The Tweets of Hammurabi

Big shout out to ME from you! I am Hammurabi. The giver of laws. The wall-builder of Babylon. My staff is so straight and my shadow so wide. I’m a wise and perfect king. #uknowme [i]

With my laws, I give justice to the oppressed. I save the weak. I enlighten the land. I destroy evil. And I make great the name of Babylon. #fullplate [ii]

To start, laborers shall be paid an extra gerah between April and August, when the days are long and the work is hard. 😎 Pretty cool, huh? [iii]

Next, if you accuse a man of sorcery, he must leap into the river. And if he sinks? You get his house. But if he floats? Then you die, and he gets your house. #fairsfair [iv]

Scenario: you steal a cow, a sheep, a pig, a goat, or an ass (i.e. donkey, calm down) from GOD or ME, then you will pay thirty times the value. (Steal from a regular dude, ten times is fine.) But if you’re broke? #youdead [v]

So, if a thief cuts a hole into a house, that sucks. He shall be put to death and buried in front of that hole. 👇 Let’s #endholesinhouses. [vi]

Look, if I order you to go to war for me, and you hire a mercenary? Okay, that’s fine. We can work with that. But if you don’t pay them? Then you die and the mercenary gets your house. #dickmove [vii]

Check this out. If a tavern woman refuses corn as payment for drinks, but she will accept money—WTF, right?! She shall be thrown into the water. [viii]

And if a man’s wife is caught in bed with another man? BOTH shall be tied up and thrown into the water. 💦 [ix]

A woman who quarrels with her husband because he neglects her? She is guiltless. But if she complains for no good reason? Into the water. [x]

Ok, ok. I realize it sounds like our river is going to be filled with bodies. But the deterrent will actually keep our waterways free and clear. 👉 #trustme [xi]

Try to follow. So, if a man takes a wife who gives him a maid-servant who bears him children, then the master cannot sell the maid for money. #keepthemaid [xii]

Say a man has sons from a maid-servant and he calls them “my sons,” then so it shall be. They can share in the inheritance after he dies. #familyfirst [xiii]

BUT. If the father does not call them “my sons” before he dies, then they get NO money. Instead, they can go free. ⚖ #compromise [xiv]

Suppose a father betroths his son to a girl, but first the father defiles her. Then the father must re-pay the dowry to the girl. And she is free to seek her true love. #goodluckkid [xv]

All know this: There shall be NO 13th law, for the number is cursed. Should a future king create a 13th law, then let the great Anu break his scepter. [xvi]

Now, if a surgeon kills his patient, his hands will be cut off. 👎 If he kills a slave, he can just replace with another slave of equal or greater value. [xvii]

If a man strikes a pregnant woman and she loses the child, he must pay her ten shekels. If the pregnant woman dies, then the man’s daughter goes into the water. [xviii]

Imagine the son of a prostitute says to his adoptive parents, “You are not my parents!” His tongue shall be cut out. #growup [xix]

Put out someone’s eye, then your eye will be put out. Same goes for broken bones, knocked-out teeth, and so forth. Unless you do it to your own slave, in which case, that’s on you, man. [xx]

Thus, I have spoken. Forever let my name be repeated and my precious code followed. Should future kings keep my laws, then may they rule in glory over all. BUT… [xxi]

…should a lesser king come along and destroy my laws? Curse them with famines, devastation, and rebellion! Plus, death to all their stoopid subjects. 🖕 [xxii]


About the Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi was the sixth King of Babylon, reigning for 42 years roughly around 1700 BC, with the exact timing of his rule hotly debated by scholars who definitely have social lives, okay, so please don’t. Two of the king’s accomplishments were heightening the defensive walls of Babylon and creating his still-famous Code of Hammurabi. The code, now on display at the Louvre in Paris, is one of the oldest preserved and deciphered pieces of writing. It includes 282 laws which establish rules for transactions and assigns punishments for certain crimes and behaviors. To keep the code interesting, it also offers plenty of questionable sex guidelines.

The Babylonian code was written in the now-extinct language of Akkadian, using a wedge-shaped script called cuneiform which was invented by the even older (and just as extinct) Sumerian civilization. The code was carved into a stone slab of basalt, or stele, which was shaped to resemble a giant finger. Scholars logically claim it’s an index finger and not the next finger over, because flipping off your citizens hadn’t become a thing quite yet. They preferred to execute them.


