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Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon


Code of Hammurabi is one of the oldest sets of laws that has ever been deciphered. This code was used in the Ancient Babylon and it is believed that Hammurabi created and enacted it. In this set of laws, many issues are touched upon. The major purpose of the code was to bring justice to the land. It is necessary to note that the laws are quite fair and some of them would be regarded as just even in the modern society. Nonetheless, it is also necessary to remember that the Ancient Babylonian society is different from the vast majority of contemporary societies. There were different traditions and values. Of course, there were different classes of people. Therefore, although Code of Hammurabi brought justice and equality to the Ancient Babylonian society, there were groups of those who did not enjoy equal rights with the rest, as their status was quite different.

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Equality and Justice in the Babylonian Society

First, it is important to note that the laws were quite fair for people pertaining to one class and gender. It is also necessary to point out that the laws were rather strict and punishment often implied heavy injuries (cutting hands, breaking bones) and death. Thus, free men had to act rightfully or else they were punished accordingly. For instance, when a physician performed a good surgery, he was awarded with certain amount of money. At the same time, if the surgery went wrong and the patient was still ill or if he/she died, surgeon’s hands were cut off. Of course, such laws made physicians more responsible and very attentive. However, it is clear that the law was quite too strict as there could be numerous cases when no surgeon could do anything to save the patient. Builders were to be highly responsible as well. They had to pay to the family if the building collapsed. More so, the builder could be put to death if a free man was killed during this collapse. Various quarrels were quite fairly dealt with. Eye-for-an-eye principle ruled. If a free man injured another free man, he had to get a similar injury.

Inequality in the Ancient Babylonian Society

Slaves and the Reason for the Inequality

However, there were groups of people who did not enjoy equal rights with free men. These were slaves and women. For instance, if a slave was killed by a free man, the free man could simply give another slave instead (or pay the necessary amount of money). If a free man injured a slave, the former had to pay the necessary amount of money (for the lost capacity of a slave) to the owner.

Of course, such an attitude towards slaves can be explained by their status. They could not be equal to free men, as slaves were not regarded as human beings. They were seen as things or livestock. Slaves were to perform certain tasks. Therefore, their life was not valued high. The life of a slave was equal to the usefulness of a high-quality thing. The loss could be easily recovered.

Women and the Reason for the Inequality

When it comes to women, the situation is a bit different. The life of a woman was quite precious as this was a free person. Women’s rights were quite secured. It can be seen when considering laws concerning matrimonial issues. Thus, a wife could find another man (husband) if her first husband was killed or disappeared. The husband had to take care of his wife. He could have the second wife if his first wife was ill, but he had to take care of the latter and could not simply throw her out of his house. The man could divorce a woman but he had to give her dowry back and a part of his property used to rear his children. More so, in some cases women could get divorce if they wanted. However, if the man was against it, the woman had to remain with him.

This can be explained by the status of women in the ancient Babylonian society. Apparently, females were seen as inferior to males. The man was regarded as the master of the house while the woman was only a person performing certain tasks (being nice to the husband, keeping the household, rearing children). Men’s word was final in all situations and women had to follow the rules.


On balance, it is possible to note that the Ancient Babylonian laws were quite fair though rather harsh. People were to live righteously and those who broke rules were punished quite severely. At the same time, slaves and women did not enjoyed the same rights with free men as these two groups had a different status. Women were regarded as inferior to men and slaves were often seen as mere things. Therefore, their lives were valued lower. At the same time, it is necessary to note that even with these inequalities Code of Hammurabi was quite just though quite strict. Ancient Babylonians tried to create an ideal society of equals and they succeeded in this, to a certain extent.

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"Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon." StudyCorgi, 7 Dec. 2020,

1. StudyCorgi. "Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon." December 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. "Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon." December 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. 2020. "Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon." December 7, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Code of Hammurabi and Justice in Babylon'. 7 December.

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