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The Ancient Middle East:
Debating Hammurabi’s Code

Hammurabi’s Code is one of the oldest written records that we have (ca. 1728 – 1686 BC). The Code is actually a series of laws written by a Babylonian king named Hammurabi.

These laws were engraved on a huge stone pillar that was excavated in the early 20th century. Hammurabi claimed the gods called on him to “make justice visible in the land.”

There are 282 laws, organized by subjects. They cover a wide range of offenses. Hammurabi made an effort to make the laws fair, but different standards of justice and “fairness” applied to different people. In other words, status counted.

Online Resource: The text of Hammurabi’s Code

Read as many of the laws as you can. Think about the pros and cons of each.

Consider the following questions and be able to support your answers logically:

Where the laws appropriate for the time period?

How were they fair or unfair?

Which people were favored by the laws and which where not?

How is the Code of Hammurabi similar to or different from the Ten Commandments?

Have society’s problems changed or remained the same?


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