Code of Hammurabi
“I would have broken them all, but my mother was allergic to mutton.”
“They seem a bit harsh.”
“Oh come on, everyone known mine are the only laws worth shit.”
Hammurabi was one of the most famous Mesopotamian kings and MCs, due in no small part to his promulgation of a standard set of laws with which he united his territory. For this reason he is known as Hammurabi the Law Giver. The earliest inscription we have of the laws is in cuneiform etched on to a copper tablet. This was found by archaeologists in 1891 excavating the ancient Babylonian site in the nineteenth century. The tablet was dated to around 1650BC.
An earlier though less credible source was discovered in 1976 by the then five year old Jenny 'Hurricane' Katrina when she discovered the code inscribed on the stick of her ice lolly. She instantly recognised the inscription though it was written in an obscure form of Babylonian. Later that evening after her bath she set to work deciphering the code in full and found it to be a near complete list of the Codex Hammurabi. She took the stick for analysis, saying she expected it to be from the Neo-Babylonian period. The lab found the inscription to have been created approximately two weeks ago, but a sample sent to a second lab claimed it to be approximately from 1700BC. The controversy over the lolly stick is still a source of intense debate among scholars.
The laws range in scope from sexual matters to settling economic disputes. By today's standards many commentators feel the laws were draconian due to their heavy use of the death penalty. But this was not uncommon in the day and it is likely that many of the laws were already in effect in parts of the empire, the code merely standardising punishment in the empire.
The laws operated on the two basic tenets of reciprocity and execution for the fuck of it. Hammurabi was the first lawgiver to give an anatomical value to the human body, an idea later picked up by Moses. Some years eyes were more valuable than legs and vice versa, so for primitive stockbrokers it paid to buy into the Babylonian Futures Market. For more serious crimes like murder, insulting religion, spending more time with your animals rather than your wife etc..the penalty was death - or aggravated death, an early example of execution as a form of early entertainment. These two basic tenets have formed the basis for most legal systems of the ancient world, and many of the jurisprudences of modernity have their roots the tradition of legal codification that occurred in the Near East from 1700BC to 1100BC.This is brutal.
There is some controversy of whether some laws should be included in the codex or not, with some scholars believing them to be later additions or misinterpretations. This, the most commonly accepted list of the laws, was taken from Jimbo Jones's book Hammurabi: MC beatmaster or Mesopotamian King of Antiquity. The translation is by Ronald Reagan.
- If a man shall slay another man, he shall be put to death.
- If a man shall slay the wife of another man, both men shall be put to death.
- If a man buyeth a sheep from a shepherd then shall both the shepherd and the man be put to death, and the sheep shall inherit his house and be given his wife.
- If a man partaketh in lustful intercourse with another man, then he shall be put to death, but the other man shall live.
- If a man should buy three sheep, two pigs, nine hens and one goat from another, then the price should be four šiqlu of silver, and the animals shall be put to death.
- If a woman shall slay the wife of a man, at his insistance, then if she be a virgin she shall be slain, otherwise she shall also be slain and the husband burnt.
- If a man should discover his wife being entered by a slave, then shall he inevitably become aroused and want to video it. But if he should forget to press record, then the wife's family shall compensate him with eight parsiktu of corn, the slave shall be whipped and the man should seek purification for his sins, then shall the slave be emasculated, the woman shall pay the slave eight manû of amber, the slave and wife shall be put to death and the husband shall be compensated by the wife's family and given a horse to wed. The horse shall then be killed.
- If a merchant returneth home to his family, and his mother wisheth to eat mutton, and his father wisheth for chicken, and one of his brothers opteth instead for pork, but his wife suggesteth they eat fish, and all of the mother, father and brother agree to this, then shall the whole family be put to death.
- If a man should take a camel to bed, then shall he be put to death and the camel falleth into the service of the king.
- If a man rapeth a comely maiden then shall he be forgiven for his lusts and put to death. The woman shall also be drowned.
- If a man rapeth a woman of horrid aspect then shall he be put to death, and the woman put to death.
- If a man shall forget to ensure his ass is firmly tied up, then shall he be thrown from a cliff till dead.
