Hammurabi’s Stele

Hammurabi’s Stele Essay Sample

Really existing and at the same time legendary person, King Hammurabi ruled in the XVIII century BC. He was the most famous and famous King of Babylonia, to be exact, the Ancient Babylonian Kingdom, but the science did not distinguish him from a number of other outstanding figures in the Babylonian-Assyrian history for a long time. He was interesting only for bibliographers since his name was considered identical to biblical Amraphel. Consequently, Hammurabi himself was one of the four eastern kings who undertook a successful raid to Palestine, where he was captured by Lot, Abraham’s nephew.

For a long time, the historical information about Hammurabi was very little – only hymns, about 10 small inscriptions and about 50 letters of the King to his vassals (or vicegerents) informed about his personality and the time of his reign. This historical evidence shows us the King as already wise, a completely mature statesman. He was the ruler who fully mastered the political tasks of his time and resolutely implemented them. Having overcome the foreign oppression and united the scattered forces of Babylonia, he decided to expand the territory of his kingdom by joining neighboring lands. As a result of military campaigns, Hammurabi united most of the civilized world under his rule. He extended his influence almost to the whole territory of Mesopotamia and Elam, to Assyria and even to Syria. A well-thought system of political alliances helped him defeat opponents. In the end, Hammurabi was also dealing with his main ally – the King of Mari, the northern state. In addition to the successful foreign policy, Hammurabi excelled in the field of the internal management of Babylonia. This successful activity made him famous.

The code of laws that glorified King Hammurabi was discovered by the French scientific expedition, which in 1897 began excavations in the place where Susa, the capital of ancient Elam, was situated that time. Participants in the expedition headed by J. de Morgan already unearthed a number of valuable finds, when suddenly in December 1901 they stumbled upon a large piece of diorite, and a few days later they dug out two more pieces. When all three fragments were applied to each other, a stele of 2.25 meters in height was made of them. The stele was moved to Paris and exhibited at Louvre. The first researcher was Sheila and later other scientists, who had to deal with legal and philological difficulties, but the result of their research was the decipherment, translation, and publication of the code of the laws of the Babylonian King.

On the front side of the stele is an artistically carved relief image of the god Shamash, sitting on a high throne, and King Hammurabi was standing near him. The god Shamash is dressed in ordinary Babylonian clothes with a high four-tiered crown on his head. Magnificently stretched forward his right hand, the god Shamash gives a scroll with a set of laws to the Babylonian King. Hammurabi stands in a usual prayerful pose, wearing a long tunic tied up with a belt and a hat with a rim. The text consists of a series of short columns carved from right to left, with wedge-shaped signs read from the top to bottom. About 10 columns of the Hammurabi’s inscription were devoted to his titles and the story of his power, glorifying the gods patronizing him and lauding his greatness.

It is also noted that the wise king, the obedient servant of the god Shamash, was governing the people and delivered the country prosperity by giving the laws, thus creating the well-being of the people. These laws had to put the end to the offense of the weak by the strong so that orphans and widows were treated with justice. Establishing the rule of laws in the country, lawsuits were allowed in the country to bring justice to the oppressed and to contribute the prosperity to the people forever by ruling the country justly. Further, the cuneiform text tells that the Babylonian king calls blessing on admirers and executors of the new legislation and a curse on his offenders.

Those citizens who will not follow the words written on this monument, who will distort these words by changing outlines of the King the legislator, must be afraid of the god’s curse. Any violation of the laws will lead to the death of the apostate and to the hopeless darkness. The rest of the inscription, except 7 scraped columns, present 247 articles of legislation. This stele is a kind of Hammurabi’s solemn declaration on the entry into force of the laws inscribed on it. After the “publication” and promulgation of these laws in the temple of Esagile, the copies of them were sent out to all parts of the great empire of the Babylonian Kingdome. The discovered copy is one of such copies, which was exhibited in Sippar. The texts of the scraped columns were partially filled with inscriptions on clay tablets that were found in the palace of King Ashurbanipal.

By its composition, the Babylonian code of laws is divided into three parts – the introduction, the articles of laws themselves and the conclusion. The introduction which is described above is very important for scientists with an abundance of reported historical events and geographical indications. The law itself begins with five provisions on the violation of the procedure: two articles on the accuser and slanderer, two on the perjury and one on the violation of justice by the judge himself. If the judge makes a verdict, announcing his decision, and then changes his sentence, then this judge must pay twelvefold the lawsuit brought in this case, and must be publicly overthrown from his Judge’s chair and never again sit down with other judges for trial.

The following articles deal with crimes against private property – thefts, purchases and sales of stolen goods, kidnapping, robbery, etc. Here are some examples of the King Hammurabi’s laws:

– If someone steals a temple or palace property, then he must be put to death, and one who takes the stolen from him must be put to the court.
– If someone steals the youngest son of another man, then he must be put to death.
– If someone, having sheltered a runaway slave belonging to a palace or a free man in his house, then this householder must be put to death.
– If someone, having caught a runaway slave in the field, delivers him to his master, then the owner must pay him two shekels of silver.
– If someone commits a robbery and is caught, then he must be put to death.
– If someone’s house is on fire and someone comes to take the property of the, then this person must be thrown into the same fire.
– If someone, having watered his field for irrigation, by negligence flooded with water the neighboring field, then he must pay the bread, in accordance with his neighbor needs.
– If someone cuts a tree in someone’s garden without permission of the owner of the garden, then he must pay half a million of silver coins.
– If someone’s wife is captured by another man, then she and this man must be thrown into the water. If the husband wants to save the life of his wife, then the King will save the life of his citizen.
– If someone’s wife kills her husband because of another man, then she should be put to death.
– If the son hits his father, then his hands must cut off.
– If someone punches the face of a citizen with a higher rank, then it must be publicly struck sixty times with a cowhide whip.
– If a doctor, removing a thorn from a patient’s eye with a bronze knife, injures the eye, he must pay for that damage.

The code of laws of Hammurabi King is a reduction of cases from the judicial practice, taken from the ancient Babylonian criminal and civil legislation. Perhaps, as we can say today, these laws concern not all spheres of life, King of Babylon managed to restore the order. He was the first ruler of antiquity, who proportioned the power of the king with the power of the law and recognized his responsibility for the lives of his citizens. Hammurabi established that the punishment for the guilty is determined not by the victim himself and not by his relative, but by the state legal court on behalf of the King. Hammurabi first introduced the civil law in legal proceedings. He ordered to build the stele with laws as an eternal monument, on which he ordered to portray himself next to Shamash, the god of the sun.