Many of you may have heard of Hammurabi's "Law Code", often (incorrectly) called the earliest collection of laws recorded on a 4,000-year-old diorite monument.

But why is this incorrect, what is this extremely cool artefact about, and what do we still not know about it?
The monument that records Hammurabi's Laws is not the earliest collection of legal provisions.

Three centuries earlier, during the best-documented period of history in ancient Iraq, a ruler named Ur-Nammu (or Namma) had laws written out in the Sumerian language.
"If a man presents himself as a witness but is demonstrated to be a perjurer, he shall weigh and deliver 15 shekels of silver."

Written in Sumerian, the Laws of Ur-Nammu date to around 2100 BCE, but many have not survived.
Collections of laws associated with other rulers before Hammurabi have survived from ancient Mesopotamia, and so too have school exercise texts with laws written on them.

This one was written by a scribal student named Belshunu
Anyway back to Hammurabi. Or should I say…Hammurapi?

I don’t know, let's ask Prof. @SethLSanders about how to read his name based on the king's Amorite origins…
“If a man cuts down a tree in another man’s orchard without the permission of the orchard’s owner, he shall weigh and deliver 30 shekels of silver”

One of almost 300 laws written down on Hammurabi’s stela.
“If an awilum (a class of citizen) should blind the eye of another awilum, they shall blind his eye”

An articulation of “an eye for an eye” in Hammurabi’s collection of laws from the 18th century BCE.
It’s even possible to learn something about physicians and medical “malpractice” in the 18th century BCE from Hammurabi’s Laws. Kind of.

I talk about that briefly about 10 minutes into this conversation with @pospo
The legal provisions recorded on Hammurabi’s monument cover ~so many~ scenarios. Marriage, divorce, illicit sex, false accusation, false testimony, grain storage, field usage, venture capital, kidnapping, theft, wet nursing, and much more.
The famous diorite stela is not the only source for Hammurabi’s collection of laws.

They were also copied down in scribal schools by students for over a millennium, which is a really long time and gives some important context for the production and use of the text.
Hammurabi’s monument is not just a list of legal statements. It has a prologue and epilogue that highlight his achievements as king.

“In order that the strong not wrong the weak, to provide just ways for the hungry and widowed, I inscribed my precious pronouncements on my stela"
Here's the funny thing. One of the reasons Hammurabi’s Laws are so fascinating is that there’s almost no evidence they were enforced.

And if they weren’t enforced, then what on earth was the point of them?
...If you want to learn more about Hammurab/pi and his laws, tune in this Friday when @AANDeloucas @SethLSanders @willismonroe Pamela Barmash, and I will discuss this fascinating text.

Open to all. Please join us!…

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid

Dr. Moudhy Al-Rashid Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @Moudhy

2 Apr
In 235 BCE, a boy named Aristocrates was born, and someone made predictions about his life based on where the sun, moon, and planets were in the sky.

“Venus was in 4° Taurus. The place of Venus (means) he will find favour wherever he goes.”
“The moon was in 12° Aquarius. His days will be long.”

According to his horoscope, Anu-belshunu was born on December 29, 248 BCE some time in the evening, probably in Uruk. I just love that we know that about him.
Only ~30 horoscopes survive from ancient Babylonia, and they all contain similar info in a similar order.

Date and time of birth. Positions of the sun, moon, and planets in the zodiac. Eclipses that year. Solstice and equinox data. Sometimes, a prediction.
Read 10 tweets
26 Jan
Calculation of the area of a trapezoid by a student from ancient Babylonia.

Three of the sides are labelled with numbers, and the area is written out in the centre in the sexagesimal notation system as 5,3,20 𒐊 𒁹𒁹𒁹 𒌋𒌋 (= 5 and 1/18th, I think)
Possibly a Babylonian approximation of pi reflected in this drawing of a circle with inscribed numbers.

Read more about it here, including a computational explanation and further biblio…
A school tablet with calculations of the areas of squares with the teacher’s neat copy on one side (left) and a student’s slightly messier work on the other (right). Can you spot the number 9 inside the innermost square? 𒑆

Photo by Klaus Wagensonner…
Read 9 tweets
23 Jan
Thank you so much to the incredible @gregjenner and his team for having me on "You're Dead to Me" and to @kaekurd for being so hilarious and bringing Gilgamesh the restaurant into my life!

Here’s a thread of some of the stuff referenced in the podcast for those interested
First of all, what even is cuneiform?

It’s a writing system from the ancient Middle East, used to write several languages like Sumerian and Akkadian. Cuneiform signs can stand for whole words or syllables. Here’s a little primer of its evolution…
What kinds of texts was cuneiform used to write?

Initially, accounting records and lists.

Eventually, literature, astronomy, medicine, maps, architectural plans, omens, letters, contracts, law collections, and more.
Read 23 tweets
30 Nov 20
Good morning! Ancient Babylonians sometimes paid other people to do their laundry for them.

"The dirty clothes that Shaddinnu has given (me) for cleaning, I will clean the dirty clothes by the 10th day of the month Arahsamna and return them to Shaddinnu"
A handful of clay tablets from Uruk, Babylon, and Borsippa in the middle of the first millennium BCE record contracts for doing laundry.

"Ina-teshi-etir, the washerman...will clean and whiten the whites of the house of Nabû-shumu-ukin", for which he gets paid 1 shekel per year
Akkadian word of the day is zikûtu "laundry" because why not
Read 8 tweets
17 Nov 20
“Will there be a vaccine in 2020?” is a question I wish I could have asked an ancient Babylonian or Assyrian seer in March to assuage anxiety, manage expectations, or make decisions.

Thread on using the organs of sheep to answer specifically worded questions a long time ago
Nature was a clay tablet to the diviner in ancient Mesopotamia. The gods inscribed signs in astronomical phenomena, animal behaviour, plant life, oil, smoke, human physiology, dreams, and animal exta to be read by diviners.

The liver was sometimes called the tablet of the gods.
There is a fancy word in English for liver divination that took me ~3 years to learn to spell: extispicy.

In ancient Mesopotamia, this was the job of the bārû, "seer" or "diviner". A person trained for a Very Long Time to learn to read signs inscribed on the entrails of sheep
Read 21 tweets
26 Jul 20
As we begin to bid farewell to NEOWISE, I want to take a moment to remember the comets that found their way into cuneiform tablets thousands of years ago, and the people who may have felt the same sense of wonder some of us did when looking at the night sky this July.
The Akkadian word for comet is ṣallammû, or ṣallummû. It appears in cuneiform texts from ancient Babylonia that record centuries of observed astronomical phenomena.

AFAIK, these "Astronomical Diaries" are the longest-running dataset for such phenomena from the ancient world
“the comet which previously had been seen in the east in the path of Anu in the area of Pleiades and Taurus, to the west…and passed along in the path of Ea”

The comet known as Halley’s Comet is described in a Babylonian Astronomical Diary from 164 BCE…
Read 11 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!