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The first duty of government is to protect the powerless from the powerful. — Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi

It enumerates almost 300 laws, all in a conditional if/then format. These laws illuminate the Babylonians’ sense of justice, which was surprisingly ahead of its time in some ways.

c. 1770 BCE


When we think of a­ncient paga­n kings, the ideas of justice and fairness probably aren’t the first things to come to mind. We moderns may be more likely to imagine fickle, power-hungry despots who were ready to put someone to death on a whim. But King Hammurabi, who ruled a prosperous and thriving Babylonia almost four millennia ago, doesn’t quite fit that mold. He claimed to have helped protect the weak from oppression, and scholars believe he fostered an atmosphere of justice and righteousness for his people.

This belief is based on an object that was discovered only a century ago. It has already earned a place alongside the Rosetta Stone as one of the most important artifacts of the ancient world. This stela (stone pillar) bears the inscription of the Code of Hammurabi, and it has shed light on the laws, culture and life in Babylonia.

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sumer, akkad, babylonia | iraq, kuwait, jordan, syria

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2020 | Present