Hammurabi (standing), depicted as receiving his royal insignia from Shamash. Hammurabi holds his hands over his mouth as a sign of prayer (relief on the upper part of the stele of Hammurabi's code of laws).
|Born||c. 1792 BC
|Died||1750 BC middle chronology
|Known for||Code of Hammurabi|
|Title||King of Babylon|
|Term||42 years; c. 1792 – 1750 BC (middle)|
Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer", from ʻAmmu, "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, "healer"; died c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of Babylon (that is, of the First Babylonian Dynasty) from 1792 BC to 1750 BC middle chronology (1728 BC – 1686 BC short chronology). He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain his empire. It has been said that Hammurabi was Amraphel, the King of Shinar in the Book of Genesis 14:1.
Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. These laws were inscribed on stone tablets (stelae) standing over eight feet tall (2.4 meters), of unknown provenance, found in Persia in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, Hammurabi's portrait is in many government buildings throughout the world.
Hammurabi was a First Dynasty king of the city-state of Babylon, and inherited the power from his father, Sin-Muballit, in c. 1792 BC. Babylon was one of the many ancient city-states that dotted the Mesopotamian plain and waged war on each other for control of fertile agricultural land. Though many cultures co-existed in Mesopotamia, Babylonian culture gained a degree of prominence among the literate classes throughout the Middle East. The kings who came before Hammurabi had begun to consolidate rule of central Mesopotamia under Babylonian hegemony and, by the time of his reign, had conquered the city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar. Thus Hammurabi ascended to the throne as the king of a minor kingdom in the midst of a complex geopolitical situation. The powerful kingdom of Eshnunna controlled the upper Tigris River while Larsa controlled the river delta. To the east lay the kingdom of Elam. To the north, Shamshi-Adad I was undertaking expansionistic wars, although his untimely death would fragment his newly conquered Semitic empire.
The first few decades of Hammurabi's reign were quite peaceful. Hammurabi used his power to undertake a series of public works, including heightening the city walls for defensive purposes, and expanding the temples. In c. 1801 BC, the powerful kingdom of Elam, which straddled important trade routes across the Zagros Mountains, invaded the Mesopotamian plain. With allies among the plain states, Elam attacked and destroyed the empire of Eshnunna, destroying a number of cities and imposing its rule on portions of the plain for the first time. In order to consolidate its position, Elam tried to start a war between Hammurabi's Babylonian kingdom and the kingdom of Larsa. Hammurabi and the king of Larsa made an alliance when they discovered this duplicity and were able to crush the Elamites, although Larsa did not contribute greatly to the military effort. Angered by Larsa's failure to come to his aid, Hammurabi turned on that southern power, thus gaining control of the entirety of the lower Mesopotamian plain by c. 1763 BC.
As Hammurabi was assisted during the war in the south by his allies from the north, the absence of soldiers in the north led to unrest. Continuing his expansion, Hammurabi turned his attention northward, quelling the unrest and soon after crushing Eshnunna. Next the Babylonian armies conquered the remaining northern states, including Babylon's former ally Mari, although it is possible that the 'conquest' of Mari was a surrender without any actual conflict. In just a few years, Hammurabi had succeeded in uniting all of Mesopotamia under his rule. Of the major city-states in the region, only Aleppo and Qatna to the west in Syria maintained their independence. However, one stele of Hammurabi has been found as far north as Diyarbekir, where he claims the title "King of the Amorites".
Vast numbers of contract tablets, dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and his successors, have been discovered, as well as 55 of his own letters. These letters give a glimpse into the daily trials of ruling an empire, from dealing with floods and mandating changes to a flawed calendar, to taking care of Babylon's massive herds of livestock. Hammurabi died and passed the reins of the empire on to his son Samsu-iluna in c. 1750 BC.
Code of laws 
Hammurabi is best known for the promulgation of a new code of Babylonian law: the Code of Hammurabi. One of the first written laws in the world, the Code of Hammurabi was inscribed on a stele and placed in a public place so that all could see it, although it is thought that few were literate. The stele was later plundered by the Elamites and removed to their capital, Susa; it was rediscovered there in 1901 and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The code of Hammurabi contained 282 laws, written by scribes on 12 tablets. Unlike earlier laws, it was written in Akkadian, the daily language of Babylon, and could therefore be read by any literate person in the city.
The structure of the code is very specific, with each offense receiving a specified punishment. The punishments tended to be very harsh by modern standards, with many offenses resulting in death, disfigurement, or the use of the "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Lex Talionis "Law of Retaliation") philosophy. The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence. However, there is no provision for extenuating circumstances to alter the prescribed punishment.
A carving at the top of the stele portrays Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Shamash or possibly Marduk, and the preface states that Hammurabi was chosen by the gods of his people to bring the laws to them. Parallels between this narrative and the giving of laws by God in Jewish tradition to Moses and similarities between the two legal codes suggest a common ancestor in the Semitic background of the two. Fragments of previous law codes have been found. David P. Wright argues that the Jewish law used Hammurabi's collection as a model, imitating both its structure and content.
Similar codes of law were created in several nearby civilizations, including the earlier Mesopotamian examples of Ur-Nammu's code, Laws of Eshnunna, and Code of Lipit-Ishtar, and the later Hittite code of laws.
Significant laws in Hammurabi's code 
- If someone cuts down a tree on someone else's land, he will pay for it.
- If someone is careless when watering his fields, and he floods someone else's by accident, he will pay for the grain he has ruined.
- If a man wants to throw his son out of the house, he has to go before a judge and say, "I don't want my son to live in my house any more." The judge will find out the reasons. If the reasons are not good, the man can't throw his son out.
