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Translated by L. W. King, University of Evansville

While the precise date of Hammurabi's Code of Laws is disputed by scholars, it is generally believed to have
been written between the second year of his reign, circa 1727 BCE, and the end of his reign, circa 1780 BCE,
predating the Hebrew "Ten Commandments" by about 500 years. Perhaps the single most striking feature of
Hammurabi's Code is its commitment to protection of the weak from being brutalized by the strong. He believed
that he had been ordained by his gods Anu (God of the Sky) and Bel (The Lord of Heaven and Earth, the God of
Destiny) to establish the rule of law and justice over his people.
In his own words, Hammurabi said: "Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who
feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so
that the strong should not harm the weak..." He referred to himself as the "shepherd of the oppressed and of the
slaves," and ordered that "these my precious words" be written upon his memorial stone, before his image
"That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans ... in order to bespeak
justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries ..."
Hammurabi's Code addressed the right of the poor to seek redress from wrongs committed by the wealthy or by
the nobility. It also addressed the rights of women, including the rights of women to own property in their own
names, and even the right to divorce a husband for grounds which would be recognized even today
3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he
shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.
6. If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who
receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.
8. If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall
pay thirty-fold therefore; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing
with which to pay he shall be put to death.
14. If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
15. If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city
gates, he shall be put to death.
16. If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not
bring it out at the public proclamation of the major domus, the master of the house shall be put to death.
21. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be
22. If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.
25. If fire break out in a house, and some one who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the
owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.

109. If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not reported, captured, and
delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
110. If a "sister of a god" open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
127. If any one "point the finger" (slander) at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this
man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)
128. If a man take a woman to wife, but have no intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
129. If a man's wife be surprised (in flagrante delicto) with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the
water and drowned, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.
130. If a man violate the wife of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father's house,
and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.
138. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of
her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.
145. If a man take a wife, and she bear him no children, and he intend to take another wife: if he take this
second wife, and bring her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.
153. If the wife of one man on account of another man has their mates (her husband and the other man's wife)
murdered, both of them shall be impaled.
154. If a man be guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).
192. If a son shows disrespect to his mother or father, his tongue shall be cut off.
195. If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. [An eye for an eye ]
197. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.
199. If he put out the eye of a man's slave, or break the bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.
200. If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. [A tooth for a tooth ]
210. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child and she dies, his daughter shall be put
to death.
229. If the actions of one man cause the death of another, then he shall be put to death in like manner.
230. If the actions of one man cause the death of anothers son or daughter, then his son or daughter shall be
put to death.
252. If a man kill another man's slave, he shall pay one-third of a the cost of that slave.

Hebrew Law: Exodus, Leviticus, & Deuteronomy

This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 1, edited by Paul Brians, Department of English
Washington State University.

The Sacred Jewish Text is divided into three parts: the Law (Torah), the Prophets, and a miscellaneous group
of works known as the Writings, which correspond roughly to the Christian Old Testament. The Law is viewed
by pious Jews as a special blessing granted God's chosen people to show them the path to virtue while other
peoples languish in ignorant sin. Many people assume that the ethics of Judaism and Christianity are based
primarily on the Ten Commandments, but in fact Jews are called to observe some six hundred commandments.
The first ten are set apart, and repeated, in the text, and are obviously considered as important; but in some
ways the subsequent laws are more revealing. Almost all peoples have outlawed murder, theft, and adultery,
however they defined them; but the other Jewish laws reflect the attitudes and customs of the people who
followed them. Unlike in Christianity, belief is not the central issue--obedience is.

Exodus 20:12-17

Thou shalt not kill.


Thou shalt not commit adultery.


Thou shalt not steal.


Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his
manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I
have talked with you from heaven.

Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace
offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy
tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

Exodus 21:12-25

He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile (malice); thou shalt take him
from mine altar, that he may die.

He that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.


He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.


He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

22-25 If men strike and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, then thou shalt give life for
life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound. . .

Exodus 22:1-4
If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four
sheep for a sheep.
If a man shall steal any property and it be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, ass, sheep,
or other animal, he shall restore double.

Exodus 23:1

Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

Leviticus 20:9-10
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father
or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.
And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with
his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 19:16-19
16-19 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then shall ye do
unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.

Deuteronomy 22:22-29
If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the
man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
28-29 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and
they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto her father fifty pieces of silver, and she shall be his

Deuteronomy 24:1-7
When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes,
because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her
hand, and send her out of his house.
If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him,
or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.

Twelve Tables of Roman Law

Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1901), Vol. III: The Roman
World, pp. 9-11.

