THE EMPIRE OF HAMMURABI
The Lawcode of Hammurabi
(1) When exalted An (Anu), king of the divinities*, *(Anunnaki, under Anu)
and Enlil (Ellil), lord of heaven and earth,
the determiner of the destinies of the land,
determined for Amarud (Marduk), the first-born of Enki (Ea),
the Enlil status* over the whole of humankind, *(ellilûtu, universal dominion)
made him the greatest among the deities*, *(Igigi, under Enlil)
called Babylon* by its exalted name, *(Bâbel)
made it supreme in the world,
and established for him in its midst an eternal kingship,
whose foundations are as firm as heaven and earth,
then it was that Anu and Enlil named me,
Hammurabi*, the devout and god-fearing prince, *(Hammu-rapi, Hammu heals;
to promote the welfare of the people or: Hammu-rabi, Hammu is great
to cause justice to prevail in the land,
to destroy the wicked and the evil,
that the strong might not oppress the weak,
to rise like the sun* over the black-headed people, *(or: like Shamash)
and to light up the land.
(2) I am Hammurabi*, the shepherd called by Enlil;*(6th king,1st Dynasty of Babylon)
the one who brings about wealth and plenty;
who provides everything abundantly
(for (the city) Nippur-Duranki; (Nippur, 'junction of heaven and earth', name of its ziggurat)
the devout patron of (the temple) Ekur*; *(temple of Enlil and Ninlil)
(3) the able king, the restorer of Eridu to its place,
[A2] purifier of the ritual of Eabzu*; *(House of Apsu, temple of Enki-Ea)
(4) the stormer of the four regions (of the world),
who makes the fame of Babylon great,
who gladdens the heart of Marduk his lord,
the one who all his days supports Esagila*; *(temple of Marduk and Sarpanit)
(5) the royal seed created by Sîn (Enzu)*, *(the moon god; Sumerian En-zu, 'lord of wisdom')
the one who bestows wealth on Ur,
the pious suppliant, who brought abundance to (the temple) Ekishnugal;
(6) the astute king, obedient to mighty Shamash (Utu)*, *(the sun god)
the establisher of the foundations of Sippar,
who decked with greenery the bridal chamber of Aya*, *(consort of Shamash)
the designer of the temple Ebabbar, which is like the habitation of heaven;
(7) the warrior, who spared Larsa,
renovater of Ebabbar* for Shamash his helper; *(temple of Shamash; cp. 6, Sippar)
(8) the lord and reviver of Uruk,
provider of abundant waters for the people,
raising aloft the head of (the temple) Eanna*, *(see Gilgamesh 1.1)
making riches abound for Anu (An) and Ishtar (Inanna)*; *(cp. Gilgamesh 6.3)
(9) the shelter of the land,
gatherer of the scattered people of Isin,
supplier of abundance to the temple Egalmah*; *(temple of Ninkarrak, goddess of medicine)
(10) the dragon amongst kings, brother of Zababa*, *(the warrior god Ninurta)
founder of the habitation of Kish,
surrounding with splendour the temple Emete-ursag ;
restoring the great shrines of Inanna*, *(Ishtar)
overseer of the temple Khursagkalamma;
(11) the fighter against the enemy,
whose desire his comrade Irra* has satisfied, *(Nergal, god of pestilence and war)
[A3] granter of eminence to Kutha,
expander of every kind of facility for (the temple) Meslam*; *(temple of Nergal)
(12) the ferocious wild bull who gores the foe,
the beloved of Tutu*, *(usually Marduk; here his son Nabu)
bringer of joy to Borsippa,
devoted and untiring in caring for (the temple) Ezida* *(temple of Nabu, divine scribe)
(13) the god among kings, endued with perspicacity,
extender of the cultivated land of (the city) Dilbat*, *(near Borsippa)
storer of grain heaps for the mighty Urash*; *(god of Dilbat)
(14) the lord adorned with sceptre and crown,
brought to perfection by the wise Mama*, *(Nintu, mother goddess)
setting down the plans for Kesh, *(location unidentified; not Kish)
lavisher of splendid banquets on Nintu*; *(mother goddess)
(15) the solicitous, perfect one,
allotter of pastures and watering-places to Lagash* and Girsu*, *(twin cities)
maintaining great sacrifices for Eninnu*; *(the temple of Ningirsu)
(16) the seizer of adversaries,
the favourite of Têlîtum*, *(a title of Ishtar)
fulfiller of the oracles of (the city) Zabalam*, *(near Nippur)
rejoicing the heart of Ishtar*; *(written Ish-tar, not Inanna)
(17) the illustrious prince whose uplifted hands Adad* recognizes, *(weather god)
appeaser of the heart of the warrior Adad in Bît-Karkara*, *(Karkar)
always doing what is proper in (the temple) Eudgalgal;
(18) the king giving life to (the city) Adab,
director of the temple Emah*; *(temple of the goddess Mah)
(19) the chief of kings, the invincible fighter,
he who has granted life to Mashkan-shapir*, *(near Adab)