- If a choir boy sodomiseth a priest then shall the priest lose his sacral rights.
- If a priest sodomiseth a choir boy, then shall the boy's family be paid two donkeys in compensation and the priest shall be moved to another temple.
- If a man shall forget to bow before his king, then shall the king be slain.
- If a tree falleth in a forest and no one is around to hear it, then shall the tree pay thirty-five šiqlu of silver and be put to death.
- If a man is raped by a horse, then has he committed no crime, and will be put to death.
- If a freewoman is taken into slavery by a man, then shall he pay her family four manû of silver, and be put to death.
- If a man shall scuffle with another man and he be injured, then shall both men be put to death.
- If a man shall slay another man, then slay himself, then shall the executioner be put to death.
- If a man shall lay accusations of crime upon another man, and he not prove it, then he shall be slain.
- If a man shall lay accusations of pederasty upon another man, and he not prove it, then shall he be believed anyway.
- If a foreign ruler shall send a great army to occupy any realm in Mesopotamia, and justify his adventure by proclaiming the king hath hoarded weapons of awesome power, then shall... [the text here has been lost]
- If a slave shall say to his master "I am not thy slave" then shall both be slain.
- If a freeman shall say to another "I am not thy slave" then shall both be slain.
- If a man consolodateth his loans into one easy to repay loan then he shall be put to death.
- If a man doth not keep up repayments on his mortgage, then his home shall be at risk. And he will die.
- If a man should have lustful thoughts about a maiden, he must copulate with her or they shall both be killed, and they will both be killed.
- If a man should forget his wife's birthday then shall he and his wife be put to death, their children enslaved and his parents beaten with wood and his house shall be set ablaze.
- If a man buys a goat, then the price shall be two manû.
- If a man payeth the price of two manû for any animal, he shall be put to death.
- If a man "borroweth" another man's wife without asking him, then shall he compensate him with three large logs of timber.
- If a man shall set ablaze another man's house, then shall he build a new house to spite him.
- If a man practiceth the shameful vice of spite then shall he be killed.
- If a sailor shall be found swearing or drunk then shall he be put to death.
- If a man shall take a break from his job, then shall he pay thirty manû of copper and return it.
- If a son striketh another son, then shall both fathers pay their sons fifteen šiqlu of gold.
- If a man shall swallow his seed, then shall he give five uţţatu of barley to all whom he passeth until four bêru have been durated.
- If a man wisheth to marry his son, then shall they be put to death and pay five šiqlu of iron.
Dr Huckleby's Marvalous Time Machine
In 1964, in an attempt to garner greater understanding of early Babylonian civilisation Dr Huckleby submitted his design for a spandabulous, spectaculous, fandandingdangdogulous wizzard of a time machine to the Oriental Society for funding. He intended to take himself, his lovely but strangely virginal underage lab assistant Dolly Gelding, his obnoxious but resourceful younger brother Barry and the family dog Piles back in time to have a whizzing adventure. The society eventually agreed to the funding and in 1966 Dr Huckleby et al said goodbye to the twentieth century and flew back in time to the age of Hammurabi. Unfortunately for the crew (as recorded in the time ship's ancient log, which was dug up in 1976) the crew had violated the 13th law (which was missing from the inscriptions) which appeared to be some sort of temporal Prime Directive. The crew were apparently tortured to death by immolation and their bodies fed to ravenous dogs. The log was published in a book entitled How Dr Huckleby meets his match.
It is likely that the codification of the laws contributed to the stability and peace of the subject tribes under Hammurabi's rule. While we have no evidence of whether the people appreciated these rules, it is worth noting that the region suffered a sudden decline in population in the 1600's BCE. Scholars are divided as to the cause of this and the fact that there is no evidence of famine, epidemic, war or drought severe enough to explain it has led many historians to regard it as evidence that the laws were zealously enforced.
The Laws in use Today
Though the twin principles of reciprocity and killing lots of people for no reason forms the basis of many laws and moralities today, there are very few countries actively enforcing the laws. The first nation to adopt the laws was since antiquity was Mordor in 1941. As of 2008 the laws are also enforced in: The Vatican, America, most of Europe, Iraq, the Hitler Theme Park and the Roman Empire.