The Code of Hammurabi 18th Century BCE

Of the several law codes surviving from the ancient Middle East, the most famous after the Hebrew Torah is the Code of Hammurabi, sixth king of the Amorite Dynasty of Old Babylon. It is best known from a beautifully engraved diorite stela now in the Louvre Museum which also depicts the king receiving the law from Shamash, the god of justice. This copy was made long after Hammurabi’s time, and it is clear that his was a long-lasting contribution to Mesopotamian civil ization. It encodes many laws which had probably evolved over a long period of time, but is interesting to the general reader because of what it tells us about the attitudes and daily lives of the ancient Babylonians. In the following selection, most of the long prologue praising Hammurabi’s power and wisdom is omitted.

What do these laws tell us about attitudes toward slavery? What indication is there that some Babylonian women engaged in business? Clearly men had more rights than women in this society; but what laws can you identify that seem aimed at protecting certain rights of women? Which laws deviate from the egalitarian standard of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” What qualities does this text say a ruler should have to enable him to write new laws?

. . . Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. . . .

15: If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates [to escape], he shall be put to death.

16: If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the [police], the master of the house shall be put to death.

53: If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the [grain] which he has caused to be ruined.

54: If he be not able to replace the [grain], then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.

108: If a [woman wine-seller] does not accept [grain] according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water. (1)

109: If conspirators meet in the house of a [woman wine-seller], and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the [wine-seller] shall be put to death.

110: If a “sister of a god”[nun] open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.

129: If a man’s wife be surprised [having intercourse] with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.

130: If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father’s house, and sleep with her and be surprised [caught], this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.

131: If a man bring a charge against [his] wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.

132: If the “finger is pointed” at a man’s wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for [the sake of her] husband. (2)

138: If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let her go.

141: If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt [to go into business], tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offer her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he take another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband’s house.

142: If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house. (3)

143: If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.

195: If a son strike his father, his hands shall be [cut] off. (4)

196: If a [noble-]man put out the eye of another [noble-]man, his eye shall be put out. (5)

197: If he break another [noble-]man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.

198: If he put out the eye of a [commoner], or break the bone of a [commoner], he shall pay one [silver] mina.

199: If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.

200: If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

201: If he knock out the teeth of a [commoner], he shall pay one-third of a [silver] mina.

In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them, give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his subjects.

Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred right (or law) am I. My words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled; to bring low those that were high; to humble the proud, to expel insolence.

Translated by L. W. King (1915), edited by Paul Brians.


Egyptian pyramids, after nearly 4,500 years, are still standing as
testaments to the faith, dedication and technology of ancient
Egyptians. A trip to Egypt would not be complete without a visit to the
Pyramids. Other pyramids exist, but their purpose, for the most part,
was different than those of ancient Egypt. The pyramids most famous
outside of Egypt are those located in Mexico and to the south of
Mexico, these appear to have been built more as temples. The Egyptian
pyramids were built as tombs, sometimes to hold the physical body of a
pharaoh and other individuals, or to hold the soul of the deceased, as
the small cult pyramids built next to the larger ones were. The shape
of the pyramid was choosen,to mimic the Benben, a pyramid shaped stone
found in the earliest of temples. The great size of many of the
Egyptian pyramids is believed to be about the Pharaohs' own power and
perhaps, the glory and strength of their country. 
In the desert west
of Cairo, on the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, the
Egypt pyramids still stand on the Giza plateau as perhaps the most
elaborate tombs ever built. Probably the most renowned archeological
site, the Egyptian pyramid complex at Giza has three pyramids that were
all built toward the end of ancient Egypt's fourth dynasty of rulers
that reigned from 2589 to 2504 B.C.
The Great Pyramid
of Khufu is the largest of the three Egyptian pyramids at Giza.
Originally about 480 feet tall, the Great Pyramid's base has sides that
are longer than 754 feet and are oriented in the direction of the four
cardinal points of the compass. People have stood in awe of this
largest of Egyptian pyramids. Khufu's pyramid was looted by grave
robbers and had its outer limestone casing scraped off and used for
building projects elsewhere. But now, this Egyptian pyramid is once
again revered as a link to Egypt's past and is protected so that
visitors can experience its wonder for years to come.
Interesting Fact:
Pyramid of Khufu is revered as a symbol of long lasting durability and
that is probably the reason for its placement on the back of the US
Dollar Bill. 

Artist Rendition of Menkaure
Pyramids in the Mist


Tutankhamun (throne name Neb-kheperu-re) the famous “boy king”.

Life-size wooden head of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus flower.Tutankhamun was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1336-1327 BC). Ironically until Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb in 1922, Tutankhamun was one of the most poorly known of the pharaohs, he had a short reign, and his tomb is unlike most other royal tombs – consisting of only four small rooms rather than the long corridor style that was typical that period. After several years of fruitless digging in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s team had finally discovered a rock-cut step below the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI. This was the first of a flight of steps that led down to a walled up entrance to a tomb, plastered over and stamped with large oval seals, five of which were inscribed with Tutankhamun’s throne name, Neb-khepru-re. Continue reading Tutankhamun