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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the Louvre in Paris looking at one of their most famous objects this is the law codes daily of king Hammurabi it's interesting to me that this is one of the most popular objects to look at here and I think it's because of our modern interest and reliance on law as the founding principles of the civilization and this is such an ancient object this is nearly 4,000 years old I still use at all carved object this one is carved in relief at the top and then below that and on all sides we have inscribed cuneiform it's written in the language of Akkadian which was used for official government decrees but that's the language the script is cuneiform it's divided into three parts there's a prologue which talks about seeing that's being represented at the top the investiture of Hammurabi what we see is the king on the left he's smaller and he's facing the God shamash this is the Sun God the God of justice and we can tell he's a God because of the special horned crowns that he wears and the flames are light that emanate from his shoulders we can think of this as a kind of divine light the way that in so much Christian imagery we see a halo and we have that composite view that we often see in ancient Egyptian and ancient Near Eastern art where the shoulders are frontal but the face is represented in profile Hamas sits on a throne and if you look closely you can see under his feet the representation of mountains that he rises from each day he's giving to the king a scepter and a ring these are signs of power Hammurabi is demonstrating here that these are divine laws that his authority comes from Shama so we have more than 300 laws here and they're very particular scholars believed that they weren't so much written by the King as listed from judgments that have already been meted out their legal precedent and they take the form of announcing an action and its consequences so if you do X Y is the consequence so for example if a man builds a house and the house falls on the owner the Builder is put to death so there's a kind of equivalence and this might remind us of biblical law of an eye for an eye tooth for a tooth which is also found on the steely and it's important and interesting to note that the steely predates that biblical text the last part of the text what is often referred to as the epilogue speaks to the posterity of the king of the importance of his rule and the idea that he will be remembered for all time this is certainly not a unique steely in terms of recording laws but it does survive largely intact when it was discovered it was broken only into three parts which you can still see today these laws almost four thousand years old tell us a tremendous amount about Babylonian culture about what was important to them so many of these laws deal with agricultural issues issues of irrigation and are clearly expressing points of tension in society a lot of them have to do with family life - and the king is after all responsible for the peace and prosperity and feeding of his people and this TV is such a wonderful reminder that Mesopotamia was such an advanced culture here almost 4000 years ago we have cities that are dependent on good crop yields that require laws to maintain civil society and a reminder of the debt that the world owes to the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and the area that is seeing so much conflict now [Music]
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