Taking a Closer Look at Hammurabi’s Laws

Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi consisted of more than 280 rules to live by that centered on slavery, ownership of goods, consequences of borrowing, and paying respect to your parents. In this article, you will learn about some of the punishments that citizens were given during the ancient times of Babylon.

When comparing the laws of today to those of ancient Babylon, you would probably say that the consequences for doing wrong were pretty steep. Often times, people were put to death for the crimes they committed. Thieves were especially looked down upon, as well as disrespectful children and disobedient slaves. If one did not receive a punishment of death, they often faced physical consequences that typically involved losing a part of the body, such as an ear or hand.

Even in ancient times, hiding a runaway slave placed you in danger of losing your life, as seen during the Nazi occupation and slavery in the United States. According to the Code of Hammurabi, ” 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.”

While many of the laws survived throughout history, the text for laws 66 to 99 is missing. Below you will learn some of the codes of law following in ancient Babylonian:

“If a slave say to his master: “You are not my master,” if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.”

“If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.”

“If a man hire a sailor and his boat, and provide it with corn, clothing, oil and dates, and other things of the kind needed for fitting it: if the sailor is careless, the boat is wrecked, and its contents ruined, then the sailor shall compensate for the boat which was wrecked and all in it that he ruined.”


“If a sailor wreck any one’s ship, but saves it, he shall pay the half of its value in money.”

Other notable portions of the code of laws include:

” 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 thirtyfold therefor; 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.”

” If any one steal the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.”

” 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.”

 ” If a man let in the water, and the water overflow the plantation of his neighbor, he shall pay ten gur of corn for every ten gan of land.”

“If the gardener do not work in the garden and the product fall off, the gardener shall pay in proportion to other neighboring gardens.”

“If a man violate the wife (betrothed or child-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.”

” If any one be captured in war and there is not sustenance in his house, if then his wife go to another house this woman shall be held blameless.”

” If a woman quarrel with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.”


“If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.”