The Code of Hammurabi – c. 1792 BCE

The Code of Hammurabi – The Oldest Complete Law Collection

The Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi (c.1810–c.1750), Gustave Jéquier (1868–1946)

Although identifying mankind’s genuine first legal code may be impossible, legal scholars and historians point to the Code of Hammurabi as one of the oldest and most complete written collections of rules in existence.

A French archaeological team excavated the acropolis at Susa, a city in the ancient Elam empire now known as Shush in Iran’s Khuzestan region, between December 1901 and January 1902. Gustave Jéquier, one of the guys, unearthed a seven-foot-high piece of black diorite.

The most comprehensive copy of the Code of Hammurabi, Babylon’s sixth ruler, known as the “Law Giver,” is engraved in the stone. Shamash, the Babylonian deity of justice, is seen at the top of the stela presenting the laws to Hammurabi so that he might distribute them to his people. “That the mighty might not oppress the poor, that justice be granted to the orphan and the widow,” Hammurabi’s overriding goal is stated in the Code’s prologue.

The Hammurabi Code is made up of 282 individual laws organized by subject: process, property, military, debts, family law, personal damage, and so on. The Code acknowledges three classes of people: affluent, upper-class property owners; paupers and serfs; and slaves. Punishments for violations vary depending on the social standing of both the offender and the victim.

Hammurabi Code stela Louvre Museum Paris France
Hammurabi Code
stela Louvre Museum Paris France

“If a man destroys the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye,” says one of the Code’s most well-known sections. They will shatter a man’s bone if he breaks another man’s bone…. They will knock out a guy’s tooth if he knocks out a man of his own rank’s tooth.” Although this punitive approach to justice was a prominent ideology in ancient civilizations, it is no longer the dominant paradigm in modern legal systems. However, proponents of the death sentence frequently use it as a rationale for capital punishment.

Hammurabi condemns all future kings who disobey his words and judgments in the Code’s epilogue.

The stela is currently on display at the Louvre in Paris.

This is the brief history of The Code of Hammurabi – The Oldest Complete Law Collection.


The Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2100 BCE);

The Twelve Tables (450 BCE);

The Justinian Code (529);

The Death Penalty Returns (1976).


The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)