providing water in abundance for Meslam*. *(temple of Nergal; see (11), Kutha)
(20) the profoundly wise one, the administrator,
who has plumbed the depths of wisdom,
rescuer of the people of Malgûm* from trouble, *(on the Tigris; site unidentified)
the founder of dwellings for them in abundance,
who prescribed for all time splendid sacrifices
for Ea (Enki) and Damgalnunna (Damkina), magnifiers of his kingdom;
(21) the foremost among kings,
subduer of the settlements along the Euphrates
with the help of Dagan* his creator, *(grain god)
sparer of the people of Mari and Tutul;
(22) the devout prince, who lights up the countenance of Tishpak, (war-god of Eshnunna)
provider of splendid banquets for Ninazu* (in Eshnunna), *(god of medicine, son of Enlil)
(23) the saviour of his people from distress,
establishing their roots in security in the midst of Babel*; *(Babylon)
(24) the shepherd of the people, whose deeds are pleasing to Ishtar*, *(Ish-tar)
who installed Ishtar in (the temple) Eulmash
in the midst of the city square of Agade*(Akkad); *(A-ka-de)
(25) the proclaimer of truths*, ruling the people justly, *(kinat, meaning his laws?)
restoring its kindly guardian spirit* to (the city) Ashur; *(lamassu, probably Ishtar)
(26) the silencer of grumblers,
the king who in Nineveh* in (the temple) Emishmish *(Ni-nu-a)
proclaimed the titles of Ishtar (Inanna);
(27) the devout one, fervent in praying to the great gods,
the descendant of Sumulael, the powerful heir of
[A5] the eternal seed of royalty, the powerful king,
the sun of Babylon, who causes light to shine over the lands of Sumer and Akkad,
the king who makes the four quarters of the world subservient,
the favourite of Ishtar (Inanna) am I.* *(cp. Sargon of Agade)
(28) When Marduk commissioned me to rule the people justly, and to direct the land,
I established truth and justice* in the language of the land,
promoting the welfare of the people. *(kittam u misharam, cp. 'law and order')
1. If a man has accused a man and charged him with homicide, but has not proved it, his accuser shall be put to death.
2. If a man has charged a man with sorcery, but has not proved it, he who is charged with sorcery shall go to the holy river, and if the river overwhelms him then his accuser shall take over his estate; if the river proves that man innocent and he comes back safe, he who has charged him with sorcery shall be put to death, while the one who leapt into the river shall take over the estate of his accuser. . . . .
282. If a slave has said to his master, you are not my master, his master shall prove him to be his slave and cut off his ear.
(1) The laws of justice* which the astute king Hammurabi established, *(dinat misharim)
by which he had the land take the right way and the best guidance.
(2) Hammurabi the absolute king am I,
not careless or negligent with regard to the black-headed people
whom Enlil has given to me,
whose shepherding Marduk has entrusted to me;
I have continually sought places of peace for them;
I have overcome severe difficulties,
I have made light arise upon them.* *(as the sun; see Prologue 1)
(3) With the mighty weapon that Zababa and Inanna presented to me,
witht the insight that Enki imparted to me,
with the aptitiude that Marduk granted to me,
I have eradicated the enemy above and below*; *(that is, all around)
I have promoted the welfare of the land,
I have settled people in restful habitations,
I have allowed no one to terrorize them.
(4) The great gods called me,
and I am the guardian shepherd whose sceptre is righteous;
my benign shadow is extended over my city;
I clasp the people of the land of Sumer and Akkad to my bosom;
they have thrived under my protective spirit*; *(H. himself? or Ishtar? see Prologue 25, 9)
I have ever governed them in peace,
I have sheltered them in my wisdom.
(5) So that the strong shall not oppress the weak,
and to render justice to the orphan and the widow,
in Babylon, the city whose head Anu and Enlil exalted,
in Esagila, the temple whose foundations stand firm like heaven and earth,
in order to to administer the law of the land, to give justice to the oppressed,
I have written my precious words on my stela,
and I have set it up before the statue of me as the king of justice.
(6) The king who is preeminent among kings am I;
my words are exquisite, my aptitude has no equal.
By the decree of Shamash, the great judge of heaven and earth,
may my justice prevail in the land.
By the word of Marduk, my lord,
may my statutes* have no abrogater; *(designs, intentions)
[B25] in Esagila, which I cherish,
may my name be spoken with reverence forever.
