Hammurabi (hämŏräˈbē) [key], fl. 1792–1750 B.C., king of Babylonia. He founded an empire that was eventually destroyed by raids from Asia Minor. Hammurabi may have begun building the tower of Babel (Gen. 11.4), which can now be identified with the temple-tower in Babylon called Etemenanki. His code of laws is one of the greatest of ancient codes. It is carved on a diorite column, in 3,600 lines of cuneiform; it was found (1902) at Susa and is now at Paris. The code, which addresses such issues as business and family relations, labor, private property, and personal injuries, is generally humanitarian. One severe feature, however, is the retributive nature of the punishment, which follows "an eye for an eye" literally. Much of the code is drawn from earlier Sumerian and Semitic laws, which seem to provide the basis for its harshly punitive nature.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.