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Babylonian Class Hierarchy & It’s Presence in Hammurabi’s Code of Law

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    Babylonian Class Hierarchy & It’s Presence in Hammurabi’s Code of Law Upon reading articles and texts concerning Hammurabi’s Code of law, I made a connection between its context and the class hierarchy of early Babylonian civilizations. The structure of the code of law parallels the expectation or rights of those in the different class levels. There are standards that each may be held to, and deviations of those standards have differing penalties for the different classes of peoples.

    What I found to be interesting, was that slaves (the ardu class) were not specifically born of a certain people or race, but could become a slave as a result of being a prisoner of war, through their crimes, their debts or as a means of self chosen servitude to pay a debt. Slaves were much different than that of our countries later slaves, in that they could own property and have slaves of their own, marry a free woman and own land. Their children would be free if their marriage was to a free woman, however, if they were to marry to a slave woman their children would also be slaves.

    The muskinu class was made up of the common people. They were not necessarily wealthy and were often landless. They paid a lesser burden of taxes, fees & fines, as well as less homage to the God’s. They were not of any certain profession or vocation, but were a free class of people. The amlue (man of the family) had great privilege and full civil rights. However, with those rights were bestowed higher monetary burdens and harsher punishments should laws be broken. This class belonged to the King and officials to the court. In the document titled, The Law Code of Hammurabi (Strayer, p. 20), under the heading On Class and Slavery, the differences of consequences among the classes were notable. An example being, how the punishment for “putting the eye out of another man” would be subject to whom committed the crime and to whom the crime was committed. The penalty for putting out the eye of or breaking the bone of a freed man would be one gold mina. If the injured were a slave, then half of the slave’s value would be paid to his master. If the person injured was of a higher class than that of the offender, the penalty was a public beating, where the offender would receive sixty lashes from an ox-whip.

    The same type of inequity was established in the Code of Law in the event that a physician’s penalty or reward for varied upon the result of his efforts and to whom he gave services too. If his procedures were successful upon someone in the amelu class, he’d be paid ten shekels. The price paid for successful treatment of a person in the muskinu class would be five shekels, but for a slave, the fee would be lowered to two shekels. This is a case where one put a price on the value of human life. Although there is a clear distinction of classes, according to both the works of Strayer’s chapter 3 and article by Rev.

    Claude Hermann Walter Johns, M. A. , Babylonia Law- The Code of Hammurabi, I found clarity in the documents provided in Considering the Evidence: Life and Afterlife in Mesopotamia & Egypt (Strayer’s text, pgs. 115-125). The Be a Scribe document, demonstrated how some professions meant greater hardships than others as well as how hierarchies exists among actual professions, as in the case of Scribes and their positions. Another document, The Afterlife of a Pharaoh: A Pyramis Text (Strayer p. 121) mentions how even after death, there will be a type of class distinction in the afterlife.

    Mentioned here are the hidden ones, the great ones and the watchers. It was my interpretation that the hidden ones were possibly the commoners as it stated, “The hidden ones will worship you. ” My reasoning, it implied obedient behavior and respect for a higher class. When the statement, “The great ones surround you. ” This led me to believe that this pharaoh believed he’d become equal to the God, and would be one of the great ones to surround the God. Lastly, when the statement said, “The watchers will wait on you. I took this to mean slaves in the afterlife, perhaps a sort of purgatory for less fortunate souls. I question why the pharaohs needed these incantations to be written in the pyramids, if they were to be of equal stature on Earth? According to Strayer, p. 108, the pharaohs were believed to be a god in human form. I assume it’s the result of a need for reassurance for their place in the afterlife, a last fee paid or plea for their position in the afterlife. Babylonian class hierarchy seemed present in life and the afterlife according to these sources.

    The Code of Hammurabi provided order and guidance as to how to sustain these classes and maintain order amongst the earlier civilizations. Bibliography • Strayer, Robert W. Ways of the World: A Brief Global History, Volume 1 • avalon. law. yale. edu/ancient/hammpre. asp Johns, Rev. Claude Herman Walter, The Avolon Project- Babylonian Law: The Code of Hummuri, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library, 9/29/2012 • www. timemaps. com/civilization/Ancient-Mesopotamia Civilization: Ancient Mesopotamia, 9/26/12

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