“If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out (King 1)”, perhaps one of the most well known of the laws of the Code of Hammurabi, reflects the most basic principle in the ever developing field of human law and justice. A quick examination of the Code of Hammurabi reveals however that the society and its concept of justice during that time were not as barbaric or violent as it may seem. The manner in which the legal provisions of the Code of Hammurabi are ordered represent a certain hierarchy as to the relevance of certain things during that period.
It suggests that there was an understanding of what was valued the most during that point in history which does not differ much from the current hierarchy of things today. The first few provisions can actually be likened to the beginning provisions of every law that has been codified in the sense that it sets the basic principles that govern the relationships of men and justice. The next succeeding provisions govern the relations to property and ownership while the rest of the Code deals with family relations and provides a basic system of criminal law (King 2004).
The system of law and justice that exists in most nations of the world today is not as different from the Code of Hammurabi. The current legal systems in place today also show the same progression in their laws, and perhaps even subjecting the guilty to even harsher penalties such as the death penalty for being found guilty of plunder. While in general the penalties are not as harsh as they were under the Code of Hammurabi, today’s legal system follows the same basic principle that the penalty inflicted is commensurate to the depravity of the crime committed.
Perhaps the most important contribution of the Code of Hammurabi is the way in which it provides a glimpse into the culture of society that existed in the past and how it contributes to the greater understanding that even with the passage of time there are things which have not decreased in their importance to human beings and to society. The precepts of placing a man’s relations with others and his family have always been the highest and most basic of all principles. The next in that hierarchy is the property relations of man and finally the dealings in trade and commerce.
Much like the way things are today, man and his relations is still the most important thing with property and other incidentals to maintaining that relationship coming in close second.
References: King, L W Hammurabi's Code of Laws Exploring Ancient World Cultures Readings from the Ancient Near East retrieved from http://eawc. evansville. edu/anthology/hammurabi. htm on January 30, 2007 Matthews, Roy and Platt, Dewitt. Readings in the Western Humanities, Volume 1 McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages July 30, 2003 336 pages