Odyssey Online: Near East

As ancient communities grew larger and larger, they needed laws to help rulers govern and to keep life in the city running smoothly.

One of the earliest written codes of law was established by Hammurabi, king of Babylon from 1792-1750 B.C. The code was written in cuneiform on a large piece of stone called the Stele of Hammurabi, shown here in a plaster cast from the Carlos Museum. The original is in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The upper part of the stele shows the king receiving his law code from the seated god Shamash. According to Hammurabi, the purpose of the code of law was "to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, that the strong may not oppress the weak."


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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