Selections from The Law Code of Hammurabi, ca. 1750 B.C.

6. If a man has stolen the goods of temple or palace, that man shall be killed, and he who has received the stolen thing from his hand shall be put to death.

8. If a man has stolen ox or sheep or ass, or pig, or ship, whether from the temple or the palace, he shall pay thirtyfold. If he be a poor man, he shall render tenfold. If the thief has nought to pay, he shall be put to death.

14. If a man has stolen the son of a freeman, he shall be put to death.

21. If a man has broken into a house, one shall kill him before the breach and bury him in it (?).

22. If a man has carried on brigandage, and has been captured, that man shall be put to death.

40. A public official, merchant, or foreign sojourner may sell his field, his garden, or his house; the buyer shall carry on the business of the field, garden, or house which he has bought.

42. If a man has taken a field to cultivate and has not caused the corn to grow in the field, and has not done the entrusted work on the field, one shall put him to account and he shall give corn like its neighbor.

48. If a man has a debt upon him and a thunderstorm ravaged his field or carried away the produce, or the corn has not grown through lack of water, in that year he shall not return corn to the creditor, he shall alter his tablet and he shall not give interest for that year.

49. If a man has taken money from a merchant and has given to the merchant a field planted with corn or sesame, and said to him, “Cultivate the field, reap and take for thyself the corn and sesame which there is,” if the cultivator causes to grow corn or sesame in the field, at the time of harvest the owner of the field forsooth shall take the corn or sesame which is in the field and shall give corn for the money which he took from the merchant, and for its interests and for the dwelling of the cultivator, to the merchant.

53. If a man has neglected to strengthen his bank of the canal, has not strengthened his bank, then a breach has opened out itself in his bank, and the waters have carried away the meadow, the man in whose bank the breach has been opened shall render back the corn which he has caused to be lost.
54. If he is not able to render back the corn, one shall give him and his goods for money, and the people of the meadow whose corn the water has carried away shall share it.

57. If a shepherd has caused the sheep to feed on the green corn, has not come to an agreement with the owner of the field, without the consent of the owner of the field has made the sheep feed off the field, the owner shall reap his fields, the shepherd who without consent of the owner of the field has fed off the field with sheep shall give over and above twenty gur (one kind of measure) of corn per gan (another measure) to the owner of the field.

59. If a man without the consent of the owner of the orchard has cut down a tree in a man’s orchard, he shall pay half a mina of silver.

64. If a man has given his garden to a gardener to farm, the gardener as long as he holds the garden shall give to the owner of the garden two-thirds from the produce of the garden, and he himself shall take one-third.

107. If a merchant has wronged an agent and the agent has returned to his merchant whatever the merchant gave him, the merchant has disputed with the agent as to what the agent gave him, that agent shall put the merchant to account before god and witnesses, and the merchant because he disputed the agent shall give to the agent whatever he has taken sixfold.

109. If a wine merchant has collected a riotous assembly in her house and has not seized those rioters and driven them to the palace, that wine merchant shall be put to death.

110. If a consecrated woman who is not living in the convent has opened a wine shop or has entered a wine shop for drink, one shall burn that woman.

117. If a man has seized another for debt, and the debtor has given his wife, his son, his daughter for the money, or has handed over to work off the debt, for three years they shall work in the house of their buyer or exploiter, in the fourth year he shall fix their liberty.
118. If a debtor has handed over a male or female slave to work off a debt, and the merchant shall remove and sell them for money, no one can object.
119. If a man has seized a debtor, and the debtor has handed over for the money a female slave who has borne him children, the owner of the slave shall pay the money the merchant paid him, and he shall ransom her.

127. If a man has caused the finger to be pointed against a consecrated woman or a man’s wife, and has not justified himself, that man they shall throw down before the judge and brand his forehead.

129. If the wife of a man has been caught in lying with another male, one shall bind them and throw them into the waters. If the owner of the wife would save his wife or the king would save his servant (he may).

130. If a man has forced the wife of a man who has not known the male and is dwelling in the house of her father, and has lain in her bosom and one has caught him, that man shall be killed, the woman herself shall go free.

131. If a husband has accused his wife, and she has not been caught in lying with another male, she shall swear by God and shall return to her house.

132. If a wife of a man on account of another male has had the finger pointed at her, and has not been caught in lying with another male, for her husband she shall plunge into the holy river.

134. If a man has been taken captive, and his house is not being maintained, and his wife has entered into the house of another, that woman has no blame.

136. If a man has left his city and fled, and after that his wife has entered the house of another, if that man shall return and has seized his wife, because he hated his city and fled, the wife of the truant shall not return to her husband.

138. If a man has put away his bride who has not borne him children, he shall give her money as much as her dowry, and shall pay her the marriage portion which she brought from her father’s house, and shall put her aside.