(7) Any oppressed person, who has a cause,
may come to the statue of me as the king of justice,
may consult my inscribed stela and hear my precious words.
May my stela make his case clear to him;
may he understand his cause, and his mind be set at ease.
(8) Hammurabi, the lord who is like a natural father to the people,
has been solicitous for the word of Marduk his lord,
and has achieved the triumph of Marduk above and below,
gladdening the heart of Marduk his lord;
he has also ensured prosperity for the people forever,
and has ruled the land justly.
(9) Let him* proclaim this, and let him pray with his whole heart for me, *(oppressed person)
in the presence of Marduk my lord and Sarpanit my lady.
May the guardian spirit*, the protective goddess, *(shedu, bull with human head at entrances)
the gods who enter Esagila, and Libittu* of Esagila, *('Brick', god of brickwork)
daily give best wishes (for me) in the presence of Marduk my lord and Sarpanit my lady.
(10) In days to come, for all time, let any king who appears in the land
observe the words of justice that I have written on my stela;
let him not alter the law of the land as enacted by me,
the ordinances of the land as prescribed by me;
let him not abrogate my statutes.
(11) If that man possesses intelligence, and is able to rule his land justly,
let him heed the words I have written on my stela;
may this stela show him the way and the direction,
the law of the land as enacted by me,
the ordinances of the land as prescribed by me;
and let him rule his black-headed people justly.
Let him enact the law for them, prescribe the ordinances for them;
let him eradicate the wicked and the evil from his land;
let him promote the welfare of his people.
(12) Hammurabi the king of justice am I, to whom Shamash imparted truth;
my words are exquisite, my deeds are incomparable;
they are only ineffective for a fool;
[B26] for a sage they are destined for fame.
(13) If that man heeds my words, which I have written on my stela,
does not abrogate my law, does not distort my words, does not alter my statutes,
may Shamash make that man reign as long as I have, as king of justice;
may he shepherd his people in justice.
(14) If that man does not heed my words, which I have written on my stela,
disregards my curses, and does not fear the curses of the gods,
but abolishes the law that I enacted, distorts my words, alters my statutes,
effaces my inscribed name and writes his own name in,
or has someone else do it for him because of these curses*, *(!)
whether that man is a king, lord, governor, or a person of any rank:
may great Anu, the father of the gods, who proclaimed my reign,
strip him of the splendor of sovereignty, break his sceptre, and curse his destiny.
(15) May Enlil, the lord, who determines destinies,
whose commands are unalterable, who made my kingdom great,
raise an irrepressible revolt against that man in his residence,
a rebellion leading to his ruin.
May he determine as that man's destiny a woeful reign,
reduction of days, years of famine, darkness without light, sudden death.
May he order by his own powerful word the destruction of that man's city,
the dispersion of his people, the transferring of his kingdom,
and the disappearance of his name and memory from the land.
(16) May Ninlil*, the great mother, whose commands carry weight in Ekur,
the lady who grants my wishes, invalidate his cause *(consort of Enlil)
in the place of judgement and decision in the presence of Enlil,
and prompt Enlil the king to decree the ruin of his land,
the destruction of his people, the pouring out of his life like water.
(17) May Enki the great prince, whose decrees take precedence,
the wisest among the gods, to whom everything is known,
[B27] who prolongs the days of my life,
deprive him of knowledge and understanding, and constantly lead him astray.
May he dam up his rivers at their source;
may he not let grain, the life of the people, grow in his land.
(18) May Shamash, the great judge of heaven and earth, who guides living creatures aright,
the lord, my support, overthrow his kingdom. . . .
May the dire decree of Shamash overtake him rapidly:
above may he cut him off from the living;
below, in the underworld, may he make his shade thirst for water.
(19) May Sîn, the lord of the heavens, my divine creator. . .
bring the days, months, and years of his reign to an end in woe and lamentation. . . .
(20) May Adad, the lord of prosperity, the irrigator of heaven and earth, my helper,
deprive him of the rains from heaven, and the flow of water from springs,
bring upon his land destruction from want and famine,
thunder furiously against his city, and turn his land into a flooded ruin.
(21) May Zababa, the great warrior, the first-born son in the Ekur*, *(that is, son of Enlil)
who marches at my right hand, shatter his weapons in the arena of war,
turn day into night for him, and let his enemy trample on him.
(22) May Ishtar (Inanna), the lady of warfare and battle, who opens up my weapons,
my gracious protective spirit, admirer of my reign,
curse his kingship with her great fury from her wrathful heart.
