Hammurabi’s Code

Andrea Zuvich

August 31st, 2004

1.  The Code of Hammurabi is obviously the first known example of written law codes. It’s about many topics that are of some importance in everyday life. It shows how there was a strong emphasis on the class system in that civilization.  As we discussed in class, the slave isn’t as good as the commoner, and the commoner isn’t as good as the freeman. This same structure can be compared to the caste system of India and the social structure of the Mediæval period. One can debate whether or not this is lawful. But, even in our own modern and “civilized” country, we still have a class system (although not as defined).

2.   My thoughts about the laws are rather mixed. For example, I view the laws as being strict. This is not necessarily a bad thing; for I believe that our country has too few strict rules. There seems to be loopholes in almost every law we have. And at the same time, some of the laws in Hammurabi’s Code seem too fixed- there’s hardly any room for exceptions.

I do agree with Law 229: “If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.” To me, this is a great way for people to do a quality job. There are far too many workers out there today who don’t care what happens with their finished product just as long as they make their profit. Of course, many people would find this suitable grounds for a lawsuit; but the point of the matter is that if the manufacturer/builder of a certain thing does it right and with quality the first time, there shan’t be any reason to look for any further

In law code 226; “If a barber, without the knowledge of his master, cut the sign of a slave on a slave not to be sold, the hands of this barber shall be cut off.” To me, this is rather too harsh a punishment.  It could easily have been a mistake, and yet the barber’s hands- so important to a human and the way the barber makes his money- are cut off for such a thing.

In law 22: “If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.” This would certainly make would-be robbers think twice before attempting to steal something. If there are harsher penalties for wrongdoing, there shall be less wrongdoing, in my opinion.

In law 196, there is the famous “Eye for an eye.”  Martin Luther King Jr. made a speech in which he once said, “An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.” I don’t quite agree with this, because if you have punishment for a crime, that’s the end of the argument. At least, that’s how I feel Hammurabi’s Code meant it to be interpreted.

3.   The Code of Hammurabi is a set of Laws. It’s probably safe to say it is one of the first law books ever made. It can’t really be called anything other than a law book and an historical document.

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