The Ur-Nammu Law Code
The Ur-Nammu law code is the oldest known, written about 300 years before Hammurabi ‘s law code. When first found in 1901, the laws of Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) were heralded as the earliest known laws. Now older collections are known: They are laws of the town Eshnunna (ca. 1800 BC), the laws of King Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (ca. 1930 BC), and Old Babylonian copies (ca. 1900-1700 BC) of the Ur-Nammu law code , with 26 laws of the 57. This cylinder is the first copy found that originally had the whole text of the code, and it is the world’s oldest law code. Further it actually mentions the name of Ur-Nammu for the first time.
Hammurabi‘s laws represented the inhuman Law of Retaliation, ‘an Eye for an Eye’. One would expect the 300 years older laws of Ur-Nammu would be even more brutal, but the opposite is the case: ‘If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall weigh out 1/2 a mina of silver’.
(Texts: All Artifacts, Color Coding, & Writings in Bold Type With Italics Inside Parenthesis, are Added by Editor R. Brown, not the Authors, Translators, or Publishers!)
( gods in blue … mixed-breed demigods in teal …)
… After An and Enlil had turned over the Kingship of Ur to Nanna ,
at that time did Ur-Nammu , son born of Ninsun ,
( Ninsun , mother to Anunnaki gods, goddesses, & many mixed-breeds appointed to kingships )
for his beloved mother who bore him, in accordance with his principles of equity and truth…
(King Ur-Nammu stands before goddess Ningal of Ur )
Then did Ur-Nammu the mighty warrior, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad,
( Nannar & his son Utu the Sun God , Moon Crescent & 8-Pointed Star symbols of Nannar & Anu )
by the might of Nanna , lord of the city, and in accordance with the true word of Utu ,
establish equity in the land he banished malediction, violence and strife,
and set the monthly Temple expenses at 90 gur of barley, 30 sheep, and 30 sila of butter.
He fashioned the bronze sila-measure, standardized the one-mina weight,
and standardized the stone weight of a shekel of silver in relation to one mina…
The orphan was not delivered up to the rich man the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man
the man of one shekel was not delivered up to the man of one mina.”
(One mina was made equal to 60 shekels).
1. If a man commits a murder, that man must be killed.
2. If a man commits a robbery, he will be killed.
3. If a man commits a kidnapping, he is to be imprisoned and pay 15 shekels of silver.
4. If a slave marries a slave, and that slave is set free, he does not leave the household.
5. If a slave marries a native (i.e. free) person, he/she is to hand the firstborn son over to his owner.
6. If a man violates the right of another and deflowers the virgin wife of a young man, they shall kill that male.
7. If the wife of a man followed after another man and he slept with her, they shall slay that woman, but that male shall be set free.
8. If a man proceeded by force, and deflowered the virgin slavewoman of another man, that man must pay five shekels of silver.
9. If a man divorces his first-time wife, he shall pay her one mina of silver.
10. If it is a (former) widow whom he divorces, he shall pay her half a mina of silver.
11. If the man had slept with the widow without there having been any marriage contract, he need not pay any silver.
13. If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo ordeal by water if he is proven innocent, his accuser must pay 3 shekels.
14. If a man accused the wife of a man of adultery, and the river ordeal proved her innocent, then the man who had accused her must pay one-third of a mina of silver.
15. If a prospective son-in-law enters the house of his prospective father-in-law, but his father-in-law later gives his daughter to another man, the father-in-law shall return to the rejected son-in-law twofold the amount of bridal presents he had brought.
17. If a slave escapes from the city limits, and someone returns him, the owner shall pay two shekels to the one who returned him.
18. If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall weigh out ½ a mina of silver.
19. If a man has cut off another man’s foot, he is to pay ten shekels.
20. If a man, in the course of a scuffle, smashed the limb of another man with a club, he shall pay one mina of silver.
21. If someone severed the nose of another man with a copper knife, he must pay two-thirds of a mina of silver.
22. If a man knocks out a tooth of another man, he shall pay two shekels of silver.
24. […] If he does not have a slave, he is to pay 10 shekels of silver. If he does not have silver, he is to give another thing that belongs to him.
