Hammurabi of Babylon



Many people have heard of Hammurabi and his famous “law code,” but not many people know much about this ancient ruler. If you do not know much about him, don’t worry. Even in Washington D.C, they may have gotten the wrong picture. Literally. Depicted on the walls of the House Chamber was supposed to be Hammurabi. Just a few decades later, historians realized the image was actually the Babylonian god Shamash and not Hammurabi. In the picture to the left, the figure on the left is Hammurabi and the figure on the right is the god Shamash who is seated.

Despite not having a great understanding of what he looks like, the founding fathers and many important leaders before them looked to Hammurabi as an example for how to rule their nation. Not often do modern leaders look backwards to the times before gunpowder, medicine, electricity, or even Facebook. Somehow, he has stood out for over 4,000 years as a great ruler.

Hammurabi was the ruler of Babylon from 1792 to 1750B.C. He inherited an intact government and this helped him establish his rule. He was renowned as a great diplomat and formed great alliances. At least for him. He allied with Rim Sin, Zimri Lin, Ishme Dagan, and Eshnuna. Of these leaders, Hammurabi ends up double crossing every single one. Somehow, no leader noticed his pattern of double crossing until he controlled the entire region.

Under his reign, Babylon became well known for magic(science), medicine, and law. The Hammurabi law code is one of the most memorable works in history because it was one of the first time the laws of the land were actually set in stone(literally). Not much is known about the law codes, because there was no instruction booklet that came with it. It has a list of varying punishments and fines based on the crime committed. Historians have debated for a long time whether the laws were written in stone after Hammurabi decided each case or if it was created to help determine the outcomes of cases. The laws themselves are oddly specific, which helps back the case that the law code is a record of decided cases. The law code has very strict punishments such as the famous “eye for an eye” rule. Another example is “If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the corn which he has caused to be ruined.”

These laws are fairly strict, but they seem to have met their goal for reducing crime and uprising. Unlike many early nations, the Old Babylonian Kingdom under Hammurabi did not have many uprisings or signs of civil unrest. However, after Hammurabi died, Babylon started to shrink and fall apart until it was sacked by Mursillus of Hatti. Babylon was likely the largest city in the world under Hammurabi, but it was passed off from nation to nation for over 1,000 years until the Neo-Babylonian empire in the 600sB.C. Hammurabi played a large role in showing the impact and importance of having a unified set of laws for a nation and he changed the course of history with his great empire even though it did not outlast him very long. He was a great military leader, diplomat, and civil leader and this is his snapshot from history.

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