Nipissing University  -- History 2055 -- Ancient Civilizations

Reading for October 2, 2000

Epilogue to the Code of Hammurabi

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Introduction (Muhlberger):

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?

The Epilogue
     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 Hammurabi, the protecting king am I. I have not withdrawn myself from the men, whom Bel gave to me, the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 me,
     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:

          "Hammurabi is a ruler, who is as a father to his subjects, who holds the words of Marduk in
          reverence, who has achieved conquest for Marduk over the north and south, who rejoices the heart
          of Marduk, his lord, who has bestowed benefits for ever and ever on his subjects, and has
          established 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 the
     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
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