Ancient steles are often associated with funerals and commemorating the dead, but they also served other purposes, including citing laws for all to see and drawing attention to great battles. In this article, you will encounter steles linked to the ancient culture of Akkadian Empire led by a Mesopotamian king and of ancient Babylon.
The Victory Stele of Naram-Sin
Steles were also used to depict the triumphs of war and elevate the recognition of warriors and leaders. The victory stele of Naram-Sin is just one example. Found at Susa, the stele now calls the Louvre Museum its home. It shows Naram-Sin wearing a horned helmet to signify a god-king status as he climbs a mountain that overlooks his soldiers and enemies below. The top of the stele was actually broken off at the top and confiscated by the Elamites, but the remaining structure shows a distinct pride, glory, and divinity of Naram-Sin. Some believe this is the first example in history of a culture depicting a king as a god.
The appearance of the stele was also quite different. Instead of following a horizontal pattern, the stele was created using consecutive diagonal tiers. This method was to leave behind a story that onlookers could easily follow. Constructed out of pink sandstone, the stele stands six feet and seven inches tall.
Who is Naram-Sin?
Thanks to Naram-Sin, the Akkadian Empire reached new heights. The leader was the third successor and grandson of Sargon of Akkad , a ruler best known for conquering Sumerian city-states during the 24th and 23rd centuries BC. Naram-Sin became the first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity for himself by taking the title of ‘Sin,’ which makes a reference to ‘god.’ He was also the first to be called “King of the Four Quarters”. During his reign, he traded with successful cultures and controlled a great deal of land located along the Persian Gulf. In later years, he would expand his empire by defeating other kings and taking over the regions occupied by other tribes.
A Stele of Law: Code of Hammurabi
In some cultures, steles served as a way for cultures to spread and enforce their laws. One of the most well preserved examples of ancient law code is the Code of Hammurabi, which dates back to around 1790 BC during the days of ancient Babylon. The laws became a reality when the sixth king of Babylon decided to have them written into stone. Today, there is one nearly complete artifact that has survived the test of time. Standing seven feet and four inches tall, the stele is written inth Akkadian language following the cuneiform script.
The Code of Hammurabi represents only one of several sets of laws associated with the ancient Near East, but one of the most significant. The Code was so important to the ancient Babylonians that not even the king could lay down a law that went against the Code. Some of the laws that have been translated into English include:
Ã‚Â· “If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.”
Ã‚Â· “If a man strikes a pregnant woman, thereby causing her to miscarry and die, the assailant’s daughter shall be put to death.”
Ã‚Â· “If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.”