January 22, 2022

The Code of Hammurabi & the Rule of Law: Why Written Law Matters [No. 86]



3,500 years ago, King Hammurabi of Babylon compiled a series of commands regarding the day-to-day life of his people. These commands, which dealt with topics from divorce to contracts to murder, were preserved on a diorite stela, binding future Babylonian kings to Hammurabi’s new code of law.

How can a written legal code affect the rule of law? Dr. Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College discusses the 282 laws which can be found on this artifact and how they have influenced law codes from the Book of Deuteronomy to American legal codes.

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no particular legal or public policy positions. All opinions expressed are those of the speaker.

Learn more about Paul Rahe:

Paul Rahe

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Related Links & Differing Views:

Archaeology: “Laws”
https://www.archaeology.org/issues/213-1605/features/4366-cuneiform-laws

Project Gutenberg: “The Oldest Code of Laws in the World by King of Babylonia Hammurabi”
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/17150/17150-h/17150-h.htm

Fordham University: “Ancient History Sourcebook: Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 BCE”
https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/ancient/hamcode.asp

The Federalist Society Blog: “Ruminations on the Rule of Law”
https://fedsoc.org/commentary/blog-posts/ruminations-on-the-rule-of-law

Cato Institute: “Remember the Common Law”
https://www.cato.org/policy-report/marchapril-2016/remember-common-law

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