May she turn his good into evil,
[B28] shatter his weapons in the arena of warfare and battle,
create disorder and rebellion for him,
smite his warriors, and water the earth with their blood,
throw his warriors' bodies down in heaps on the plain, showing them no mercy;
may she deliver him into the hands of his enemies,
and let them carry him away in bonds to a land that is hostile to him.
(23) May Nergal, the strongest of the gods, the fighter without peer,
who achieves victory for me with his great weapon,
burn his people like a raging swamp-reed fire . . .
and break his body in pieces like a clay statue.
(24) May Nintu, the exalted lady of the lands, the mother who created me,
deny him an heir, not let him acquire a name,
nor beget a male offspring in the midst of his people.
(25) May Ninkarak, the daughter of Anu, my advocate in Ekur,
inflict a grave sickness on him in his body, a demon-induced disease,
an infected wound which never heals,
the nature of which is not understood by physicians,
which they cannot ease with dressings. . . .
(26) May the great gods of heaven and earth, the entire company of the Anunnaki,
the guardian spirit of the temple, Libittu of Ebabbar* *(temple of Shamash, Sippar, Larsa)
curse him and his descendants, his land, his soldiers, his people,
and his nation with a vile curse.
(27) May Enlil, by his immutable word, curse him . . . .
Relief at the top of the Stela of Hammurabi: Hammurabi worshipping Shamash
Diorite column (2.4 metres high) inscribed with laws on more than 3600 lines
Inset: the top of the column.
The laws of King Hammurabi (Hammurapi) are inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform on a diorite column. At the top of the monument we see him standing before the sun god Shamash, whose department was justice and law. Note that Shamash is holding in his hand a ring and a staff, insignia of authority, not a bundle of laws. Hammurabi's lawcode dates from the eighteenth century B.C.E., but the influence of even older collections of laws can be traced in it, so Hammurabi was not the original author of his laws. He was the agent of the laws, not their source. Indeed, it seems that not even Shamash was deemed to be their ultimate source; rather, truth and justice, and laws, came from a sphere that was higher than the gods themselves.
Only a few of the laws are given here, because they have little religious information to impart. But the prologue and epilogue illustrate the divine election of Mesopotamian kings and their religious and social roles. The epilogue, especially in the curses at the end, outlines the various roles of the major deities.
The supremacy of Babylon (Bâbel, Bâb-ilu) and its god Marduk is asserted at the outset (paragraph 1, in my numbering system). In the prologue, the list of cities and deities (2-26) is organized on an interesting scheme.
The first five places are in the order of the position of the five leading gods in the Babylonian pantheon:
(2) Nippur (Enlil, Ellil), (3) Eridu (Enki-Ea), (4) Babylon (Marduk),
(5) Ur (Nanna, Suen, Sin, the Moon)., (6) Sippar (Utu-Shamash).
Note that An-Anu, the original king of the gods, shares Uruk (8) with Inanna-Ishtar (see Gilgamesh Epic).
Then a northward sequence of cities on or near the Lower Euphrates:
(7) Larsa, (8) Uruk, (9) Isin, (10) Kish, (11) Kutha, (12) Borsippa, (13) Dilbat.
(14) Kesh (to be distinguished from Kish (10); unlocated as yet).
The next group runs northward through the Lower Tigris region:
(15) Lagash-Girsu, (16) Zabalam, (17) Karkar, (18) Adab, (19) Mashkan-Shapir, (20) Malgum.
Two notable cities on the Upper Euphrates, where the West Semitic god Dagan was acknowledged:
(21) Mari and Tuttul (or Tutul).
Finally Upper Tigris towns:
(22) Eshnunna, (24) Agade-Akkad, and the two great Assyrian cities (25) Ashur, (26) Nineveh.
Notice Babylon (23) appearing for the third time (also 1 and 4). It is here placed before Agade (24), even though Babylon is on the Euphrates, not the Tigris. Presumably Babylon is inserted here, ahead of Agade-Akkad, to indicate its precedence in importance over the prestigious city founded by Sargon the Great (see the last lines of the Chronicle of Sargon, text 4, in 'The empire of Sargon of Agade'). Agade was on the Tigris, apparently near or underneath modern Baghdad.
Editions and Translations
A. Pohl and R. Follet, Codex Hammurabi: Transcriptio et Versio Latina, 3rd Edn (Rome 1950) Akkadian text with Latin translation.
Rykle Borger, Babylonisch-Assyrische Lesestücke (Rome 1979) Heft 1, 2-50. Akkadian text.
Theophile J. Meek, The Code of Hammurabi, in Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 164-180.
G.R. Driver and John C. Miles, The Babylonian Laws (Oxford 1952).
André Finet, Le Code de Hammurapi (Paris 1973).