25. If a man’s slave-woman, comparing herself to her mistress, speaks insolently to her, her mouth shall be scoured with 1 quart of salt.
28. If a man appeared as a witness, and was shown to be a perjurer, he must pay fifteen shekels of silver.
29. If a man appears as a witness, but withdraws his oath, he must make payment, to the extent of the value in litigation of the case.
30. If a man stealthily cultivates the field of another man and he raises a complaint, this is however to be rejected, and this man will lose his expenses.
31. If a man flooded the field of a man with water, he shall measure out three kur of barley per iku of field.
32. If a man had let an arable field to a(nother) man for cultivation, but he did not cultivate it, turning it into wasteland, he shall measure out three kur of barley per iku of field.
MS in Sumerian on clay, Sumer, reign of King Shulgi , 2095-2047 BC, 1 cylinder, l. 28 cm, diam. 12 cm, 8 columns (originally 10 columns), 243 lines in cuneiform script.
Binding: Barking, Essex, 1996, green quarter morocco gilt folding case by Aquarius.
The keys and importance of the law
The key to the law is that we can all have access to the regulatory body in a stable manner. With this we are able to be judged equally independent of our origin. Legal systems whose regulations are not written, or ambiguous, lend themselves to applying penalties for reasons other than justice.
The law has brought order and equality to human beings, but not everywhere in the world it is yet. Even with written laws, prosecution procedures may be without warranties. However, the law was the beginning of a world where we are all judged by the same normative body.
Prior to the existence of the law, judges arbitrarily assessed the situation, the evidence and thus delivered a sentence. There were no procedural guarantees or presumption of innocence. Those precepts could be applied if it was right to consider them by the judge. But it was his expertise, experience and values that would determine the outcome.
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language c. 2100-2050 BC. Although the preface directly credits the laws to king Ur-Nammu of Ur (2112-2095 BC), some historians think they should rather be ascribed to his son Shulgi.
The first copy of the code, in two fragments found at Nippur, was translated by Samuel Kramer in 1952 owing to its partial preservation, only the prologue and 5 of the laws were discernible. Further tablets were found in Ur and translated in 1965, allowing some 40 of the 57 laws to be reconstructed. Another copy found in Sippar contains slight variants.
Although it is known that earlier law-codes existed, such as the Code of Urukagina, this represents the earliest legal text that is extant. It predated the Code of Hammurabi by some three centuries.
The laws are arranged in casuistic form of if-(crime), then-(punishment) — a pattern to be followed in nearly all subsequent codes. For the oldest extant law-code known to history, it is considered remarkably advanced, because it institutes fines of monetary compensation for bodily damage, as opposed to the later lex talionis (‘eye for an eye’) principle of Babylonian law however, murder, robbery, adultery and rape were capital offenses.
The code reveals a glimpse at societal structure during the “Sumerian Renaissance”. Beneath the lu-gal (“great man” or king), all members of society belonged to one of two basic strata: The “lu” or free person, and the slave (male, arad female geme). The son of a lu was called a dumu-nita until he married, becoming a “young man” (gurus). A woman (munus) went from being a daughter (dumu-mi), to a wife (dam), then if she outlived her husband, a widow (nu-ma-su) who could remarry.
The prologue, typical of Mesopotamian law codes, invokes the deities for Ur-Nammu’s kingship and decrees “equity in the land”.
“…After An and Enlil had turned over the Kingship of Ur to Nanna, at that time did Ur-Nammu, son born of Ninsun, for his beloved mother who bore him, in accordance with his principles of equity and truth… Then did Ur-Nammu the mighty warrior, king of Ur, king of Sumer and Akkad, by the might of Nanna, lord of the city, and in accordance with the true word of Utu, establish equity in the land he banished malediction, violence and strife, and set the monthly Temple expenses at 90 gur of barley, 30 sheep, and 30 sila of butter. He fashioned the bronze sila-measure, standardized the one-mina weight, and standardized the stone weight of a shekel of silver in relation to one mina… The orphan was not delivered up to the rich man the widow was not delivered up to the mighty man the man of one shekel was not delivered up to the man of one mina.”
