King Hammurabi Facts: Learn More About The Babylonian Empire | Kidadl


King Hammurabi Facts: Learn More About The Babylonian Empire

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Hammurabi was the King of Babylon.

Hammurabi's reign as King of Babylon started from circa 1792 to 1750 BC. He was sixth in the line of the Babylonian Amorite Dynasty.

He is most well-known today for his role in drawing up a set of rules collectively called the Code of Hammurabi. These laws, totaling 282, were displayed on clay tablets all across his kingdom.

To uncover further information about this important historical figure, read a little further.

The Life And History Of Hammurabi

Hammurabi was the first king to rule the whole of ancient Mesopotamia. After coming to the throne of Babylon, Hammurabi had the task cut out for him to expand his kingdom. His father and predecessor, Sin-Muballit, was unable to stabilize the kingdom, and was also unable to make any territorial gains. 

As soon as Hammurabi became king, he quickly turned his attention towards the neighboring kingdoms. A string of military victories, along with alliances and political machinations, was initiated by Hammurabi to extend the boundaries of his kingdom. 

When Hammurabi ascended the throne in circa 1792 BC, the Babylonian kingdom consisted of the city-states of Babylon, Sippar, Kish, and Borsippa. However, by the time of his death in circa 1750 BC, the kingdom of Babylon had been transformed into the Babylonian Empire, and Babylonian power was not only concentrated in Southern Mesopotamia, it had extended to parts of Northern Mesopotamia as well.

The early reign of Hammurabi saw the new king concentrating his strength in modernizing and centralizing the administrative machinery that he had inherited from his father. He made important decisions concerning the defenses of the capital and gave funds for the continuation of public building works that had begun under the reign of his father. 

The height of the city walls were increased considerably in these early years. During this time, Hammurabi concentrated on the welfare of his subjects by paying close attention to the basic requirements of the common people. 

Apart from overlooking the proper implementation of his famous law code, Hammurabi increased spending on the irrigation of farmlands and the basic maintenance of all public infrastructure in his kingdom. He also made sure to construct exquisite temples for the Babylonian god, Bel. However, along with these activities, Hammurabi was shrewd enough to build up the strength of his army. His sight was fixed to the south of Babylon, where he wanted to strike first.

The kingdom of Elam lay to the east of Babylonia, across the River Tigris. During the reign of King Hammurabi, the Elamite king launched an invasion of Central Mesopotamia. To counter the threat from the east, Hammurabi quickly made an alliance with the rival city-state of Larsa. The joint forces of Babylon and Larsa were able to defeat the forces of Elam. 

However, as soon as the danger was dealt with, Hammurabi went back on his word and captured the city-states of Uruk and Isin, both being under Larsa's control. This was accomplished by forming pacts with other city-states like Lagash and Nippur. Hammurabi thus made it a habit of breaking and remolding promises and alliances. 

Soon after the conquest of Uruk and Isin, Lagash and Larsa were absorbed within the Babylonian kingdom. Hammurabi then used his newfound resources from the conquered cities to annex Larsa. With the defeat of Larsa, Hammurabi became the undisputed ruler of southern Mesopotamia.

Hammurabi then shifted his gaze to western and northern Mesopotamia. Babylon's chief rival around this time was the kingdom of Mari, which was ruled by kings of a parallel Amorite dynasty. The two kingdoms had been close allies for many years, and Hammurabi had continued maintaining amicable relations with his ally, Mari. His counterpart, King Zimri-Lim of Mari, ruled over the most powerful kingdom in northern Mesopotamia and was the envy of the other Mesopotamian kings, including Hammurabi. 

Due to the wealth that Zimri-Lim was able to generate following successful campaigns in the north, Mari was overflowing with wealth at that time and had the largest palace compound anywhere in Mesopotamia. Hammurabi was determined to add Mari to his kingdom, mainly because the northern kingdom was an important trade and commerce center on the banks of the Euphrates River. 

The decisive move was made in circa 1761 BC when Hammurabi captured the city-state of Mari and completely brought it to the ground. Once Mari was part of Babylon, Hammurabi had all the workforce and resources to annex the remaining kingdoms of Mesopotamia. By 1755 BC, after the conquests of Assyria and Eshnunna, Hammurabi's rule covered the entire ancient Mesopotamia.

