Research Paper: 1901 an Egyptologist

Pages: 9 (3181 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] The classes he viewed were that of free citizens, the amelu who enjoyed full rights as a citizen, the muskinu, a term which is said to represent free citizens again, however they were living separated from the former and were not supposed to pay the same fees and taxes as the former. Information regarding the muskinu is poor and does not actually provide any insight as to who they were and what they represented. And last, there was the class of the slaves who were under the property of masters who had several rights upon them. However, slaves were allowed to buy their freedom, otherwise to marry a free woman and their children would have been born free. Some were allowed to own land and to subsequently have slaves of their own.

Hammurabi's Code approaches legal processes, family, slavery, marriage, thieves, protection of property, etc. The Code, as Johns stated, "recognizes many ways of disposing of property -- sale, lease, barter, gift, dedication, deposit, loan, pledge, all of which were matters of contract. " (Encyclopedia Britannica) Most of the aforementioned processes needed to be supervised by legal representations, otherwise the buyer was accused of thievery and sentenced to death. This was often the case when purchasing from a minor or a slave (Johns, Encyclopedia Britannica). What is distinctive about Hammurabi's laws is that they were conditioned and subject to punishment "if" one disobeyed them. The Code was made official in the temple by a notary public and recognized by a number of witnesses so that its legal action could never be questioned. The death punishment often yielded conflicts that may not appear as serious nowadays as to be followed by the capital punishment. Overall, the laws were set to establish and promote the rights of an individual or organization in regards to properties acquired without another's detriment. The extend to which the Code was set to protect property was measured by the state's ability to ensure the protection of the property for the owner. Thus, the Code needed to reflect hardship in order for the state to be able to protect. These are some of the laws that reflect how punishment was severe in cases perhaps not so severe:

1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.

2. If any one bring and accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

3. If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.

4. If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: "You are not congenial to me," the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to the woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father's house.

5. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water. (Hammurabi 2008)

There is no conclusive evidence to show that the king himself had witnessed such cases and constructed the laws accordingly, as Mieroop believes (102). However, we do know that punishment differed from a social class to another. That is to say that a case involving say a slave and a free citizen deemed more hardship and punishment if the perpetrator were the slave as opposed to having been the free citizen. In this respect, "people of a high social class could expect a less severe punishment when they injured a lower ranked person. " (Mieroop 106) Aside from the capital punishment, other severe and otherwise painful ones were enlisted, such as cutting out tongues, eyes, breasts and flogging. While Hammurabi's Code did not include complete aspects of one given domain, it remains relevant in that it suppressed manipulation which was often the case with other codes of law that were not written down, as it was common for civilizations then.

While Hammurabi's Code provides critical analysis and observation of ancient Babylon and civilizations, it is also approached nowadays by economists and business men who thrive on a righteousness similar to that of the king, however, less deadly. The fact that Hammurabi had copied the laws and sought to distribute them in cities of the empire, allowed for a liberal circulation of the Code that would reach many personalities and professional characters who assimilated it. Neither was there any doubt that anyone would seek to change the laws because such initiatives were damned by the gods themselves, something many would ponder on and would have second thoughts before acting on it. One of the similarities we can depict from Hammurabi's Code and today's system of laws is that both specifically address the laws through a systematically arrangement of subjects. In fact, the king's approach was the first in world history and was followed on by further law enforcement. Moreover, the king thought of himself as a righteous ruler over the oppressed, an issue that traces back today's moral values of presidency to Hammurabi's principles. The law system today is acting according to those principles when looking to punish the strong who think it is in their rights to injure the weak. What's more, if a man's actions were punishable by death, a trial was requested before emitting the sentence and the king would have been part of the trial along with the judges. Indeed, laws nowadays can be traced back to Hammurabi in several ways. For example, if a man wanted to leave his wife, he was expected to pay alimony, something which is imperative today in such cases.

Although the terms were not pinned then, it appears that a great deal of Hammurabi's Code included what is now regarded as civil law and family law. However, none of the punishments that Hammurabi had enlisted then are enacted today, unless we consider the cases of death punishment. They, however, are rare nowadays and subject to state matters. No daughter of a man who would commit murder nowadays would be put to death so, retaliation, as far as law is concerned has long been abolished. To state that a system of laws as written down by Hammurabi would prove efficient in (re)establishing order, would mean we have sufficient evidence to trace back a history of violence since time immemorial or at least since Hammurabi's era. However, we do not posses such knowledge and, as such, we do not feel it is within our grounds to make such a statement. But we do believe society has changed much and we have gradually come to realize that such severe punishments or capital punishments are no more moral than an individual committing crimes. If we have learned anything from history, we might have realized such severe physical injuries are to be left for a higher authority to act on, if one such authority should exist. We believe a system that severe would induce a state of fear that might curb some of the violence, perhaps more, however it would seem to imply that man cannot obey by anything but a set of laws that threatens his own well being when, in fact, righteous acting should come as the result of man's own insight and moral values. It appears to us that Hammurabi's code would cause one to wonder on the human nature, if such values truly exist as part of man's heritage or are merely a product of fear. So, while these laws might work on a practical level, they would be sure to threaten a more existentialist perspective.

Hammurabi acted as the rebuilder of Babylon. He was provided by his predecessors with the right environment to do so and he acted accordingly, probably exceeding any expectations. There were kings of other city-states that followed Hammurabi, including Rim-Sin from whom the former took Larsa. Ellis and Horne stated that Hammurabi was venerated as the city's "rescuer, restorer, and second builder." (21) The two further admit that though we hear of this great monarch first as a warrior, we know him chiefly as a statesman, a wise and watchful benefactor of mankind. Instead of oppressing and terrifying his subject cities, he aimed to win their friendship. He repaired their walls and their temples as Sargon and Ur-gur had done... (21)

Although we can only speculate, Hammurabi's Code must have helped the king to maintain its stability, despite the hardship. For the first time ever, there was a written system that people could use as guidance. Not everything in the Code acted more severely towards the less ranked. In fact, high social class people were… [END OF PREVIEW]

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