Ancient Codes of Law

For a civilization to thrive, laws that govern the behavior of its citizens is required. Until the 20th century, the Code of Hammurabi was believed to be the oldest written set of laws. In 1952, however, fragments were discovered of the Code of Ur-Nammu, named for the king of Ur, which predated the Code of Hammurabi by three centuries. The fragment first standardized measures, weights, and money and provided a list of tax codes, ceremonial laws, courtroom procedures, rules for litigation, and penalties for offenses. The laws then defined crimes and punishments. Most of the punishments were in the form of fines, only rape, robbery, adultery, and murder were capital offenses.  (Check out pics of Hammurabi and his Code)

The Code of Hammurabi was written in cuneiform in the Akkadian language in Babylon about 1772 BC. The Code which is written in 44 columns and 27 paragraphs enacts 282 laws with punishments determined by slave or free status. Laws address contracts, religion, irrigation, military service, trade, slavery and the duties of workers. The Code provides for a presumption of innocence and the rule of evidence. The Code of Hammurabi became the model for later codes of law. The stelle pictured is on display in The Louvre with copies in Chicago and Berlin.  Tomorrow, A Place to Live      Rita Bay

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