Hammurabi and his laws

   About 1792 B.C. a strong ruler named Hammurabi came to power in Babylon and conquered the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Hammurabi was more than a great military leader. He turned out to be a wise and just political leader as well. He is best known for the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of laws passed under his direction.
   Hammurabi's code had 282 laws. These laws controlled all aspects of life in Babylon. Agriculture was carefully regulated. For example, people who failed to cultivate their fields or to keep the irrigation canals and ditches in good condition were punished. Some laws concerned commerce and industry, with provisions regarding wages, hours, and working conditions. There were laws dealing with property rights, contracts, and bankruptcy. Others dealt with marriage and divorce. The laws were enforced by judges, under the supervision of the king's advisers and officials.
   The laws of Hammurabi gave some degree of justice to everyone. In that sense, they were a real advance over the political and social customs of the rest of the ancient world. The laws regarding punishment, however, were harsh. The idea of punishment was "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." If a man caused another to lose an eye, then his own eye was put out.
   Justice was not equal for all people, however. If a wealthy man destroyed the eye of a poor man, he did not lose his eye but merely paid a fine. A thief who could not repay what he had stolen was killed. If he had money, he had only to repay more than he had stolen.