Religion and the Lost Knowledge - by Randal M. Bundy
The Code of Hammurabi
BC) Translated by L. W. King With commentary from Charles F. Horne,
Ph.D. (1915) and The Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,
1910- by the Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D.
Introduction Charles F. Horne, Ph.D. 1915
. .[Hammurabi] was the ruler who chiefly established the greatness of
Babylon, the world's first metropolis. Many relics of Hammurabi's reign
([1795-1750 BC]) have been preserved, and today we can study this
remarkable King . . . as a wise law-giver in his celebrated code. . .
. . [B]y far the most remarkable of the Hammurabi records is his code
of laws, the earliest-known example of a ruler proclaiming publicly to
his people an entire body of laws, arranged in orderly groups, so that
all men might read and know what was required of them. The code was
carved upon a black stone monument, eight feet high, and clearly
intended to be reared in public view. This noted stone was found in the
year 1901, not in Babylon, but in a city of the Persian mountains, to
which some later conqueror must have carried it in triumph. It begins
and ends with addresses to the gods. Even a law code was in those days
regarded as a subject for prayer, though the prayers here are chiefly
cursings of whoever shall neglect or destroy the law.
code then regulates in clear and definite strokes the organization of
society. The judge who blunders in a law case is to be expelled from
his judgeship forever, and heavily fined. The witness who testifies
falsely is to be slain. Indeed, all the heavier crimes are made
punishable with death. Even if a man builds a house badly, and it falls
and kills the owner, the builder is to be slain. If the owner's son was
killed, then the builder's son is slain. We can see where the Hebrews
learned their law of "an eye for an eye." These grim retaliatory
punishments take no note of excuses or explanations, but only of the
fact--with one striking exception. An accused person was allowed to
cast himself into "the river," the Euphrates. Apparently the art of
swimming was unknown; for if the current bore him to the shore alive he
was declared innocent, if he drowned he was guilty. So we learn that
faith in the justice of the ruling gods was already firmly, though
somewhat childishly, established in the minds of men.
even with this earliest set of laws, as with most things Babylonian, we
find ourselves dealing with the end of things rather than the
beginnings. Hammurabi's code was not really the earliest. The preceding
sets of laws have disappeared, but we have found several traces of
them, and Hammurabi's own code clearly implies their existence. He is
but reorganizing a legal system long established.
Charles F. Horne, Ph.D.
BABYLONIAN LAW--The Code of Hammurabi.
By the Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D.
from the Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910-1911
material for the study of Babylonian law is singularly extensive
without being exhaustive. The so-called "contracts," including a great
variety of deeds, conveyances, bonds, receipts, accounts and, most
important of all, the actual legal decisions given by the judges in the
law courts, exist in thousands. Historical inscriptions, royal charters
and rescripts, despatches, private letters and the general literature
afford welcome supplementary information. Even grammatical and
lexicographical works, intended solely to facilitate the study of
ancient literature, contain many extracts or short sentences bearing on
law and custom. The so-called "Sumerian Family Laws" are thus
preserved. The discovery of the now celebrated Code of Hammurabi
(hereinafter simply termed the Code) has, however, made a more
systematic study possible than could have resulted from the
classification and interpretation of the other material. Some fragments
of a later code exist and have been published; but there still remain
many points upon which we have no evidence.
material dates from the earliest times down to the commencement of our
era. The evidence upon a particular point may be very full at one
period and almost entirely lacking at another. The Code forms the
backbone of the skeleton sketch which is here reconstructed. The
fragments of it which have been recovered from Assur-bani-pal's library
at Nineveh and later Babylonian copies show that it was studied,
divided into chapters entitled Ninu ilu sirum from its opening words,
and recopied for fifteen hundred years or more. The greater part of It
remained in force, even through the Persian, Greek and Parthian
conquests, which affected private life in Babylonia very little, and it
survived to influence Syro-Roman and later Mahommedan law in
Mesopotamia. The law and custom which preceded the Code we shall call
"early," that of the New Babylonian empire (as well as the Persian,
Greek, &c.) "late." The law in Assyria was derived from Babylonia
but conserved early features long after they had disappeared elsewhere.
the Semitic tribes settled in the cities of Babylonia, their tribal
custom passed over into city law. The early history of the country is
the story of a struggle for supremacy between the cities. A metropolis
demanded tribute and military support from its subject cities but left
their local cults and customs unaffected. The city rights and usages
were respected by kings and conquerors alike.
late as the accession of Assur-bani-pal and Samas-sum-yukin we find the
Babylonians appealing to their city laws that groups of aliens to the
number of twenty at a time were free to enter the city, that foreign
women once married to Babylonian husbands could not be enslaved and
that not even a dog that entered the city could be put to death untried.
population of Babylonia was of many races from early times and
intercommunication between the cities was incessant. Every city had a
large number of resident aliens. This freedom of intercourse must have
tended to assimilate custom. It was, however, reserved for the genius
of Hammurabi to make Babylon his metropolis and weld together his vast
empire by a uniform system of law.
all trace of tribal custom has already disappeared from the law of the
Code. It is state-law; - alike self-help, blood-feud, marriage by
capture, are absent; though family solidarity, district responsibility,
ordeal, the lex talionis, are primitive features that remain. The king
is a benevolent autocrat, easily accessible to all his subjects, both
able and willing to protect the weak against the highest-placed
oppressor. The royal power, however, can only pardon when private
resentment is appeased. The judges are strictly supervised and appeal
is allowed. The whole land is covered with feudal holdings, masters of
the levy, police, &c. There is a regular postal system. The pax
Babylonica is so assured that private individuals do not hesitate to
ride in their carriage from Babylon to the coast of the Mediterranean.
The position of women is free and dignified.
Code did not merely embody contemporary custom or conserve ancient law.
It is true that centuries of law-abiding and litigious habitude had
accumulated in the temple archives of each city vast stores of
precedent in ancient deeds and the records of judicial decisions, and
that intercourse had assimilated city custom. The universal habit of
writing and perpetual recourse to written contract even more modified
primitive custom and ancient precedent. Provided the parties could
agree, the Code left them free to contract as a rule. Their deed of
agreement was drawn up in the temple by a notary public, and confirmed
by an oath "by god and the king." It was publicly sealed and witnessed
by professional witnesses, as well as by collaterally interested
parties. The manner in which it was thus executed may have been
sufficient security that its stipulations were not impious or illegal.
Custom or public opinion doubtless secured that the parties would not
agree to wrong. In case of dispute the judges dealt first with the
contract. They might not sustain it, but if the parties did not dispute
it, they were free to observe it. The judges' decision might, however,
be appealed against. Many contracts contain the proviso that in case of
future dispute the parties would abide by "the decision of the king."
The Code made known, in a vast number of cases, what that decision
would be, and many cases of appeal to the king were sent back to the
judges with orders to decide in accordance with it. The Code itself was
carefully and logically arranged and the order of its sections was
conditioned by their subject-matter. Nevertheless the order is not that
of modern scientific treatises, and a somewhat different order from
both is most convenient for our purpose.
Code contemplates the whole population as falling into three classes,
the amelu, the muskinu and the ardu. The amelu was a patrician, the man
of family, whose birth, marriage and death were registered, of
ancestral estates and full civil rights. He had aristocratic privileges
and responsibilities, the right to exact retaliation for corporal
injuries, and liability to heavier punishment for crimes and
misdemeanours, higher fees and fines to pay. To this class belonged the
king and court, the higher officials, the professions and craftsmen.
The term became in time a mere courtesy title but originally carried
with it standing. Already in the Code, when status is not concerned, it
is used to denote "any one." There was no property qualification nor
does the term appear to be racial. It is most difficult to characterize
the muskinu exactly. The term came in time to mean "a beggar" and with
that meaning has passed through Aramaic and Hebrew into many modern
languages; but though the Code does not regard him as necessarily poor,
he may have been landless. He was free, but had to accept monetary
compensation for corporal injuries, paid smaller fees and fines, even
paid less offerings to the gods. He inhabited a separate quarter of the
city. There is no reason to regard him as specially connected with the
court, as a royal pensioner, nor as forming the bulk of the population.
The rarity of any reference to him in contemporary documents makes
further specification conjectural. The ardu was a slave, his master's
chattel, and formed a very numerous class. He could acquire property
and even hold other slaves. His master clothed and fed him, paid his
doctor's fees, but took all compensation paid for injury done to him.
His master usually found him a slave-girl as wife (the children were
then born slaves), often set him up in a house (with farm or business)
and simply took an annual rent of him. Otherwise he might marry a
freewoman (the children were then free), who might bring him a dower
which his master could not touch, and at his death one-half of his
property passed to his master as his heir. He could acquire his freedom
by purchase from his master, or might be freed and dedicated to a
temple, or even adopted, when he became an amelu and not a muskinu.
Slaves were recruited by purchase abroad, from captives taken in war
and by freemen degraded for debt or crime. A slave often ran away; if
caught, the captor was bound to restore him to his master, and the Code
fixes a reward of two shekels which the owner must pay the captor. It
was about one-tenth of the average value. To detain, harbour, &c.,
a slave was punished by death. So was an attempt to get him to leave
the city. A slave bore an identification mark, which could only be
removed by a surgical operation and which later consisted of his
owner's name tattooed or branded on the arm. On the great estates in
Assyria and its subject provinces were many serfs, mostly of subject
race, settled captives, or quondam slaves, tied to the soil they
cultivated and sold with the estate but capable of possessing land and
property of their own. There is little trace of serfs in Babylonia,
unless the muskinu be really a serf.
god of a city was originally owner of its land, which encircled it with
an inner ring of irrigable arable land and an outer fringe of pasture,
and the citizens were his tenants. The god and his viceregent, the
king, had long ceased to disturb tenancy, and were content with fixed
dues in naturalia, stock, money or service. One of the earliest
monuments records the purchase by a king of a large estate for his son,
paying a fair market price and adding a handsome honorarium to the many
owners in costly garments, plate, and precious articles of furniture.
