Code of Hammurabi Stele

Code of Hammurabi Stele
Code of Hammurabi Stele

This large black bas alt stone that reaches 2.25 m. high is today in the Louvre Museum in Paris. And it is in a similar museum for its undeniable value as a work of art, but it is also a historical object of incalculable value, since the first known legislative code appears written here. A code that governed the laws of the Babylonian civilization in the 18th century BC, because it is estimated that this huge stela was carved between 1792 and 1750 BC, the years in which King Hammurabi ruled in Babylon.


Code of Hammurabi Stela

That king is depicted at the top of the stela. There the monarch is seen standing and is in an audience with the god Shamash, the divinity that would represent justice. So Shamash sits on his throne and hands Hammurabi the wand and a ring. That is, he gives Hammurabi all the power and symbols of his divine character, something that allows him to legislate and dictate the laws. Some laws that can be read below.

Those laws are in a body of text that runs through the four faces of the black stone. However, not everything is the laws, since there is both a prologue and an epilogue. In that prologue the figure of Hammurabi appears highly extolled, while in the epilogue the ruler is once again praised in a verypoetic.

And between both texts the almost 300 articles of the law unfold, a law that specifies both harsh punishments and the concept of the retaliation law, that is, pen alties similar to the crimes committed.

This stele is one of the first objects with writing that are preserved, and it is a writing made in Arcadian and with cuneiform signs, which were read from top to bottom and from right to left. However, this great object was more than a legal corpus and reached an almost magical rank in its time, since with its mere presence it made these laws and all those dictated by the king into something sacred and indisputable.

It would be something carved in BAbylonian, but it was not found there. In fact, it is known that it was stolen by an Elamite prince who took it to the city of Susa, in the current territory of Iran. And that's where it was found in 1902 by French archaeologists. For this reason it is today in the Louvre.

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