One mina ( 1/60 of a talent ) was made equal to 60 shekels ( 1 shekel = 11 grams ) . Among the surviving laws are the following:
Code of Ur-Nammu: the oldest known law code surviving todayThe Sumerian King Ur-Nammu (seated), the creator of the Code of Ur-Nammu, bestows governorship on Ḫašḫamer, ensi of Iškun-Sin (cylinder seal impression, ca. 2100 BCE).
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the most ancient law code surviving today. It is from Ancient Mesopotamia and is scripted on tablets, in the Sumerian language, between 2100 BCE–2050 BCE.
The introduction credits the laws to king Ur-Nammu of Ur (2112 BCE–2095 BCE). The writer who had the laws written onto cuneiform inscriptions is still under dispute. Some scholars have linked it to Ur-Nammu’s son Shulgi.
However, it is known that earlier law codes existed, such as the Code of Urukagina this represents the most ancient surviving legal text. It is three centuries older than the infamous Code of Hammurabi. The laws are arranged in the casuistic form of IF (crime) THEN (punishment)—a model followed in nearly all later codes. It establishes fines of monetary compensation for bodily damage instead of the latter lex talionis (‘eye for an eye’) policy of Babylonian law. However, robbery, murder, rape, and adultery were capital offenses.
The prologue, characteristic of Mesopotamian law codes, invokes the gods for Ur-Nammu’s kingship, Utu and Nanna, and orders “equity in the land.”
Although the preface directly credits the laws to king Ur-Nammu of Ur (2112–2095 BC), the actual author who had the laws written down onto cuneiform tablets is still somewhat under dispute. Some scholars [ who? ] have attributed it to Ur-Nammu's son Shulgi.
Although it is known that earlier law-codes existed, such as the Code of Urukagina, this represents the earliest extant legal text. It is three centuries older than the Code of Hammurabi. The laws are arranged in casuistic form of IF (crime) THEN (punishment)—a pattern followed in nearly all later codes. For the oldest extant law-code known to history, it is considered remarkably advanced, because it institutes fines of monetary compensation for bodily damage, as opposed to the later lex talionis (‘eye for an eye’) principle of Babylonian law however, murder, robbery, adultery and rape were capital offenses.
The code reveals a glimpse at societal structure during the "Sumerian Renaissance". Beneath the lugal ("great man" or king), all members of society belonged to one of two basic strata: The "lu" or free person, or the slave (male, arad female geme). The son of a lu was called a dumu-nita until he married, becoming a "young man" (gurus). A woman (munus) went from being a daughter (dumu-mi), to a wife (dam), then if she outlived her husband, a widow (nu-ma-su), who could remarry.
#historyoflaw://Ur-Nammu Law Code
In this Blog, we will begin a series of texts on law codes brought through history, without any pretensions to investigate these subjects to deep.
As in many other social relations and spheres of life, when it is about pioneer work of man, each of these codes represents a beacon which the later ones naturally followed.
It is right then to start this topic with the first and the oldest code known to man and that is Ur-Nammu Law Code, written in cuneiform and which presents a breakthrough in codification of law through history.
It has been brought by Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu in 2050 BC, founder of the III dynasty of Ur which ruled Mesopotamia in the period from 2047 – 1750 BC. This period is also known as Sumerian renaissance because of cultural, economic and military bloom, firstly of the city of Ur, in which the mentioned Law Code has been brought, and later of whole Mesopotamia.
Today are salvaged only few remnants of the Code in the form of clay tablets and are exposed in the Louvres Museum in Paris. Only a part of prologue, certain articles and some fragments on which are the curses written towards the ones who try in any way to remove the Code have been preserved.
In 1952 the Code has been translated by Samuel Noah Kramer, a leading expert for Sumerian language and civilization, who managed to compile, from the salvaged parts, 22 different fragments into first complete issue, which has been published by the University of Chicago, under the title: „Lamentatio over the destruction of Ur“.