The Code recognizes complete private ownership in land, but apparently
extends the right to hold land to votaries, merchants (and resident
aliens?). But all land was sold subject to its fixed charges. The king,
however, could free land from these charges by charter, which was a
frequent way of rewarding those who deserved well of the state. It is
from these charters that we learn nearly all we know of the obligations
that lay upon land. The state demanded men for the army and the corvee
as well as dues in kind. A definite area was bound to find a bowman
together with his linked pikeman (who bore the shield for both) and to
furnish them with supplies for the campaign. This area was termed "a
bow" as early as the 8th century B.C., but the usage was much earlier.
Later, a horseman was due from certain areas. A man was only bound to
serve so many (six?) times, but the land had to find a man annually.
The service was usually discharged by slaves and serfs, but the amelu
(and perhaps the muskenu) went to war. The "bows" were grouped in tens
and hundreds. The corvee was less regular. The letters of Hammurabi
often deal with claims to exemption. Religious officials and shepherds
in charge of flocks were exempt. Special liabilities lay upon riparian
owners to repair canals, bridges, quays, &c. The state claimed
certain proportions of all crops, stock, &c. The king's messengers
could commandeer any subject's property, giving a receipt. Further,
every city had its own octroi duties, customs, ferry dues, highway and
water rates. The king had long ceased to be, if he ever was, owner of
the land. He had his own royal estates, his private property and dues
from all his subjects. The higher officials had endowments and official
residences. The Code regulates the feudal position of certain classes.
They held an estate from the king consisting of house, garden, field,
stock and a salary, on condition of personal service on the king's
errand. They could not delegate the service on pain of death. When
ordered abroad they could nominate a son, if capable, to hold the
benefice and carry on the duty. If there was no son capable, the state
put in a locum tenens, but granted one-third to the wife to maintain
herself and children. The benefice was inalienable, could not be sold,
pledged, exchanged, sublet, devised or diminished. Other land was held
of the state for rent. Ancestral estate was strictly tied to the
family. If a holder would sell, the family had the right of redemption
and there seems to have been no time-limit to its exercise.
temple occupied a most important position. It received from its
estates, from tithes and other fixed dues, as well as from the
sacrifices (a customary share) and other offerings of the faithful,
vast amounts of all sorts of naturalia; besides money and permanent
gifts. The larger temples had many officials and servants. Originally,
perhaps, each town clustered round one temple, and each head of a
family had a right to minister there and share its receipts. As the
city grew, the right to so many days a year at one or other shrine (or
its "gate") descended in certain families and became a species of
property which could be pledged, rented or shared within the family,
but not alienated. In spite of all these demands, however, the temples
became great granaries and store-houses; as they also were the city
archives. The temple held its responsibilities. If a citizen was
captured by the enemy and could not ransom himself the temple of his
city must do so. To the temple came the poor farmer to borrow seed corn
or supplies for harvesters, &c.--advances which he repaid without
interest. The king's power over the temple was not proprietary but
administrative. He might borrow from it but repaid like other
borrowers. The tithe seems to have been the composition for the rent
due to the god for his land. It is not clear that all lands paid tithe,
perhaps only such as once had a special connexion with the temple.
Code deals with a class of persons devoted to the service of a god, as
vestals or hierodules. The vestals were vowed to chastity, lived
together in a great nunnery, were forbidden to open or enter a tavern,
and together with other votaries had many privileges.
Code recognizes many ways of disposing of property--sale, lease,
barter, gift, dedication, deposit, loan, pledge, all of which were
matters of contract. Sale was the delivery of the purchase (in the case
of real estate symbolized by a staff, a key, or deed of conveyance) in
return for the purchase money, receipts being given for both. Credit,
if given, was treated as a debt, and secured as a loan by the seller to
be repaid by the buyer, fr which he gave a bond. The Code admits no
claim unsubstantiated by documents or the oath of witnesses. A buyer
had to convince himself of the seller's title. If he bought (or
received on deposit) from a minor or a slave without power of attorney,
he would be executed as a thief. If the goods were stolen and the
rightful owner reclaimed them, he had to prove his purchase by
producing the seller and the deed of sale or witnesses to it. Otherwise
he would be adjudged a thief and die. If he proved his purchase, he had
to give up the property but had his remedy against the seller or, if he
had died, could reclaim five-fold from his estate. A man who bought a
slave abroad, might find that he had been stolen or captured from
Babylonia, and he had to restore him to his former owner without
profit. If he bought property belonging to a feudal holding, or to a
ward in chancery, he had to return it and forfeit what he gave for it
as well. He could repudiate the purchase of a slave attacked by the
bennu sickness within the month (later, a hundred days), and had a
female slave three days on approval. A defect of title or undisclosed
liability would invalidate the sale at any time.
frequently cultivated their land themselves but might employ a
husbandman or let it. The husbandman was bound to carry out the proper
cultivation, raise an average crop and leave the field in good tilth.
In case the crop failed the Code fixed a statutory return. Land might
be let at a fixed rent when the Code enacted that accidental loss fell
on the tenant. If let on share-profit, the landlord and tenant shared
the loss proportionately to their stipulated share of profit. If the
tenant paid his rent and left the land in good tilth, the landlord
could not interfere nor forbid subletting. Waste land was let to
reclaim, the tenant being rent-free for three years and paying a
stipulated rent in the fourth year. If the tenant neglected to reclaim
the land the Code enacted that he must hand it over in good tilth and
fixed a statutory rent. Gardens or plantations were let in the same
ways and under the same conditions; but for date-groves four years'
free tenure was allowed. The metayer system was in vogue, especially on
temple lands. The landlord found land, labour, oxen for ploughing and
working the watering-machines, carting, threshing or other implements,
seed corn, rations for the workmen and fodder for the cattle. The
tenant, or steward, usually had other land of his own. If he stole the
seed, rations or fodder, the Code enacted that his fingers should be
cut off. If he appropriated or sold the implements, impoverished or
sublet the cattle, he was heavily fined and in default of payment might
be condemned to be torn to pieces by the cattle on the field. Rent was
was indispensable. If the irrigator neglected to repair his dyke, or
left his runnel open and caused a flood, he had to make good the damage
done to his neighbours' crops, or be sold with his family to pay the
cost. The theft of a watering-machine, water-bucket or other
agricultural implement was heavily fined.
were let usually for the year, but also for longer terms, rent being
paid in advance, half-yearly. The contract generally specified that the
house was in good repair, and the tenant was bound to keep it so. The
woodwork, including doors and door frames, was removable, and the
tenant might bring and take away his own. The Code enacted that if the
landlord would re-enter before the term was up, he must remit a fair
proportion of the rent. Land was leased for houses or other buildings
to be built upon it, the tenant being rent-free for eight or ten years;
after which the building came into the landlord's possession.
the multitude of slaves, hired labour was often needed, especially at
harvest. This was matter of contract, and the hirer, who usually paid
in advance, might demand a guarantee to fulfil the engagement. Cattle
were hired for ploughing, working the watering-machines, carting,
threshing, etc. The Code fixed a statutory wage for sowers, ox-drivers,
field-labourers, and hire for oxen, asses, &c.
were many herds and flocks. The flocks were committed to a shepherd who
gave receipt for them and took them out to pasture. The Code fixed him
a wage. He was responsible for all care, must restore ox for ox, sheep
for sheep, must breed them satisfactorily. Any dishonest use of the
flock had to be repaid ten-fold, but loss by disease or wild beasts
fell on the owner. The shepherd made good all loss due to his neglect.
If he let the flock feed on a field of corn he had to pay damages
four-fold; if he turned them into standing corn when they ought to have
been folded he paid twelve-fold.
commercial matters, payment in kind was still common, though the
contracts usually stipulate for cash, naming the standard expected,
that of Babylon, Larsa, Assyria, Carchemish, &c. The Code enacted,
however, that a debtor must be allowed to pay in produce according to
statutory scale. If a debtor had neither money nor crop, the
creditor-must not refuse goods.
was secured on the person of the debtor. Distraint on a debtor's corn
was forbidden by the Code; not only must the creditor give it back, but
his illegal action forfeited his claim altogether. An unwarranted
seizure for debt was fined, as was the distraint of a working ox. The
debtor being seized for debt could nominate as mancipium or hostage to
work off the debt, his wife, a child, or slave. The creditor could only
hold a wife or child three years as mancipium. If the mancipium died a
natural death while in the creditor's possession no claim could lie
against the latter; but if he was the cause of death by cruelty, he had
to give son for son, or pay for a slave. He could sell a slave-hostage,
unless she were a slave-girl who had borne her master children. She had
to be redeemed by her owner.
debtor could also pledge his property, and in contracts often pledged a
field house or crop. The Code enacted, however, that the debtor should
always take the crop himself and pay the creditor from it. If the crop
failed, payment was deferred and no interest could be charged for that
year. If the debtor did not cultivate the field himself he had to pay
for the cultivation, but if the cultivation was already finished he
must harvest it himself and pay his debt from the crop. If the
cultivator did not get a crop this would not cancel his contract.
Pledges were often made where the intrinsic value of the article was
equivalent to the amount of the debt; but antichretic pledge was more
common, where the profit of the pledge was a set-off against the
interest of the debt. The whole property of the debtor might be pledged
as security for the payment of the debt, without any of it coming into
the enjoyment of the creditor. Personal guarantees were often given
that the debtor would repay or the guarantor become liable himself.
was very extensive. A common way of doing business was for a merchant
to entrust goods or money to a travelling agent, who sought a market
for his goods. The caravans travelled far beyond the limits of the
empire. The Code insisted that the agent should inventory and give a
receipt for all that he received. No claim could be made for anything
not so entered. Even if the agent made no profit he was bound to return
double what he had received, if he made poor profit he had to make up
the deficiency; but he was not responsible for loss by robbery or
extortion on his travels. On his return, the principal must give a
receipt for what was handed over to him. Any false entry or claim on
the agent's part was penalised three-fold, on the principal's part
six-fold. In normal cases profits were divided according to contract,
considerable amount of forwarding was done by the caravans. The carrier
gave a receipt for the consignment, took all responsibility and exacted
a receipt on delivery. If he defaulted he paid five-fold. He was
usually paid in advance. Deposit, especially warehousing of grain, was
charged for at one-sixtieth. The warehouseman took all risks, paid
double for all shortage, but no claim could be made unless be had given
a properly witnessed receipt. Water traffic on the Euphrates and canals
was early very considerable. Ships, whose tonnage was estimated at the
amount of grain they could carry, were continually hired for the a
transport of all kinds of goods. The Code fixes the price for building
and insists on the builder's giving a year's guarantee of
seaworthiness. It fixes the hire of ship and of crew. The captain was
responsible for the freight and the ship; he had to replace all loss.