The earliest attempt by the Romans to create a code of law was the Laws of the Twelve Tables. A commission of ten men
(Decemviri) was appointed (c. 455 B.C.) to draw up a code of law binding on both patrician and plebeian and which
consuls would have to enforce. The commission produced enough statutes to fill ten bronze tablets. The plebeians were
dissatisfied and so a second commission of ten was therefore appointed (450 B.C.) and two additional tablets were
added. What follows are a selection from the Twelve Tables. [Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original
Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1901), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 9-11. See also Lex
Duodecim Tabularum, by George Long in William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray,
London, 1875, pp. 688-690.]

Concerning judgments and thefts.
Law IV. Where anyone commits a theft by night, and having been caught in the act is killed, he is legally
Law V. If anyone commits a theft during the day, and is caught in the act, he shall be scourged, and given up
as a slave to the person against whom the theft was committed. If he who perpetrated the theft is a slave, he
shall be beaten with rods and hurled from the Tarpeian Rock.
Law VIII. When anyone accuses and convicts another of theft which is not manifest, and no stolen property is
found, judgment shall be rendered to compel the thief to pay double the value of what was stolen.
Law XVIII. A freeman who has committed theft will be flogged and consigned (placed into slavery) to the
injured person.
Concerning the rights of a father, and of marriage.
Law I. A father shall have the right of life and death over his son born in lawful marriage, and shall also have
the power to render him independent, after he has been sold three times.
Law V. Either an adoptive or a natural father is permitted to kill with his own hands an adulterer caught in the
act with his daughter in his own house or the hosue of his son-in-law, no matter what the rank.
Law VI. A husband who surprises his wife in adultery can only kill the adulterer and then dismiss his wife
Concerning ownership and possession.
Law V. Where a woman, who has not been united to a man in marriage, lives with him for an entire year
without her being interrupted for three nights, she shall pass into his power as his legal wife.
Law X. If a husband desires to divorce his wife, and dissolve his marriage, he must give a reason for doing so.

Concerning crimes.
Law II. If you cause any unlawful damage . . . .[2] accidentally and unintentionally, you must make good the
loss, either by tendering what has caused it, or by payment.
LAW VI. Anyone who, knowingly and maliciously, burns a building, or a heap of grain left near a building,
after having been placed in chains and scourged, shall be put to death by fire.[1]
LAW VII. When a person, in any way, causes an injury to another which is not serious, he shall be punished
with a fine of twenty asses.
LAW VIII. When anyone publicly abuses another in a loud voice, or writes a poem for the purpose of insulting
him, or rendering him infamous, he shall be beaten with a rod until he dies.
LAW IX. When anyone breaks or maimed a member of another, and is unwilling to come to make a settlement
with him, he shall be punished by the law of retaliation (ie: an eye for an eye, a limb for a limb, ..)
LAW XII. Anyone who gives false testimony shall be hurled from the Tarpeian Rock.
LAW XIII. If anyone knowingly and maliciously kills a freeman, he shall be guilty of a capital crime. If he
kills him by accident, without malice and unintentionally, let him substitute a ram to be sacrificed publicly by
way of expiation for the homicide of the deceased, and for the purpose of appeasing the children of the latter.
LAW XV. Anyone who kills an ascendant (elder / relative), shall have his head wrapped in a cloth, and after
having been sewed up in a sack, shall be thrown into the water.[2]
LAW XVI. Where anyone is guilty of fraud, if any theft is proved to have been committed, he shall, by the
payment of double damages, be compelled to make good the loss which he caused.
Concerning public law.
Law III. When a judge, or an arbiter appointed to hear a case, accepts money, or other gifts, for the purpose of
influencing his decision, he shall suffer the penalty of death.
Law VII. If anyone should stir up war against his country, or delivers a Roman citizen into the hands of the
enemy, he shall be punished with death

Justinian Code of the Byzantine Empire

By Justice Fred H. Blum, University of Wyoming College of Law
The Codex Justinianus (Code of Justinian, Justinian's Code) was the first part to be completed, on April 7, 529 A.D. It collects the
constitutiones of the Roman Emperors. The earliest statute preserved in the code was enacted by Emperor Hadrian; the latest came
from Justinian himself. The compilers of the code were able to draw on earlier works such as the official Codex Theodosianus and
private collections like the Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus. Due to legal reforms by Justinian himself, this work
later needed to be updated, so a second edition of the Codex (the so-called "Codex repetitae praelectionis") was issued in 534, after
the Digest. The Code reflects the social order of the later Empire. The position of the emperor as an absolute monarch with unlimited
legislative, executive and judicial power is implicit throughout.

Book IV
Part I Theft
4.1.5. The penalty for manifest (witnessed) theft is quadruple the value of the thing stolen, whether the thief be a slave or
a freeman; that for theft not manifest is double.

4.1.6. It is theft, not only when anyone takes away a thing belonging to another, in order to appropriate it, but
generally when anyone deals with the property of another contrary to the wishes of its owner.
4.1.9. If there be a theft of free persons, as if one of our children in our power is carried away, that will constitute
kidnapping, which will be a capital crime.

