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The Hammurabi Code

The Code of Hammurabi is the emblem of the Mesopotamian civilization. The high basalt stele erected by the king of Babylon in the eighteenth century BC AD is a work of art, a historical and literary work and the most complete legal collection of antiquity, prior to biblical laws. Transported by a prince from the neighboring country of Elam in Iran, in the 12th century BC BC, the monument was exhibited on the acropolis of Susa amidst other prestigious Mesopotamian masterpieces.

The text is written in cuneiform script and in Akkadian language. It is divided into three parts:
- a historical prologue recounts the investiture of King Hammurabi in his role of "protector of the weak and the oppressed", as well as the formation of his empire and his achievements
- a lyrical epilogue summarizes its work of justice and prepares its perpetuation in the future
- these two literary passages frame nearly three hundred laws or rulings, referring to the regulation of daily life in the kingdom of Babylon.

The Code of Hammurabi first of all has a value as a model, as a treatise on the exercise of the judiciary power, written from the perspective of Mesopotamian science which never rises from the particular to the general. The observation of several similar cases does not give rise to the statement of a general and universal principle, that is to say a law. It is not indeed a code of laws in the sense that we hear it today, but rather a collection of case law. The contradictions and illogisms that can be noted (two similar cases involving different results) can be explained by the fact that we are dealing here with particular judgments from which the too intimate elements have been removed, for example the names of the protagonists. Because in Mesopotamia justice was a royal prerogative, Hammurabi presents a choice of the wisest judicial decisions he has had to make himself or ratify.

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