Even if he refloated the ship he had to pay a fine of half its value
for sinking it. In the case of collision the boat under way was
responsible for damages to the boat at anchor. The Code also regulated
the liquor traffic, fixing a fair price for beer and forbidding the
connivance of the tavern-keeper (a female!) at disorderly conduct or
treasonable assembly, under pain of death. She was to hale the
offenders to the palace, which implied an efficient and accessible
through a banker or by written draft against deposit was frequent.
Bonds to pay were treated as negotiable. Interest a was rarely charged
on advances by the temple or wealthy land-owners for pressing needs,
but this may have been part of the metayer system. The borrowers may
have been tenants. Interest was charged at very high rates for overdue
loans of this kind. Merchants (and even temples in some cases) made
ordinary business loans, charging from 20 to 30%.
retained the form of purchase, but was essentially a contract to be man
and wife together. The marriage of young people was usually arranged
between the relatives, the bride- groom's father providing the
bride-price, which with other presents the suitor ceremonially
presented to the bride's father. This bride-price was usually handed
over by her father to the bride on her marriage, and so came back into
the bridegroom's possession, along with her dowry, which was her
portion as a daughter. The bride-price varied much, according to the
position of the parties, but was in excess of that paid for a slave.
The Code enacted that if the father does not, after accepting a man's
presents, give him his daughter, he, must return the presents doubled.
Even if his decision was brought about by libel on the part of the
suitor's friend this was done, and the Code enacted that the faithless
friend should not marry the girl. If a suitor changed his mind, he
forfeited the presents. The dowry might include real estate, but
generally consisted of personal effects and household furniture. It
remained the wife's for life, descending to her children, if any;
otherwise returning to her family, when the husband could deduct the
bride-price if it had not been given to her, or return it, if it had.
The marriage ceremony included joining of hands and the utterance of
some formula of acceptance on the part of the bridegroom, as "I am the
son of nobles, silver and gold shall fill thy lap, thou shalt be my
wife, I will be thy husband. Like the fruit of a garden I will give
thee offspring." It must be performed by a freeman.
marriage contract, without which the Code ruled that the woman was no
wife, usually stated the consequences to which each party was liable
for repudiating the other. These by no means necessarily agree with the
Code. Many conditions might be inserted: as that the wife should act as
maidservant to her mother-in-law, or to a first wife. The married
couple formed a unit as to external responsibility, especially for
debt. The man was responsible for debts contracted by his wife, even
before her marriage, as well as for his own; but he could use her as a
mancipium. Hence the Code allowed a proviso to be inserted in the
marriage contract, that the wife should not be seized for her husband's
prenuptial debts; but enacted that then he was not responsible for her
prenuptial debts, and, in any case, that both together were responsible
for all debts contracted after marriage. A man might make his wife a
settlement by deed of gift, which gave her a life interest in part of
his property, and he might reserve to her the right to bequeath it to a
favourite child, but she could in no case leave it to her family.
Although married she always remained a member of her father's
house--she is rarely named wife of A, usually daughter of B, or mother
was optional with the man, but he had to restore the dowry and, if the
wife had borne him children, she had the custody of them. He had then
to assign her the income of field, or garden, as well as goods, to
maintain herself and children until they grew up. She then shared
equally with them in the allowance (and apparently in his estate at his
death) and was free to marry again. If she had no children, he returned
her the dowry and paid her a sum equivalent to the bride-price, or a
mina of silver, if there had been none. The latter is the forfeit
usually named in the contract for his repudiation of her.
she had been a bad wife, the Code allowed him to send her away, while
he kept the children and her dowry; or he could degrade her to the
position of a slave in his own house, where she would have food and
clothing. She might bring an action against him for cruelty and neglect
and, if she proved her case, obtain a judicial separation, taking with
her her dowry. No other punishment fell on the man. If she did not
prove her case, but proved to be a bad wife, she was drowned. If she
were left without maintenance during her husband's involuntary absence,
she could cohabit with another man, but must return to her husband if
he came back, the children of the second union remaining with their own
father. If she had maintenance, a breach of the marriage tie was
adultery. Wilful desertion by, or exile of, the husband dissolved the
marriage, and if he came back he had no claim on her property; possibly
not on his own.
a widow, the wife took her husband's place in the family, living on in
his house and bringing up the children. She could only remarry with
judicial consent, when the judge was bound to inventory the deceased's
estate and hand it over to her and her new husband in trust for the
children. They could not alienate a single utensil. If she did not
remarry, she lived on in her husband's house and took a child's share
on the division of his estate, when the children had grown up. She
still retained her dowry and any settlement deeded to her by her
husband. This property came to her children. If she had remarried, all
her children shared equally in her dowry, but the first husband's gift
fell to his children or to her selection among them, if so empowered.
was the rule, and a childless wife might give her husband a maid (who
was no wife) to bear him children, who were reckoned hers. She remained
mistress of her maid and might degrade her to slavery again for
insolence, but could not sell her if she had borne her husband
children. If the wife did this, the Code did not allow the husband to
take a concubine. If she would not, he could do so. The concubine was a
wife, though not of the same rank; the first wife had no power over
her. A concubine was a free woman, was often dowered for marriage and
her children were legitimate. She could only be divorced on the same
conditions as a wife. If a wife became a chronic invalid, the husband
was bound to maintain her in the home they bad made together, unless
she preferred to take her dowry and go back to her father's house; but
he was free to remarry. In all these cases the children were legitimate
and legal heirs.
was, of course, no hindrance to a man having children by a slave girl.
These children were free, in any case, and their mother could not be
sold, though she might be pledged, and she was free on her master's
death. These children could be legitimized by their father's
acknowledgment before witnesses, and were often adopted. They then
ranked equally in sharing their father's estate, but if not adopted,
the wife's children divided and took first choice.
virgins were not supposed to have children, yet they could and often
did marry. The Code contemplated that such a wife would give a husband
a maid as above. Free women might marry slaves and be dowered for the
marriage. The children were free, and at the slave's death the wife
took her dowry and half what she and her husband had acquired in
wedlock for self and children; the master taking the other half as his
father had control over his children till their marriage. He had a
right to their labour in return for their keep. He might hire them out
and receive their wages, pledge them for debt, even sell them outright.
Mothers had the same rights in the absence of the father; even elder
brothers when both parents were dead. A father had no claim on his
married children for support, but they retained a right to inherit on
daughter was not only in her father's power to be given in marriage,
but he might dedicate her to the service of some god as a vestal or a
hierodule; or give her as a concubine. She had no choice in these
matters, which were often decided in her childhood. A grown-up daughter
might wish to become a votary, perhaps in preference to an uncongenial
marriage, and it seems that her father could not refuse her wish. In
all these cases the father might dower her. If he did not, on his death
the brothers were bound to do so, giving her a full child's share if a
wife, a concubine or a vestal, but one-third of a child's share if she
were a hierodule or a Marduk priestess. The latter had the privilege of
exemption from state dues and absolute disposal of her property. All
other daughters had only a life interest in their dowry, which reverted
to their family, if childless, or went to their children if they had
any. A father might, however, execute a deed granting a daughter power
to leave her property to a favourite brother or sister. A daughter's
estate was usually managed for her by her brothers, but if they did not
satisfy her, she could appoint a steward. If she married, her husband
son also appears to have received his share on marriage, but did not
always then leave his father's house; he might bring his wife there.
This was usual in child marriages.
was very common, especially where the father (or mother) was childless
or had seen all his children grow up and marry away. The child was then
adopted to care for the parents' old age. This was done by contract,
which usually specified what the parent had to leave and what
maintenance was expected. The real children, if any, were usually
consenting parties to an arrangement which cut off their expectations.
They even, in some cases, found the estate for the adopted child who
was to relieve them of a care. If the adopted child failed to carry out
the filial duty the contract was annulled in the law courts. Slaves
were often adopted and if they proved unfilial were reduced to slavery
craftsman often adopted a son to learn the craft. He profited by the
son's labour. If he failed to teach his son the craft, that son could
prosecute him and get the contract annulled. This was a form of
apprenticeship, and it is not clear that the apprentice had any filial
man who adopted a son, and afterwards married and had a family of his
own, could dissolve the contract but must give the adopted child
one-third of a child's share in goods, but no real estate. That could
only descend in the family to which he had ceased to belong. Vestals
frequently adopted daughters, usually other vestals, to care for their
had to be with consent of the real parents, who usually executed a deed
making over the child, who thus ceased to have any claim upon them. But
vestals, hierodules, certain palace officials and slaves had no rights
over their children and could raise no obstacle. Foundlings and
illegitimate children had no parents to object. If the adopted child
discovered his true parents and wanted to return to them, his eye or
tongue was torn out. An adopted child was a full heir, the contract
might even assign him the position of eldest son. Usually he was
legitimate children shared equally in the father's estate at his death,
reservation being made of a bride-price for an unmarried son, dower for
a daughter or property deeded to favourite children by the father.