141. If the wife of a man who is living in the house of her husband has set her face to leave and has acted the fool, has wasted her house, has belittled her husband, one shall put her to account, and if her husband has said, “I put her aside,” he shall put her aside and she shall go her way; he shall not give her anything for her divorce. If her husband has not said “I put her aside,” her husband shall marry another woman, that woman as a maidservant shall dwell in the house of her husband.

142. If a woman hates her husband and has said “Thou shalt not possess me,” one shall enquire into her past what are her faults. And if she has been economical and has no vice, and her husband has gone out and greatly belittled her, that woman has no blame, she shall take her marriage portion and go off to her father’s house.
143. If she has not been economical, a goer about, has wasted her house, has belittled her husband, one shall throw that woman into the waters.

154. If a man has known his daughter, one shall expel that man from the city.

155. If a man has betrothed a bride to his son and his son has known her, and he afterwards has lain in her bosom and one has caught him, one shall bind that man and cast her into the waters.

165. If a man has apportioned to his son, the first in his eyes, field, garden, and house, has written him a sealed deed, after the father has gone to his fate, when the brothers divide, he shall take the present his father gave him, and over and above he shall share equally in the goods of the father’s house.

168. If a man has set his face to cut off his son, has said to the judge “I will cut off my son,” the judge shall enquire into his reasons, and if the son has not committed a heavy crime which cuts off from sonship, the father shall not cut off his son from sonship.

175. If either the slave of the palace or the slave of the poor man has taken to wife the daughter of a gentleman, and she has borne sons, the owner of the slave shall have no claim on the sons of the daughter of a gentleman for servitude.

180. If a father to his daughter a votary, bride, or vowed woman has not granted a marriage portion, after the father has gone to his fate, she shall share in the goods of the father’s house a share like one son, as long as she lives she shall enjoy, after her it is her brothers’ forsooth.

194. If a man has given his son to a wet nurse, that son has died in the hand of the wet nurse, the wet nurse without consent of his father and his mother has procured another child, one shall put her to account, and because, without consent of his father and his mother, she has procured another child, one shall cut off her breasts.

195. If a man has struck his father, one shall cut off his hands.

196. If a man has caused the loss of a gentleman’s eye, one shall cause his eye to be lost.

197. If he has shattered a gentleman’s limb, one shall shatter his limb.

200. If a man has made the tooth of a man that is his equal to fall out, one shall make his tooth fall out.
201. If he has made the tooth of a poor man to fall out, he shall pay one-third of a mina of silver.

202. If a man has struck the strength of a man who is great above him, he shall be struck in the assembly with sixty strokes of a cow-hide whip.
203. If a man of gentle birth has struck the strength of a man of gentle birth who is like himself, he shall pay one mina of silver.
204. If a poor man has struck the strength of a poor man, he shall pay ten shekels of silver.
205. If a gentleman’s servant has struck the strength of a free-man, one shall cut off his ear.

209. If a man has struck a gentleman’s daughter and caused her to drop what is in her womb, he shall pay ten shekels of silver for what was in her womb.
210. If that woman has died, one shall put to death his daughter.

215. If a doctor has treated a gentleman for a severe wound with a bronze lancet and has cured the man, or has opened an abscess of the eye for a gentleman with the bronze lancet and has cured the eye of the gentleman, he shall take ten shekels of silver.
216. If he (the patient) be the son of a poor man, the doctor shall take five shekels of silver.
217. If he be a gentleman’s servant, the master of the servant shall give two shekels of silver to the doctor.

218. If the doctor has treated a gentleman for a severe wound with a lancet of bronze and has caused the gentleman to die, or has opened an abscess of the eye for a gentleman with the bronze lancet and has caused the loss of the gentleman’s eye, one shall cut off the doctor's hands.
219. If a doctor has treated the severe wound of a slave of a poor man with a bronze lancet and has caused his death, he shall render slave for slave.
220. If a doctor has opened an abscess with a bronze lancet and has made a man lose his eye, the doctor shall pay money, half his price.

233. If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not jointed his work, and the wall has fallen, that builder at his own cost shall make good that wall.

234. If a boatman has navigated a ship of sixty gur (a measure) for a man, he shall give him two shekels of silver for his fee.

235. If a boatman has navigated a ship for a man and has not made his work trustworthy, and in that same year that he worked that ship it has suffered an injury, the boatman shall exchange that ship or shall make it strong at his own expense and shall give a strong ship to the owner of the ship.

273. If a man has hired a laborer, from the beginning of the year until the fifth month, he shall give six gerahs (a measure) of silver per diem; from the sixth month to the end of the year, he shall give five gerahs of silver per diem.

282. If a slave has said to his master “Thou art not my master,” as his slave one shall put him to account and his master shall cut off his ear.

Adapted from the translation of C. H. W. Johns, 1903.

 

Last Updated: 8 January 2017