Content of the Code
In original text, the Code had a total of 57 segments – articles, divided into two parts.
In the prologue, a divine origin of the Code is pointed out and it began with the universal premise that people and the law originate from gods, and the king is simply the administrator of those laws. Harsh punishments in the provisions have been deemed unnecessary for most crimes because, as it was thought, people know how to treat each other so a fine has been enough, as the reminder of the rules of conduct.
For these reasons it may rather be called a Codex than a Code, especially when it is known that the Code also regulated the subjects that are not legal today, such as certain esoteric questions, witchcraft etc.
The first part of the Code regulated the sex morale, adultery of a woman, raping, murder, robbery and burglary where harsh penalties have been prescribed, including death sentence and physical punishment.In the case of adultery only one of the perpetrators would be punished, depending on each single situation – if a man would tarnish the honor of a virgin, engaged or a married wife, he would be executed. In the case when someone’s wife would „go after another man“, she would be executed. Therefore, penal provisions referred to, more or less, serious crimes which some of them are still being severely punished even today, excluding, of course, adultery and a few more.
For other offenses the punishment was so called „silver penalty“, unlike latter Codes such as Hammurabi Code, made three centuries later, which contained harsh penal provisions like the principle “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’’ and so on.
In that regard, if a man knocks out a tooth of another man, he was obliged to pay to the damaged two shekels of silver, hence the name „silver penalty“. Somewhat harsher penalty was for kidnapping, where if a man carries out the kidnap, he would be imprisoned and would have to pay 15 shekels of silver.
In second part of the Code, we have defined provisions which mostly referred to institute of God’s judgment. It was an unusual proof because the defendant would be drowned into water, and if he survives he would be “cleansed from false accusation”, so not guilty and he had to be paid a certain amount of silver as compensation for false accusation and trauma he survived. If he does not live, he was guilty. Introduction of this institute was of significant value because it became generally accepted in almost all later Codes of the Old world.
Class society, civil and criminal matter
Ur-Nammu Code, besides criminal, also regulated civil matters, in fragmentary way though. Also, the Code defined a class society – there were three social layers of different legal status. On top was the king (Sumerian: lugal – great man), below him were free folks (Sumerian: lu), and at the bottom were male (arad) and female slaves (gemas).
Specificness of the Code is reflected in remarkable legal technique of normative regulation, in sanctions which were mostly fine penalties, organization of class society, as well as in privileges of men over women. Namely, at that time woman didn’t have huge rights and countries were usually patriarchal, therefore the man was main pillar of society and family and for that reason he was entitled to higher level of legal protection.
All above mentioned resembles significant value and modernity of Ur-Nammu Law Code, which speaks in favor of it the fact that it covered both civil and criminal matter. Therefore, he presented great starting ground for further development of civilization, rule of Ur-Nammu was peaceful and was marked by the flourishing of Mesopotamia, which, evidently, reflected on legislation of that time.
Evolution of legislation in regard to abovementioned Code as the starting point today is unquestionable, and law and norms are a „live matter“ which are in constant change and transformation in search of reorganization of old social relations or simply organization of new social relations which did not exist until then.
The preface directly credits the laws to king Ur-Nammu of Ur (2112–2095 BC). The author who had the laws written onto cuneiform tablets is still somewhat under dispute. Some scholars have attributed it to Ur-Nammu's son Shulgi. Β]
Although it is known that earlier law-codes existed, such as the Code of Urukagina, this represents the earliest extant legal text. It is three centuries older than the Code of Hammurabi. The laws are arranged in casuistic form of IF (crime) THEN (punishment)—a pattern followed in nearly all later codes. For the oldest extant law-code known to history, it is considered remarkably advanced because it institutes fines of monetary compensation for bodily damage as opposed to the later lex talionis (‘eye for an eye’) principle of Babylonian law. However, murder, robbery, adultery and rape were capital offenses.
