" (58). [4] Urbanization, the wheel, writing, astronomy, mathematics, wind power, irrigation, agricultural developments, animal husbandry, and the narratives which would eventually be re-written as the Hebrew Scriptures and provide the basis for the Christian Old Testament all came from the land of Mesopotamia. [4] Perhaps, the most notable leader was King Hammurabi, who ruled Mesopotamia for 42 years. [23] Mari was a city-state located near the west bank of the Euphrates River in Northern Mesopotamia (now eastern Syria) during the Early. [1]

In the stela, Hammurabi was placed just before the sun god Shamash, who was regarded as the deliverer of justice in ancient Mesopotamia. [2] The only major difference, is that there is no evidence of people serving jail-time in ancient Mesopotamia. [23] Sumer was the southernmost region of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait) which is generally considered. [4] Babylon is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia whose ruins lie in modern-day Iraq 59 miles (94 kilometres) southwest. [4] Bertman notes, "With the Islamic conquest of 651 CE the history of ancient Mesopotamia ends" (58). [4] Men and women both worked, and "because ancient Mesopotamia was fundamentally an agrarian society, the principal occupations were growing crops and raising livestock" (Bertman, 274). [4]


While most people know of Hammurabi as the author of his famous "law code," few know that the tradition of the ruler as the guardian and administrator of justice began much earlier in Mesopotamian history. [7] Hammurabi who was King of Babylonians and wrote the 1st Code of Laws and trained an army, improved irrigation and encouraged religion across his empire. [25] Although earlier Babylonian codes are known, unquestionably the most perfect monument of Babylonian law is the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1758 bc ), the main record of which was discovered on a stele, or stone monument, only in 1901-02. [10] A more ample vestige of Sumerian law is the so-called Code of Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1934-24 bc ), which contains the typical prologue, articles, and epilogue and deals with such matters as the rights of persons, marriages, successions, penalties, and property and contracts. [10]

We will examine not merely the ancient "law in the books" (the formal written codes that have received so much historical and philological attention over the years) but also the ancient "law in action" (the performances, rituals and ceremonies that created legal rights and duties in all these proto-literate societies). [8] Chinese law is influenced by ancient Confucian codes of conduct, which focus on people's individual responsibility to be virtuous without having the law dictate their actions. [26] Like some other Middle Eastern codes, the Code of Hammurabi deals consecutively with penal law, the law of persons, family law, and price lists. [10] What other punishments did Hammurabi decree? To find out more, take a look at the Code of Hammurabi on this Yale Law School site. [27]

Already in the third millennium, a king called Uruinimgina (ca. 2350 BCE also known as Urukagina) commissioned a set of reforms that can be viewed as a precursor to the laws of Hammurabi. [7] Some law collections, such as those of Ur-namma (ca. 2112-2095 BCE), Lipit-Ishtar (ca. 1943-1924 BCE), and Hammurabi (ca. 1792-1750 BCE), appear to have had political motivations, either to justify their rule or to demonstrate examples of justice and due process during a successful reign. [7] Hammurabi keenly understood that, to achieve this goal, he needed one universal set of laws for all of the diverse peoples he conquered. [27] Despite what many people believe, this code of laws was not the first. [27] Basically, the codes were an attempt to collect, organize, and recors all existing laws so that there would be one common code for all citizens of the empire. [11] Emperor Justinian was responsible for creating the Code of Justinian, which was a compilation of Roman laws that is the foundation of the civil law in many modern countries. [26] Scholars now hesitate to call these collections "law codes" because this term implies that the laws contained in a given collection were comprehensive, representing a complete "law of the land." [7] Here it is possible only to illustrate some of the major extant laws or codes. [10] It differs from earlier codes, as well as from the earliest laws of Greece and Rome, with regard to the relative importance of laws concerning property and other economic matters. [10] It includes the laws of the majority of the inhabitants of the ancient Middle East--especially the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Elamites, Hurrians, Kassites, and Hittites--who, despite many ethnic differences, were in contact with each other and developed similar civilizations. [10] Cuneiform law, the body of laws revealed by documents written in cuneiform, a system of writing invented by the ancient Sumerians and used in the Middle East in the last three millennia bc. [10]