There was no birthright attaching to the position of eldest son, but he
usually acted as executor and after considering what each had already
received equalized the shares. He even made grants in excess to the
others from his own share. When there were two mothers, the two
families shared equally in the father's estate until later times when
the first family took two-thirds. Daughters, in the absence of sons,
had sons' rights. Children also shared their own mother's property, but
had no share in that of a stepmother.
father could disinherit a son in early times without restriction, but
the Code insisted upon judicial consent and that only for repeated
unfilial conduct. In early times the son who denied his father had his
front hair shorn, a slave-mark put on him, and could be sold as a
slave; while if he denied his mother he had his front hair shorn, was
driven round the city as an example and expelled his home, but not
degraded to slavery.
was punished with the death of both parties by drowning, but if the
husband was willing to pardon his wife, the king might intervene to
pardon the paramour. For incest with his own mother, both were burned
to death; with a stepmother, the man was disinherited; with a daughter,
the man was exiled; with a daughter-in-law, he was drowned; with a
son's betrothed, he was fined. A wife who for her lover's sake procured
her husband's death was gibbeted. A betrothed girl, seduced by her
prospective father-in-law, took her dowry and returned to her family,
and was free to marry as she chose.
the criminal law the ruling principle was the lex talionis. Eye for
eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb was the penalty for assault upon an
amelu. A sort of symbolic retaliation was the punishment of the
offending member, seen in the cutting off the hand that struck a father
or stole a trust; in cutting off the breast of a wet-nurse who
substituted a changeling for the child entrusted to her; in the loss of
the tongue that denied father or mother (in the Elamite contracts the
same penalty was inflicted for perjury); in the loss of the eye that
pried into forbidden secrets. The loss of the surgeon's hand that
caused loss of life or limb or the brander's hand that obliterated a
slave's identification mark, are very similar. The slave, who struck a
freeman or denied his master, lost an ear, the organ of hearing and
symbol of obedience. To bring another into danger of death by false
accusation was punished by death. To cause loss of liberty or property
by false witness was punished by the penalty the perjurer sought to
bring upon another.
death penalty was freely awarded for theft and other crimes regarded as
coming under that head, for theft involving entrance of palace or
temple treasury, for illegal purchase from minor or slave, for selling
stolen goods or receiving the same, for common theft in the open (in
default of multiple restoration) or receiving the same, for false claim
to goods, for kidnapping, for assisting or harbouring fugitive slaves,
for detaining or appropriating same, for brigandage, for fraudulent
sale of drink, for disorderly conduct of tavern, for delegation of
personal service, for misappropriating the levy, for oppression of
feudal holders, for causing death of a householder by bad building. The
manner of death is not specified in these cases. This death penalty was
also fixed for such conduct as placed another in danger of death. A
specified form of death penalty occurs in the following
cases:-gibbeting (on the spot where crime was committed) for burglary,
later also for encroaching on the king's highway, for getting a
slave-brand obliterated, for procuring husband's death; burning for
incest with own mother, for vestal entering or opening tavern, for
theft at fire (on the spot); drowning for adultery, rape of betrothed
maiden, bigamy, bad conduct as wife, seduction of daughter-in-law.
curious extension of the talio is the death of creditor's son for his
father's having caused the death of debtor's son as mancipium; of
builder's son for his father's causing the death of house-owner's son
by building the house badly; the death of a man's daughter because her
father caused the death of another man's daughter.
contracts naturally do not concern such criminal cases as the above, as
a rule, but marriage contracts do specify death by strangling,
drowning, precipitation from a tower or pinnacle of the temple or by
the iron sword for a wife's repudiation of her husband. We are quite
without evidence as to the executive in all these cases.
was inflicted for incest with a daughter; disinheritance for incest
with a stepmother or for repeated unfilial conduct. Sixty strokes of an
ox-hide scourge were awarded for a brutal assault on a superior, both
being amelu. Branding (perhaps the equivalent of degradation to
slavery) was the penalty for slander of a married woman or vestal.
Deprivation of office in perpetuity fell upon the corrupt judge.
Enslavement befell the extravagant wife and unfilial children.
Imprisonment was common, but is not recognized by the Code.
commonest of all penalties was a fine. This is awarded by the Code for
corporal injuries to a muskinu or slave (paid to his master); for
damages done to property, for breach of contract. The restoration of
goods appropriated, illegally bought or damaged by neglect, was usually
accompanied by a fine, giving it the form of multiple restoration. This
might be double, treble, fourfold, fivefold, sixfold, tenfold,
twelvefold, even thirtyfold, according to the enormity of the offence.
Code recognized the importance of intention. A man who killed another
in a quarrel must swear he did not do so intentionally, and was then
only fined according to the rank of the deceased. The Code does not say
what would be the penalty of murder, but death is so often awarded
where death is caused that we can hardly doubt that the murderer was
put to death. If the assault only led to injury and was unintentional,
the assailant in a quarrel had to pay the doctor's fees. A brander,
induced to remove a slave's identification mark, could swear to his
ignorance and was free. The owner of an ox which gored a man on the
street was only responsible for damages if, the ox was known by him to
be vicious, even if it caused death. If the mancipium died a natural
death under the creditor's hand, the creditor was scot free. In
ordinary cases responsibility was not demanded for accident or for more
than proper care. Poverty excused bigamy on the part of a deserted wife.
the other hand carelessness and neglect were severely punished, as in
the case of the unskilful physician, if it led to loss of life or limb
his hands were cut off, a slave had to be replaced, the loss of his eye
paid for to half his value; a veterinary surgeon who caused the death
of an ox or ass paid quarter value; a builder, whose careless
workmanship caused death, lost his life or paid for it by the death of
his child, replaced slave or goods, and in any case had to rebuild the
house or make good any damages due to defective building and repair the
defect as well. The boat-builder had to make good any defect of
construction or damage due to it for a year's warranty.
Throughout the Code respect is paid to status.
was not enough. The criminal must be taken in the act, e.g. the
adulterer, ravisher, &c. A man could not be convicted of theft
unless the goods were found in his possession.
the case of a lawsuit the plaintiff preferred his own plea. There is no
trace of professional advocates, but the plea had to be in writing and
the notary doubtless assisted in the drafting of it. The judge saw the
plea, called the other parties before him and sent for the witnesses.
If these were not at hand he might adjourn the case for their
production, specifying a time up to six months. Guarantees might be
entered into to produce the witnesses on a fixed day. The more
important cases, especially those involving life and death, were tried
by a bench of judges. With the judges were associated a body of elders,
who shared in the decision, but whose exact function is not yet clear.
Agreements, declarations and non-contentious cases are usually
witnessed by one judge and twelve elders.
and witnesses were put on oath. The penalty for the false witness was
usually that which would have been awarded the convicted criminal. In
matters beyond the knowledge of men, as the guilt or innocence of an
alleged wizard or a suspected wife, the ordeal by water was used. The
accused jumped into the sacred river, and the innocent swam while the
guilty drowned. The accused could clear himself by oath where his own
knowledge was alone available. The plaintiff could swear to his loss by
brigands, as to goods claimed, the price paid for a slave purchased
abroad or the sum due to him. But great stress was laid on the
production of written evidence. It was a serious thing to lose a
document. The judges might be satisfied of its existence and terms by
the evidence of the witnesses to it, and then issue an order that
whenever found it should be given up. Contracts annulled were ordered
to be broken. The court might go a journey to view the property and
even take with them the sacred symbols on which oath was made.
decision given was embodied in writing, sealed and witnessed by the
judges, the elders, witnesses and a scribe. Women might act in all
these capacities. The parties swore an oath, embodied in the document,
to observe its stipulations. Each took a copy and one was held by the
scribe to be stored in the archives.
to the king was allowed and is well attested. The judges at Babylon
seem to have formed a superior court to those of provincial towns, but
a defendant might elect to answer the charge before the local court and
refuse to plead at Babylon.
it may be noted that many immoral acts, such as the use of false
weights, lying, &c., which could not be brought into court, are
severely denounced in the Omen Tablets as likely to bring the offender
into "the hand of God" as opposed to "the hand of the king."
in general: Oppert and Menant, Documents juridiques de l'Assyrie et de
la Chaldee (Paris, 1877); J. Kohler and F. E. Peiser, Aus dem
Babylonischen Rechtsleben (Leipzig, 1890 ff.); F. E. Peiser,
Babylonische Vertrage (Berlin, 1890), Keilinschrifiliche Actenstucke
(Berlin, 1889); Br. Meissner, Beitrage zur altbabylonischen Privatrecht
(Leipzig, 1893); F. E. Peiser, "Texte juristischen und geschaftlichen
Inhalts," vol. iv. of Schrader's Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (Berlin,
1896); C. H. W. Johns, Assyrian Deeds and Documents relating to the
Transfer of Property (3 vols., Cambridge, 1898); H. Radau, Early
Babylonian History (New York, 1900); C. H. W. Johns, Babylonian and
Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters (Edinburgh, 1904).
editions of texts and the innumerable articles in scientific journals
see the bibliographies and references in the above works. "The Code of
Hammurabi," Editio princeps, by V. Scheil in tome iv. of the Textes
Elamites-Semitiques of the Memoires de la delegation en Perse (Paris,
1902); H. Winckler, "Die Gesetze Hammurabis Konigs von Babylon um 2250
v. Chr." Der alte Orient, iv. Jahrgang, Heft 4; D. H. Muller, Die
Gesetze Hammurabis (Vienna, 1903); J. Kohler and F. E. Peiser,
Hammurabis Gesetz (Leipzig, 1904); R. F. Harper, The Code of Hammurabi,
King, of Babylon about 2250 B.C. (Chicago, 1904); S. A. Cook, The Laws
of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi (London, 1903).
Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M.A. Litt.D. Master of St. Catharine's
College, Cambridge. Lecturer in Assyriology, Queens' College,
Cambridge, and King's College, London. Author of Assyrian Deeds and
Documents of the 7th Century B.C.; The Oldest Code of Laws; Babylonian
and Assyrian Laws; Contracts and Letters; etc.
HAMMURABI'S CODE OF LAWS
(circa 1780 B.C.)
