[ Code of Hammurabi ]


Hammurabi ruled Babylon for over forty years. The “Code of Hammurabi,” believed to date back to at least 1750 B.C., is a series of laws Hammurabi decreed when the ancient city was at the peak of its power. The Code consisted of 300 laws with sections on civil, criminal, and family laws and punishments. It was inscribed on stone columns more than 7 feet high so the public could read and know each law. The Code is considered one of the earliest examples of laws put in place to control the government.

Primary Source

If a man practice [robbery] and be captured, that man shall be put to death….

If a man has come forward in a lawsuit for the witnessing of false things, and has not proved the thing that he said, if that lawsuit is a capital case [punishable by death], that man shall be put to death. If he came forward for witnessing about corn or silver, he shall bear the penalty [punishment] [which applies to] that case.

If a man has concealed in his house a lost slave or slave-girl belonging to the Palace or to a subject, and has not brought him [or her] out at the proclamation [public announcement] of the Crier, the owner of the house shall be put to death.

If a fire has broken out in a man's house, and a man who has gone to extinguish it has cast his eye on the property of the owner of the house and has taken the property of the owner of the house, that man shall be thrown into the fire.

If a man is subject to a debt bearing interest, and Adad [the Weather- god] has saturated his field or a high flood has carried [its crop] away, or because of lack of water he has not produced corn in that field, in that year he shall not return any corn to [his] creditor. He shall … not pay interest for that year.

If a man has donated field, orchard or house to his favourite [favorite] heir and has written a sealed document for him [confirming this], after the father has gone to his doom, when the brothers share he [the favorite heir] shall take the gift that his father gave him, and apart from that they shall share equally in the property of the paternal [relating to a father] estate.

If an artisan has taken a child for bringing up, and has taught him his manual skill, [the child] shall not be [re]claimed. If he has not taught him his manual skill, that pupil may return to his father's house.

If a man aid a male or female slave … to escape from the city gates, he shall be put to death….

If a man be in debt and sell his wife, son, or daughter, or bind them over to service, for three years they shall work in the house of the purchaser or master; in the fourth year they shall be given their freedom….

If a builder has made a house for a man but has not made his work strong, so that the house he made falls down and causes the death of the owner of the house, that builder shall be put to death. If it causes the death of the son of the owner of the house, they shall kill the son of the builder.

If a man would put away [divorce] his wife who has not borne him children, he shall give her money to the amount of her marriage settlement and he shall make good to her the dowry [money brought by a bride to her husband] which she brought from her father's house and then he may put her away.

If a son has struck his father, they shall cut off his hand.

If a man has destroyed the eye of a man of the “gentleman” class, they shall destroy his eye. If he has broken a gentleman's bone, they shall break his bone. If he has destroyed the eye of a commoner or broken a bone of a commoner, he shall pay one mina [about $300] of silver. If he has destroyed the eye of a gentleman's slave, he shall pay half the slave's price.

If a gentleman's slave strikes the cheek of a man of the “gentleman” class, they shall cut off [the slave's] ear.

If a gentleman strikes a gentleman in a free fight and inflicts an injury on him, that man shall swear “I did not strike him deliberately,” and he shall pay the surgeon.


  1. Determine Author's Purpose Why do you suppose these laws were written down and codified?
  2. Cause and Effect What do you think were the effects of Hammurabi's Code on ancient Babylonian society?
  3. Identify Cause and Effect How do you think the “Code of Hammurabi” might have paved the way for later codes of law, like government constitutions?

End ofPage 934

Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments