Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Smeeth. Smeeth Wonders, “who was Hammurabi” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Smeeth!
No talking during class. No running in the hallways. No recess until you eat your lunch. No playing until you finish your homework. No video games unless you've done your reading for the day. No staying up past 8pm on a school night.
Adults have rules they have to follow, too. When you grow up, there all sorts of rules, regulations, and laws that guide your behavior. Like the rules kids follow, laws and regulations help to keep order in a society that could quickly become chaotic without them.
Just imagine a world without laws. People could drive as fast as they want wherever they go. Your personal belongings could be in jeopardy if stealing weren't illegal. And what if there were no laws against assault or murder? Yikes!
Fortunately, laws have formed the basis of orderly societies for thousands of years. From the time that multiple people started living together in groups, informal rules were surely developed to ensure fairness and discourage bad behavior.
A comprehensive code of laws to regulate a large society wasn't written down for quite some time. Historians believe one of the earliest such sets of laws, commonly known as the Code of Hammurabi or Hammurabi's Code, can be traced back to an ancient Babylonian ruler named Hammurabi.
Born around 1810 B.C. in Babylon (what is now modern-day Iraq), Hammurabi became the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty. He reigned from approximately 1792 to 1750 B.C. Under his leadership, the various city-states of central and southern Mesopotamia were united.
During his time as king, Hammurabi developed a complex set of 282 laws that set out standards and rules for many different aspects of society, including family law, commercial transactions, fines, and punishments. Near the end of his reign, Hammurabi's Code was carved in cuneiform script into a four-ton, seven-foot-tall black stone pillar that was put on public display in Babylon.
Hammurabi's Code is known for its harsh punishments, which often embrace the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" concept. For example, punishments often echoed the crimes themselves, such as when a person guilty of putting someone's eye out would have the same thing done to them as punishment.
Despite its harsh punishments, Hammurabi's Code is also known for its dedication to justice, especially for the less-fortunate. One of the cornerstones of many modern justice systems — the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty — can be traced back to Hammurabi's Code.
The huge stone on which Hammurabi's Code was inscribed was eventually stolen by invaders who over took Babylon long after Hammurabi's reign. In 1901, a French archeological team led by Jacques de Morgan discovered the stone broken into three pieces in modern-day Iran. It now resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris.