Now, what is the oldest written law? What is the first set of laws made and written by man? The above principles are far removed in the spirit of modern systems of general and civil law, but some may be more familiar. One of these principles is the presumption of innocence; The first two laws of the stele prescribe penalties set by the Lex Talionis for unfounded accusations. Written evidence was highly valued, particularly in contractual matters,[131] [42] A crime was punished only once. [132] The statutes also recognized the importance of the accused`s intentions. [123] Finally, the establishment of the Code of Public Stelae was intended to improve access to justice. Whether this is true or not, suggesting that the stele be read to an unjust man (lines 3240`–3254`)[note 1] is a concrete step in this direction, given the inaccessibility of scribe training in Babylonian times. [133] When the exalted Anu, king of the Anunnaki and of the Bel, lord of heaven and earth, the one who determines the fate of the land, entrusted to Marduk the dominion of all mankind, when they pronounced the exalted name of Babylon, when they made him famous in the corners of the world and established within it an eternal kingdom, whose foundations were as solid as heaven and earth, Anu and Bel then called me: Hammurabi, the exalted prince, the worshipper of the gods, to bring justice to the land, to destroy the wicked and wicked, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, to enlighten the earth, and to promote the welfare of the people. Hammurabi, the governor appointed by Bel, is I who brought abundance and abundance. (Durant, p. 219) Hammurabi repeatedly refers to himself as na`dum, «pious» (lines 61, 149, 241 and 272). The metaphor of Hammurabi as the shepherd of his people also returns. This was a common metaphor for the ancient kings of the Near East, but may be justified by Hammurabi`s interest in the affairs of his subjects.

[62] His affinity for many different gods is emphasized throughout. He is portrayed as devoted to the restoration and maintenance of temples and incomparable on the battlefield. The list of his achievements contributed to the fact that the text was written at the end of Hammurabi`s reign. According to the list, Hammurabi states that he responded to Marduk`s request to establish «truth and justice» (kittam u mīšaram) for the people (292-302), although the prologue never directly refers to the laws. [63] The prologue ends «at this time» (303: inūmišu) and the laws begin. [64] [Note 1] At first glance, the document looks like a highly organized code, similar to the Justinian Code and the Napoleonic Code. [92] There is also evidence that the dīnātum, which sometimes refers to individual «laws» in the Hammurabi Code, has been applied. [93] A copy of the codex calls it ṣimdat šarrim, «royal decree,» which is a kind of forced legislation. [94] Whenever people had legal problems, they sought advice from lawyers who studied the laws. These opinions were written and collected to be part of the law.

Although other written Mesopotamian laws discovered later, including the Sumerian «Lipit-Ishtar» and «your-Nammu,» are hundreds of years older than Hammurabi`s legislator, Hammurabi`s reputation remains that of a pioneering legislator who, in the words of his monument, worked to «prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to ensure that justice is done to widows and orphans.» The laws are expressed in the casuistic format: they are conditional judgments, with the case described in the protasis («if» clause) and the remedy in the apodosis («then» clause). Protasis begins šumma «if»,[138] unless it adds circumstances already provided for in a previous law (e.g. Laws 36, 38 and 40). [139] The past tense is used for simple past verbs in protasis or possibly for a simple conditional. [138] The perfect often appears at the end of protasis after one or more times spent transmitting a sequence of actions or possibly a hypothetical condition. [138] The durative, in which Assyriology is sometimes called the «present,» can express intention in laws. [138] To facilitate reading in English, some translations give present meaning to past tense and perfect verbs in protasis. [140] In apodose, verbs are durative, although the meaning varies between permissive – «x is allowed to happen» – and instructive – «x must/will occur». [141] In protasis and apodose, the sequence of actions is mediated by the suffix of verbs with -ma, «and». [142] -ma can also have the meaning «but».

[143] If someone breaks another man`s limb and does not apologize, then the other man can break the first man`s limb in return. It`s crazy, but the lesser-known code of your-Nammu (c. 2100-2050 BC) predates the Code of Hammurabi (1754 BC). From Mesopotamia, the your-Nammus codes were written in Sumerian and are the oldest known written laws. The prologue and the epilogue together constitute a fifth of the text.