Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi is the emblem of the Mesopotamian civilisation; it contains 282 laws carved into a basalt stele.

Visual Arts

Keywords

Hammurabi, code of law, stele, Mesopotamia, Babylon, Akkadian, cuneiform script, Babylonian Empire, law, right, archaeology, decision, king, religion, empire, ruler, ancient Near East, state, Susa, Louvre, antiquity, Text memorial, basalt, relief, god, history, society, writing

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Questions

  • In which city-state did Hammurabi reign?
  • What rock was the stele made of?
  • When did Hammurabi reign?
  • In which writing system was the Code of Hammurabi carved in stone?
  • In what language was the Code of Hammurabi written?
  • What was the writing direction of the Akkadian cuneiform script?
  • In which city is the Code of Hammurabi exhibited?
  • In which museum is the Code of Hammurabi exhibited?
  • How many laws does the Code of Hammurabi contain?
  • Which figure is Hammurabi on the relief atop the stele?
  • Which figure is Hammurabi on the relief atop the stele?
  • Who is featured on the relief atop the stele together with Hammurabi?
  • What was Shamash the god of?
  • How tall is the Code of Hammurabi?
  • Is it true that numerous copies of the Code of Hammurabi existed on baked clay tablets?
  • Which ruler lived before Hammurabi?
  • Which principle did the Code of Hammurabi follow?
  • When was the Code of Hammurabi found?
  • During the excavation of which ancient city was the Code of Hammurabi found?
  • Is it true that verdicts were independent of the social status of the offender?
  • When was the Code of Hammurabi created?
  • What is Hammurabi doing in front of Shamash?
  • What object is Shamash holding?
  • What does the measuring rod symbolise in the hand of Shamash?
  • What does Shamash sit on?
  • Which concept is NOT included in the Code of Hammurabi?
  • Is it true that the Code of Hammurabi is the oldest code of law?
  • Which concept is NOT included in the Code of Hammurabi?
  • Which writing system was the predecessor of the Sumerian cuneiform script?
  • Which family of languages does Akkadian belong to?

Scenes

Stele

  • stele - A stone slab decorated with carved or engraved symbols and figures. The Code of Hammurabi was made of basalt.
  • relief - The stele contains a relief at the top, which depicts Hammurabi standing in front of Shamash.
  • laws - The code contains 282 laws of Hammurabi , carved in Akkadian cuneiform script.

Stele

The stele of the Code of Hammurabi was found in 1901 by a French archaeological expedition during the excavation of the ancient city of Susa located in modern-day Iran. It was probably brought there as loot. Today it is exhibited in the Louvre in Paris, France.

Atop the 2.25 m tall basalt stele was a relief and at the bottom was Hammurabi’s code of laws. This is one of the oldest code of laws in history; several copies of it existed even at the time of its creation, for instance on baked clay tablets. It was written in Akkadian cuneiform script. The text can be divided into three parts. The prologue praises Hammurabi and Marduk, the patron deity of Babylon. Babylonians believed that only the gods are entitled to create laws. Kings were praying to them for wisdom so that they could be just rulers of their people. The next part is the collection of 282 laws, organised into chapters. The epilogue contains a series of blessings and curses.

The laws are a mix of Mesopotamian and tribal laws. The talion principle (or law of retaliation), commonly known as the "eye for an eye" principle is an example of tribal laws.

However, it is important to mention that the severity of the punishment depended on the social class of the culprit and the injured party. There were various laws concerning all areas of everyday life. These included criminal law, administrative law, family law and business law. Several elements of the Code of Hammurabi are still present in today’s legal systems.

The wording of the Code is very precise and the language itself is simplified so that anyone can understand it. It can be considered an independent, didactic work that is also one of the most important pieces from Ancient Mesopotamia together with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Relief

  • Hammurabi - King of Babylon, founder of the Babylonian Empire. He probably reigned from 1792 to 1750 BC.
  • Shamash - He was the Sun god in the ancient Near East. He was respected as the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria. According to the inscriptions, he gave Hammurabi the laws.
  • portrayal - They are depicted in a posture that the legs, arms and head are shown from the side while the torso from the front.

The relief

Hammurabi was king of Babylon from 1792 BC until 1750 BC. The ancient city-state was located on the banks of the Euphrates river in Mesopotamia. His long reign was characterised by building projects (e.g. temples, canals and heightening of the city wall) and successful military conquests with the help of which he was able to establish a strong empire.

Shamash was the Akkadian counterpart of the Sumerian Sun god Utu. In Babylonia and Assyria, Shamash was the god of justice. This deity was known as the judge of gods and men as well. He is also featured in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In mythology and arts, he was usually associated with a lion. The centres of his cult were Sippar and Larsa.

The relief at the top of the stele depicts Shamash sitting on a throne and Hammurabi standing in front of him. Shamash is holding a measuring rod and a ring which symbolise royal power. The sitting Sun god looks taller than the standing Hammurabi, emphasising the power relation between them. Hammurabi is praying to Shamash for wisdom and righteousness as, according to Babylonians, laws could be created only by the gods.

As a statue

  • characteristic beard - The long, unique beard was a symbol of power. According to historical sources, Akkadian men cared for their beards by oiling and curling them to create ringlets.
  • ring - It is a symbol of power. It symbolises the right to build the state and create laws.
  • measuring rod - It is a symbol of power. It symbolises the right to build the state and create laws.
  • crown - Shamash's crown consists of four pairs of horns.
  • flames - These rise from the shoulders of Shamash, symbolising his divine power and his power of creation.
  • throne - The posture of Shamash represents the power relation between him and Hammurabi; however, he is not much taller than the king, which signifies that Hammurabi also had considerable power. His hand gesture and the fact that he could appear before Shamash also prove this.
  • platform - The feet of Shamash are placed on a platform with three steps. This might indicate that Shamash and Hammurabi met on a mountain.

Animation

  • Hammurabi - King of Babylon, founder of the Babylonian Empire. He probably reigned from 1792 to 1750 BC.
  • Shamash - He was the Sun god in the ancient Near East. He was respected as the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria. According to the inscriptions, he gave Hammurabi the laws.
  • portrayal - They are depicted in a posture that the legs, arms and head are shown from the side while the torso from the front.

Narration

The stele of Hammurabi’s code of laws is a 2.25 m tall basalt slab. It was found in 1901 by a French archaeological expedition during the excavation of the ancient city of Susa located in modern-day Iran. Today it is exhibited in the Louvre in Paris.

At the top of the stele is a relief depicting the deity Shamash sitting on a throne with Hammurabi standing in front of him. Below the relief is the Code of Hammurabi, one of the oldest codes of law in history, carved in stone in Akkadian cuneiform script. The prologue praises Hammurabi and the god Marduk, the next part is a collection of 282 laws, and an epilogue contains a series of blessings and curses.

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