Code of Hammurabi

The "Code of Hammurabi" is the most complete existing document on Babylonian law. Originally inscribed on a stela placed in the temple of Marduk, Babylon's main religious building, it consists of a collection of the 282 legal decisions handed down by king Hammurabi, who reigned 1792 - 1750 BC and was the sixth in the First Dynasty of Babylon.

The Code promulgated the law for the empire through cases based on the principle "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." It contains provisions for business law, covering prices, tariffs, trade and commerce, for family law including marriage and divorce, for criminal law (theft, assault etc) and for civil law (slavery, debt etc).

As the law covered all people of the Babylonian empire it was translated into various languages. The existing text, now in the Louvre of Paris and shown below, is in Akkadian. An example of the laws laid down in the Code concerns building practices in cities:

The code of Hammurabi (left) and part of its text (enlarged, right)

Images: Louvre, Paris; public domain