Nipissing University -- History 2055
-- Ancient Civilizations
Reading for October 2, 2000
Epilogue to the Code of Hammurabi
This document is an excerpt from a fuller translation posted on the Ancient
History Sourcebook at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.html.
This version has been excerpted and posted by permission.
See the bottom of this page for copyright information.
Hammurabi was a king of Babylon in the second millennium B.C.
The discovery of his law code, carved on a stele or stone pillar, created
a sensation at the turn of the 20th century, for it seemed to show strong
links between Biblical material and recent archaeological findings.
A translation of the full Code can be found at
What is the image that Hammurabi is trying to project in this text?
What view of law? What view of rulership? What personal
stake does he seem to have in these laws?
Laws of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king,
established. A righteous law, and pious statute did he teach the
land. Hammurabi, the protecting king am I.
I have not withdrawn myself from the men, whom Bel gave to me, the
rule over whom Marduk gave to me, I was not
negligent, but I made them a peaceful abiding-place. I expounded
all great difficulties, I made the light shine
upon them. With the mighty weapons which Zamama and Ishtar
entrusted to me, with the keen vision with
which Ea endowed me, with the wisdom that Marduk gave me, I have
uprooted the enemy above and below (in north
and south), subdued the earth, brought prosperity to the land,
guaranteed security to the inhabitants in
their homes; a disturber was not permitted. The great gods have called
I am the salvation-bearing shepherd, whose
staff is straight, the good shadow that is spread over my city; on my
breast I cherish the inhabitants of the land
of Sumer and Akkad; in my shelter I have let them repose in peace; in
my deep wisdom have I enclosed them. That
the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows
and orphans, I have in Babylon the city where
Anu and Bel raise high their head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose
foundations stand firm as heaven and earth,
in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal
all injuries, set up these my precious words,
written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of
The king who ruleth among the kings of the
cities am I. My words are well considered; there is no wisdom like
unto mine. By the command of Shamash, the
great judge of heaven and earth, let righteousness go forth in the land:
by the order of Marduk, my lord, let no destruction
befall my monument. In E-Sagil, which I love, let my name be
ever repeated; let the oppressed, who has
a case at law, come and stand before this my image as king of
righteousness; let him read the inscription,
and understand my precious words: the inscription will explain his case
to him; he will find out what is just, and
his heart will be glad, so that he will say:
a ruler, who is as a father to his subjects, who holds the words of Marduk
has achieved conquest for Marduk over the north and south, who rejoices
of Marduk, his
lord, who has bestowed benefits for ever and ever on his subjects, and
order in the land."
When he reads the record, let him pray with
full heart to Marduk, my lord, and Zarpanit, my lady; and then shall
the protecting deities and the gods, who frequent
E-Sagil, graciously grant the desires daily presented before
Marduk, my lord, and Zarpanit, my lady.
In future time, through all coming generations,
let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of
righteousness which I have written on my monument;
let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the
edicts which I have enacted; my monument let
him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his
land in order, he shall observe the words
which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of
land which I have given; the decisions which
I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects
accordingly, speak justice to them, give right
decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and
grant prosperity to his subjects.
Translated by L. W. King
This document originates from the Internet, via World Wide Web, at gopher://gopher.vt.edu:10010/11/
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© Paul Halsall March 1998