Throughout the seminar, emphasis will be placed on developing a broad interdisciplinary perspective on the ancient legal cultures examined readings will be drawn not only from the fields of law and history, but also from religion, anthropology, archaeology, literature and communication studies. [8] There are a few major differences between ancient Babylonians and today's laws. [27] Civil law has its foundation in ancient Roman law, and this type of legal system is based on complying with enacted laws. [26] In ancient Greece, there was no need for law school because lawyers were not a part of the legal system. [26] The following links provide connections to ancient law resources on the Internet. [8] "Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred the law, am I." [27] At the top of the stele, a low relief represents the king in prayer before the god of justice the laws are engraved beneath it in no less than 282 paragraphs, apart from the prologue and epilogue. [10] Under King Darius REAL unification of city-states happened with a beauracracy (system of government with departments to set laws). [25] The king enforced his laws by holding everyone accountable equally, without regard for status or income. [26] This is because, of the thousands of tablets recording proceedings of legal situations and cases, only a very few possibly make mention of a "stela" on which laws presumably were written. [7] While some scholars have viewed the law collections as representing existing legal practice and providing precedents for legal cases, most now view the collections as having had little or no influence on the daily practice of law. [7] It gave legal protection to peasents and commoners as well as to nobles, but the laws were applied differently to different classes of people. [11] This ruler managed his court by clearly outlining the laws so that all of the people knew them. [26] He wanted his people to obey his laws out of respect, not out of fear. [26] …appears first in late Sumerian law: from law it was extended to scientific problems, and the form remained the same until well into the 1st millennium bc. [10] He ruled the Babylonian Empire from 1792-50 B.C.E. Although he was concerned with keeping order in his kingdom, this was not his only reason for compiling the list of laws. [27] The laws of Assyria, though created later than the Babylonian laws, summon up the image of a less-developed society. [10] The laws reflect a society that was patriarchal and rather strict. [10] The Hammurabi's code was declared positively that the state is the authority responsible for obedience of the law, and it confirmed that social justice shouls be guranteed to all citizens. [11] " is a paraphrase of Hammurabi's Code, a collection of 282 laws inscribed on an upright stone pillar. [27] Hammurabi's code listed 282 different laws, organized under headings such as trade, family, labour, real estate, and personal property. [11] Hammurabi's laws dealt with civil matters like divorce, marriage child to parent & criminal matters like theft and murder. [25] It is not arbitrary to classify the laws of these civilizations as "cuneiform" indeed, it is a scientific necessity, because no other term covers all and only these laws. [10] The foundation of Roman law was the Twelve Tablets, which contained the established set of laws. [26] Therefore, he sent legal experts throughout his kingdom to gather existing laws. [27] Most of the nearly 300 laws written on the pillar pertain to property rights of landowners, slavemasters, merchants, and builders. [27] The message that these literary portions of the law collections convey is that the king’s authority has been divinely sanctioned and opposing him means acting against the gods’ wishes. [7] A number of the laws refer to jumping in the Euphrates River as a method of demonstrating one's guilt or innocence. [27] Common law originated with England's monarchy, and this type of legal system is based on precedent. [26]

The oldest known evidence of a law code are tablets from the ancient city Ebla (Tell Mardikh in modern-day Syria). [27] Hammurabi's Law Code: Hammurabi's law code was inscribed on an upright stone, or stela, that orignally stood in babylon's temple of Marduk, the chief god. [11] Meso's Law and Justice Sumerians and the Babylonians developed law codes. [11] The Hittite Law Code, dating from about the 14th century bc, reflects the Hittite’s closed rural economy and feudal aristocracy. [10]

In early Mesopotamia, members of this elite group would have been supported by temple revenues. later, as temples lost their pre-eminent place in Mesopotamian society, a career in royal service would have become a more important source of income for ambitious officials. [9] King Hammurabi was the first king of Babylon, and he was the ruler who was responsible for conquering Mesopotamia and creating the first Babylonian Empire. [26] Once it became the chief city of southern Mesopotamia, Babylon could have had a population of as much as 100,000. [9] From the early 2nd millennium, southern Mesopotamia was usually unified under the control of various dynasties, ruling from the large city of Babylon. [9]

This marks the decline of the Sumerians as the Amorites, a nomadic people, start moving into Mesopotamia. [9] From 1100 : Nomadic peoples such as the Aramaeans and the Chaldeans overrun much of Mesopotamia. [9]

The plain of Mesopotamia was created in comparatively recent times (from an geological point of view) by the mud brought down by the rivers. [9] "Mesopotamia" is a Greek word meaning, "Land between the Rivers". [9] These rivers rise in mountain ranges to the north before flowing through Mesopotamia to the sea. [9] The rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and their numerous branches, made farming possible in Mesopotamia. [9]

Akkadian language, extinct Semitic language of the Northern Peripheral group, spoken in Mesopotamia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium bce. [10] The waxing and waning of these languages reflected population movements within Mesopotamia, and to the rise and fall of ruling kingoms and empires with which they were linked. [9]

Ancient Mesopotamia must surely be the most influential civilization in world history. [9] A whole range of technologies and scientific advances were thus made in ancient Mesopotamia which eventually found their way to Medieval and Modern European civilization. [9]

Most of the population in ancient Mesopotamia were farmers, working small plots of land. [9] Surrounding the central temple building was a complex of ceremonial courtyards, shrines, burial chambers for the priests and priestesses, ceremonial banqueting halls, along with workshops, granaries, storehouse and administrative buildings, as temples were main centres of economic and administrative activity in ancient Mesopotamia. [9]


Hammurabi, the ruler of Babylon, is best known for the development of a code of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi, which was used to regulate Mesopotamian society. [28] Known today as the Code of Hammurabi, the 282 laws are one of the earliest and more complete written legal codes from ancient times. [28] The Code of Hammurabi was one of many sets of laws in the Ancient Middle East. [13] Hammurabi was a Mesopotamian king who recorded a system of laws called the Code of Hammurabi. [14] The acquisition of so many lands, cities and their different social constitutions might have prompted the initiation of the Code of Hammurabi - a "universal’ law system that could rigorously deal with the divisive nature of the now-expanded Babylonian Empire. [15] To that end, the Code of Hammurabi is quite strict and even vengeful in its approach, with "scaled’ laws that were applicable variably to different social classes. [15] However beyond just contemporary affairs, the name Hammurabi in our modern-times mostly pertains to that of an ancient law-giver - courtesy of a massive code of laws that dictated various facets ranging from labor contracts, properties to even household and family relationships. [15] The Hammurabi Code is not a complete set of laws, but more a series of enactments addressing specific cases and subjects such as slavery, debt, commercial regulations, marriage and inheritance. [28] Another misconception relating to the Code of Hammurabi is its presumed nature of being the oldest set of codified laws in human history. [15] In spite of magnanimous claims of being "enlightening’, suffice it to say - many of the laws in the Code of Hammurabi are simply severe (and in some cases, even disturbing). [15] The earlier code of Ur-Nammu, of the Ur-III dynasty (21st century BC), the Hittite code of laws (ca. 1300 BC), and Mosaic Law (traditionally ca. 1200 BC under Moses), all contain statutes that bear at least passing resemblance to those in the Code of Hammurabi and other codices from the same geographic area. [13] The "piece de resistance’ of progressiveness in the Code of Hammurabi was epitomized by the rough minimum wage laws that initiated compulsory compensations for different occupations. [15] Now, in in spite of the relative "late coming’ of the Code of Hammurabi, its influence in the latter laws and dictum penned in Biblical context is quite unmistakable. [15] An apt example is the famous quote from the Biblical context - "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’, which is just a paraphrasing of a few Hammurabi laws inscribed in the code. [15] While the laws of Hammurabi were partly inspired by the aforementioned preceding inscriptions, the core nature of these directives were pretty different from the earlier codes. [15] While such laws and morality scopes were directly dictated by the state, especially when concerning household and family relationships matters, the Code of Hammurabi was surprisingly progressive in other areas. [15]

King Hammurabi’s code of laws consisted of 282 distinctly organized scriptures written and published in roughly 1780 BCE. The scriptures were chiseled on a large stone sculpture and placed in public so that the laws could be visible and understood by all. [12] Hammurabi’s written code allowed lot to be a matter of public knowledge and so help advance the rule of law in society. [12] To better administer his kingdom, he issued a set of codes or laws to standardize rules and regulations and administer a universal sense of justice. [28] In approximately 1771, BCE, Hammurabi, king of the Babylonian Empire, decreed a set of laws to every city-state in order to better govern his bourgeoning empire. [28] Kevin Reilly accurately depicts the struggling role of women from this early period of civilization through Assyrian law, a palace decree, and Hammurabi’s Code. [12] Unlike current judicial systems, Hammurabi’s code of laws required the victim to bring his offender to court by himself in order to submit him to legal punishment. [12] Hammurabi’s code included what we today call both criminal and civil law. [14] The key words used on Google scholar were: "Hammurabi's code", "Laws". [13] The key words used on Pub Med Central were "Hammurabi's code", "Laws" litigation, managed care. [13] The codes have served as a model for establishing justice in other cultures and are believed to have influenced laws established by Hebrew scribes, including those in the Book of Exodus. [28] The code by its nature does not show how these laws were implemented. [13] The text of the code of laws was obtained and compared from these sources. [13] The serial numbers of the code of laws start from 1 to 282. [13] It is in all religions and in man-made ethical and moral code of laws. [13] His code of laws is largely considered the earliest-known example of code announced to the public. [13] Figure 1: The laws, which numbered from 1 to 282 (numbers 13 and 66-99 are missing), are inscribed in ancient Babylonian on an eight-foot tall stella of black basal. [13] The laws of the Mesopotamians were deeply intertwined with the church. [12] Trade contacts were more extensive, and the Mesopotamians gave attention to a merchant class and commercial law. [12]