Part II - Goods Taken by Force.

4.2.1. This actio can only be brought against a person who robs with the intention of committing a willful
4.2.2. If this action be proven that will constitute robbery, which will be according to the Twelve tables.

Part III - The Lex Aquilia. (Wrongful Death)

4.3.1. If anyone shall have wrongfully killed a slave, he shall be condemned to pay the owner the greatest value which the
thing has possessed at any time within a year previous.
4.3.2. To kill wrongfully is to kill without any right: consequently, a person who kills a thief is not liable to this actio, that
is, if he could not otherwise avoid the danger with which he was threatened.
4.3.3. Nor is a person made liable by this law who has killed by accident, provided there is no fault on his part, for this
law punishes fault as well as willful wrong-doing.

Part IV. Injuria. (Injury)

4.4.7. The penalty for injuries under the law of the Twelve Tables was a limb for a limb, but if only a bone was fractured,
pecuniary compensation being exacted proportionate to the great poverty of the times.
4.4.10. Lastly, it must be observed that in every case of injuria he who has received it may bring either a criminal or a
civil actio.

Book V
Title V. - Concerning void marriages.
5.5.1. - If a freedwoman, your wife, has left you against your will, she cannot form an alliance with another, if you want to
retain her as you wife.
5.5.6. - If anyone has become polluted by an impure, incestuous, or forbidden marriage he may hold his own property as
long as he lives but shall be considered as having no wife, nor any children whom she may bear.

Book VI
Title I. - Concerning fugitive slaves and freedmen
6.1.1. - It is manifest that a fugitive slave commits a theft of himself.

6.1.7. - If anyone undertakes to hide a slave, he shall not only be compelled to restore him, but shall also pay to the owner,
by way of punishment, twelve pounds of silver.

Book IX
Title IX. - As to the Julian law concerning Adultery and Seduction.
9.9.1. - The Julian law declares that women do not have the right of making an accusation of adultery, for the purpose of a
public prosecution, although they wish to complain of the violation of their marital rights; the law which gives to males
the right to bring accusation, pursuant to their rights as husbands, does not give the same privilege to a wife.
9.9.4. - A father is permitted to kill his married daughter and her lover if caught in the act of adultery in his house or in
that of her husband, but he must slay them on the spot. He can under no circumstances slay his wife, although he might
kill an adulterer, if caught in the act.

Title XIII.- Concerning the ravishment of virgins or widows or nuns.

9.13.1. - We decree that ravishers of respectable or free-born virgins, whether betrothed or not, and of widows of all
kinds, including freedwomen and the slaves of others, shall, guilty the worst of crimes, be visited with capital punishment.

Title XIV. - Concerning the correction of slaves.

9.14.1. - If a master punishes his slaves with rods or straps, or throws him in chains in order to keep him in custody, he
need have no fear of a charge of a crime if the slave should die, no matter when that may be.

Title XVI. - As to the Cornelian law about assassins (murderers)

9.16.6. - Whoever, man or woman, has committed the crime of homicide, must know that
he or she is to be visited with capital punishment.

Title XX. - As to the Fabian law on kidnapping.

9.20.15. - A person who sells a free person, whose status he knows, against his will, is subject to the penalty of the crime
of kidnapping.
9.20.16. - Kidnappers who deprive parents of their living children, shall, after conviction, be thrown to the beasts, if he is
a slave or freedman; and shall be punished by the sword, if he is free-born.

Title XXII. - As to the Cornelian law concerning falsification

9.22 - False testimony given in a court proceeding is a grave crime. Whoever gives false testimony is punishable the same
as a forger, by deportation and confiscation of all property. A man who gives false testimony to convict a person of a
capital crime is punished the same as a murderer, the penalty of which is death for the common people and deportation for
persons of rank.

Title XXXIII. - Concerning robbery.

9.33.1. - The law is clear that an action for robbery, which in addition to the penalty brings back what has been carried
away, applies to movable and self-moving property. The persons guilty thereof will be punished severely according to the
circumstances of the case. Highway robbers, are punished by relegation (banishment) or by being sent to the mines, and if
frequently convicted, by death.

Title XXXV. - Concerning intentional (outrage), wrongs to persons (injuries).

9.35.1. - No malicious wrong may be lawfully inflicted even on the slaves of others.
9.35.7. - An action for malicious wrong is not a public prosecution but is a private suit.

Title XLVI. - Concerning malicious accusers.

9.46.10. - Whoever institutes an accusation may know that reckless lying will not remain unpunished, since retaliation in
punishment calls for revenge upon malicious accusers. (Punishment shall be the same as the crime accused, should it have
produced a conviction)