The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to about 1772 BC. It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man. Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing, for example, the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and sexual behavior. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who reaches an incorrect decision is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently. A handful of provisions address issues related to military service. One nearly complete example of the Code survives today, on a diorite stele in the shape of a huge index finger, 2.25-metre (7.4 ft) tall (see images at right). The Code is inscribed in the Akkadian language, using cuneiform script carved into the stele. It is currently on display in The Louvre, with exact replicas in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, the library of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches (Dutch: Theologische Universiteit Kampen voor de Gereformeerde Kerken) in The Netherlands, the Pergamon Museum of Berlin and the National Museum of Iran in Tehran. Hammurabi ruled for nearly 44 years, c. 1792 to 1750 BC according to the Middle chronology. In the preface to the law, he states, "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared Marduk, the patron god of Babylon (The Human Record, Andrea & Overfield 2005), to bring about the rule in the land." On the stone slab there are 44 columns and 28 paragraphs that contained 282 laws. The stele was probably erected at Sippar, city of the sun god Shamash, god of justice, who is depicted handing authority to the king in the image at the top of the stele. In 1901, Egyptologist Gustave Jéquier, a member of an expedition headed by Jacques de Morgan, found the stele containing the Code of Hammurabi in what is now Iran (ancient Susa, Elam), where it had been taken as plunder by the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahhunte in the 12th century BC. The Code of Hammurabi was one of several sets of laws in the ancient Near East. The code of laws was arranged in orderly groups, so that everyone who read the laws would know what was required of them. Earlier collections of laws include the Code of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (c. 2050 BC), the Laws of Eshnunna (c. 1930 BC) and the codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (c. 1870 BC), while later ones include the Hittite laws, the Assyrian laws, and Mosaic Law. These codes come from similar cultures in a relatively small geographical area, and they have passages which resemble each other. The Code of Hammurabi is the longest surviving text from the Old Babylonian period. The code has been seen as an early example of a fundamental law regulating a government — i.e., a primitive constitution. The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that both the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence.
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Leonard William King, F.S.A. (8 December 1869 – 20 August 1919) was an English archaeologist and Assyriologist educated at Rugby School and King's College in Cambridge. He collected stone inscriptions widely in the Near East, taught Assyrian and Babylonian archaeology at King's College for a number of years, and published a large number of works on these subjects. He is also known for his translations of ancient works such as the Code of Hammurabi. He became the Assistant to the Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum. Hammurabi (died c. 1750 BC) was the sixth Amorite king of Babylon (that is, of the First Babylonian Dynasty, the Amorite Dynasty) from 1792 BC to 1750 BC middle chronology (1728 BC – 1686 BC short chronology). He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain his empire. Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. 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.
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