This is the first translation of the Hammurabi's code made into English, and only the third to be made following its discovery by modern archaeologists. Prior to Sommer's translation it only existed in French and German among modern languages. The Laws of Hammurabi were written circa 1772 BC, in the Middle Bronze Age. They are one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world and the longest from the Old Babylonian period. The entire legal code is made up of 282 enumerated laws, here rendered into legal terminology by attorney William Earl Ambrose, almost half of which concerns contract law and a third concerns family law. It contains very early examples of familiar legal concepts, such as the presumption of innocence and both parties presenting evidence. This translation is accompanied by detailed photographs of the entire original Akkadian text of the laws for those who can read cuneiform.
The ruins of Susa now being excavated by the distinguished explorer M. de Morgan have already yielded important results. He was led to undertake the excavation of ancient Susa from inscriptions found in the ruins of Babylon, from which he learned that many of the most important monuments of the Babylonian kings had been carried, as trophies of war by the Elamite kings, to their capital, Susa. When he left Egypt in 1888 it was for the purpose of recovering from the ruins of Susa these monuments. He had not been long at work in Susa before he found the stele of Narâm-Sin c. 3,800 B.C., which showed a high state of art in the Tigro-Euphrates valley nearly 6,000 years ago. This discovery was rapidly followed by others. The most important of which is the stele of Hammurabi, upon which was engraved his code of laws, c. 2,250 B.C.
This code is the oldest collection of public laws that has yet been discovered. It is a reflection of the social conditions existing in Babylonia 4,000 years ago. The jurist of to-day will recognize in it most of the fundamental principles on which our social legislation is based.
Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment. And we need your help: Contribute to our projects, or make a donation. Donations are primarily used for site maintenance and software improvements.
This is the English language Wikisource, which began to collect texts in 2003 and moved to this separate domain in 2005. It currently contains 1,031,669 texts.
Wikisource libraries are also being built in many other languages. For information on other Wikisource languages, please consult the following resources: