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The Code for the Masters

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History 1121

Western Civilizations

The Code for The Masters

        Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon, enacted the code to bring justice to the land. As Hammurabi stated in the preface of the code: “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak” (The Code of Hammurabi, 1700 BCE). However, the preface of the code seems only like the self-glorification of Hammurabi himself and the 282 laws within the code only acts as a way to ensure the rights of the masters. In other words, the Code of Hammurabi is set to protect the interest of the masters.

The Code of Hammurabi established standards for different kind of situations so that the court would have something to base on when making judgments and deciding punishments. The Code included different types of situations regarding various fields such as slander, trade, slavery, theft, and marriage. The 127th law of the Code states that if anyone cannot prove the accusation of a sister of god or the wife of any one, the person making the accusation should be marked by cutting the skin or hair (The Code of Hammurabi, 1700 BCE). This law prevents people from making false accusations and the defamation of sisters of god or the wife of any one without having solid evidence in advance. This may seem like a law set to protect the female, which in fact is trying to protect the reputation of the god and the wife’s husband, which are all masters of the temple, land, or the court. Another law in the Code of Hammurabi states that:” if the finger is pointed at a man’s wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with the other man, she shall jump into the river for her husband.” (The Code of Hammurabi, 1700 BCE) In other words, the wife must jump into the river and let it decide her fate. The use of the river as a way of deciding one’s guilty is an ancient way of civilization, one that is not just in today’s world but is somehow justice by the gods. But why should the wife jump in the river and have her fate decided and not the other man in the accusation? It would seem unreasonable for just the wife to jump for the husband and not the other man involved. However, if you look at it from the husband’s perspective, in both cases, is the one being protected. Both of the two laws protect the man’s reputation directly or indirectly, sacrificing the wife. The law may seem fair and just, but it’s only there to protect the interest of men in different ways.

While Hammurabi stated that he would make sure the strong does not harm the weak, he had no interest of the weak slaves, whom he sees as property with value rather than a man. Like properties, a slave has no rights at all, and is sometimes treated the same as live stock. A slave cannot disobey his master, if he does not recognize the noble or freed man as his master, his ears would be cut off. The cruelty punishments the law sets for the slaves are shocking.  One law states that anyone who takes the slave of the court or freed man outside the city gates should be put to death (The Code of Hammurabi, 1700 BCE). This is like stealing one’s property, and the punishment is similar to committing theft, being put to death. Another law in the Code of Hammurabi suggested that the wife of a slave must give one-half of all their earnings to the master once the slave husband dies (The Code of Hammurabi, 1700 BCE). This law too made sure that the masters would receive financial benefits for their slaves no matter what their lives would become. This law and many other laws regarding slavery takes away any possible right that a man has from the slaves and brand them as property or merchandise with price and value. The laws in the Code of Hammurabi regulates all actions of the slaves to ensure the interest of their masters. How can the code be just when a man regardless of his social status isn’t treated like a man? Slaves are always the weak and the law just makes sure they stay that way.

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