Translated by L. W. King
Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and
earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the
over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man,
and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his
illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting
kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven
and earth; then 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
the prince, called of Bel am I, making riches and increase, enriching
Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare, sublime patron of E-kur; who
reestablished Eridu and purified the worship of E-apsu; who conquered
the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon,
rejoiced the heart of Marduk, his lord who daily pays his devotions in
Saggil; the royal scion whom Sin made; who enriched Ur; the humble, the
reverent, who brings wealth to Gish-shir-gal; the white king, heard of
Shamash, the mighty, who again laid the foundations of Sippara; who
clothed the gravestones of Malkat with green; who made E-babbar great,
which is like the heavens, the warrior who guarded Larsa and renewed
E-babbar, with Shamash as his helper; the lord who granted new life to
Uruk, who brought plenteous water to its inhabitants, raised the head
of E-anna, and perfected the beauty of Anu and Nana; shield of the
land, who reunited the scattered inhabitants of Isin; who richly
endowed E-gal-mach; the protecting king of the city, brother of the god
Zamama; who firmly founded the farms of Kish, crowned E-me-te-ursag
with glory, redoubled the great holy treasures of Nana, managed the
temple of Harsag-kalama; the grave of the enemy, whose help brought
about the victory; who increased the power of Cuthah; made all glorious
in E-shidlam, the black steer, who gored the enemy; beloved of the god
Nebo, who rejoiced the inhabitants of Borsippa, the Sublime; who is
indefatigable for E-zida; the divine king of the city; the White, Wise;
who broadened the fields of Dilbat, who heaped up the harvests for
Urash; the Mighty, the lord to whom come scepter and crown, with which
he clothes himself; the Elect of Ma-ma; who fixed the temple bounds of
Kesh, who made rich the holy feasts of Nin-tu; the provident,
solicitous, who provided food and drink for Lagash and Girsu, who
provided large sacrificial offerings for the temple of Ningirsu; who
captured the enemy, the Elect of the oracle who fulfilled the
prediction of Hallab, who rejoiced the heart of Anunit; the pure
prince, whose prayer is accepted by Adad; who satisfied the heart of
Adad, the warrior, in Karkar, who restored the vessels for worship in
E-ud-gal-gal; the king who granted life to the city of Adab; the guide
of E-mach; the princely king of the city, the irresistible warrior, who
granted life to the inhabitants of Mashkanshabri, and brought abundance
to the temple of Shidlam; the White, Potent, who penetrated the secret
cave of the bandits, saved the inhabitants of Malka from misfortune,
and fixed their home fast in wealth; who established pure sacrificial
gifts for Ea and Dam-gal-nun-na, who made his kingdom everlastingly
great; the princely king of the city, who subjected the districts on
the Ud-kib-nun-na Canal to the sway of Dagon, his Creator; who spared
the inhabitants of Mera and Tutul; the sublime prince, who makes the
face of Ninni shine; who presents holy meals to the divinity of
Nin-a-zu, who cared for its inhabitants in their need, provided a
portion for them in Babylon in peace; the shepherd of the oppressed and
of the slaves; whose deeds find favor before Anunit, who provided for
Anunit in the temple of Dumash in the suburb of Agade; who recognizes
the right, who rules by law; who gave back to the city of Ashur its
protecting god; who let the name of Ishtar of Nineveh remain in
E-mish-mish; the Sublime, who humbles himself before the great gods;
successor of Sumula-il; the mighty son of Sin-muballit; the royal scion
of Eternity; the mighty monarch, the sun of Babylon, whose rays shed
light over the land of Sumer and Akkad; the king, obeyed by the four
quarters of the world; Beloved of Ninni, am I.
Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the
land, I did right and righteousness in . . . , and brought about the
well-being of the oppressed.
CODE OF LAWS
1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.
If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the
river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser
shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the
accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought
the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the
river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his
If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does
not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense
charged, be put to death.
4. If he satisfy the elders to impose a fine of grain or money, he shall receive the fine that the action produces.
If a judge try a case, reach a decision, and present his judgment in
writing; if later error shall appear in his decision, and it be through
his own fault, then he shall pay twelve times the fine set by him in
the case, and he shall be publicly removed from the judge's bench, and
never again shall he sit there to render judgement.
If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be
put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him
shall be put to death.
If any one buy from the son or the slave of another man, without
witnesses or a contract, silver or gold, a male or female slave, an ox
or a sheep, an ass or anything, or if he take it in charge, he is
considered a thief and shall be put to death.
If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it
belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold
therefor; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay
tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to
If any one lose an article, and find it in the possession of another:
if the person in whose possession the thing is found say "A merchant
sold it to me, I paid for it before witnesses," and if the owner of the
thing say, "I will bring witnesses who know my property," then shall
the purchaser bring the merchant who sold it to him, and the witnesses
before whom he bought it, and the owner shall bring witnesses who can
identify his property. The judge shall examine their testimony--both of
the witnesses before whom the price was paid, and of the witnesses who
identify the lost article on oath. The merchant is then proved to be a
thief and shall be put to death. The owner of the lost article receives
his property, and he who bought it receives the money he paid from the
estate of the merchant.
If the purchaser does not bring the merchant and the witnesses before
whom he bought the article, but its owner bring witnesses who identify
it, then the buyer is the thief and shall be put to death, and the
owner receives the lost article.
If the owner do not bring witnesses to identify the lost article, he is
an evil-doer, he has traduced, and shall be put to death.
If the witnesses be not at hand, then shall the judge set a limit, at
the expiration of six months. If his witnesses have not appeared within
the six months, he is an evil-doer, and shall bear the fine of the
[editor's note: there is no 13th law in the code, 13 being considered and unlucky and evil number]
14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
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, he shall be put to
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 major domus, the master of the house shall be put
If any one find runaway male or female slaves in the open country and
bring them to their masters, the master of the slaves shall pay him two
shekels of silver.
If the slave will not give the name of the master, the finder shall
bring him to the palace; a further investigation must follow, and the
slave shall be returned to his master.
19. If he hold the slaves in his house, and they are caught there, he shall be put to death.
20. If the slave that he caught run away from him, then shall he swear to the owners of the slave, and he is free of all blame.
21. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
22. If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.
If the robber is not caught, then shall he who was robbed claim under
oath the amount of his loss; then shall the community, and . . . on
whose ground and territory and in whose domain it was compensate him
for the goods stolen.
24. If persons are stolen, then shall the community and . . . pay one mina of silver to their relatives.
If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast
his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the
property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that
If a chieftain or a man (common soldier), who has been ordered to go
upon the king's highway for war does not go, but hires a mercenary, if
he withholds the compensation, then shall this officer or man be put to
death, and he who represented him shall take possession of his house.
If a chieftain or man be caught in the misfortune of the king (captured
in battle), and if his fields and garden be given to another and he
take possession, if he return and reaches his place, his field and
garden shall be returned to him, he shall take it over again.
If a chieftain or a man be caught in the misfortune of a king, if his
son is able to enter into possession, then the field and garden shall
be given to him, he shall take over the fee of his father.
If his son is still young, and can not take possession, a third of the
field and garden shall be given to his mother, and she shall bring him
If a chieftain or a man leave his house, garden, and field and hires it
out, and some one else takes possession of his house, garden, and field
and uses it for three years: if the first owner return and claims his
house, garden, and field, it shall not be given to him, but he who has
taken possession of it and used it shall continue to use it.
If he hire it out for one year and then return, the house, garden, and
field shall be given back to him, and he shall take it over again.
If a chieftain or a man is captured on the "Way of the King" (in war),
and a merchant buy him free, and bring him back to his place; if he
have the means in his house to buy his freedom, he shall buy himself
free: if he have nothing in his house with which to buy himself free,
he shall be bought free by the temple of his community; if there be
nothing in the temple with which to buy him free, the court shall buy
his freedom. His field, garden, and house shall not be given for the
purchase of his freedom.
If a . . . or a . . . enter himself as withdrawn from the "Way of the
King," and send a mercenary as substitute, but withdraw him, then the .
. . or . . . shall be put to death.
If a . . . or a . . . harm the property of a captain, injure the
captain, or take away from the captain a gift presented to him by the
king, then the . . . or . . . shall be put to death.
35. If any one buy the cattle or sheep which the king has given to chieftains from him, he loses his money.
36. The field, garden, and house of a chieftain, of a man, or of one subject to quit-rent, can not be sold.
If any one buy the field, garden, and house of a chieftain, man, or one
subject to quit-rent, his contract tablet of sale shall be broken
(declared invalid) and he loses his money. The field, garden, and house
return to their owners.
A chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent can not assign his tenure
of field, house, and garden to his wife or daughter, nor can he assign
it for a debt.
He may, however, assign a field, garden, or house which he has bought,
and holds as property, to his wife or daughter or give it for debt.
He may sell field, garden, and house to a merchant (royal agents) or to
any other public official, the buyer holding field, house, and garden
for its usufruct.
If any one fence in the field, garden, and house of a chieftain, man,
or one subject to quit-rent, furnishing the palings therefor; if the
chieftain, man, or one subject to quit-rent return to field, garden,
and house, the palings which were given to him become his property.
If any one take over a field to till it, and obtain no harvest
therefrom, it must be proved that he did no work on the field, and he
must deliver grain, just as his neighbor raised, to the owner of the
If he do not till the field, but let it lie fallow, he shall give grain
like his neighbor's to the owner of the field, and the field which he
let lie fallow he must plow and sow and return to its owner.
If any one take over a waste-lying field to make it arable, but is
lazy, and does not make it arable, he shall plow the fallow field in
the fourth year, harrow it and till it, and give it back to its owner,
and for each ten gan (a measure of area) ten gur of grain shall be paid.
If a man rent his field for tillage for a fixed rental, and receive the
rent of his field, but bad weather come and destroy the harvest, the
injury falls upon the tiller of the soil.
If he do not receive a fixed rental for his field, but lets it on half
or third shares of the harvest, the grain on the field shall be divided
proportionately between the tiller and the owner.
If the tiller, because he did not succeed in the first year, has had
the soil tilled by others, the owner may raise no objection; the field
has been cultivated and he receives the harvest according to agreement.
If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates the grain, or
the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of water; in that
year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes his debt-tablet
in water and pays no rent for this year.
If any one take money from a merchant, and give the merchant a field
tillable for corn or sesame and order him to plant corn or sesame in
the field, and to harvest the crop; if the cultivator plant corn or
sesame in the field, at the harvest the corn or sesame that is in the
field shall belong to the owner of the field and he shall pay corn as
rent, for the money he received from the merchant, and the livelihood
of the cultivator shall he give to the merchant.
If he give a cultivated corn-field or a cultivated sesame-field, the
corn or sesame in the field shall belong to the owner of the field, and
he shall return the money to the merchant as rent.
If he have no money to repay, then he shall pay in corn or sesame in
place of the money as rent for what he received from the merchant,
according to the royal tariff.
52. If the cultivator do not plant corn or sesame in the field, the debtor's contract is not weakened.
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 corn which he has caused to be ruined.
If he be not able to replace the corn, then he and his possessions
shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.
If any one open his ditches to water his crop, but is careless, and the
water flood the field of his neighbor, then he shall pay his neighbor
corn for his loss.