The stone pillar where Hammurabi had his laws engraved is on display at the Louvre, a museum in Paris, France. [14] We can surmise from this law that not many people at that time were able to swim. [14] Anthropologists study existing tribal people that don’t have a written language, but they all have their own laws, and their own procedures for punishing/controlling people who break their laws. [17] It was King Hammurabi’s hope that a central system of laws would bind the separate city-states into a single, peaceful entity. [12] This stele contains a nearly complete set of Hammurabi's laws. [14] Table 1: Hammurabi's Laws dealing with bodily harm from strike or other activity. [13] Medical laws and ethics of Babylon as read in Hammurabi's code (History). [13] Hammurabi's Code of Law specified: "If a surgeon performs a major operation on an 'awelum' (nobleman), with a lancet and caused the death of this man, they shall cut off his hands". [13] The rest of laws are regulating all aspects of life regarding land ownership or hiring, interpersonal relations among family man and wife and the rest of life activities. [13] One law said, "If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out." [14] There were criminal laws which describe the type of justice in cases of inflicting bodily harm among the public (Table1). [13] Results: There were 282 laws, dealing with all aspect of public life, citizen's rights and limits and the Babylon Kingdome's justice system. [13]

The first text that is mentioned by Reilly, is that titled, Assyrian law. [12] The judge who blunders in a law case is to be expelled from his judgeship forever, and heavily fined. [13] Hammurabi's Code prescribed specific punishments for citizens who broke the law. [14] Hammurabi's Code of Laws Almansoura's University Egypt. http://www.f-law.net/law/index.php. [13] Hammurabi's Code of Laws Halsall P. Ed. (sources editor) Fordham University: Internet historical source book. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/sbook.html. [13] Hammurabi's Code of Laws Avalon project at Yale University in USA. http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/hamframe.htm. [13]

In the previous entry, we talked about how the Code of Hammurabi might have been stricter when compared to the other ancient law codes. [15] While we have previously established how the Code of Hammurabi oscillates between being ridiculously severe and oddly progressive, it is interestingly one of the very few ancient law codes that gave importance to the dictum of "innocent until proven guilty’. [15] That is not true from the historical perspective, with the honor (of the oldest law code) probably belonging to the Code of Ur-Nammu, which was inscribed circa 2100 - 2050 BC. Moreover, there is another Sumerian Code of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin that was possibly drawn up at least two centuries before the Code of Hammurabi. [15]

Beyond just popular civic projects, Hammurabi was a very ambitious ruler who long coveted the proximate lands of the resource-rich Mesopotamia. [15] Such an opportunistic military trend continued until Hammurabi was the master of the entire southern part of Mesopotamia - an enviable feat since he initially started with only around 50 sq miles of land under his rule. [15]

RANKED SELECTED SOURCES(35 source documents arranged by frequency of occurrence in the above report)


Hammurabi’s Law Code

Hammurabi promulgated his Code of Law circa 1772 B.C. Hammurabi’s was not the first such law code, but it was the most famous and important. Previous law codes, such as that of Ur-Nammu, were made to rule over a single ethnic group, people all of the same family, more or less. By Hammurabi’s time, Babylon had become a large, cosmopolitan city with many different people rubbing shoulders on its busy streets. Hammurabi’s Law had to rule over nomads, Assyrian traders, aristocratic Babylonians, Elamite slaves and Sumerian housewives. His law code had to be simple, specific and direct. Hammurabi’s laws sought to avoid the blood feuds that could easily arise among people of different cultures.

To modern minds, Hammurabi’s laws are harsh they established the principle of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, literally. If a man took out another man’s eye in a fight, he then lost his own eye. Punishments for breaking the law included dismemberment, disfigurement and death. The lightest punishments were fines. Hammurabi had his Code inscribed on a stele, an eight-foot tall diorite rock where all could see the law. While harsh, Hammurabi’s law included the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

This article is part of our larger resource on Mesopotamian culture, society, economics, and warfare. Click here for our comprehensive article on ancient Mesopotamia.


What was the government of the Sumerians?

Type of Government: Mesopotamia was ruled by kings. The kings only ruled a single city though, rather than the entire civilization. For example, the city of Babylon was ruled by King Hammurabi. Each king and city designed the rules and systems that they thought would be most beneficial for their people.

Also, who governed the Sumerian city states? The warring Sumerian city-states were conquered by the Elamites sometime between 2530 and 2450 BCE. Later they were united by King Sargon I of the Akkadians, who ruled from 2334 to 2279 BCE. Sargon established the world's first-known empire. He also established a hereditary monarchy.

Herein, what were the duties of the government in Sumerian city states?

The states of Sumer seemed to have been ruled by a type of priest-king. Among their duties were leading the military, administering trade, judging disputes, and engaging in the most important religious ceremonies. A bureaucracy assisted the king.

What were Sumerians known for?

The Sumerians were the first Mesopotamian civilization. The Sumerians traded by land with the eastern Mediterranean and by sea as far as India. The invention of the wheel, 3000 years ago, improved transportation by land. The Sumerians were well known for their metalwork, a craft at which they excelled.


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