History of Law
Posted by Fredsvenn den april 11, 2013
Code of Urukagina
Fragment of an inscription of Urukagina; it reads as follows: «He [Uruinimgina] dug (…) the canal to the town-of-NINA. At its beginning, he built the Eninnu; at its ending, he built the Esiraran.»
Urukagina (reigned ca. 2380 BC–2360 BC, short chronology), alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler (énsi) of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia. He assumed the title of king, claiming to have been divinely appointed, upon the downfall of his corrupt predecessor, Lugalanda.
He is best known for his reforms to combat corruption, which are sometimes cited as the first example of a legal code in recorded history. Although the actual text has not been discovered, much of its content may be surmised from other references to it that have been found. In it, he exempted widows and orphans from taxes; compelled the city to pay funeral expenses (including the ritual food and drink libations for the journey of the dead into the lower world); and decreed that the rich must use silver when purchasing from the poor, and if the poor does not wish to sell, the powerful man (the rich man or the priest) cannot force him to do so.
Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi’s Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. The Code of Hammurabi (also known as Codex Hammurabi) is one of the earliest and best preserved law codes from ancient Babylon, created ca. 1760 BC (middle chronology). These laws were written on a stone tablet standing over six feet tall that was found in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, Hammurabi’s portrait is in many government buildings throughout the world.
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.
One of the significant events in ancient history is the conquest of Babylon by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. On October 4th, 539 BC, the Persian Army entered the city of Babylon, which was then the capital of the Babylonian state (in central Iraq).
This was a bloodless campaign and no prisoners were taken. Later, on November 9th, King Cyrus of Persia visited the city. Babylonian history tells us that Cyrus was greeted by the people, who spread a pathway of green twigs before him as a sign of honor and peace (sulmu).
Cyrus greeted all Babylonians in peace and brought peace to their city. On this great event, Cyrus issued a declaration, inscribed on a clay barrel known as Cyrus’s inscription cylinder. The charter of Cyrus the Great, a baked-clay Aryan language (Old Persian) cuneiform cylinder, was discovered in 1879 by Hormoz Rassam in Babylon and today is kept in the British Museum. In it, Cyrus the Great described his human treatment of the inhabitants of Babylonia after its conquest by the Iranians. Many historians have reviewed it as the first declaration of human rights.
The document has been hailed as the first charter of human rights, and in 1971 the United Nations was published translation of it in all the official U.N. languages. «May Ahura Mazda protect this land, this nation, from rancor, from foes, from falsehood, and from drought». Selected from the book «The Eternal Land». I am Cyrus. King of the world. When I entered Babylon… I did not allow anyone to terrorise the land… I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being… I put an end to their misfortune. From The First Charter of the Rights of Nations Cyrus, The Great, 539 B.C. Founder of The First Persian Empire.