- If the son has done some great evil to his father, his father must forgive him the first time. But if he has done something evil twice, his father can throw him out.
- If a thief steals a cow, a sheep, a donkey, a pig, or a goat, he will pay ten times what it is worth. If he doesn't have any money to pay with, he will be put to death.
- An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If a man puts out the eye of another man, put his own eye out. If he knocks out another man's tooth, knock out his own tooth. If he breaks another man's bone, break his own bone.
- If a doctor operates a patient and the patient dies, the doctor's hand will be cut off.
- If a builder builds a house, and that house collapses and kills the owner's son, the builder's son will be put to death.
- If a robber is caught breaking a hole into the house so that he can get in and steal, he will be put to death in front of that hole.
- If a son strike his own father, his hands shall be cut off.
Legacy and depictions 
Under the rules of Hammurabi's successors, the Babylonian Empire was weakened by military pressure from the Hittites, who sacked Babylon around 1531 BC (short). However it was the Kassites who eventually conquered Babylon and ruled Mesopotamia for 400 years, adopting parts of the Babylonian culture, including Hammurabi's code of laws.
Because of Hammurabi's reputation as a lawgiver, his depiction can be found in several U.S. government buildings. Hammurabi is one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marble bas-reliefs in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. There is also a frieze by Adolph Weinman depicting the "great lawgivers of history", including Hammurabi, on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court building.
See also 
- Ancient Iraq by Georges Roux, Chapter 17 The Time of Confusion p. 266
- See Arnold 2006, p. vii. His date of birth is unknown, see for example, Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1.
- Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X. OCLC 39762695.
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 1–2
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 3
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 3–4
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 16
- Arnold 2005, p. 43
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 15–16
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 17
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 18
- Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 31
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 40–41
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 54–55
- Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 64–65
- Arnold 2005, p. 45
- Clay, Albert Tobias (1919). The Empire of the Amorites. Yale University Press. p. 97.
- Breasted 2003, p. 129
- Breasted 2003, pp. 129–130
- Arnold 2005, p. 42
- Breasted 2003, p. 141
- Review: The Code of Hammurabi, J. Dyneley Prince, The American Journal of Theology Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jul., 1904), pp. 601-609 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3153895
- Victimology:Theories and Applications, Ann Wolbert Burgess, Albert R. Roberts, Cheryl Regehr,Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009, p. 103
- Jaynes, Julian (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Company Publishing. ISBN 0-395-20729-0.
- J. D. Douglas, Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Zondervan, 2011), page 1323.
- Barton, G.A: Archaeology and the Bible. University of Michigan Library, 2009, p.406. Barton, a former professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that while there are similarities between the two texts, a study of the entirety of both laws "convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws." He states that "such resemblances" arose from "a similarity of antecedents and of general intellectual outlook" between the two cultures, but that "the striking differences show that there was no direct borrowing." (ibid, p.406)
- Unger, M.F.: Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1954, p.156, 157
- Free, J.P.: Archaeology and Biblical History. Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1950, 1969, p. 121
- David P. Wright, Inventing God's Law: How the Covenant Code of the Bible Used and Revised the Laws of Hammurabi (Oxford University Press, 2009), page 3 and passim.
- Davies, W. W. (January 2003). Codes of Hammurabi and Moses. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-3124-6. OCLC 227972329.
- DeBlois 1997, p. 19
- "Hammurabi". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- "Courtroom Friezes". Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 2008-05-19.
- Arnold, Bill T. (2005). Who Were the Babylonians?. Brill Publishers. ISBN 90-04-13071-3. OCLC 225281611..
- Breasted, James Henry (2003). Ancient Time or a History of the Early World, Part 1. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4946-3. OCLC 69651827..
- DeBlois, Lukas (1997). An Introduction to the Ancient World. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-12773-4. OCLC 231710353..
- Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-2660-4. OCLC 255676990.
Further reading 
- Finet, André (1973). Le trone et la rue en Mésopotamie: L'exaltation du roi et les techniques de l'opposition, in La voix de l'opposition en Mésopotamie. Bruxelles: Institut des Hautes Études de Belgique. OCLC 652257981.
- Jacobsen, Th. (1943). "Primitive democracy in Ancient Mesopotomia". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2 (3): 159–172. doi:10.1086/370672.
- Finkelstein, J. J. (1966). "The Genealogy of the Hammurabi Dynasty". Journal of Cuneiform Studies 20 (3): 95–118. doi:10.2307/1359643.
- Hammurabi (1952). In Driver, G.R.; Miles, John C. The Babylonian Laws. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Leemans, W. F. (1950). The Old Babylonian Merchant: His Business and His Social Position. Leiden: Brill.
- Munn-Rankin, J. M. (1956). "Diplomacy in Western Asia in the Early Second Millennium BC". Iraq 18 (1): 68–110. doi:10.2307/4199599.
- Pallis, S. A. (1956). The Antiquity of Iraq: A Handbook of Assyriology. Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard.
- Richardson, M.E.J. (2000). Hammurabi's laws : text, translation and glossary. Sheffield: Sheffield Acad. Press. ISBN 1-84127-030-X.
- Saggs, H.W.F. (1988). The greatness that was Babylon : a survey of the ancient civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. London: Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 0-283-99623-4.
- Yoffee, Norman (1977). The economic role of the crown in the old Babylonian period. Malibu, CA: Undena Publications. ISBN 0-89003-021-9.<<
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Hammurabi|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hammurabi|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
|Kings of Babylon||Succeeded by