Hammurabi’s Code Critical Thinking Examples
The Code of Hammurabi is regarded as the Babylonian law off Ancient Mesopotamia. Being of significant length, it is one of the oldest discovered writings in the world. The codes explained the laws and punishments issued in Babylonian society. Dominique Charpin notes the code was Hammurabi’s attempt to rule over all judicial activities. He was, in a way, trying to become judge and jury for all people. However, Charpin also notes that Hammurabi bid fairness with his codes in many situations wherein individuals were wrongly accused. The codes were written out of necessity, and used in various ways to exact justice over time.
The code of Hammurabi was formed in an ostensibly haphazard way. Charpin reveals, “The “laws” are always formulated casuistically: instead of articulating a general principle, each law stipulates a case It appears, through the use of texts preceding his codes, that Hammurabi sometimes wrote laws into existence based on a situation that would arise suddenly. For example, Dominique Charpin’s, “The Status of the Code of Hammurabi,” states, “The Code of Hammurabi was also the result of the king’s judicial activities,” suggesting Hammurabi was always involved in the lawful activities of society. In one such instance, the son of Ipqusha had thieves invade his home, stealing his things. After having broken down the wall of his home, Ipqusha was able to subdue the thieves. Wanting to investigate the matter himself, Hammurabi ordered the thieves be tied and kept under guard. As a result of the investigation, section twenty-one of Hammurabi’s Code was written, demanding, “If someone has broken through the wall of a house, he will be put to death in front of the hole and hanged there .” When dealing with these matters personally, the king often sought justice, even stating in his Epilogue, “In order that the mighty not wrong the weak, to provide just ways for the waif and widow, I have inscribed my precious pronouncements upon my stela.” The code of Hammurabi then, appears to have been formed out of necessity, with a code added for each problem that arose throughout the kingdom. However, there is clear evidence Hammurabi was aware of wrongful accusations, and gave allowance of this in his writings.
The purpose of the code is arguable, but based on the readings it would be prudent to assume Hammurabi created them to keep peace when conflict arose. In the epilogue, it commands, “Let any wronged manhave my inscribed stela read aloud to himmay he examine his case, may he calm his (troubled heart.” Having already proclaimed himself a lead detective of sorts, the words inscribed by him on the stela would allow those with lawsuits to read the words, understand their innocence, and feel at peace with their situation. Moreover, the code was also created as a set of guidelines authorities were to apply toward citizens. As stated by Charpin, “Ideally, the code was in some sense a way for the king to render justice everywhere and to everyoneHammurabi made personal investigations of crime. Evidence was used to create laws by which law enforcement performed their jobs, thus enforcing peace and civility. The code, of course was also, “in some sense a way for the king to render justice everywhere and to everyone.” While it may be clear using punishment that Hammurabi was seeking justice with his code, he meant something different by justice here, as the epilogue indicates. The epilogue declares “Let any wronged man who has a lawsuit come before the statue of meand let him have my inscribed stela read aloud to him,” willfully granting them the chance to have their pleas heard. Essentially, Hammurabi wanted the codes used to punish the guilty, but he also wanted them used to protect the innocent and wrongfully accused.
In later times, while it appears the codes were still used to enforce the law, they may have primarily been used for education. Hammurabi wished for the people of the future to follow his disciplinary regime: “May every king who exists in the country in the future, forever, respect the words of justiceMay he not change the judgments of the country that I rendered or the verdicts of the country that I decided.” It appears “the code is primarily a commemorative inscription.” Charpin points out the codes do not focus on Hammurabi as a juror, but as a monarch. While the codes are law, he wants to be remembered primarily as a king. That being said it is confirmed that, as time passed, Hammurabi’s codes were used to train scribes. As one of the oldest and longest texts in history, it would have made good practice for burgeoning writers.
In sum, the creation and application of Hammurabi’s code shows a different evolution to the justice system in Ancient Babylonian Mesopotamia. Hammurabi wanted to be involved in criminal investigations personally. There is evidence signaling that he often created laws in an event-by-event pattern, which may be to blame for the reason there are 282 of them. Furthermore, his idea of justice was not just to punish the guilty, but to protect the innocent. The Codes written on his stelas were meant to put the wrongfully accused at peace, allowing them to understand their innocence would be brought to light, rather than their guilt immediately assumed. Though there is little concrete evidence proving the codes were applied as time went on, it is certain the codes were used to train scribes because many clay tablet copies have been found. Even if Hammurabi’s Codes and constructs of justice were forgotten, he served a purpose in forwarding the education of many young people after his death.
Charpin, Dominique. "The Status of the Code of Hammurabi." Todd, Jane Marie. Writing, Law, and Kinship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. 72-82. Book.
Roth, Martha T., Harry A. Hoffner and Piotr Michalowski. Law Collection from Mesopotamia in Asia Minor. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997. Print.
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