The code reveals a glimpse at societal structure during the "Sumerian Renaissance". Beneath the lugal ("great man" or king), all members of society belonged to one of two basic strata: the "lu" or free person, or the slave (male, arad female geme). The son of a lu was called a dumu-nita until he married, becoming a "young man" (gurus). A woman (munus) went from being a daughter (dumu-mi) to a wife (dam), then if she outlived her husband, a widow (nu-ma-su), who could remarry.
Centers of Progress, Pt. 5: Ur (Law)
Today marks the fifth installment in a series of articles by HumanProgress.org called Centers of Progress. Where does progress happen? The story of civilization is in many ways the story of the city. It is the city that has helped to create and define the modern world. This bi-weekly column will give a short overview of urban centers that were the sites of pivotal advances in culture, economics, politics, technology, etc.
Our fifth Center of Progress is the Mesopotamian city of Ur during the so-called Sumerian Renaissance, in the 21st century BCE. Ur then served as the capital city of a king named Ur-Nammu. Under his direction, the city issued the oldest surviving legal code in the world, the Code of Ur-Nammu, which predates the better-known Code of Hammurabi by three centuries. Ur-Nammu’s code of laws, which were carved onto terra cotta tablets and distributed throughout his kingdom, represented a significant breakthrough in the history of human civilization.
The Code of Ur-Nammu helped to establish the idea of a set punishment for a particular crime that applied equally to all free persons regardless of their wealth or status. In other words, the code replaced arbitrary standards of justice, which shifted with each new instance of a crime, with a uniform and transparent set of rules. Many of those rules were horrific by modern standards, but the code nonetheless represented a notable development toward what we now consider to be the rule of law.
References in ancient Sumerian poetry suggest the existence of an even older legal code than the Code of Ur-Nammu, called the Code of Urukagina, written in the 24th century BCE. Unfortunately, the text of that earlier code has not survived. The Code of Ur-Nammu, as the oldest surviving legal code, is thus the best window that we have into the origins of lawmaking.
Today, the city of Ur lies in ruins in the desert of southern Iraq. Ur’s Great Ziggurat, erected to honor the Sumerian god of the moon, still stands. The Ur archeological site is also home to what may be the oldest still-standing arch in the world. Many of the artifacts found at Ur have been relocated and can now be seen in the British Museum in London and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology in Philadelphia. Ur is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes our 2nd Center of Progress, Uruk, which is less than 60 miles away.
During its golden age, Ur was the capital of a state holding together all of Babylonia and several territories to its east. It was also a key port of trade between Babylonia and regions to the south and east.
Picture the city, surrounded by palm trees and skillfully irrigated land, made fertile by tributary streams flowing to the river Euphrates that lay to the west. As you approached, you would have seen farmers tending barley fields, fishermen casting their nets into the streams, and herdsmen leading their sheep to graze.
As you entered the bustling urban center itself, you would have observed its many people. Ur’s population eventually swelled to 65,000. That may not seem like a lot—it is roughly the same as the modern-day population of Youngstown, Ohio or Schenectady, New York—but it was around 0.1 percent of the entire global population at the time. Ur would become the most populous city in the world and remain so until around 1980 BCE.
The people of Ur wore skirts or wraps of kaunakes, a woolen fabric with a tufted pattern like overlapping leaves or petals. The rich wore belts of gold or silver, and wealthy women wore hair ornaments and jewelry of the same materials. Everyone, even royalty, went barefoot. Sandals would not appear in the region until centuries later. The city natives mainly had dark hair—the people of Sumer referred to themselves as the “black-headed ones.” The people of Ur likely shared the city streets with oxen pulling along wagons heaped with supplies, and the stench of manure may have been inescapable. The very wealthy traveled in chariots pulled by donkeys, or perhaps onager hybrids.
The city’s architecture featured columns, arches, vaults, and domes. You would perhaps have seen people carrying baskets filled with offerings on their heads walking toward one of the city’s temples to its numerous gods. The city’s temples were richly decorated with statues (often with blue lapis eyes), mosaics, and metal reliefs. The temple columns were sheathed with colorful mosaics or polished copper. Inscribed tablets lay at the temples’ foundations.
