Who Was Hammurabi?
Hammurabi was a King of Babylon (1792-1750 BC) now modern-day Iraq. The founder of the Amorite dynasty, he enlarged and unified his kingdom. The first few decades of Hammurabi’s reign were relatively peaceful. When Hammurabi ascended to the throne, his small kingdom was composed of the city-states of Babylon, Kish, Sippar and Borsippa. He transformed an unstable collection of city-states into a strong empire that spanned ancient Mesopotamia.
One of the major goals of his father and grandfather was to control the waters of the Euphrates River, running northwest to southeast in Mesopotamia. Civilizations built along the river were heavily engaged in agriculture and trade. The idea was to control the flow of the river from as far upstream as possible to control the communities downstream.
He is best remembered for his Code of Laws, the first in history. It was a very harsh code, the most complete extant collection of Babylonian laws . It consists of Hammurabi’s legal decisions that were collected toward the end of his reign. These 282 case laws include economic provisions (prices, tariffs, trade, and commerce) as well as family law (marriage and divorce), criminal law (assault and theft), and civil law (slavery and debt).
These laws were inscribed on stone tablets (stelae) standing over eight feet tall (2.4 meters), of unknown provenance, found in Persia in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, Hammurabi’s portrait is in many government buildings throughout the world.