Set down about 1750 B.C., the Code of Hammurabi incorporated many earlier laws. While the code is, first and foremost, a legal statement about stern justice, it also reveals much about life at the time, since laws are a reflection of society and of the breaches against its decorum that are most common or most feared.
1 If a man weave a spell and bring a charge of murder against another man and has not justified himself, the accuser shall be put to death.
2 If a man has put a spell upon another man, and has not justified himself, the one who is charged with sorcery shall go to the holy river, he shall plunge into the holy river, and if the holy river overcomes him, his accuser shall take his estate. If the holy river shows that man to be innocent and has saved him, he who charged him with sorcery shall be put to death and the man who plunged into the river shall take the estate of him who brought the charge against him….
8 If a man has stolen ox or sheep or ass or pig or ship, whether from the temple or from the palace, he shall pay thirtyfold; if he stole from a commoner, he shall render tenfold. If the thief cannot pay, he shall be put to death….
15 If a man has helped a male or female palace slave, or a commoner’s male or female slave to escape out of the city gate, he shall be put to death….
21 If a man has broken into a house, he shall be killed before the breach and walled in it….
23 If the robber has not been caught, the man who has been despoiled shall recount before the god what he
has lost, and the city and governor in whose territory the robbery took place shall make good to him his loss….
53 If a man has neglected to strengthen the dyke of his canal, and a breach has opened in his dyke, and the waters have ravaged the meadow, the man in whose dyke the breach has been opened shall make good the corn that he caused to be lost….
110 If a nun, a lady of god, who is not living in a convent, has opened the door of a wine shop or entered the wine shop for a drink, that woman shall be burned….
117 If a debt came due against a man, and he has given his wife, his son, his daughter for the money, or handed himself over to work off the debt, for three years they shall work in the house of their buyer or exploiter, in the fourth year they shall be set free….
129 If the wife of a man has been caught lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the waters….