You would have seen the space where work had begun on a three-storied ziggurat of mud brick faced with burnt bricks set in bitumen. Upon that platform, a temple would soon be constructed. The temple would tower over the city and be visible from the far distance in the flat surrounding Mesopotamian countryside and honor the moon god Nanna, the patron deity of Ur. The partially reconstructed ziggurat stands today as the most prominent structure of Ur.
At the edge of the sacred precinct was the Royal Cemetery, out of use by that time for fifty-some years. There 2,000 people lay buried—royalty laid to rest wearing elaborate gold ornaments, alongside their attendants, victims of human sacrifice. But the city had abandoned that practice by the era that concerns us.
In the marketplace you would have seen artisans selling their wares such as woolen textiles, clothes and tapestries jars, fluted bowls, and goblets, some made of precious metals elaborate carved stone vessels of chlorite, bearing cuneiform inscriptions ornaments and jewelry of semiprecious stones such as carnelian and precious metals various tools and weapons. Passing through the food stalls you likely would have seen wheat, barley, lentils, beans, garlic, onions, and goat milk. You would have seen stone vessels of precious oils, and wine.
You might have paused at a stall selling carved musical instruments, stopping to admire a lyre featuring lapis lazuli—a stone all the way from the upper reaches of the Kokcha River in what is now Afghanistan, over a thousand miles away. Its presence a reminder of the city’s far-reaching trade.
Moving along, you might have observed two men hunched over a strategy board-game. The Game of Ur was then popular throughout Mesopotamia among people in every social strata. Perhaps you would have heard the players arguing about the rules, and then watched them turn to a clay tablet serving as a rulebook to resolve their dispute. (Such tablets, describing the game’s rules, have survived).
The people of Ur had a guide to help them navigate disputes concerning far larger matters as well. If you were to visit in the year that the locals called the “ Year Ur-Nammu made justice in the land,” believed to be around 2045 BCE, then you could have witnessed a history-altering moment. You would have perhaps had the good fortune to watch as Ur’s messengers disembarked from the city to deliver tablets bearing the new legal code throughout the kingdom.
The Code of Ur-Nammu, as the oldest surviving legal code, helped to redefine how people conceptualized justice. The Code of Ur-Nammu listed laws in a cause-and-effect format (i.e. “ if this, then that”) that specifically outlined different crimes and their respective punishments. A total of thirty-two laws survive. (They can be read here).
The Code of Ur Nammu also introduced the concept of fines as a form of punishment—a notion we still rely on today. Fines ranged from minas and shekels of silver to kurs of barley. (The Sumerian measurement system is not fully understood, but a kur or gur was likely a unit based on the estimated weight that a donkey could carry).
Compared to the later Code of Hammurabi, the Code of Ur-Nammu was relatively progressive, often imposing fines rather than physical punishment on the transgressor. In other words, it often favored compensation for the crime’s victim over the enactment of retributive justice against the crime’s perpetrator. The Code of Hammurabi famously dictated that “ If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.” That “an eye for an eye” rule is also cited in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus. In contrast, the older Code of Ur-Nammu states, “ If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall [pay] half a mina of silver.”
In the prologue to the code, King Ur-Nammu boasted about his various accomplishments and claimed to have established “ equity in the land.” By equity, he did not mean the modern concept of equality—after all, he ruled over a society with widespread slavery. But by establishing uniform punishments for crimes, he meant to ensure that both rich and poor free persons were treated equally before the law. In the prologue he noted, “ I did not deliver the orphan to the rich. I did not deliver the widow to the mighty. I did not deliver the man with but one shekel to the man with one mina (i.e., 60 shekels). … I did not impose orders. I eliminated enmity, violence, and cries for justice. I established justice in the land.”
The king clearly saw his legal code as an important part of his legacy, and wanted to be remembered as a just ruler. The code certainly represented a step forward, when compared to a purely arbitrary system of punishment. It was arguably more humane than some legal codes that followed, such as the aforementioned Code of Hammurabi. That said, the Code of Ur-Nammu is not one that a modern person would want to live under. Some of the laws were ridiculous ( “ If a man is accused of sorcery he must undergo ordeal by water”), sexist ( “ If the wife of a man followed after another man and he slept with her, they shall slay that woman, but that male shall be set free”) or plain barbaric ( “ If a man’s slave-woman, comparing herself to her mistress, speaks insolently to her, her mouth shall be scoured with 1 quart of salt”).