The Role Of Hammurabi In The Babylon Empire

Hammurabi of Babylon was instrumental in turning the city-state of Babylon from a regional power center next to the Euphrates River into the core of a mighty empire. He was the first king since the legendary Akkadian King Sargon the Great to bring the entire region of ancient Mesopotamia under the control of one single ruler. Hammurabi styled himself as a benevolent king whose principal aim was to provide good governance and the rule of law to the people he was ruling over. Hammurabi was a brilliant administrator and military commander who oversaw a period of sustained peace and prosperity over the entire realm of his empire. 

One aspect that separates him from the other great king of Mesopotamia, Sargon, is the fact that under Hammurabi, none of the city-states revolted as long as he was on the throne. Hammurabi's extensive record in public works and his championing of a just and law-binding society made his rule worth welcoming. 

In no existing record from his time do we find the mention of a popular revolt in any part of his empire. This is actually a testament to the fact that Hammurabi knew how to bind the different populations living within his realm. He never had to wage war for the second time in any part of his empire. This throws a great of light on his able statesmanship and leadership qualities.

Hammurabi is also called by the names of Ammurapi and Khammurabi in inscriptions

The Code Of Hammurabi

Hammurabi is most famous in Mesopotamian history for modeling a law code. Hammurabi's laws were the standard model for all other codes of laws that were recorded in antiquity. Hammurabi's code of laws was the main inspiration behind the mosaic laws of the Old Testament in the Bible. 

Hammurabi's administrative documents, inscriptions, and letters claim that he was serious about the well-being of his subjects and was eager to improve their lives. Intending to make life easy under his reign, Hammurabi devised a set of laws, commonly referred to as Hammurabi's code. There existed other laws before Hammurabi became king of Babylon. Yet, the Code of Hammurabi was the most people-oriented code of that period. It is no wonder then that most other cultures borrowed from Hammurabi's Code.

Hammurabi was a master builder. Throughout his reign, Hammurabi continued funding public infrastructure projects to help his subjects lead better lives. So much so that he received the title of 'bani matim' (builder of the land) from the common people. This was chiefly because Hammurabi commissioned many building, irrigation, and canal projects. The Code of Hammurabi, widely believed to be the first of its kind, is not actually so. 

In fact, even before the Hammurabi Code was devised, there were other law codes in circulation in the ancient world. The Code of Ur-Nammu, dated circa 2100-2050 BC, is credited to either King Ur-Nammu (reigned circa 2047-2030 BC) or King Shulgi (reigned 2029-1982 BC), and is now believed to be the oldest law code in the world.

The Code of Hammurabi was a collection of different types of laws, including a section on family law that was necessary for the smooth functioning of human society. Hammurabi envisaged his laws not only for the people of Babylon, but every single human establishment. He wanted to propagate his laws to the far corners of not just Mesopotamia, but those areas that were beyond control. From this angle, we may say that Hammurabi was something akin to an enlightened ruler, seeking to bring the best rule possible to the inhabitants of city-states and kingdoms.

What is Hammurabi known for?

By the time Hammurabi conquered all of Mesopotamia in around circa 1755 BC, he had grown tired and old. His son and successor, Samsu-iluna, was the real power behind the throne while his father was living his last years. His taking of the Eastern Kingdom of Eshnunna was actually a mistake from a strategic angle. 

By conquering Eshnunna, Hammurabi had removed a buffer zone between his kingdom, the kingdoms of the Hittites and the Kassites, which lay further east. This would actually prove to be a big mistake on the part of Hammurabi, as both the Hittites and the Kassites went on to wage battles against Babylon after the passing of Hammurabi. Once Hammurabi died in circa 1750 BC, his successor was left the Herculean task of maintaining the vast empire that his father had built. This was too much for the new king, and within a year, Samsu-iluna lost most of the territories that had been gained during his father's time. One by one, the vassal city-states declared their independence from Babylon, and the far-flung regions began revolting openly against Babylon. 

The successors of Hammurabi were barely fit to match his strength and mastery, and by circa 1595 AD, Babylon was subjected to invasion by the Hittites and the Kassites. Hammurabi's beloved city of Babylon was first plundered by the Hittites, following which the Kassites took it under their control and renamed it. One of Hammurabi's greatest victories came against the Elamites of the east. As fate would have it, the Elamites returned to Babylon and decimated it. Part of the treasures that they took away with them included the terracotta tablet on which Hammurabi's code of laws was inscribed.  

Many centuries later, in 1901, the terracotta tablet containing the law code of Hammurabi was recovered from the city of Susa, which was in Elam. It is now actually housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris. One can also find artifacts such as clay tablets from the middle-eastern kingdoms of antiquity and also of the Persian Empire in the Ancient Orient Museum situated in Tokyo, Japan.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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