Hammurabi (Hammurapi), King of Babylon
HAMMURABI (HAMMURAPI), KING OF BABYLON
Sixth king of the first dynasty of Babylon, Hammurabi is famous for having established Bablyon as the political center of the Mesopotamia of his time, for his extensive military and building activities, and for the cultural development of his country, typified by his wellknown code of laws. His Amorrite name, more exactly Hammurapi (Hummu-rāpi’, "the sun-god heals"), was also borne by several lesser known kings.
To establish the precise dates of Hammurabi's reign, most scholars follow the "low" chronology, advocated by W. F. Albright and F. Cornelius, that places Hammurabi's reign from 1728 to 1686 b.c. and the first dynasty of Babylon c. 1830 to 1530. Another opinion is that of S. Smith who assigns to Hammurabi the period 1792 to 1750 b.c., but a third opinion, expressed by A. Goetze and B. Landsberger using the "high" chronology, has placed Hammurabi in the 19th century b.c.
On his accession, Hammurabi found his country threatened by invasion from both the north and the south. His military effectiveness minimized the challenge from his neighbors and began the Babylonian empire that eventually controlled most of the river plain between the Zagros Mountains and the desert, south to the Persian Gulf, and parts of Elam. Scholars assign the famous staged temple tower or ziggurat E-temen-an-ki, "The House of the Foundation Platform of Heaven and Earth," one of the wonders of the world—to Hammurabi's reign. This giant structure influenced the Biblical author in the narrative of the tower of babel (Gn 11.4–9). Hammurabi placed marduk, a local deity, at the head of the Babylonian pantheon where he remained throughout subsequent centuries.
Hammurabi is also known for economic policies that stabilized wage scales, fostered trade, and improved the canal systems and river navigation. An important product of his reign was a new burst of cultural activity in science and literature. Progress in algebra was unmatched till the Hellenistic period; astronomical observations resulted in valuable compilations; pseudoscience gave attention to astrology, magic, and similar fields. Concerns about literature raised successful efforts to preserve and standardize the great epics of the past, the gilgamesh epic and the enuma elish.
One of his greatest accomplishments was the Code of Hammurabi, discovered in 1901 at susa and now in the Louvre at Paris. It comprises 51 columns of cuneiform text, incised in black diorite stone, that record almost 300 paragraphs of laws pertaining to business, moral, and social life. This code was a new formulation
of legal traditions stretching back to the third millennium B.C. and can be found in the older codes of Ur-nammu, Lipit-Ishtar, and Eshnunna (see law, ancient neareastern). The once popular identification of Hammurabi as the Amraphel of Gn 14.1, 9 has gone out of favor with Biblical scholars and linguists. There is no evidence that Hammurabi ever campaigned in the West, nor can the equation of the two names be justified linguistically.
See Also: mesopotamia, ancient.
Bibliography: c. f. jean, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928–) 3:1379–1408. f. m. t. bÖhl, King Hammurabi of Babylon in the Setting of His Time (Amsterdam 1946).
[j. b. huesman]
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