Some of the laws were also confusingly specific, such as: “ If someone severed the nose of another man with a copper knife, he must pay two-thirds of a mina [1.25 pounds] of silver.” Was there a different punishment if the knife used was not made of copper? (Today, if you’re curious, cutting off someone’s nose will land you in prison for one to twenty years—at least in Rhode Island, the only state I could find with a law that specifically mentions nose mutilation).
Today the city of Ur is perhaps best-known for being thought to be the birthplace of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. Abraham is an important figure in the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are thus known as “ the Abrahamic religions” for that commonality.
The advent of laws transformed how communities enact justice by ensuring a uniform and transparent set of rules. While many laws throughout history have proven to be mistakes, and unjust laws continue to pose serious problems in many countries, a system of laws is nonetheless better than a system where punishments are doled out without any consistency and at the whim of a ruler or a mob. By enacting the oldest surviving legal code, Sumerian Renaissance-era Ur has earned its place as our fifth Center of Progress.
- 1 Description
- 2 First Translation
- 3 Ur-Nammu
- 4 Related Links
- 5 Sources
Description of Code of ur-nammu
The Ur-Nammu Code is a code of laws dated between 2100 and 2050 BC. C., during the reign of Ur-Nammu of Ur 2112 – 2095 a. C., cited in the preface to the code. Despite this, some historians have thought that it actually dates from the reign of his son Shulgi , which is why it is also called the “Shulgi code.” It is written in Sumerian and corresponds to the Sumerian Renaissance period . Although it was not the first legal code, it is the first that has come down to us, being a precedent of the more famous “Code of Hammurabi”, written some three hundred years later.
First Translation of Code of ur-nammu
Samuel Noah Kramer made the first translation of the code and it was published in 1952 . It was based on his first find, two fragments found at Nippur . In them the preface and five laws were distinguished. Later another copy was found in Sippar , with slight variations. The code distinguishes two social strata, free men and slaves.
The text is structured in such a way that each crime is followed by a specific punishment, a structure copied in later codes. Unlike the Hammurabi code, whose popular maxim is “an eye for an eye, ” the Ur-Nammu code provides for financial compensation rather than physical damage as payment for certain crimes. However murder, robbery, adultery and kidnapping are considered capital offenses that do not admit such compensation.
Who Was Ur-Nammu
Ur-Nammu was a Sumerian general from Utu-hegal, who rebelled and dethroned him, founding the III dynasty of Ur, with which the Sumerian rebirth and a new stage of splendor in Mesopotamia would come as it was not seen since Sargon of Acad.To ensure his power, he ended the Lagash dynasty, and defeated Nammakhani in 2110 BC. C., almost at the same time as Utukhengal. With this, the support and subjugation of the Sumerian cities was guaranteed. Urnammu subdued Uruk, proclaimed himself king of Uruk and in turn successor of the mythical kings of the city, that is, an uninterrupted succession was invented that related him to Gilgamesh.
He was not an expansionist king, he did not try to build a great empire like Sargon and his successors. Instead he set about uniting the cities of Mesopotamiacentral and southern, and an intense reform work in the administration and construction of infrastructures. One of its great achievements was the creation of a code of laws, the Ur-Nammu Code, based on the economic reparation of damages, which aimed to unite the legal criteria of its entire territory, and guarantee the proper functioning of the economy. Sumerian cities lost the autonomy they enjoyed in another time and came under direct control of the king of Ur.
He is credited with an apparently extensive collection of poems on a Bacchic theme, none of which is preserved today. Also Ur-Nammu can be attributed the first code of laws, written around 2050 BC. The tablet belongs to the collection of the Museum of Oriental Antiquities in Istanbul .His successors would enjoy years of prosperity and political stability, which they would use to expand the borders and create the empire of Ur.