The Code of Ur Nammu (c. 2112 − 2095 BCE)

This is the brief history of The Code of Ur Nammu.

The Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu

The earliest known civilisation arose in Mesopotamia, which today encompasses Iraq, Syria, and southeastern Turkey. The Akkadian Empire, ruled by King Sargon, arose initially, around 2350 BCE. King Ur-Nammu then unified the Sumerians and Akkadians, establishing the Third Dynasty of Ur, which ruled until around 2004 BCE.

Ur-Nammu’s most important legacy is the Code of Ur-Nammu, which influenced the codes of two subsequent kings, Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1930 BCE) and Hammurabi (c. 1792 BCE), as well as the Code of Eshnunna, a city in northern Mesopotamia, according to Klaas Veenhof, an eminent scholar of Babylonia and Assyria (c. 1800 BCE). We know relatively little about this code and the two that followed it, unlike the Code of Hammurabi, because only little parts have survived. Judicial documents, as well as edicts from prior monarchs Emmetena and Urukagina, date from the twenty-fourth century BCE, but Ur-Code Nammu’s is “the first fully legislative book,” according to Veenhof. Nonetheless, archaeologists debate whether Ur-Nammu issued the code himself or if it was created by his son and successor, Shulgi.

The Code of Hammurabi is written in cuneiform and consists of a prologue followed by forty conditional laws: “If X, then Y,” where X indicates behaviour and Y represents the legal ramification. As a result, it lays forth a set of preset punishments for breaking the Akkadian and Sumerian people’s standards of conduct. The prologue implies that Ur-Nammu believed he had been given authority by the gods to proclaim these laws, and it concludes, “I made evil, violence, and the cry for justice vanish.”

Unlike Hammurabi’s retributive Code, The Code of Ur-Nammu established monetary penalties for inflicting bodily harm on others. Ur-Nammu, for example, orders a man who removes another’s eye to “weigh out half a mina of silver.” Perjury (15 shekels), deflowering another man’s slave (5 shekels), shattering another man’s bone (10 shekels), and divorcing a first wife are among the other provisions (1 mina of silver). It also treated criminal behavior more seriously than noncriminal activity, sentencing murder and rape with death and kidnapping with imprisonment and a fine. The only offense for which imprisonment was imposed in the extant text is abduction.

This was the brief history of The Code of Ur-Nammu (c. 2112 − 2095 BCE).


The Code of Hammurabi (c. 1792 BCE);

The Draconian Code (621 BCE);

The Twelve Tables (450 BCE).


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)