The best method of finding out about a certain culture is to look at their laws and
other court records. The Laws of Hammurabi are the best preserved legal document
reflecting the social structure of Babylon during Hammurabis rule. They address the
rights of the poor to seek compensation from wrongs committed by the wealthy or by the
nobility. The laws also discussed the rights of women, such as the right to own property in
their own names and to divorce their husband.
Through these laws, the Mesopotamian people, or their rulers at least, seem to
have been a very strict civilization. This is apparent in laws 22 and 23, concerning theft
and robbery. Any man caught committing robbery will be put to death. Based on todays
society and laws, that seems very harsh, but it shows that the Mesopotamian people were
very stern with the criminals. The next law says that if a robbery has been committed but
the robber has not be caught, the city and the governor…shall make good to him his lost
property. This fair and just law would never happen in todays society. The government
does not reimburse people for stolen items, with the exception of insurance money.
The Laws of Hammurabi also show that the Mesopotamian people were very
family oriented. Law 195 states that any son who strikes his father will lose his hand.
Although this is a very harsh law, it shows that the society had respect for their elders. If
that respect was not there, they were severely punished. Laws 209-212 also discuss family
issues, especially daughters and their fetuses. Anyone who killed a fetus was required to
pay a certain amount, and, if the pregnant woman dies, his daughter would be killed also.
The punishment was lessened for a commoners daughter and child, but it was still strict.
These laws show that the people were very concerned with their children and family.