If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the plantation of his
neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten gan of land.
If a shepherd, without the permission of the owner of the field, and
without the knowledge of the owner of the sheep, lets the sheep into a
field to graze, then the owner of the field shall harvest his crop, and
the shepherd, who had pastured his flock there without permission of
the owner of the field, shall pay to the owner twenty gur of corn for
every ten gan.
If after the flocks have left the pasture and been shut up in the
common fold at the city gate, any shepherd let them into a field and
they graze there, this shepherd shall take possession of the field
which he has allowed to be grazed on, and at the harvest he must pay
sixty gur of corn for every ten gan.
59. If any man, without the knowledge of the owner of a garden, fell a tree in a garden he shall pay half a mina in money.
If any one give over a field to a gardener, for him to plant it as a
garden, if he work at it, and care for it for four years, in the fifth
year the owner and the gardener shall divide it, the owner taking his
part in charge.
61. If the gardener has not completed the planting of the field, leaving one part unused, this shall be assigned to him as his.
If he do not plant the field that was given over to him as a garden, if
it be arable land (for corn or sesame) the gardener shall pay the owner
the produce of the field for the years that he let it lie fallow,
according to the product of neighboring fields, put the field in arable
condition and return it to its owner.
If he transform waste land into arable fields and return it to its
owner, the latter shall pay him for one year ten gur for ten gan.
If any one hand over his garden to a gardener to work, the gardener
shall pay to its owner two-thirds of the produce of the garden, for so
long as he has it in possession, and the other third shall he keep.
If the gardener do not work in the garden and the product fall off, the
gardener shall pay in proportion to other neighboring gardens.
[Here a portion of the text is missing, apparently comprising thirty-four paragraphs.]
. . . interest for the money, as much as he has received, he shall give
a note therefor, and on the day, when they settle, pay to the merchant.
If there are no mercantile arrangements in the place whither he went,
he shall leave the entire amount of money which he received with the
broker to give to the merchant.
If a merchant entrust money to an agent (broker) for some investment,
and the broker suffer a loss in the place to which he goes, he shall
make good the capital to the merchant.
If, while on the journey, an enemy take away from him anything that he
had, the broker shall swear by God and be free of obligation.
If a merchant give an agent corn, wool, oil, or any other goods to
transport, the agent shall give a receipt for the amount, and
compensate the merchant therefor. Then he shall obtain a receipt form
the merchant for the money that he gives the merchant.
If the agent is careless, and does not take a receipt for the money
which he gave the merchant, he can not consider the unreceipted money
as his own.
If the agent accept money from the merchant, but have a quarrel with
the merchant (denying the receipt), then shall the merchant swear
before God and witnesses that he has given this money to the agent, and
the agent shall pay him three times the sum.
If the merchant cheat the agent, in that as the latter has returned to
him all that had been given him, but the merchant denies the receipt of
what had been returned to him, then shall this agent convict the
merchant before God and the judges, and if he still deny receiving what
the agent had given him shall pay six times the sum to the agent.
If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn 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
If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these
conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the
tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
110. If a "sister of a god" open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
111. If an inn-keeper furnish sixty ka of usakani-drink to . . . she shall receive fifty ka of corn at the harvest.
If any one be on a journey and entrust silver, gold, precious stones,
or any movable property to another, and wish to recover it from him; if
the latter do not bring all of the property to the appointed place, but
appropriate it to his own use, then shall this man, who did not bring
the property to hand it over, be convicted, and he shall pay fivefold
for all that had been entrusted to him.
If any one have consignment of corn or money, and he take from the
granary or box without the knowledge of the owner, then shall he who
took corn without the knowledge of the owner out of the granary or
money out of the box be legally convicted, and repay the corn he has
taken. And he shall lose whatever commission was paid to him, or due
If a man have no claim on another for corn and money, and try to demand
it by force, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver in every case.
If any one have a claim for corn or money upon another and imprison
him; if the prisoner die in prison a natural death, the case shall go
If the prisoner die in prison from blows or maltreatment, the master of
the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge. If he was a
free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to death; if it was
a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and all that the
master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.
If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and sell himself, his wife,
his son, and daughter for money or give them away to forced labor: they
shall work for three years in the house of the man who bought them, or
the proprietor, and in the fourth year they shall be set free.
If he give a male or female slave away for forced labor, and the
merchant sublease them, or sell them for money, no objection can be
If any one fail to meet a claim for debt, and he sell the maid servant
who has borne him children, for money, the money which the merchant has
paid shall be repaid to him by the owner of the slave and she shall be
If any one store corn for safe keeping in another person's house, and
any harm happen to the corn in storage, or if the owner of the house
open the granary and take some of the corn, or if especially he deny
that the corn was stored in his house: then the owner of the corn shall
claim his corn before God (on oath), and the owner of the house shall
pay its owner for all of the corn that he took.
If any one store corn in another man's house he shall pay him storage
at the rate of one gur for every five ka of corn per year.
If any one give another silver, gold, or anything else to keep, he
shall show everything to some witness, draw up a contract, and then
hand it over for safe keeping.
If he turn it over for safe keeping without witness or contract, and if
he to whom it was given deny it, then he has no legitimate claim.
If any one deliver silver, gold, or anything else to another for safe
keeping, before a witness, but he deny it, he shall be brought before a
judge, and all that he has denied he shall pay in full.
If any one place his property with another for safe keeping, and there,
either through thieves or robbers, his property and the property of the
other man be lost, the owner of the house, through whose neglect the
loss took place, shall compensate the owner for all that was given to
him in charge. But the owner of the house shall try to follow up and
recover his property, and take it away from the thief.
If any one who has not lost his goods state that they have been lost,
and make false claims: if he claim his goods and amount of injury
before God, even though he has not lost them, he shall be fully
compensated for all his loss claimed. (I.e., the oath is all that is
If any one "point the finger" (slander) at a sister of a god or the
wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before
the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or
128. If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
If a man's wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man,
both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may
pardon his wife and the king his slaves.
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, this man shall be put to death, but the wife
If a man bring a charge against one's wife, but she is not surprised
with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her
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 her husband.
If a man is taken prisoner in war, and there is a sustenance in his
house, but his wife leave house and court, and go to another house:
because this wife did not keep her court, and went to another house,
she shall be judicially condemned and thrown into the water.
If any one be captured in war and there is not sustenance in his house,
if then his wife go to another house this woman shall be held blameless.
If a man be taken prisoner in war and there be no sustenance in his
house and his wife go to another house and bear children; and if later
her husband return and come to his home: then this wife shall return to
her husband, but the children follow their father.
If any one leave his house, run away, and then his wife go to another
house, if then he return, and wishes to take his wife back: because he
fled from his home and ran away, the wife of this runaway shall not
return to her husband.
If a man wish to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or
from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife
her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property,
so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her
children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that
of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her
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.
139. If there was no purchase price he shall give her one mina of gold as a gift of release.
140. If he be a freed man he shall give her one-third of a mina of gold.
If a man's wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges
into debt, 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.
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.
If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house,
neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.
If a man take a wife and this woman give her husband a maid-servant,
and she bear him children, but this man wishes to take another wife,
this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.
If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to
take another wife: if he take this second wife, and bring her into the
house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.
If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and
she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the
wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her
for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the
147. If she have not borne him children, then her mistress may sell her for money.
If a man take a wife, and she be seized by disease, if he then desire
to take a second wife he shall not put away his wife, who has been
attacked by disease, but he shall keep her in the house which he has
built and support her so long as she lives.
If this woman does not wish to remain in her husband's house, then he
shall compensate her for the dowry that she brought with her from her
father's house, and she may go.
If a man give his wife a field, garden, and house and a deed therefor,
if then after the death of her husband the sons raise no claim, then
the mother may bequeath all to one of her sons whom she prefers, and
need leave nothing to his brothers.
If a woman who lived in a man's house made an agreement with her
husband, that no creditor can arrest her, and has given a document
therefor: if that man, before he married that woman, had a debt, the
creditor can not hold the woman for it. But if the woman, before she
entered the man's house, had contracted a debt, her creditor can not
arrest her husband therefor.
152. If after the woman had entered the man's house, both contracted a debt, both must pay the merchant.
If the wife of one man on account of another man has their mates (her
husband and the other man's wife) murdered, both of them shall be
154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).
If a man betroth a girl to his son, and his son have intercourse with
her, but he (the father) afterward defile her, and be surprised, then
he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).
If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and
if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and
compensate her for all that she brought out of her father's house. She
may marry the man of her heart.
157. If any one be guilty of incest with his mother after his father, both shall be burned.
If any one be surprised after his father with his chief wife, who has
borne children, he shall be driven out of his father's house.
If any one, who has brought chattels into his father-in-law's house,
and has paid the purchase-money, looks for another wife, and says to
his father-in-law: "I do not want your daughter," the girl's father may
keep all that he had brought.
If a man bring chattels into the house of his father-in-law, and pay
the "purchase price" (for his wife): if then the father of the girl
say: "I will not give you my daughter," he shall give him back all that
he brought with him.
If a man bring chattels into his father-in-law's house and pay the
"purchase price," if then his friend slander him, and his father-in-law
say to the young husband: "You shall not marry my daughter," the he
shall give back to him undiminished all that he had brought with him;
but his wife shall not be married to the friend.
If a man marry a woman, and she bear sons to him; if then this woman
die, then shall her father have no claim on her dowry; this belongs to
If a man marry a woman and she bear him no sons; if then this woman
die, if the "purchase price" which he had paid into the house of his
father-in-law is repaid to him, her husband shall have no claim upon
the dowry of this woman; it belongs to her father's house.
If his father-in-law do not pay back to him the amount of the "purchase
price" he may subtract the amount of the "Purchase price" from the
dowry, and then pay the remainder to her father's house.
If a man give to one of his sons whom he prefers a field, garden, and
house, and a deed therefor: if later the father die, and the brothers
divide the estate, then they shall first give him the present of his
father, and he shall accept it; and the rest of the paternal property
shall they divide.
If a man take wives for his son, but take no wife for his minor son,
and if then he die: if the sons divide the estate, they shall set aside
besides his portion the money for the "purchase price" for the minor
brother who had taken no wife as yet, and secure a wife for him.
