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SPEAKER 1: We're in the Louvre, and we're looking at one of the most important objects in the entire museum. This is the Law Code Stele of King Hammurabi. Hammurabi was a Babylonian King that is known for having created the most important set of legal codes from the ancient Near East. SPEAKER 2: Which perhaps predate the legal codes-- the commandments of the Old Testament. SPEAKER 1: And in fact, some scholars think that this may have been a source for the Biblical texts. SPEAKER 2: And we see at the top, Hammurabi himself receiving the laws from the god Shamash. SPEAKER 1: Shamash was a god associated with both the sun and with law. We can tell it's Shamash because of the horns that radiate from his helmet, from his cap, as well as the rays of light that come from his shoulders. But more important, he's seated on a throne, showing his authority, and his feet are on the mountains. SPEAKER 2: That's right, those scales represent the mountains from which the god emerges. SPEAKER 1: Now it's extraordinary because the King of Babylon, Hammurabi, is almost his equal. Not quite his height-- SPEAKER 2: Not quite. SPEAKER 1: --but he is addressing him directly. SPEAKER 2: But he's standing. SPEAKER 1: He is standing. SPEAKER 2: And the god is seated. SPEAKER 1: And he's receiving from the god both a ring and a scepter. SPEAKER 2: Symbols of power. SPEAKER 1: Right. Under this wonderful relief-- and we should say that this is made out of basalt, which is very hard, a stone that comes from volcanic action. SPEAKER 2: And it's black. SPEAKER 1: You see inscribed-- the entire stele covered in very small registers-- three pieces of writing. The first describing the king's investiture, that is his right to be king. The next, a kind of ode to his glory. And then finally and mostly, over 300 specific laws that actually govern Babylonia. SPEAKER 2: The laws are all written using cuneiform in the Akkadian language. And they're written in a language that was very accessible. Hammurabi really wanted this to be a legacy so that everyone could read this and understand. SPEAKER 1: And it was really important that people understood. Because if they broke these laws, the punishments were really serious. SPEAKER 2: So all the laws are written if you do this, if you disobey your parents in this way, if you commit such and such a crime, this will be your punishment. So it outlines actions and their punishments. SPEAKER 1: What's really crucial is this is at the very beginning of a tradition that we still hold on to today, which is to say that the laws are uniform, and that there are specific guidelines. And it doesn't matter what your caste is, what your place in society is, this is the law. SPEAKER 2: And also an idea that laws are somehow immutable and divine, right? This is an important Judeo-Christian idea, too, that the laws are somehow above humanity. SPEAKER 1: That they are divine, and that's clearly represented here. It's extraordinary that this has come down to us from so long ago. This is almost 4,000 years old. SPEAKER 2: I presume that's partially because the stone is so hard. SPEAKER 1: Well, I think that that's right. But I think it's also something that hasn't been seen as enormously important. SPEAKER 2: And cherished. SPEAKER 1: Yeah.