Code of Ur-Nammu (ca. 2050 B.C.)
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The Code of Ur-Nammu was written during the reign of Ur-Nammu (ca. 2050 B.C.),
who ruled after his predecessor successfully expelled the Gutian invaders from
Sumeria. Ur-Nammu initiated a vigorous revival of Sumerian culture, of which
the code is the most enduring legacy. It is one of the earliest lists of laws
yet discovered and is usually seen as the precursor to the Code of Hammurabi.
Although the Sumerians were not Semites, the civilization they created shaped
the Semitic empires that followed, including the Babylonian Empire of Hammurabi.
To the extent that the original cuneiform can be interpreted, Ur-Nammu's Code
is a list of tax codes, ceremonial laws, courtroom procedures, rules for litigation,
and penalties for various infractions. It is an early step on the long road
toward the ideal of the rule of law.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. From the Tablets of Sumer: Twenty-Five Firsts in Man's
Recorded History. Indian Hills: The Falcon's Wing Press, 1956.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.