If a man marry a wife and she bear him children: if this wife die and
he then take another wife and she bear him children: if then the father
die, the sons must not partition the estate according to the mothers,
they shall divide the dowries of their mothers only in this way; the
paternal estate they shall divide equally with one another.
If a man wish to put his son out of his house, and declare before the
judge: "I want to put my son out," then the judge shall examine into
his reasons. If the son be guilty of no great fault, for which he can
be rightfully put out, the father shall not put him out.
If he be guilty of a grave fault, which should rightfully deprive him
of the filial relationship, the father shall forgive him the first
time; but if he be guilty of a grave fault a second time the father may
deprive his son of all filial relation.
If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have borne sons,
and the father while still living says to the children whom his
maid-servant has borne: "My sons," and he count them with the sons of
his wife; if then the father die, then the sons of the wife and of the
maid-servant shall divide the paternal property in common. The son of
the wife is to partition and choose.
If, however, the father while still living did not say to the sons of
the maid-servant: "My sons," and then the father dies, then the sons of
the maid-servant shall not share with the sons of the wife, but the
freedom of the maid and her sons shall be granted. The sons of the wife
shall have no right to enslave the sons of the maid; the wife shall
take her dowry (from her father), and the gift that her husband gave
her and deeded to her (separate from dowry, or the purchase-money paid
her father), and live in the home of her husband: so long as she lives
she shall use it, it shall not be sold for money. Whatever she leaves
shall belong to her children.
If her husband made her no gift, she shall be compensated for her gift,
and she shall receive a portion from the estate of her husband, equal
to that of one child. If her sons oppress her, to force her out of the
house, the judge shall examine into the matter, and if the sons are at
fault the woman shall not leave her husband's house. If the woman
desire to leave the house, she must leave to her sons the gift which
her husband gave her, but she may take the dowry of her father's house.
Then she may marry the man of her heart.
If this woman bear sons to her second husband, in the place to which
she went, and then die, her earlier and later sons shall divide the
dowry between them.
174. If she bear no sons to her second husband, the sons of her first husband shall have the dowry.
If a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry the daughter of a
free man, and children are born, the master of the slave shall have no
right to enslave the children of the free.
If, however, a State slave or the slave of a freed man marry a man's
daughter, and after he marries her she bring a dowry from a father's
house, if then they both enjoy it and found a household, and accumulate
means, if then the slave die, then she who was free born may take her
dowry, and all that her husband and she had earned; she shall divide
them into two parts, one-half the master for the slave shall take, and
the other half shall the free-born woman take for her children. If the
free-born woman had no gift she shall take all that her husband and she
had earned and divide it into two parts; and the master of the slave
shall take one-half and she shall take the other for her children.
If a widow, whose children are not grown, wishes to enter another house
(remarry), she shall not enter it without the knowledge of the judge.
If she enter another house the judge shall examine the state of the
house of her first husband. Then the house of her first husband shall
be entrusted to the second husband and the woman herself as managers.
And a record must be made thereof. She shall keep the house in order,
bring up the children, and not sell the house-hold utensils. He who
buys the utensils of the children of a widow shall lose his money, and
the goods shall return to their owners.
If a "devoted woman" or a prostitute to whom her father has given a
dowry and a deed therefor, but if in this deed it is not stated that
she may bequeath it as she pleases, and has not explicitly stated that
she has the right of disposal; if then her father die, then her
brothers shall hold her field and garden, and give her corn, oil, and
milk according to her portion, and satisfy her. If her brothers do not
give her corn, oil, and milk according to her share, then her field and
garden shall support her. She shall have the usufruct of field and
garden and all that her father gave her so long as she lives, but she
can not sell or assign it to others. Her position of inheritance
belongs to her brothers.
If a "sister of a god," or a prostitute, receive a gift from her
father, and a deed in which it has been explicitly stated that she may
dispose of it as she pleases, and give her complete disposition
thereof: if then her father die, then she may leave her property to
whomsoever she pleases. Her brothers can raise no claim thereto.
If a father give a present to his daughter--either marriageable or a
prostitute (unmarriageable)--and then die, then she is to receive a
portion as a child from the paternal estate, and enjoy its usufruct so
long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her brothers.
If a father devote a temple-maid or temple-virgin to God and give her
no present: if then the father die, she shall receive the third of a
child's portion from the inheritance of her father's house, and enjoy
its usufruct so long as she lives. Her estate belongs to her brothers.
If a father devote his daughter as a wife of Mardi of Babylon (as in
181), and give her no present, nor a deed; if then her father die, then
shall she receive one-third of her portion as a child of her father's
house from her brothers, but Marduk may leave her estate to whomsoever
If a man give his daughter by a concubine a dowry, and a husband, and a
deed; if then her father die, she shall receive no portion from the
If a man do not give a dowry to his daughter by a concubine, and no
husband; if then her father die, her brother shall give her a dowry
according to her father's wealth and secure a husband for her.
185. If a man adopt a child and to his name as son, and rear him, this grown son can not be demanded back again.
If a man adopt a son, and if after he has taken him he injure his
foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall return to his
187. The son of a paramour in the palace service, or of a prostitute, can not be demanded back.
188. If an artizan has undertaken to rear a child and teaches him his craft, he can not be demanded back.
189. If he has not taught him his craft, this adopted son may return to his father's house.
If a man does not maintain a child that he has adopted as a son and
reared with his other children, then his adopted son may return to his
If a man, who had adopted a son and reared him, founded a household,
and had children, wish to put this adopted son out, then this son shall
not simply go his way. His adoptive father shall give him of his wealth
one-third of a child's portion, and then he may go. He shall not give
him of the field, garden, and house.
If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or
mother: "You are not my father, or my mother," his tongue shall be cut
If the son of a paramour or a prostitute desire his father's house, and
desert his adoptive father and adoptive mother, and goes to his
father's house, then shall his eye be put out.
If a man give his child to a nurse and the child die in her hands, but
the nurse unbeknown to the father and mother nurse another child, then
they shall convict her of having nursed another child without the
knowledge of the father and mother and her breasts shall be cut off.
195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]
197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold 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. [ A tooth for a tooth ]
201. If he knock out the teeth of a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a gold mina.
202. If any one strike the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
203. If a free-born man strike the body of another free-born man or equal rank, he shall pay one gold mina.
204. If a freed man strike the body of another freed man, he shall pay ten shekels in money.
205. If the slave of a freed man strike the body of a freed man, his ear shall be cut off.
If during a quarrel one man strike another and wound him, then he shall
swear, "I did not injure him wittingly," and pay the physicians.
If the man die of his wound, he shall swear similarly, and if he (the
deceased) was a free-born man, he shall pay half a mina in money.
208. If he was a freed man, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.
210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.
211. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.
212. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.
213. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.
214. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
If a physician make a large incision with an operating knife and cure
it, or if he open a tumor (over the eye) with an operating knife, and
saves the eye, he shall receive ten shekels in money.
216. If the patient be a freed man, he receives five shekels.
217. If he be the slave of some one, his owner shall give the physician two shekels.
If a physician make a large incision with the operating knife, and kill
him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut out the eye, his
hands shall be cut off.
If a physician make a large incision in the slave of a freed man, and
kill him, he shall replace the slave with another slave.
220. If he had opened a tumor with the operating knife, and put out his eye, he shall pay half his value.
If a physician heal the broken bone or diseased soft part of a man, the
patient shall pay the physician five shekels in money.
222. If he were a freed man he shall pay three shekels.
223. If he were a slave his owner shall pay the physician two shekels.
If a veterinary surgeon perform a serious operation on an ass or an ox,
and cure it, the owner shall pay the surgeon one-sixth of a shekel as a
225. If he perform a serious operation on an ass or ox, and kill it, he shall pay the owner one-fourth of its value.
If a barber, without the knowledge of his master, cut the sign of a
slave on a slave not to be sold, the hands of this barber shall be cut
If any one deceive a barber, and have him mark a slave not for sale
with the sign of a slave, he shall be put to death, and buried in his
house. The barber shall swear: "I did not mark him wittingly," and
shall be guiltless.
If a builder build a house for some one and complete it, he shall give
him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface.
If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it
properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then
that builder shall be put to death.
230. If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.
231. If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been
ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which
he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.
If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet
completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make
the walls solid from his own means.
234. If a shipbuilder build a boat of sixty gur for a man, he shall pay him a fee of two shekels in money.
If a shipbuilder build a boat for some one, and do not make it tight,
if during that same year that boat is sent away and suffers injury, the
shipbuilder shall take the boat apart and put it together tight at his
own expense. The tight boat he shall give to the boat owner.
If a man rent his boat to a sailor, and the sailor is careless, and the
boat is wrecked or goes aground, the sailor shall give the owner of the
boat another boat as compensation.
If a man hire a sailor and his boat, and provide it with corn,
clothing, oil and dates, and other things of the kind needed for
fitting it: if the sailor is careless, the boat is wrecked, and its
contents ruined, then the sailor shall compensate for the boat which
was wrecked and all in it that he ruined.
238. If a sailor wreck any one's ship, but saves it, he shall pay the half of its value in money.
239. If a man hire a sailor, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.
If a merchantman run against a ferryboat, and wreck it, the master of
the ship that was wrecked shall seek justice before God; the master of
the merchantman, which wrecked the ferryboat, must compensate the owner
for the boat and all that he ruined.
241. If any one impresses an ox for forced labor, he shall pay one-third of a mina in money.
242. If any one hire oxen for a year, he shall pay four gur of corn for plow-oxen.
243. As rent of herd cattle he shall pay three gur of corn to the owner.
244. If any one hire an ox or an ass, and a lion kill it in the field, the loss is upon its owner.
245. If any one hire oxen, and kill them by bad treatment or blows, he shall compensate the owner, oxen for oxen.
246. If a man hire an ox, and he break its leg or cut the ligament of its neck, he shall compensate the owner with ox for ox.
247. If any one hire an ox, and put out its eye, he shall pay the owner one-half of its value.
If any one hire an ox, and break off a horn, or cut off its tail, or
hurt its muzzle, he shall pay one-fourth of its value in money.
249. If any one hire an ox, and God strike it that it die, the man who hired it shall swear by God and be considered guiltless.
