While few written texts exist from the Babylonian Empire of 1800 B. C documenting their history, there are many contracts detailing their laws. Several passages even include laws and customs. A great Babylonian King, Hammurabi, was successful in establishing a rule of exemplary law for his Kingdom. These laws provided women with the position of being free and dignified, protections for the weak and poor from oppression, and the establishment of a criminal code of punishment. Many penalties for crimes were very cruel which current day law in the U.
S prohibits. Hammurabi was King of Babylonia from 1792 –18 50 B. C and believed he was chosen by the Gods to lead the people of Babylonia. He created a societal structure ruled by laws enforced by judges at court. Women were provided with freedoms through Hammurabi’s laws, such as “property that the wife had had before marriage is hers for life, like property or furniture”. Also with marriage “the husband pays the wife’s debt, she maintains her own property that she brought into the marriage, and she is always a member of her father’s house.
In the event of a divorce the wife keeps custody of her children, and receives income from her husband until the children have grown up. ” Babylonian law also looked to protect the weak and the poor. ” Slaves were allowed to own property and even other slaves. They were allowed to bear children, who were then the property of the master. To detain or hide a runaway slave was punishable by death, and the law stated they had to be returned to their owners.
” The uniform system of law designed by Hammurabi allowed the elite, the common man, and the slave to work and live together in a peaceful way protected by fair laws. In today’s society however, slavery is illegal and there are not as defined social classes with different laws. One of the more impressive parts of Hammurabi’s law was his idea of punishment. In the Babylonian code punishments were made with hard evidence. “If a man were to steal, he would only be accused if the property was found in his possession”.
Punishments for crimes were “an eye for an eye, a limb for a limb, or a tooth for a tooth”. The death penalty was freely given out for theft and other crimes, such as “buying illegal goods from a slave, kidnapping, selling illegal goods, and causing a death of a house owner through bad construction. ” The death penalty was also set in motion for a behavior or activity that put another person in danger of death. Current law is very restrictive in issuing a death sentence and is relatively rare in the U. S.
Hammurabi was a great Babylonian King whose rule of law offered protections for the weak and the poor, provided women with the position of being free and dignified, and the establishment of a criminal code of punishment. These laws allowed the society, which consisted of people with different backgrounds, classes, and ethnic groups to live together with fair and just laws. Over the thousands of years the laws have significantly changed in our society. Women have the same rights as men, there are no more slaves and death punishments are rarely used here in the United States.