Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trivia Tuesday! : History Trivia - Answer!

What is the earliest surviving system of laws?

B: Code of Hammurabi!

The Code of Hammurabi is the earliest known example of a ruler publicly proclaiming to his people an entire set of laws, in an orderly arrangement, so that all of men might read and known what was required of them. Hammurabi was a ruler of ancient Babylon, probably from around 1795 B.C. to about 1750 B.C. His code was carved on a black stone monument, in 3,600 lines of cuneiform, standing eight feet high, and obviously intended for public view. This monument was discovered in 1901, not in Babylon, but in the Persian mountains, where it had probably been carried by some triumphant conqueror. It begins and ends with addresses to the gods and curses for anyone who neglects or destroys the law. It then goes on to list an organized code of laws and regulations for society. For example, a judge who makes a mistake in a case of law is to be expelled from his judgeship forever and issued a heavy fine. Any witness who gives false testimony is to be executed. All of the more serious crimes, in fact, are punishable by death -- even unintentional crimes. For instance, if a man builds a house badly, and it collapses and kills its owner, the builder is to be executed. If the owner's son was killed, then the builder's son is to be killed. Many believe the Code of Hammurabi or some similar code of laws to be the source of the Hebrew's edict of "an eye for an eye". The only escape for an accused person was to throw himself into "the river," the Euphrates. If the current carried him to shore alive, he was declared innocent. If he drowned, he was guilty. Although there were definitely earlier codes of law (their existence is even implied in Hammurabi's code), they have all disappeared -- leaving the Code of Hammurabi as the earliest surviving system of laws.