If while an ox is passing on the street (market) some one push it, and
kill it, the owner can set up no claim in the suit (against the hirer).
If an ox be a goring ox, and it shown that he is a gorer, and he do not
bind his horns, or fasten the ox up, and the ox gore a free-born man
and kill him, the owner shall pay one-half a mina in money.
252. If he kill a man's slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina.
If any one agree with another to tend his field, give him seed, entrust
a yoke of oxen to him, and bind him to cultivate the field, if he steal
the corn or plants, and take them for himself, his hands shall be hewn
If he take the seed-corn for himself, and do not use the yoke of oxen,
he shall compensate him for the amount of the seed-corn.
If he sublet the man's yoke of oxen or steal the seed-corn, planting
nothing in the field, he shall be convicted, and for each one hundred
gan he shall pay sixty gur of corn.
256. If his community will not pay for him, then he shall be placed in that field with the cattle (at work).
257. If any one hire a field laborer, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per year.
258. If any one hire an ox-driver, he shall pay him six gur of corn per year.
259. If any one steal a water-wheel from the field, he shall pay five shekels in money to its owner.
260. If any one steal a shadduf (used to draw water from the river or canal) or a plow, he shall pay three shekels in money.
261. If any one hire a herdsman for cattle or sheep, he shall pay him eight gur of corn per annum.
262. If any one, a cow or a sheep . . .
If he kill the cattle or sheep that were given to him, he shall
compensate the owner with cattle for cattle and sheep for sheep.
If a herdsman, to whom cattle or sheep have been entrusted for watching
over, and who has received his wages as agreed upon, and is satisfied,
diminish the number of the cattle or sheep, or make the increase by
birth less, he shall make good the increase or profit which was lost in
the terms of settlement.
If a herdsman, to whose care cattle or sheep have been entrusted, be
guilty of fraud and make false returns of the natural increase, or sell
them for money, then shall he be convicted and pay the owner ten times
If the animal be killed in the stable by God ( an accident), or if a
lion kill it, the herdsman shall declare his innocence before God, and
the owner bears the accident in the stable.
If the herdsman overlook something, and an accident happen in the
stable, then the herdsman is at fault for the accident which he has
caused in the stable, and he must compensate the owner for the cattle
268. If any one hire an ox for threshing, the amount of the hire is twenty ka of corn.
269. If he hire an ass for threshing, the hire is twenty ka of corn.
270. If he hire a young animal for threshing, the hire is ten ka of corn.
271. If any one hire oxen, cart and driver, he shall pay one hundred and eighty ka of corn per day.
272. If any one hire a cart alone, he shall pay forty ka of corn per day.
If any one hire a day laborer, he shall pay him from the New Year until
the fifth month (April to August, when days are long and the work hard)
six gerahs in money per day; from the sixth month to the end of the
year he shall give him five gerahs per day.
If any one hire a skilled artizan, he shall pay as wages of the . . .
five gerahs, as wages of the potter five gerahs, of a tailor five
gerahs, of . . . gerahs, . . . of a ropemaker four gerahs, of . . ..
gerahs, of a mason . . . gerahs per day.
275. If any one hire a ferryboat, he shall pay three gerahs in money per day.
276. If he hire a freight-boat, he shall pay two and one-half gerahs per day.
277. If any one hire a ship of sixty gur, he shall pay one-sixth of a shekel in money as its hire per day.
If any one buy a male or female slave, and before a month has elapsed
the benu-disease be developed, he shall return the slave to the seller,
and receive the money which he had paid.
279. If any one by a male or female slave, and a third party claim it, the seller is liable for the claim.
If while in a foreign country a man buy a male or female slave
belonging to another of his own country; if when he return home the
owner of the male or female slave recognize it: if the male or female
slave be a native of the country, he shall give them back without any
If they are from another country, the buyer shall declare the amount of
money paid therefor to the merchant, and keep the male or female slave.
282. If a slave say to his master: "You are not my master," if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.
of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established. A righteous
law, and pious statute did he teach the land. Hammurabi, the protecting
king am I. I have not withdrawn myself from the men, whom Bel gave to
me, the rule over whom Marduk gave to me, I was not negligent, but I
made them a peaceful abiding-place. I expounded all great difficulties,
I made the light shine upon them. With the mighty weapons which Zamama
and Ishtar entrusted to me, with the keen vision with which Ea endowed
me, with the wisdom that Marduk gave me, I have uprooted the enemy
above and below (in north and south), subdued the earth, brought
prosperity to the land, guaranteed security to the inhabitants in their
homes; a disturber was not permitted. The great gods have called me, I
am the salvation-bearing shepherd, whose staff is straight, the good
shadow that is spread over my city; on my breast I cherish the
inhabitants of the land of Sumer and Akkad; in my shelter I have let
them repose in peace; in my deep wisdom have I enclosed them. That the
strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and
orphans, I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their
head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven
and earth, in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all
disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words,
written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of
king who ruleth among the kings of the cities am I. My words are well
considered; there is no wisdom like unto mine. By the command of
Shamash, the great judge of heaven and earth, let righteousness go
forth in the land: by the order of Marduk, my lord, let no destruction
befall my monument. In E-Sagil, which I love, let my name be ever
repeated; let the oppressed, who has a case at law, come and stand
before this my image as king of righteousness; let him read the
inscription, and understand my precious words: the inscription will
explain his case to him; he will find out what is just, and his heart
will be glad, so that he will say:
is a ruler, who is as a father to his subjects, who holds the words of
Marduk in reverence, who has achieved conquest for Marduk over the
north and south, who rejoices the heart of Marduk, his lord, who has
bestowed benefits for ever and ever on his subjects, and has
established order in the land."
he reads the record, let him pray with full heart to Marduk, my lord,
and Zarpanit, my lady; and then shall the protecting deities and the
gods, who frequent E-Sagil, graciously grant the desires daily
presented before Marduk, my lord, and Zarpanit, my lady. 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
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. If a
succeeding ruler considers my words, which I have written in this my
inscription, if he do not annul my law, nor corrupt my words, nor
change my monument, then may Shamash lengthen that king's reign, as he
has that of me, the king of righteousness, that he may reign in
righteousness over his subjects. If this ruler do not esteem my words,
which I have written in my inscription, if he despise my curses, and
fear not the curse of God, if he destroy the law which I have given,
corrupt my words, change my monument, efface my name, write his name
there, or on account of the curses commission another so to do, that
man, whether king or ruler, patesi, or commoner, no matter what he be,
may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my
rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse
his destiny. May Bel, the lord, who fixeth destiny, whose command can
not be altered, who has made my kingdom great, order a rebellion which
his hand can not control; may he let the wind of the overthrow of his
habitation blow, may he ordain the years of his rule in groaning, years
of scarcity, years of famine, darkness without light, death with seeing
eyes be fated to him; may he (Bel) order with his potent mouth the
destruction of his city, the dispersion of his subjects, the cutting
off of his rule, the removal of his name and memory from the land. May
Belit, the great Mother, whose command is potent in E-Kur (the
Babylonian Olympus), the Mistress, who harkens graciously to my
petitions, in the seat of judgment and decision (where Bel fixes
destiny), turn his affairs evil before Bel, and put the devastation of
his land, the destruction of his subjects, the pouring out of his life
like water into the mouth of King Bel. May Ea, the great ruler, whose
fated decrees come to pass, the thinker of the gods, the omniscient,
who maketh long the days of my life, withdraw understanding and wisdom
from him, lead him to forgetfulness, shut up his rivers at their
sources, and not allow corn or sustenance for man to grow in his land.
May Shamash, the great Judge of heaven and earth, who supporteth all
means of livelihood, Lord of life-courage, shatter his dominion, annul
his law, destroy his way, make vain the march of his troops, send him
in his visions forecasts of the uprooting of the foundations of his
throne and of the destruction of his land. May the condemnation of
Shamash overtake him forthwith; may he be deprived of water above among
the living, and his spirit below in the earth. May Sin (the Moon-god),
the Lord of Heaven, the divine father, whose crescent gives light among
the gods, take away the crown and regal throne from him; may he put
upon him heavy guilt, great decay, that nothing may be lower than he.
May he destine him as fated, days, months and years of dominion filled
with sighing and tears, increase of the burden of dominion, a life that
is like unto death. May Adad, the lord of fruitfulness, ruler of heaven
and earth, my helper, withhold from him rain from heaven, and the flood
of water from the springs, destroying his land by famine and want; may
he rage mightily over his city, and make his land into flood-hills
(heaps of ruined cities). May Zamama, the great warrior, the first-born
son of E-Kur, who goeth at my right hand, shatter his weapons on the
field of battle, turn day into night for him, and let his foe triumph
over him. May Ishtar, the goddess of fighting and war, who unfetters my
weapons, my gracious protecting spirit, who loveth my dominion, curse
his kingdom in her angry heart; in her great wrath, change his grace
into evil, and shatter his weapons on the place of fighting and war.
May she create disorder and sedition for him, strike down his warriors,
that the earth may drink their blood, and throw down the piles of
corpses of his warriors on the field; may she not grant him a life of
mercy, deliver him into the hands of his enemies, and imprison him in
the land of his enemies. May Nergal, the might among the gods, whose
contest is irresistible, who grants me victory, in his great might burn
up his subjects like a slender reedstalk, cut off his limbs with his
mighty weapons, and shatter him like an earthen image. May Nin-tu, the
sublime mistress of the lands, the fruitful mother, deny him a son,
vouchsafe him no name, give him no successor among men. May Nin-karak,
the daughter of Anu, who adjudges grace to me, cause to come upon his
members in E-kur high fever, severe wounds, that can not be healed,
whose nature the physician does not understand, which he can not treat
with dressing, which, like the bite of death, can not be removed, until
they have sapped away his life.
he lament the loss of his life-power, and may the great gods of heaven
and earth, the Anunaki, altogether inflict a curse and evil upon the
confines of the temple, the walls of this E-barra (the Sun temple of
Sippara), upon his dominion, his land, his warriors, his subjects, and
his troops. May Bel curse him with the potent curses of his mouth that
can not be altered, and may they come upon him forthwith.
THE END OF THE CODE OF HAMMURABI