Born: 1810 BC
Died At Age: 60
Born Country: Iraq
Born in: Babylon, Iraqi
Famous as: Babylon King
Emperors & Kings
children: Iraqi, Samsu-iluna
Died on: 1750 BC
Cause of Death: Natural Causes
Who was Hammurabi?
Hammurabi was the sixth ruler of the First Dynasty of Babylon. He hailed from the Amorite tribe. He took over the kingdom from his father Sin-Muballit. During his reign, Hammurabi expanded the kingdom to take control of ancient Mesopotamia. When he came to the throne, the kingdom of Babylon along the Euphrates River only consisted of the cities of Babylon, Kish, Sippar, and Borsippa. With his military prowess and successive military campaigns, he conquered other states in the Babylonian kingdom as well. He is also remembered for his code of laws that has 282 rules. It is believed that the Hammurabi code of laws was a benchmark for commercial interactions and it levied fines on those who failed to meet its conditions. The code was carved onto a black stone pillar. However, it was stolen by invaders. It was only rediscovered at the start of the 20th century. His laws were also used to improve the lives of the people in his kingdom. His code was so influential that numerous other cultures were also inspired to formulate similar codes of law. The influence of Hammurabi’s code can be seen in the biblical Book of Exodus as well. Hammurabi was also revered by many as a god during his lifetime. After his death, he came to be considered a great conqueror who managed to spread his rule across vast expanses of land.
Childhood & Early Life
Hammurabi was born in Babylon in c. 1810 BC. He was the son of Sin-Muballit, the fifth king of a dynasty that ruled over central Mesopotamia from c. 1894 to 1595 BC. His family belonged to the Amorites, a semi-nomadic tribe originating in northeastern Syria.
His name is derived from various cultures: Hammu means “family” in Amorite, and Rapi means “great” in Akkadian. The latter was the language spoken in Babylon.
The Amorites ruled over Babylon that was situated in the central and southern Mesopotamian plains. Many cultures coexisted in Mesopotamia and they waged wars against each other to take control over the agricultural land.
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Accession & Reign
During his reign, Hammurabi's father Sin-Muballit controlled small areas in south-central Mesopotamia under Babylonian hegemony. Within a few years, he acquired complete control over minor city-states like Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar.
Hammurabi inherited the power from his father in c. 1792 BC. He made quite a few allies including Larsa. They defeated the Elamites who were trying to invade the central plains of Mesopotamia from the east. Following this, he broke the alliance with Larsa and took over the cities of Uruk and Isin with the help of Nippur and Lagash. These two cities were under the control of Larsa previously.
Interestingly, Hammurabi kept on breaking alliances with the other states after taking over his rivals. Minor rulers continued to join hands with Hammurabi, unaware of Hammurabi’s habit of breaking alliances once he gained control over more territories. He eventually conquered his former ally Larsa as well.
According to Hammurabi's biographers, there have been letters and administrative documents that suggest he provided for his people and took care of them. He spent a lot of time in campaigns but also ensured his citizens were well provided for. Numerous building projects and canals were built throughout the region.
Hammurabi was called 'bani matim', which translates to 'builder of the land,' for all the construction works he spearheaded in the region.
He established a code of laws that came to be known as the “Code of Hammurabi.” These laws epitomized the principle “Lex Talionis”, which roughly translates to “the law of retributive justice.” Similar to the principle of “an eye for an eye,” these rules dictated punishments that corresponded directly to the crime.
Death & Legacy
By 1750 BC, Hammurabi had become old and sick. Even though he was the undisputed leader of Mesopotamia, he realized that it was time to give up his powers to his successor.
The news of Hammurabi becoming weak spread across the region and the eastern tribes decided to wage a war and invade the kingdom. In 1750 BC, Hammurabi passed away due to natural causes and his son Samsu-Iluna had to fight for his kingdom against the invading forces.
Unlike his father, Samsu-Iluna was not a great ruler. Slowly, the kingdom that Hammurabi had built was taken over by the invaders. None of his successors was able to win back the kingdom after the multiple invasions.
Hammurabi is best remembered as a king whose code served as the standard for many laws. He is also known for uniting Mesopotamia under a single governing body.
He is considered one of the greatest kings of Mesopotamia. He is still revered for being an excellent diplomat and negotiator.
Hammurabi was committed to improving the standard of living of the inhabitants under the Babylonian rule. He left behind a legacy as a king who fought for social justice and the betterment of the lives of his people.