Citations [from L.W. King translation, unless otherwise noted]

[i] “…then 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; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land… Hammurabi, the prince, called of Bel am I… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon… laid the foundations of Sagil… who cared for its inhabitants in their need… the shepherd of the oppressed and of the slaves… who recognizes the right, who rules by law… who humbles himself before the great gods… When Marduk sent me to rule over men, to give the protection of right to the land, I did right and righteousness… and brought about the well-being of the oppressed… the wise king… Hammurabi, the protecting king am I… with the wisdom that Marduk gave me… I am the salvation-bearing shepherd, whose staff is so straight, the good shadow that is spread over my city… in my deep wisdom have I enclosed them…. in order to protect the windows and orphans, I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven and earth…That the strong might not injure the weak… My words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled… the walls of this E-barra (the Sun temple of Sippara)…”

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “273. If any one hire a day laborer, he shall pay him from the New Year until the fifth month (April to August, when days are long and the work hard) six gerahs in money per day; from the sixth month to the end of the year he shall give him five gerahs per day.”

[iv] “2. If a man charge a man with sorcery, and cannot prove it, he who is charged with sorcery shall go to the river, into the river he shall throw himself and if the river overcome him, his accuser shall take to himself his house (estate). If the river show that man to be innocent and he come forth unharmed, he who charged him with sorcery shall be put to death. He who threw himself into the river shall take to himself the house of his accuser.” [from Robert Francis Harper]

[v] “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 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.”

[vi] “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 buried.”

[vii] “26. If a chieftain or a man (common soldier), who has been ordered to go upon the king’s highway for war does not go, but hires a mercenary, if he withholds the compensation, then shall this officer or man be put to death, and he who represented him shall take possession of his house.”

[viii] “108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept corn according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the corn, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.”

[ix] “129. If the wife of a man be taken in lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the water. If the husband of the woman would save his wife, or if the king would save his male servant (he may).” [from Robert Francis Harper]

[x] “142. 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. 143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.”

[xi] [citation lost]

[xii] “146. If a man take a wife and she give this man a maid-servant as wife and she bear him children, and then this maid assume equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.”

[xiii] “170. If his wife bear sons to a man, or his maid-servant have borne sons, and the father while still living says to the children whom his maid-servant has borne: “My sons,” and he count them with the sons of his wife; if then the father die, then the sons of the wife and of the maid-servant shall divide the paternal property in common. The son of the wife is to partition and choose.”

[xiv] “171. If, however, the father while still living did not say to the sons of the maid-servant: “My sons,” and then the father dies, then the sons of the maid-servant shall not share with the sons of the wife, but the freedom of the maid and her sons shall be granted. The sons of the wife shall have no right to enslave the sons of the maid; the wife shall take her dowry (from her father), and the gift that her husband gave her and deeded to her (separate from dowry, or the purchase-money paid her father), and live in the home of her husband: so long as she lives she shall use it, it shall not be sold for money. Whatever she leaves shall belong to her children.”

[xv] “156. If a man betroth a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father’s house. She may marry the man of her heart.”

[xvi] [no 13th law provided] “…may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse his destiny.”

[xvii] “218. If a physician make a large incision with the operating knife, and kill him, or open a tumor with the operating knife, and cut out the eye, his hands shall be cut off. 219. If a physician make a large incision in the slave of a freed man, and kill him, he shall replace the slave with another slave.”

[xviii] “209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss. 210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.”

[xix] “192. If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or mother: ‘You are not my father, or my mother,’ his tongue shall be cut off.”

[xx] “196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out…197. If he break another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.”

[xxi] “Laws of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established. A righteous law, and pious statute did he teach the land… in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness… The king who ruleth among the kings of the cities am I. My words are well considered; there is no wisdom like unto mine… In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them, give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his subjects… If a succeeding ruler considers my words, which I have written in this my inscription, if he do not annul my law, nor corrupt my words, nor change my monument, then may Shamash lengthen that king’s reign, as he has that of me, the king of righteousness, that he may reign in righteousness over his subjects.”

[xxii] “If this ruler do not esteem my words… if he destroy the law which I have given, corrupt my words, change my monument, efface my name, write his name there, or on account of the curses commission another so to do, that man, whether king or ruler, patesi, or commoner, no matter what he be, may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse his destiny. May Bel, the lord, who fixeth destiny, whose command can not be altered, who has made my kingdom great, order a rebellion which his hand can not control; may he let the wind of the overthrow of his habitation blow, may he ordain the years of his rule in groaning, years of scarcity, years of famine, darkness without light, death with seeing eyes be fated to him; may he (Bel) order with his potent mouth the destruction of his city, the dispersion of his subjects, the cutting off of his rule, the removal of his name and memory from the land. May Belit, the great Mother, whose command is potent in E-Kur (the Babylonian Olympus), the Mistress, who harkens graciously to my petitions, in the seat of judgment and decision (where Bel fixes destiny), turn his affairs evil before Bel, and put the devastation of his land, the destruction of his subjects, the pouring out of his life like water into the mouth of King Bel.”

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